For our latest case study, we spoke to Michael Watson about how Mansfield’s Watson’s Mountain Country Trail Rides have developed an online presence for their business.
Watson’s Trail Rides is a family business, and has operated from our property in Mansfield for the past 30 years. Most of our customers come from two sectors: domestic “free independent travellers” and school groups. We also have regular bookings from international and corporate groups. As a small business, it’s been important for us to be in control of our web presence. If our events, availability or other details change, we need to be able to change the content of our site quickly.
Which web or social media technologies are you using for your business?
- We manage our own website. This is a central place for people to find out about our business, and we update it several times a week.
- I also keep an eye on our website analytics roughly once a month. That lets us see how many people look at the site, and where they come from.
- We have been using an online booking system on our website for about four years now. Around half of our bookings are made online.
- Over time, we’ve added other tools. YouTube was one of the earliest, allowing us to show people what it’s like on our rides.
- A more recent addition is our Facebook page – helping us to promote the business on social networks, in addition to our website. We use the page to keep people updated on what the business has been doing, and have photo galleries from some of our major events.
- TripAdvisor had been very handy for us. It’s more commonly used for accommodation, but has a growing number of event and experience listings. I was wary about putting customer testimonials on our website, as they rarely feel authentic. TripAdvisor acts as an impartial third party – by linking to their reviews, we can show people directly what customers have said about the business.
What have been the benefits of using these?
Our online presence helps people to discover our business, provides them with a personal experience of who we are and what we do, and also takes care of around half of our bookings. It can sometimes be hard finding time to manage it all, but it’s extremely valuable for us.
Operating in an industry that traditionally doesn’t have a strong online presence has its advantages. There aren’t a lot of trail riding companies out there, compared with much more active sectors like tourist accommodation. That helps us to remain visible in search engines, without being drowned out by hundreds of other sites.
Do you have any tips for other business managers wanting to get online?
If you don’t think that your business needs a web presence, think about things from the perspective of your customers: when and where are they likely to want information about your business? For a tourism operator, much of the planning that goes into a family holiday will take place at home, after working hours – when your business won’t be able to answer enquiries directly. Your website can help people discover your business, and also helps answer a lot of questions the customers will have.
You can find out more about Watson’s Trail Rides via their website or Facebook page.