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Chasing snow at Zion National Park: How to market a unique experience

Here’s a dirty little secret of marketing: When you get a “limited-time offer,” it’s generally because sales are slow, and not because quantities are actually running out, or in short supply.

Marketing is all about creating urgency. In most cases, though, that urgency is manufactured. Or it’s totally imaginary.

Sometimes, however, opportunities pop up that have a legitimately limited shelf-life, or are truly rare. So you either have to act now or miss out.

This week, I got an email from a photography tour company that I’d used before, alerting me to a rare snowfall in Zion National Park. The email featured a few amazing pictures of Zion under snow and the following text:

“Alright everyone, this is the week to be in Zion and Bryce if you’ve ever wanted photos of this area under snow.  The combo of red rock and fresh snow produces vibrant, poppy images of this landscape.  Living in the area for the past 9 years, this is the wettest and coldest stretch of time I’ve experienced in the winter time.  We usually get one or two winter storms a year that produces snow that sticks in Zion, and within one, maybe two days it has melted away.”

The email continued, telling customers that even if they didn’t purchase a tour, they should make the effort to get to the park to see it for themselves.

“Even if you don’t join us for a tour, we HIGHLY recommend visiting this week for a multitude of days to be able to experience this event.  To be clear, to have this much snow, for this long in Zion is extremely rare.  Get it while it’s good.”

On the surface, the email was selling a photo class, but it was really selling an experience. And quite frankly, this email sold me instantly. As a photography enthusiast, I’ve been to Zion before, but hadn’t had the opportunity to shoot in these types of conditions. With winter winding down, it was too good to pass up. I had to go. My next chance to capture this type of moment may not come for another year, or perhaps much longer.

So I made the short drive to Zion Thursday night and woke up at 5 AM for a 6 AM excision into the park to capture sunrise and morning light around the park on a guided one-on-one photo tour. It was extremely cold, which I was prepared for, but the beauty of Zion under snow was something for which I was not completely prepared.

It was breathtaking.

The tour itself was outstanding, as my guide Seth took me to a great spot to capture the morning light of sunrise, and had planned out several options for both the morning and sunset sessions.

The day was a memorable, unique experience, and I’m very happy with the results of the photos I captured. The day was well worth the price of admission. I’ve now got a batch of amazing photos that captured the memory of seeing one of America’s best national parks under a blanket of snow.

I really appreciated spirit of the email alert. It provided valuable information, alerting me to a truly exclusive opportunity, and they didn’t hard-sell me. Instead, they appealed to my passion for photography and the desire to capture a rare moment, and provided a service even if I didn’t make a purchase. Seth just wanted his customers to know that they shouldn’t miss a rare opportunity to capture Zion this week. I really appreciated that.

That’s how you build and maintain a relationship with a customer. I’m already thinking about when I can sign up for another photography class.

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Go See America

If you follow my Instagram (http://www.instagram.com/peterstringer), you probably think I travel every week. I wish that we’re the case. If anyone wants to pay me to do that, I’m all ears. But in the last few months, I’ve really rediscovered my love of photography through my passion for travel. I take my Nikon with me everywhere now. While I certainly spend some time editing the shots, they are all my own, and I’m starting to think I actually (mostly) know what I’m doing with a camera (thanks to a lot of trial, error, practice and research.) 

While landscapes are certainly far easier to capture than portraits, or action sports for that matter, and I have incredible respect for professional photographers, it’s been neat to get so much positive feedback on my travel pictures. But more importantly, I’ve consistently heard from many people who see my photos that they “need to travel more.” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made a point of traveling whenever I can, and I’ve seen much more of America than most people I know. 

Delicate Arch, from my visit to Arches National Park in February 2017.

Look, New York and L.A. are great, and hey if you want to “do Iceland” or “do Thailand” like seemingly everyone in my feeds these days, go ahead. I’d love to see them too. But there’s an amazing country out there between the coasts. Go see our National Parks. I know, they’re in “fly-over states.” (I hate that term.) But if you’re mad about the election, want to Make America Great Again, or don’t understand why the country is divided, you need to see how the rest of America lives. And you’re robbing yourself of some spectacular scenery and breathtaking sights you might not even know exist. I certainly did not grow up with an appreciation of the National Parks. I didn’t go hiking or camping as a kid. But I’ve become passionate about these places now, and I’ve made memories in amazing places like Arches National Park, Red Rock Canyon and Horseshoe Bend that will stay with me forever.

Politics and perspective aside, travel has enriched my life far more than I’d previously imagined it could. I grew up without the resources to travel as a child, beyond a few family trips where we packed the kids into a station wagon and took three days to trek down I-95 from Manchester, NH to Dunedin, FL, stopping overnight in rundown Motel 6s with abandoned pools, and dining at dirt-cheap truck-stops. I stepped on my first airplane at age 17, and it would be four or five years before I’d do it again. 

In the last 10 years, I’ve been on countless flights. I’ve done three cross-country drives and many other thousand-mile-plus loops. If I could give my younger self any advice, it would simply be this: travel more, and do it earlier, and always see something new. Go see the rest of America. I’ve spent way too much money on travel, but I’ve never regretted a dime I’ve spent on a trip.