“We like to look at ourselves as detectives, and we go hunting for good stories,” said Amanda Scotese, owner and founder of Chicago Detours, a touring company that delivers more than your average city tour. In this week’s episode, we learn how she and her team have created an unforgettable—and more importantly, irreplicable—experience for their customers.
And it’s that creative mindset that has enabled Chicago Detours to thrive during a pandemic when in-person tours were simply not possible. Our Yelp reviewer Michelle R. shared her virtual experience—exploring Chicago, all from her living room in Orlando. “As a food tour enthusiast, I was not sure how a virtual tour could compare,” Michelle said. But as you’ll hear, everything from the host to the exclusive, behind-the-scenes stories left her craving more, and Chicago is now even higher on her travel bucket list.
Amanda started her business because she wanted to offer “an alternative from your standard mass tourism.” She wanted to bring together “specifically curious people to explore stories and places that locals don’t even know.”
Her success is ultimately founded in her ability to uncover stories that are unknown to even Chicago natives. She puts in the work—conducting interviews with business owners, asking unique questions, and soaking in all of the answers, all with the goal of curating tours full of information that can’t be easily found anywhere else.
As with many businesses, the pandemic was a huge blow for Amanda. But instead of pausing operations, she quickly took her tours online, creating virtual experiences for the first time ever. She immediately recognized that people would be home and online more than before, looking for things to do, things to entertain them, things to distract them. “Our first inclination was, we’re all going to be online, and we’re all going to be looking for diversions from the extreme situation that we were in.”
Amanda took what was an exclusively in-person experience and transformed it into something entirely new that was just as engaging and successful. Chicago Detours now has a global reach, creating an entirely new revenue stream that will stick around long after the pandemic eases.
Here are a few other key takeaways from the episode:
- Find the most engaging way to tell your story. The deep-down appeal of Chicago Detours is that it tells exciting stories of the city and its people. This can also be applied to the way you tell your own story. Engage your customers by sharing more about your business—whether it’s how you started or the purpose that drives you every day. Once you’ve figured that out, how can you elevate that message?
- Think outside the box. Consumers deliberately choose businesses that deliver something special and unique. They want to experience a product or service that they can’t get anywhere else. Chicago Detours offers exclusive insights into Chicago’s small businesses—what can your business exclusively share with customers? Explore all angles; no idea is too big.
- Let customer feedback work for you. It’s easy to get caught up in the nuances of customer feedback, but reviews are the easiest way to gather direct, customized feedback—and they’re free! Amanda shared, “Reading those reviews is so valuable, making that feedback as part of your whole loop and how you create your products and how you offer your service and how you really strive to be the best in what you do.”
Interviews by Emily Washcovick
These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear from Amanda and Michelle, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.
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