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What a Fly-By-Night Costa Rican Hitchhiking Journey Taught Me About Marketing During Quarantine

I raise my head to peer over the edge of the pickup truck bed. 

It’s dark and humid and I’m not quite sure where we are.

All I know is that we’re flying down an unlit road through the jungles of Costa Rica…

I turn to my right and ask my friend, “You think we’re getting close?”

He shakes his head, signalling that he has no idea where we are or how much further we have to go.

As we careen down the gravel road we hear monkeys in the trees and see eerie eyes reflect in the ditches we pass.

Probably alligators…

Just hours earlier we were on a barge swilling beers while we passed across the Gulf of Nicoya.

After hitting dry land there was no bus or taxi to be found to take us to our destination.

Turns out we’d taken the last barge of the day and the regular transportation was out for the night.

50 feet away we hear a man in a tank top and a cowboy hat say, “¿A dónde vas?” or “Where are you heading to?”

We say the name of the town, “Mal Pais” which translates to “Bad Country” in English.

How fitting…

He says he and his friends can take us there for $40 US dollars, but there’s only room for two in the cab and the rest have to pile in the bed of the truck.

I thought long and hard about this for a minute.

I mean… What are my options?

I can either test my luck and search for a motel in this rough and tumble port town I don’t want to stay in…

Or ride 3.5 hours in the back of a truck with a driver I’ve never met and wake up in paradise tomorrow.

He seemed sober and was our only choice, so my friends and I all loaded up our bags in his truck, jumped in, and decided to go for it.

I’m not going to say that this is the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but it was the only option that we saw fit.

We just went with it.

Wanna hear the happy ending to this story?

These guys were awesome!

They were super-nice and even though we didn’t say all that much on the ride (our Spanish wasn’t the best)… 

All of us communicated the best we could while we shared a six pack and joked in the back of that truck.

Some of my best memories in life are of stepping outside of my comfort zone and surrendering to the experience at hand.

Especially while traveling.

Well, it looks like I won’t be doing any big trips in the near future, but that doesn’t mean I can’t practice surrendering to other experiences that present themselves closer to home (or online).

Right now, you may be going through some big changes in your life and business.

I know a lot of my friends that owned marketing agencies helping local businesses are having to decide if they need to surrender to the experience in front of us and pivot…

Or wait it out.

As much as it pains me to say it… I think we’ve got a long road ahead for local businesses and many of the ones you relied on in the past now have a big fat goose egg in the marketing budget. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t still help them.

If you have a client or friend that owns a local business that isn’t able to open up right now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t help them get some cash flow in right now.

If they have an email list, you’re in luck.

Right now, that’s going to be their life raft.

Most likely, these people inside their list are their biggest fans. People that have already done business with them and (hopefully) trust them.

A lot of these people want to help these businesses out if they can.

Here are two quick ideas to get a cash influx into their business even if they aren’t able to open up right now:

  1. Pre-sell gift cards at 15% off for when they re-open. You already know that the people on their email list who have purchased from them before have a good chance of doing it again. Make them this offer.
  1. Partner up with another company that is in a similar industry that sells online and and set up an affiliate commission. 

If you’re not aware of what an affiliate commission is, it’s when you get paid a percentage of the sale for selling someone else’s product or service.

As an example, if you own a dog grooming company you could partner with an online pet food company and send out an email to your list offering a discount on pet food if they purchase through your link.

These are just a couple of ideas, but I’m sure you could come up with many more with a quick brainstorming session.

Even though businesses are beginning to open up again, there’s a chance we may see cases spike and possibly end up in a longer quarantine than we expected (let’s hope not).

If you’re waiting for an answer for what to do with your business in limbo, you’re going to have to surrender to what’s happening and not be afraid to pivot.

Remember, what got you here won’t always get you where you need to go.