Find a Business Dance Partner

By Mike Johnson

We’d started an upscale trolley tour business out of thin air.
Our first summer season broke even after averaging 30 tour customers per day.

Over the winter, we attended a tourism workshop.
The idea that lit us up was local partnerships. We were a new, small, unknown, mom & pop operation.
We needed credibility, visibility and reputation.

The largest western museum in America was located in our town of Cody, Wyoming.
Their public relations guy attended the same workshop. His museum was the town’s most popular attraction with 200,000 visitors per summer. But he wanted more referrals from the local community.

We already had six other ticket sellers around town (3 hotels, 2 campgrounds & the chamber) selling our trolley tour tickets. We were paying them a per-ticket commission.
The museum would gain by exposure to our network of sellers.

We both agreed to sell a discounted “inside & out combo ticket” where one price got admission inside the museum and outside on a trolley tour.

We both gained customers by selling those combo tickets. In addition, the trolley gained instant credibility, visibility and reputation by being associated with the established and popular museum.

The partnership changed our world. The next summer, we immediately jumped from 30 customers per day to 81, making the business fabulously profitable.

Our tours received stellar reviews, making the museum and other ticket-selling locations look good to their customers too. That motivated them to keep recommending us.

The town also gained because every visitor who bought a combo ticket was committing to attending both attractions, keeping them in town longer.
Back then, the typical tourist spent $100 per day. So longer stays meant more sales for all Cody businesses.

Today, the trolley tour business is 22 years old and is recommended by all as a must-do attraction. We sold the company in 2009. It's quite the kick to watch it successfully continue without us.

We might have made it dancing alone, but we might not have.

Creating partnerships assured success and saved years of scrambling.


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