Magnetude Consulting gives you a closer look into the startup community. We interview tech startups and other entrepreneurial leaders to bring you their stories, as well as insights into marketing techniques that have helped them along the way.
Today’s interview is with the one of the founders of offMetro, Lauren Matison. offMetro is a travel resource for city dwellers who want to get out of town. They promote a “greener” lifestyle through inspiring day trips and weekend jaunts that are easily accessible via alternative modes of transportation.
Tell me about your background and how you came about the idea for offMetro.
My background is in journalism. While in college, I interned at Los Angeles Magazine and at a Hearst travel magazine. I also founded a travel publication during my senior year of college. These three experiences really helped shed light on the kind of career I wanted. I moved to Manhattan with my now husband and worked my way around the print and digital publishing industry, from editing travel articles to reporting on special events for BizBash Media. While Vince and I loved our first months living in Manhattan, we missed the great outdoors and needed to sate our craving for adventure. We realized there was no resource for New Yorkers that focused exclusively on day trips and weekend getaways. As we—the self-taught web developer and the stir-crazy editor—built up the site, we discovered that over 75% of Manhattanites don’t have a car, so there seemed to be a big need for this resource.
We would take the train, bus, ferry and our bikes and explore the outer boroughs and beyond the city. Then we would come home and write about our trips and where we went without a car. Soon enough, with the help of a growing team of writers, we had a couple hundred stories and thousands of monthly readers. While oM started as a side project, I decided to go full-time with the site in the spring of 2009.
How do you describe the value you bring to your customers?
Our motto is “If you can’t make the weekends longer, strive to make them better.” offMetro makes it easier for travelers to get out of town for the day or weekend. We cut down on the time and the stress that typically goes into planning a quick getaway. oM also helps consumers reduce their carbon footprint by offering alternative modes of transportation, as well as great recommendations on farm-to-table restaurants and eco-conscious hotels.
Have you ever had to pivot or change direction?
When we started the business, we were called offManhattan. We’re now called offMetro as we’ve expanded to include a San Francisco site. We’d like to launch internationally to markets like London and Paris.
Most recently, we added a new feature that allows readers to book their vacations directly on our website. We’ll also be debuting a tool that will enable travelers to compare various modes of transportation and book the trip that’s best for them, be it the cheapest, fastest, or greenest route. Ultimately, we plan to offset the carbon footprint of every user who books a getaway on offMetro.com—at no extra cost to the consumer.
What marketing channels have been the most effective for growing your readership?
We’re involved in a lot of content marketing. Social media is a big area for us in creating brand awareness, and we also offer a newsletter to our readers. In addition, we spend a lot of time on our site’s SEO, striving to rank highly in searches. Aside from digital marketing, we partner with like-minded organizations and individuals. It helps to connect with companies that have similar audiences as it drives more traffic to our site. We also get involved with a lot of relevant events, which allows us to meet our potential readers in person and create that human connection with our brand.
What is your biggest marketing challenge?
Our biggest challenge is not having a marketing director. As a co-founder, I wear many hats, and I spend a lot of my time brainstorming and executing our marketing efforts. One of our next steps is to hire someone with a more formal marketing background who can bring new ideas to the company and help us continue our growth.
What are offMetro’s next milestones or business development goals?
We have just relaunched offMetro NY’s website, which includes an option to browse great local getaway deals and book travel right on the site. We’re also interested in what our readers have to say, so we’ve soft launched a user-generated section to give our travel-savvy readers a forum to share their own getaway tips, ask questions, and help fellow New Yorkers get out of town.
If you’re interested in being interviewed for the Magnetude Startup Spotlight or you would like to learn more about our marketing services for startups, please contact us today!
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