A 'Chamber of Commerce on Steroids' on the San Francisco Peninsula

Lori Halley 22 June 2010 0 comments

This is an update of a post from late last year on the Wild Apricot news page.  Jason has been doing such inspiring stuff with Peninsula Shops that we wanted to share his story here.

Peninsula ShopsHow do you nurture a vibrant retail environment by promoting local merchants - not only in your town, but also in the region? That was the question posed by entrepreneur and marketing professional Jason Sutherland, who lives by these words: Enjoy. Local. Livelihood.

It's the motto driving his business, PeninsulaShops.com, a merchant-supported community web portal that Sutherland founded for residents of the San Francisco Peninsula, just south of San Francisco. Sutherland and the bricks-and-mortar establishments in the two-dozen towns just south of San Francisco are part of a geography-based local movement to promote the area's variety of local shops. His success has lead to the Peninsula Shops story being featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, and in May 2010, Inc. Magazine profiled Peninsula Shops in a story titled “Playing Marketing Games on Twitter,” which used Sutherland’s experience as a primer on how small businesses can have fun with social media to boost sales.  And he says, anchoring the movement is affordable, web-based association management software powered by Wild Apricot.

"We're like a chamber of commerce on steroids," said Sutherland. "PeninsulaShops.com is an umbrella that unifies merchants who are dispersed geographically. We engage and educate shoppers about the great mix of retailers available to them from Daily City to Mountain View, from the inlet of the San Francisco Bay to the coast side."

Sutherland, a 32-year old freelance graphic designer-turned entrepreneur, founded Peninsula Shops in August 2009 with a goal of enlisting 50 merchant members in three months. He quickly surpassed his goal and less than one year later PeninsulaShops.com has 81 merchant members who for just $20 per month get their own listing on the community portal and benefit from Sutherland’s passion and creative marketing skills aimed at promoting the community portal.

Solution Details:

Jason SutherlandDuring the 2009 holiday shopping season, Sutherland launched a unique marketing campaign – a Treasure Hunt -- promoting Peninsula Shops through the social networking platforms Twitter and Facebook. San Francisco Peninsula community members were invited to sign up at PeninsulaShops.com to receive clues for answers to online questions about local establishments. Those with correct answers were eligible to win prizes such as gift certificates or products from participating retailers.

"The Wild Apricot platform helps me push content our web site, through emails and to the social media channels," said Sutherland. "We embedded widgets on our home page so we could simultaneously publish clues and dynamically tweet them on Twitter and post on Facebook. The Wild Apricot platform gave me the flexibility execute this idea."

Besides web hosting and development, Wild Apricot technology is driving every aspect of the PeninsulaShops.com portal. Sutherland says the software offers everything he needs under one roof for:

  • Enabling consumers to sign up for free registration
  • Accepting membership and monthly dues from merchants
  • Sending email communications to all audiences
  • Posting calendar items about upcoming events and assigning daily give-away prizes to each merchant.

"We had a 26% response rate when we gave away a one-night stay at the 5-star Stanford Park Hotel in Menlo Park," said Sutherland. "An organic soap merchant's daily web traffic tripled when we offered a $25 gift certificate as a Twitter Treasure Hunt prize. We are doing unique things for customer awareness and getting merchants recognized. Most importantly, we are boosting local business," he added.

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 11:43 AM

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