Start Up Blog

Industrial Tourism

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 1, 2009

Industrial Tourism is big business. It’s a little know fact the Boeing factory in Seattle has over  180,000 visitors a year.  At $15 a ticket that is approx $2.7 million in high margin revenue.

boeing 787 dreamliner

Local Australia firm fosters brewing has a popular brewery tour at their Melbourne plant (you get a free beer at the end of it) as does Media conglomerate NBC in the Rockerfella Centre in New York. None of this is free, and they are all fully booked pretty much every day.  The thing that is almost as powerful as the cash such Industrial Tourism generates, is the relationship it builds with the brand.

It is pretty cool to be taken into the ‘secret back room’, even though we can all be pretty sure that Boeing or any large conglomerate are not about to give away any secrets on said tours. But this is where startups and SME’s can do it even better. We can let our early adopters into our Factory, Alpha testing, Retail back room, Warehouse, New Product Development session. We can let them expose our secret goodness to the market for us. Especially if we do something awesome like make great software, use recycled materials or anything creative.

So the question for startups is this: How can we let our early adopters and brand evangalists into our secret world to spread our world?

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2 Responses

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  1. Scott Kilmartin said, on August 1, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    In Australia, https://www.littlecreatures.com.au does a good version in their Fremantle Brewery where you can see the beer being brewed around you, drink some in the bar cafe and pick up a slab on the way out. In a different format http://deus.com.au do a good job in their retro motorcycle shop in Camperdown. Equal part store / workshop / cafe in Sydney’s west.

    It shows authenticity in a world where little kids increasingly believe milk comes from the supermarket.

    The boutique wineries of the Hunter Valley and Barossa regions have long known the value of industrial tourism whether as an extra revenue stream or point of difference.
    With the Tyrell family pioneering this in the 70’s [http://www.tyrrells.com.au/visitus/index.aspx ]. It may not be big shiny planes on show, but it’s big business and smart.

    If you make woollen jumpers and you are getting killed by lower cost products imports then get Bluey the shearer [he has to have a gut, wear Blunnies and drink VB – the old kind] to fleece a few sheeps in your workshop at the back of your store [ or at least get him in showroom or even a promo at Chadstone. ] to bring cred and difference to your brand.

    If not this year, then early 2010 [my business] haul [ http://www.haul.com.au ] will bring a boutique working factory back to the Melbourne cbd where you’ll be able to see unique recycled bags being made in the workshop, buy it in the store out front and gets some good java to boot. Melbourne is a rich manufacturing tradition as this space will be in part a hat tip to it’s industrial past.
    That space will have revenue streams that include retail / tours / java and potentially a venue to stage events from art /music/book launches to a meeting room with a difference.

    So, if you have a cow in your business, show your punters some milking. If you have rare or HUGE 747 cows then charge to see the milking ‘ceremony’.

    I best get back to making some stuff…

    http://twitter.com/ScottKilmartin

  2. Brett said, on August 5, 2009 at 3:59 am

    I really like the idea behind this. It’s so easy to forget that, to a group of your fans, the place where you work is impressive and special.

    At a job I once had, we often had our independent field reps come through for tours of the corporate office. At least a couple a day. You learn pretty quickly to a) stop what you’re doing when they pass your office and greet them – it matters; b) keep your office relatively clean and neat (I didn’t do that one well); c) hide the secret stuff.

    But of course, the bond that is formed during those few minutes is hard to break.


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