Five Questions with Kevin McCulloch from FLOAT STL
At Atomicdust, we’re lucky to partner with brilliant business owners and marketing professionals. Our clients and partners span various industries — from healthcare, to restaurants, to professional services and consumer goods — and with each project, we learn as much from them as (we hope) they do from us.
This month we talked to Kevin McCulloch, one of the founders of FLOAT STL. With locations in Midtown and Maryland Heights, as well as Rise, a gathering for the floating community, Kevin and his team are bringing a renewed focus on mindfulness and wellbeing to St. Louis. Over the last two years, Atomicdust has worked with FLOAT STL to design their fresh new brand identity and roll it out across St. Louis.
How do you approach marketing? What’s your marketing philosophy?
Marketing for FLOAT STL is extremely important, a key component for our success to date and our continued future growth. When we opened the first float center in the state of Missouri in February of 2015, most individuals were not even aware of the practice of floating, let alone the arrival of our business. Marketing is what has allowed us to become known, what has informed the greater community of the practice of floating, and what has encouraged the completion of now more than 25,000 floats through our two centers.
Our goal in marketing FLOAT STL is to start off with clarity around why we are here, who we are and what we want to accomplish. We want to introduce people to the practice of floating, encourage them to participate, and clearly communicate our brand promise of providing the most attuned and comprehensive float experience possible. We need to do all of this in a way that is balanced with elements of professionalism, community connection, and accessibility.
Floating is good for you. We are float experts. Floating can benefit everyone.
But most importantly, all of our marketing efforts are reflections of the reality of how we operate our business. We aim to infuse our brand into every element of our business, not only in our customer facing media.
You can see this in our pricing structure where our full price floats are only $65 for 90 minutes – well below industry averages. We place great focus on developing community relationships with different groups, organizations, and associations and make it a goal to support and give back wherever we can offer value. We provide continued support and development for our FLOAT STL Tribe members, treating each as a valued family member rather than a company employee.
We believe this focus on mission and purpose reinforces our brand promise and helps us to tell our story through float ambassadors, raving fans, and enthusiastic word-of-mouth advertising.
What has been your most successful or favorite marketing effort? Why do you think it was successful / a favorite?
Most recently, we have really enjoyed sharing our Facebook reviews by reading them aloud via video on our page. Since we opened, we have had the pleasure to receive nearly the most 5-star reviews of any float center on the planet. It helps us to know we are on the right path.
We regularly share these internally to communicate with our Tribe members the recognition of their efforts. Recently, we started selecting one or two each week to read and share with our near 16,000-strong Facebook followers. It is fun and inspiring, and helps to share the story of floating as experienced through our diverse community members.
On the flip side, what is the biggest risk you’ve taken? What did you learn from it?
In April, we created and orchestrated Rise, a float collective gathering of 100+ people from all over the nation. We invited float enthusiasts, potential float center owners, float center operators, and top float industry professionals to St. Louis for a weekend of connection, sharing, and celebration. It was not a marketing effort per se, but it was a giant risk. It required a great deal of time, energy, and attention.
Fortunately we had the support of our amazing FLOAT STL Tribe members, an enthusiastic and devoted group of volunteers, and handfuls of generous community partners. It was a smashing success and ended up bringing us all closer together as we cooperated to create something beautiful and meaningful.
When we first started down that path, there was no way to truly know if any guests would show up to our party!
What do you think is the most significant marketing challenge facing your industry today?
Our industry is in an interesting place. There is rapid growth, and I think it is challenging for many centers to differentiate themselves without competing on price reduction alone, which has the potential to decrease the value of our product. And for many consumers, the product is new and it is difficult to even distinguish between different centers operating within the same market.
Moving forward, there will need to be a continued effort to not only convince consumers that floating is beneficial, but also why a specific center is the best choice for their floating experience.
What is the most helpful business book or resource you’ve come across?
One that I found a great connection to recently was Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman. He is the CEO of St. Louis’ Barry-Wehmiller Group and was recently named the 3rd best CEO in the world by a prominent leadership development firm. As the title reflects, the book speaks to treating each individual with value and respect, care and empathy. This is our aspiration at FLOAT STL from our Tribe member, to our customer, to our community partners, to our postwoman.