First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?
Actually, good. I wouldn’t have said that in March of 2020, but our business has survived and thrived in serving the tourism economy over the last year, which we are encouraged by. We’re excited about our future as the demand for experiences is at an all-time high, and we see some positive momentum in our industry. You know, many people may feel experience deprived after the year we just had, and I believe the experiential economy will boom because we now know that meaningful life experiences can be taken away from us. It’s important to live life to the fullest with the people we love.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded this company?
I was fortunate to realize a professional dream early in life when I was 26 and travel the world filming motorsport adventures for a television show on the Outdoor Channel. I was able to film some incredible experiences, including flying through the most northern ice fjord from a helicopter in Greenland, snowmobiling in Siberia, ATV-ing along the White Nile in Uganda,
taking an open ocean boat crossing from Miami to Bimini, and jet skiing through the fjords of Norway. During this time, I realized I needed new life goals, and I also identified a problem: while the tour operators we worked with were providing once-in-a-lifetime memories, none of their guests were receiving photos so they could remember these experiences forever.
So the idea for Fotaflo was born to provide a software service for any tour, activity, or attraction business to provide photo and video memories to their guests easily. Out of equal parts naivety and persistence, here we are over ten years later, helping tourism businesses worldwide grow their referral and repeat bookings by simply providing their guests with free photo and video memories of incredible experiences. These memories are broadly shared and will serve as a lasting memory of the business that provided them.
How does your company innovate?
Fotaflo provides a photo and video marketing service for any tour or activity business that simplifies and automates the distribution of photos and videos to their customers. Then we help tour, and activity customers easily share their experiences from these businesses to friends and family. Our primary innovation is validating, communicating, and improving upon the advertising benefit these businesses earn from their customers; in other words, we gain and validate Earned Media.
To an experiential consumer, capturing a photo or video of an experience is as important as the experience itself in today’s experiential economy. With Fotaflo, when customers share these experiences online, they reach the business’s target audience that provided the photos with an authentic endorsement for that business. This social word-of-mouth marketing is more affordable and performs better than any marketing the business can create independently.
By turning customers into brand advocates and making it easy for customers to share their enthusiasm and passion for purchased experiences, marketing results for tour and activity businesses flow from the passion and enthusiasm of their customers.
How the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
As you can imagine, the tourism industry was decimated early on from the pandemic. In turn, we were also negatively impacted; however, there has been strong demand after the initial shock in March 2020. For instance, July 2020 was our biggest month on record for new signups, and we’ve been consistently growing, achieving new highs in MRR and subscriptions MoM.
Personally, what was most challenging was maintaining our full complement of team members and supporting tour and activity clients that had to shut their doors. Fortunately, we were able to keep our entire team intact and have since hired new team members. We also supported our clients by advancing our product with remarketing features that allowed them to engage with their customers in entirely new ways, which meaningfully supported their recovery.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
One of the first things that came to mind with this question was the challenge of managing clients who couldn’t pay us because they had to shut their doors. We decided that regardless of their ability to pay Fotaflo, we would help all of our clients affected by the pandemic with our product, regardless of their payment status. We did this because we knew that we could support their recovery.
The goodwill we received from helping our clients, which were most impacted by the pandemic, led to a quicker recovery for them and us. I suppose I learned the reciprocal nature of helping others, that in turn, it helped us too.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
We were working remotely before the pandemic, so fortunately for us, we had great processes in place before the pandemic; however, we would meet weekly to build community and morale within our team, which we haven’t been able to do regularly post-pandemic. So on top of daily standup meetings, we regularly hold check-in meetings and leadership meetings with each team member. We try to listen to their needs and help them with their goals for professional growth or desires in achieving an ideal work-life balance.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Most of our competition comes from complacency, where business decision-makers of tours or activity businesses deal with the problem of guests always asking their staff to handle personal smartphones to take photos. Top-of-the-funnel education in the market is a big piece for us. We need operators to learn that they can significantly improve their customers’ experience by adding this service, and we do this through a variety of co-marketed endeavors.
Webinars with our integrated partners like FareHarbor, Werewolf Waiver, Xola, Rezdy, Zaui, Rezgo, Resova, The Flybook, and Checkfront have been positive for us, our partners, and mutual clients. Through these integrated partners, we gain operational advantages for our mutual clients by using technology to streamline and automate photo and video distribution and marketing processes.
Your final thoughts
Every business that provides an experience to their customers worth remembering should capture and provide that memory to their guests for free. I’m very passionate about this vision of free photo memories at every experiential business. I also feel any business that charges someone for their memory (e.g., roller coaster photos) is antiquated. Businesses have incredible opportunities to help their customers receive meaningful photos that elicit positive life memories.
Capturing these memories creates a positive experience between the employees that provide them and the customers. These memories get shared, introducing new people to great experiences, meaning more people getting out and having great experiences. This also means businesses succeed by simply helping people receive great memories.
Honestly, I wish any business that provides an experience worth remembering would help their customers remember more experiences, regardless of whatever product, service, or software they use to provide this service. This is a win (customer), win (Staff), win (new customer), win (business) outcome that would positively impact so many people and that would give me incredible satisfaction.
- Spokesperson: Ryan O’Grady
- Company: Fotaflo
- Website link: https://www.fotaflo.com/