Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Put a word in

OK everybody, here's where you come in.

I just got off the phone with the owner of an online travel agency, who knows the owner of another similar agency, who both want to promote the quilt retreat.

The retreat, for those of you who may be new here, is a project that my partner Rita and I developed together.

I first met Rita over the phone (she responded to an ad Alex made me put in the newspaper, but that's a story for another day) about two and a half years ago. We must have talked for close to an hour on that first call, and we discovered that each of us had already been toying with the idea of creating some kind of quilt retreat.

We met in person at a meeting that was being held to organize an international quilt show, but didn't have much of a chance to talk that day, so Rita invited me to a social gathering at her house the following week. I stayed on when the other guests left at noon, and by the end of the afternoon, we had the retreat pretty well mapped out, including the tours we would offer and a first pass at the menus. Rita's property already included three cottages that she rents to tourists, so the lodging was a non-issue. I designed some Costa Rica-themed quilt blocks, and we had ourselves a retreat.

Of course we wouldn't know how it would all come together until we actually hosted one. We were prepared to have to make some changes after the first time out, but you know what? Our biggest "problem" turned out to be that we had chicken two nights in a row. We have made some adjustments since then - moving the workspace, getting the patterns into electronic form and switching one of the tour destinations for a better one - but the core of the thing really hasn't changed.

Rita and I both love doing it. We've got pricing that guests find fair and that works for us. Everyone who has ever come has gone home happy.

But. It has been soooo hard for us to get the word out. A week-long vacation in a foreign country isn't an impulse buy, and although we get a small but steady stream of visits to our website, actual reservations are very few and far between.

So when I say that I just got off the phone with the owner of an online travel agency who wants to promote our tour (and who, by the way, particularly works with church groups which, hello, are pretty much the ideal clients for a quilt retreat), you understand that this could represent a turning point in my fledgling career.

What do I need from you? Whatever you've got. Happy thoughts, if that's your style. Prayers, if you prefer. Good vibes, if you swing that way. Send 'em if you got 'em, people. Baby needs a new set of retreat reservations for Christmas!


Dad November 28, 2006 9:19 PM  

Okay, here are two more suggestions, not counting the one I e-mailed to you this afternoon BEFORE you asked for ideas, I might add) about including an outline map on the FAQ section of the website.

1. Testimonials from satisfied customers on the website would be nice, but might come across as canned and screened. But if you were to approach two or three people who have been on previous retreats and loved it, and ask them if they'd be willing to have their name and phone/e-mail given to inquirers, people could contact them directly for a two-way conversation and perhaps catch the excitement. Then you could put on the website, "References from previous participants available upon request."

(I think CPI did this after Mom spent several weeks attending Spanish classes there. I recall that she got at least one such inquiry.)

2. Consider the South American market. You could just as easily do the retreat in Spanish as in English. There must be tens of thousands of people in South America who quilt and who could well afford to come to a retreat. Do a separate website in Spanish and try to get it onto search engines used in South America.

Erin November 29, 2006 7:29 AM  

I would love to come to Costa Rica for a quilt retreat. I am sending good thoughts and prayers your way for more reservations and I am hoping that we somehow hit the lottery that I can eventually come out for a retreat of my own. Hitting the lottery would probably be easier if I actually played... :)

That is so great that the travel agency is willing to throw you that kind of help. Congratulations!

Jennifer November 29, 2006 7:30 AM  

OK, thanks.

But I didn't ask for ideas, just positive thoughts.

juliloquy November 29, 2006 9:45 AM  

Sending you light, as my new-agey friends say! (Which isn't much different from our Quaker "holding you in the light.")

charlotte November 30, 2006 4:38 AM  

Happy thoughts, prayers AND good vibes coming at you and your quilt retreat from Charlotte in Germany. And if I was a quilter, I would be saving up RIGHT NOW to come.

Kit December 01, 2006 12:42 PM  

Sounds a great idea - ditto to Charlotte's comment! Good luck with it all.

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