Helping an offline business profit online.
A small, family run business, Discover the Past operates history-themed walking tours in Victoria, British Columbia, including a popular brand called Ghostly Walks. For many years, the business had relied on word-of-mouth, direct marketing and a very basic website, designed in 1997! But when the son of the founder came into the business, Discover the Past realized they needed to adjust to changing times. They just weren’t sure how.
At first, Discover the Past believed that building a new website would be like checking off a box on their to-do list: finish it once and don’t think about it for three years. But soon, it became clear that a web presence enabled new opportunities — and challenges. Could tickets be sold online? How would doing so change the customer experience? How could the digital platform be used to encourage reviews and search engine marketing?
With ownership in their 70s, Discover the Past needed digital advice, but also a clear, straightforward and patient implementation plan.
I moved slow, after getting hired by Discover the Past. Though the opportunities were clear, the company’s lack of experience with digital — and sense of distrust — meant I needed to develop data proving its usefulness. We started with a website redesign, collecting feedback over the season, and using a combination of traffic analytics and customer interviews to verify we were on the right track.
Next, we moved into online ticketing, taking the same patient approach — prototyping a solution, validating it, then scaling or changing when necessary. SEO & search engine marketing, improved ticket sales and website improvements followed naturally, with the successes at each step enabling the owners to build confidence and slowly change culture. Through it all, I offered steady consulting and coaching to build the skills of the ownership, minimizing costs and building an internal impetus for change.
In the space of two years, Discover the Past went from $0 in online sales to nearly $30,000. This year, we set ourselves a goal of increasing online sales by 20% — and we’ve more than doubled it.