Listen the Story

This inspiring story is of a rising startup called Unique Ascent, started by Iain Miller, based out of Ireland. As we go through life, we collect experiences that shape us into who we are and what we become. These experiences come in many shapes and forms, with each providing further insight into who you are and what you can become. What Iain provides is one-of-a-kind experiences surrounded by nature’s beauty in the pounding heart of the ocean. An adventure is simply a journey in which the outcome is uncertain but lives in your happy memories for the rest of your life. Here is the story of Unique Ascent in Iain’s own words.

Introduce us to the idea of Unique Ascent

When I first moved to Donegal (Donegal is a town at the mouth of the River Eske, in northwest Ireland) in 2005, I quickly realized the county’s rock climbing and tourism potential. I was not local, born and brought up here, and maybe that’s why I saw the county through the eyes of a climber. I began to explore, climb and promote locations around the coast and on uninhabited islands no-one else ever had.

My idea was to turn Donegal into a globally recognized adventure climbing location, and this is what I have done and continue to do. In the early 2000s, Donegal was practically unheard of outside of Ireland and known nationally as the place where it rains most in Ireland. At first, I promoted the county as a scenic destination.

After a few years, I was more specific and targeted the adventure potential of its coastline, islands, and mountains. The final stage of this promotion is to promote myself. This is the ascending order of a three-stage campaign, with each stage laying the next’s foundations. Using this strategy, I have attracted visits from National Geographic, The Guardian, Globe, and Mail, Outside Magazine, Red Bull, Star Wars, and Forbes, to name but a few.

Although I have had a high success rate in attracting the world’s press, the quest continues at the same pace as when I first began. A good business plan and marketing strategy is a continually evolving plan that lasts the lifetime of the company it supports and promotes.

What’s your strategy story? What led you to start Unique Ascent?

My name is Iain Miller and I am the owner of Unique Ascent a guiding and mountain training company based in County Donegal on the northwest corner of the Republic of Ireland. I was brought up in three very distinct coastal villages in Scotland and then spent 20 years traveling the world as a merchant seafarer. I began hillwalking at the age of 14 and started solo hiking and climbing at 18, as soon as I had my driving permit.

I continued to hill walk and rock climb during my 20 years at sea, spending my time at sea training to climb when I was next home. Living in remote coastal locations and having no available climbing partners led me to climb by the sea alone most of the time.

As the years went by, I began receiving more and more requests to take people out climbing to the point where I left the sea and became a full-time climber. To the point where I decided to start my own business, I did not think I had all the required skills to transition from employee to self-employed.

Although it was never my goal or intent ever to be self-employed, once I committed, it became very natural, and almost everything just fell into place. Several years on, I know that I was always destined to be where I am now, and I am entirely simply living the dream.

What marketing, operation strategies are you adopting at Unique Ascent?

My marketing strategy revolves around two facets the first is creating good in context content with the second facet being my website. I use a wide spectrum of marketing techniques and online mediums all of which revolve around me curating content from the great outdoors around the area in which I live, work and play.

I have created a good domain authority information website in which I create content by simply going out and climbing in outrageous places. I place all my new rock climbs free to download PDF guidebooks, of which all 32 are hosted on my site. These free guidebooks have been downloaded in over 80 countries and have traveled the globe back to Ireland and been used by visiting hikers and climbers on their vacations here.

I use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to simply drive traffic to particular pages on my site as appropriate to the content posted.

I tend to get a huge amount of traction through press releases when I feel I have done something or found something press-worthy. An excellent example of this would be Downpatrick Head Climb and the accompanying blog post on my site, Downpatrick Head Blog Post. This example footage and blog post did very well in gaining backlinks from news sites worldwide. After 2 years, I still have over 30 domain authority 60+ backlinks from this example.

The desired result of my marketing strategy is that my website can be found organically by people who are not searching directly for me.

What is the competitive advantage of Unique Ascent?

I have spent the last 30 years playing and exploring the sea stacks of both Scotland and Ireland. During this time, I have discovered and was the first to climb nearly 50 previously unclimbed sea stacks. To safely reach these sea stack summits involves a combination of kayaking, swimming, tyrolean traverses, rock climbing, abseiling, and both mountain and marine guile.

What I have done is to combine a unique set of skills gained over my 20+ years as a seafarer and 30 years as a mountaineer rock climber. What I have done with these combined skills is to create, develop and utilize a collection of techniques that only I use.

Suppose we raise the bar higher and add into the mix the local coastal knowledge of my 500km stretch of Irish Atlantic coastline. This allows me to climb and guide in places where nobody else visits. This has allowed me to create an absolutely case iron Unique Selling Point with hugely difficult entry barriers for anyone else considering doing what I am doing. This is an article written by Red Bull, “Meet the world’s only professional sea stack climber defines my unique selling point nicely“.

Any strategy mistakes you have made and what did you learn?

The most significant error I made was to pay for advertising in paper publications in the early days of my startup. I purchased space in various publications both nationally in Ireland and internationally in the United States. Around the same time, I did my first press release for a Pool of Light phenomenon I discovered in a remote sea cave under an uninhabited island. The publicity and subsequent sales I got from the press release of the cave totally eclipsed the trickle of sales from the paid advertising.

My learning from this was that fewer people read print media in this modern age, and very few of them will follow up any advertising within them.

Share a story when you have been customer-obsessed at Unique Ascent

From the very beginning of starting my business, I made the conscious decision not to put quantity over quality. In my business context, this means I focus on a single person or a couple as my core guiding ratio and my selling point demographic. This meager ratio of clients means we can safely visit situations and locations that would be impossible to visit safely with a larger number of people under my duty of care.

The places we can visit in this small group size are much more dramatic, remote, and difficult to access than any other person or business in Ireland is offering. It is this small group ratio and perhaps the perceived extreme nature of my products that define and cements my unique selling point.

By taking this approach from the beginning of my business I avoided the trap of seeking larger and larger sized groups to guide thus diluting my UPS in favor of client volume.

Finally what advice do you have for your fellow entrepreneur readers?

The best piece of advice I can offer people in the start-up phase of their business is to keep their overheads as low as possible for as long as possible. By this I mean, there is a tendency for fledgling businesses to try and expand too quickly by operating at levels unsustainable by their current fledgling income.

This rushed expansion can take the form of renting or buying facilities or equipment that are too large a capacity and expensive for the business’s current income. I found that it is better to grow as your revenue increases rather than attempting to run your business at a predicted future revenue. This, for me, was simply much most achievable and sustainable for long-term growth.

Disclaimer: The information in the above story is provided by the startup and The Strategy Story takes no responsibility for the authenticity of the product and services offered by the startup. Reader’s discretion is advised.

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