Cloudline Tours – Masters of Marketing (Snowboard Edition)

Niseko Hirafu Sidecountry Gate

You can love your business

Often businesses are created from something you fall in love with.  It was on J.P. Martin’s first trip to Japan that he discovered the perfect combination of great snowboarding, wonderful people, exotic sights and tasty cuisine.

JP Riding

As a pro snowboarder based in Japan (his photo is to the right from 1992) he quickly made friends and connections.  J.P. using the “no one can speak English” immersion method picked up the language and spent his time exploring Japanese ski resorts and the backcountry (which was just starting out to be ridden by snowboarders).  He quickly learned that Japan has some of the most amazing snow in the world and some great terrain, including some of the best “tree skiing” imaginable.

JP probably got his first experience guiding groups of tourists around Japan in his capacity as the unofficial Stormy (famous snowboard shop) tour guide and translator for visiting pros and other company owners (like me).  He was excellent at answering some of the more pressing questions from new visitors to Japan like:

– Do I have to wait till this fish stops breathing before I eat it?
– Hey, I just went into the train station washroom and someone stole all the toilets where did they go?

JP eventually ended up back in the States where he built and oversaw some amazing snowboard parks (Jackson Hole).  However Japan was never far from his mind and eventually he decided to start a tour company to take boarders to experience all that is cool about Japan.  Now when starting any business you should basically should ask yourself: “what do I like to do that I am good at?” and “what resources do I already possess that would help me do it?”

JP decided he really enjoyed showing other people the uniqueness of snowboarding in Japan.  As far as his resources, here is a partial list of what JP accumulated from his  time in Japan:

– Lots of friends – everybody likes JP- Knowledge of travel in Japan, especially to ski hills
– The language, JP is fluent in Japanese
– Japanese backcountry experience
– The desire to share the incredible experiences of travel in Japan with others

Snowboarding + Sushi + Powder + Saki + Inside knowledge = Cloudline Tours

So JP formed Cloudine Tours along with his wife Ako. The Company’s Mission statement is “We strive to provide unique opportunities to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers of the sport. Taking the anxiety out of organizing a trip, we allow our guests to enjoy the culture and the surroundings in style.” Cloudline tours takes snowboarders to the two prime areas in Japan for snowboarding Nagano and Hokkaido. There are separate tours to each area including trip in to the backcountry for those who would like. There are also cultural side trips and sightseeing opportunities.Now Cloudline is a great idea and well staffed so how do JP and Ako go about building this idea into a viable business: Here are some of the methods of marketing and promotion they use:

Matsumoto castle
  1. Word of mouth – JP has so many connection and friends both in Japan and North America that Word of Mouth was a natural and low cost way to get the word out about his new business.
  2. Facebook – Cloudline Tours makes good use of Facebook to inform and connect with potential customers. They have an interesting feed with a good blend of information and promotional.
  3. Cross promotion – JP made good use of this method by connecting with the promotional tour for the movie “Further” the most anticipated snowboard movie of the year. Cloudline was featured on tour stops with banners, mentions and a contest.
  4. Instagram – This is a immediate and effective method to get out the incredible photos of the snowboarding and cultural sights of Japan.
  5. Website – solid base of any business is a well designed and functional website. Cloudlinetours.com is engaging and well designed.

 

Marketing Takeaway

Cloudline didn’t reinvent the way to market a business but what they have done is put the important parts into place in a methodical and professional manner. What about your business?  Does it have:

tree riding in japan
  1. A well done website, that tells your story and engages visitors? Does your site have new content that brings return visitors and builds SEO?
  2. Facebook. Does your product work on Facebook? If you are not already utilizing it, now is the time. There is a wealth of information out there about the best practices, read up, then start building and connecting.
  3. A presence on Facebook but not many results. Are you connecting and communicating with your followers or are you just broadcasting repetitive advertisements for your business? You need to bring your followers valuable information and updates they actually look forward to. Otherwise you are just going to be ignored or worse yet blocked.
  4. How effective is your word of mouth promotion? Products that are a “secret” rarely succeed. Are you connecting with people either in person or with social media? Have you created something remarkable for them to talk about? Learn about creating something remarkable from Grassroots Powdersurfers.
  5. Is your brand established in the other social media channels that best fit your business? Maybe you should be on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Youtube or others. It is best to pick carefully as every different channel requires the time investment to make it successful and more isn’t always better. Start out with 2 or 3 you can always expand later.
  6. Explore opportunities for cross promotion. Have you ever tried cross promotion? Look for the opportunity and if it is a fit, give it a try. It could be at special events or shared advertising etc.

 

J. P. and Ako have created a exciting product and succeeded in “getting the word out” using the most effective and affordable online and social media methods.  Take some time to take a look at your efforts in these areas.  It is better to do a smaller number of things very well than to spread yourself too thin by doing too much.  Oh, and if all the work you have to do in this area is a little overwhelming I recommend a snowboard trip with J.P. to Japan to refresh and rejuvenate you! There is nothing like soaking outdoors, in a natural hot-spring fed pool in the falling snow to make you feel more relaxed then you have ever been.
Here is an welcome video from JP and Cloudline:

 

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