Get Your Customer Retention Strategies in Shape: A Case Study on Fitpacking

by Michelle Salater on February 24, 2011

As the second post in our Customer Retention Strategy series, where we focus on business owners who use effective customer retention strategies, we had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Silberberg, owner and guide for Fitpacking.

Fitpacking is a company comprised of several highly knowledgeable guides who take moderately overweight people on weight-loss backpacking adventure vacations to stunning destinations to get in shape and alter body composition.

Below is our interview with Steve:

1. Tell us a little bit about your company, Fitpacking, and what inspired you to start this business.

I spent many years as a software contractor with a high-profile investment firm in an often-stressful environment. As backpacking is my passion, I found that whenever I returned from a trip that I felt better, my clothes fit better, and I was stress free. It seemed that a week of hiking was a good way to transform attitude and body composition.

In 2005, I led the first Fitpacking trip as an experiment, taking detailed measurements of bodily metrics in order to document the transformation hiking fomented. At the end of the trip, the measurements confirmed what I experienced anecdotally, that backpacking is great for losing weight.

Although I started Fitpacking ostensibly to help people get fit and lose weight, my unstated ambition is to introduce people into the wilderness and inspire them to protect it. Someone who has always lived in Los Angeles and has never seen a Redwood Tree only has an abstract notion of why the trees need protection, until they live amongst these leviathans for two weeks.

Image of a Fitpacking group. Coutesy of Steve Silberberg.

2. What customer retention strategies do you use to keep loyal customers coming back for more?

The most effective strategy I’ve found for retaining customers and turning them into repeat clients is our Frequent Hiker Program. Every time someone takes a Fitpacking Trip, he or she adds value to a personal account. This personal account is a discount that can be used over and over again and only grows as more trips are taken.

I find that this is an enormous incentive for repeat customers. Naturally, it lessens revenue, but as you live with clients in the wilderness week after week, they become your close friends and are far more independent (and predictable!) than newbies.

The only other real customer retention strategy I use is my mailing list / newsletter, briefly and sparingly. People actually read short messages once every week or two, and such sporadic communication doesn’t seem like spam. And we all know how abusive and off-putting some mailing lists can be.

3. What specific results have you seen from your customer retention strategies?

Well, on our January Florida Trip, every single participant had been on a prior Fitpacking trip. Now this doesn’t speak well of how we’re wooing new customers, but it does show that the retention incentives seem to be working.

4. What online marketing channels do you use to promote your business and customer loyalty programs?

Our primary marketing channel is Google AdWords. Oh sure, we advertise on Facebook and Microsoft AdCenter too, but it’s mostly Google.

The other strategy is seeking media coverage. Last year we were spotlighted in Money Magazine, and the March 2011 issue of Backpacker Magazine (just published) contains a feature article on Fitpacking.

Image of Fitpacking owner, Steve Silberberg. Coutesy of Steve Silberberg.

5. Is there anything else you’d like to add about your business, loyalty program, or marketing strategies?

Much care must be taken about not marketing Fitpacking to inappropriate clients. In another business, if I sell you ugly jeans, well the worst that can happen is that people think you dress like a dork. But if I sell a backpacking trip to people not physically capable of hiking 50 miles through the wilderness, I may be putting their safety in danger. For example, they could collapse on the side of a remote mountain, exhausted and demoralized, as a cold night quickly approaches, ultimately ending up in some Discovery Channel special.

About Fitpacking:

Fitpacking guides moderately overweight people on weight-loss backpacking adventure vacations to stunning destinations to get in shape and alter body composition.

Like Fitpacking on Facebook.

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