Digital and Tech Stories of Economic Growth on Vancouver Island
God’s Pocket Resort – Port Hardy, BC – Eco Tourism
~DER3 Program: Businesses Benefit from Getting Digital on Vancouver Island ~
Find out how Innovation Island, as the region’s technology accelerator, with decades of experience in the tech sector on Vancouver Island, and a deep understanding of tech, innovation and digital ecosystems, embraced the call to help the mounting challenges that faced small-medium sized businesses due to the COVID crisis. Supporting over 500 businesses and moving the economic dial and future economic growth on Vancouver Island.
Since the DER3 Program launched in April 2020, with support from Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) and additional support from Western Economic Development Canada, the program has now engaged with over 500 businesses. From web and IT/tech support, to digital marketing, tech and business model innovation, or overall strategy and pivots, we are thrilled to help businesses move the economic dial on Vancouver Island. We would love to share some amazing stories of clients who have benefited from this no cost program.
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DER3 Client: Business Summary
Claus & Antoine purchased God’s Pocket Resort just over a year before the COVID-19 pandemic began. An off-grid resort located on northern Vancouver Island, God’s Pocket specialized in diving and kayaking excursions for their guests. Previously, the spring & fall high seasons were fully booked two years in advance, primarily by international guests. As COVID-related travel restrictions and safety protocols ramped up last spring, Claus and Antoine were forced to cancel the vast majority of their 2020 bookings. They had to cancel 100% of spring bookings, and more than 50% of fall bookings. God’s Pocket typically runs at full capacity with clients normally booking years in advance.
At the time they entered into the DER3 Program, God’s Pocket Resort had an aged website with no online booking or scheduling capability. They had a social media presence (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) with decent engagement, although these channels had not been used to their full capability. Their dedicated customer base remained supportive and assured God’s Pocket that they would return when possible to travel again.
Like many owner-operators, Claus and Antoine began brainstorming how their business could develop and nurture additional revenue streams. One of their ideas was to create and sell God’s Pocket branded merchandise through their website. Another was to expand and diversify their offerings to include additional activities such as mindfulness retreats, yoga, and more kayaking options over the summer months, critically without alienating their loyal diving guests. During the winter, the property is essentially inaccessible due to storms/weather preventing boat travel as it is unreliable.
Getting Digital: Needs Expressed
Claus & Antoine’s main objective in joining DER3 was to complete an update on the God’s Pocket website, which had been built initially using Squarespace, and did not include intuitive trip scheduling or e-commerce capabilities. However, due to the financial constraints caused by the reduction in business volume, they did not have a budget to hire a Digital Service Provider. Claus & Antoine decided to take on building a new website themselves, but had limited experience with web development and required resources and guidance to support them in completing the work effectively.
Other adjustments that the God’s Pocket team were interested in exploring through DER3 included information on choosing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Point of Sale (POS) system, feedback and suggestions on how they could improve their social media presence, diversifying and marketing new offerings to local tourists and understanding what additional funding programs that they may qualify.
How DER3 helped the Business
An Immediate Action Plan (IAP) was created with recommendations including: exploring partnerships/co-branding opportunities with Dive Shops and Wildlife Tour Operators and creating a wireframe to build out their package and merchandise offerings. The team also compiled funding recommendations specific to their circumstances and needs and sent additional resources as new funding streams became available. An Online Presence Assessment (OPA) was created with a number of actionable recommendations for improving their social media and digital marketing performance such as: ensuring their handles were consistent across all platforms, determining the top 10 hashtags for their company and 10 specific to each social post and possibly creating a YouTube channel to house their videos.
In addition, DER3 provided guidance and coaching to help them discover their top CRM and POS requirements and then advise how to match these requirements against the common features of both software platforms. By reviewing the features and benefits against their needs, God’s Pocket was more empowered and confident to make a more informed software purchase in the future.
To assist with their new website build, our DER3 team implemented a new temporary events page on their current website, and made recommendations for a platform through which to develop the new website. The team also provided WordPress training and offered direct training and support to the God’s Pocket team as they progressed through the development process.
Additionally, DER3 made recommendations and provided resources around diversifying their offerings and partnering with other local tourism companies to target local (Canadian) tourists.
Finally, DER3 offered additional support in creating a targeted social media marketing strategy and a digital marketing strategy, which was in process.
DER3 Impact, Results, Outcome
To date, Claus & Antoine implemented most of the feedback DER3 provided as part of the Online Presence Assessment, and significantly improved their social media performance and online presence consistency across all platforms. Making use of the additional capacity (and time) that came as a result of hosting fewer guests, God’s Pocket took the opportunity to create new content (video, photos and stories) to be able to use to create future engaging social media content.
God’s Pocket also implemented the website recommendations, choosing plugins based on our feedback to extend the website. After each WordPress training session, the clients were able to complete more of their website, enabled with e-commerce capabilities as well as a much more transparent and intuitive trip scheduling system. With the support of DER3, the clients were able to do this work without having to output a large sum for a full website build with a digital service provider. God’s Pocket has also been awarded the Launch Online Grant Funding Program which will help with the cost of the new website which is estimated to be launched late spring 2021.
Their motivational energy was supported by deep expertise that helped us break through the perceived barriers that were stopping us from getting started, and informed how we should ideally proceed.God’s Pocket Resort
Innovation Island has been supporting technology companies to “build, grow and stay” and has fostered local digital ecosystems (and on Vancouver Island for over 20 years. We love to connect with businesses and tech entrepreneurs who are interested in starting a technology business on Vancouver Island, or connecting to other tech and innovative companies with industry resources and expert advice. If you are looking for Startup assistance, support on commercializing your product, or if you have an innovation or invention you would like to launch or looking for general information on technology on Vancouver Island. Connect with us and we would love to hear from you.
We are proud to serve a region encompassing all communities outside of Victoria, including ~ The Cowichan Valley, Duncan, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Port Alberni, Ucluelet, Tofino, Cumberland, Courtenay, Comox, Campbell River, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, the (Southern and Northern) Gulf Islands & the Sunshine Coast.
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