Some travel industry executives spend years bouncing from property to property around the world, keeping abreast of the trends and attending tradeshow after conference after sales call to be successful. As it turns out, in Nevada City, all you really need is a love and appreciation for your hometown and a blog.
Erin Thiem is a second-generation owner of the Outside Inn, the motel on Broad Street that personifies quaint and funky simultaneously. It exudes all the personality Nevada City is known for, which is fitting since Thiem writes about the area’s endless offerings on a regular basis. When she took over the inn nearly two years ago from her mother Evans Phelps, she began promoting not just the property, but nearby restaurants, wineries, shops, farms, parks, events, and recreational opportunities.
“I grew up here but lived abroad, and so returning back, part of my job at the motel is to give restaurant recommendations, places to explore and things to do, and I hadn’t done a number of them for quite a long time. The blog was a great excuse to have to get out and revisit some of those places,” said Thiem.
The majority of the inn’s guests come from within a three-hour drive market and approximately 50 percent are returning guests. The blog keeps not just her guests in the loop on Nevada County happenings, but many locals as well. Since she took over the inn, her Facebook followers have leapt to more than 800, while her blog hits reach into the triple digits. She also uses Twitter and showcases her photography of the local sites on Instagram and Flickr. Thiem is thrilled locals use her suggestions as a resource, noting that the awareness is a win-win for everyone.
At a recent class she gave titled “Growing you Business Through Blogging,” she was asked if she worries that people will leave the Outside Inn’s site to continue reading about another local business or event that she’s touting.
“I name drop and I’m a link-happy girl. If you looked up my wine tour post, then clicked to a winery and never came back to me, I’m okay with that. Maybe you’ll come to Nevada City and buy wine, and that’s great.”
Thiem recently pulled together a small package giveaway on a whim to help promote a friend’s pre-ski season workout. Instead of just mentioning it, she called Mountain Recreation, Sugar Bowl and Flylow Gear for a few things to make it more interesting and gave it to one of her readers on Halloween.
“I think it’s great the way I’ve been able to tie together local businesses and get the word out about what’s going on,” Thiem said.
Her affinity for unique outreach and community events is not going unnoticed. When local promotional strategist Fran Lantz’s NASCAR clients were spending some time in Nevada City, Lantz called the inn to see if they would be interested in doing an event. Thiem jumped at the chance.
“We look to do things differently around here, and that was a great example of that,” she said.
Lantz’s clients brought over a racing simulator, which allowed guests of all ages to experience the thrill of racing on the Texas Motor Speedway. She was equally grateful for the opportunity to meet and work with Thiem.
“I’ve had friends stay at the inn, but had never met Erin,” Lantz said. “She’s energetic, creative, funny, sharp, empowered and just someone who’s great to hang out with and network with.”
Thiem embraces being unique and knows her audience, as any marketing professional should. She recently had a couple stop by who ultimately decided the inn wasn’t the right property for them. “We weren’t quite ‘traditional’ enough,” Thiem said. “Which is fine. We know we’re a unique place.”
The 16 rooms are far from cookie cutter and are full of character and individuality. With names and décor that include autumn, winter, and celestial rooms, as well as the single track, paddlers’, and rock climbing suites (complete with indoor climbing wall), the family’s affinity for the outdoors and the Sierra Nevada are evident.
Rather than dwell on losing “traditional” customers, Thiem revels in guests like a woman attending last year’s Wild and Scenic Film Festival, who chose to stay at the Outside Inn because Thiem was a supporter of her community, which was evident to her after reading her blog posts.
“My purpose is to promote our local community, and if they come to our blog, find something else interesting and then leave, I’m still filling my purpose. I never intended to write about motel rooms,” said Thiem.
Locals and visitors alike can catch up on Nevada County happenings via The Outside Inn at www.outsideinn.com.
Katrina Paz is a freelance writer in Grass Valley.