Sweet John Muehlbauer is the Director of Experience for YourBikerGang tours rated the number 1 outdoor tour in Austin according to Tripadvisor.
Sweet John has over 20 years of experience working with and for brands such as AT&T, Disney, Red Bull, and SXSW.
He sat down with Tourpreneur Host Shane Whaley, and shares more with us about how YourBikerGang strives to help guests ‘unleash their bad side.’
Sweet John Muehlbauer, YourBikerGang Tours
When guests are looking for a tour, they’re always looking at something, let’s say Segway, which has been around a while. And that’s understandable.
I’d say the biggest challenge is getting them to understand that it’s not just a bike ride. It’s not just riding on a vehicle. It’s not about the ride on the vehicle. That’s just a small part of it. It’s not just about seeing the sights of the city.
I call it the three F’s. It’s fun, facts, and photos.
Got a little liberty with the last F there, but it’s just you get these great moments.
We talk through the main challenges of launching a unique tour especially when it comes to pricing YourBikerGang tours.
Nobody else is offering a similar tour so how did Sweet John and his team come up with a price that guests are prepared to pay whilst making a profit?
Sweet John walks us through YourBikerGang’s pricing strategy and shares with us how they market a tour that, is so unique, nobody is searching for it.
We also discuss booking systems, Sweet John generously shares his Instagram tips for tour operators and why tour guides are the crucial part of any tour business.
Exclusive to Austin, this unique tour puts you and your friends in your own electric biker gang.
See the city from a fat-tired electric minibike. You can be a part of an electric minibike biker gang! Our fat-tire minibikes are fun and super easy to ride.
See the sights and have a blast! If you can ride a bike, you definitely can ride our minibike, as long as the driver is at least 16 years of age. Since our minibikes have a top speed of 20 MPH and are considered electric bicycles there is no license needed. All you need to do is smile and ride. It’s that much fun! We keep our tours exciting and unique which means no two rides are the same! Our Road Captains will make sure you get to see some of the best points of interest in Austin. You’ll be glad you rode with the gang as we’re the BEST tour in Texas!
This episode and interview of Tourpreneur@Arival is presented by Checkfront. The booking platform trusted by over 5,000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21-day trial over at Checkfront.com.
Join the Tourpreneur Insiders Facebook Group and grow your business by learning from other tour operators.
Links and Resources Mentioned on This Episode of Tourpreneur – the podcast for tour operators.
- YourBikerGang – Fat Tire Guided Tours of Austin
- Sweet John Muehlbauer
- YourBikerGang on Instagram
- YourBikerGang Reviews
- Checkfront Booking Software for Tours and Activities.
Interview with Sweet John Muehlbauer, Director of Experience, YourBikerGang. Full transcript.
Speaker 1: Today’s episode is brought to you by CheckFront, the booking platform trusted by over 5,000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21 day trial over at checkfront.com.
Speaker 2: Welcome to the TourPreneur Podcast. Travel industry veteran Shane Whaley will take you on a journey with fellow tourpreneurs, sharing their tips, ideas, insights, and success stories to inspire you to make your tour business the best it can be. Now, please welcome your host, Shane.
Shane Whaley: Welcome to TourPreneur at Arival, presented by CheckFront. Today we are joined on the show by Sweet John Muehlbauer. How are you?
SweetJohn: I’m doing great. How are you?
Shane Whaley: Fantastic. Tell me about your tour.
SweetJohn: Well, we’re YourBikerGang.com. We offer a biker gang experience in Austin and San Antonio. We let our guests unleash their bad side. They get to ride fat tire minibikes. They get these cool helmets, the goggles. They get to feel like they’re part of something. We let them bring out their bad selves and see the city in a unique way that no other tour can provide.
Shane Whaley: How long have you been going for?
SweetJohn: We’re going into our third year right now.
Shane Whaley: How did it all get started?
SweetJohn: Well, we actually started as a product company. Our founder, he lived down in downtown Austin and he wanted to get around, and this is before those ride share scooters and everything out there. He was looking for a vehicle so he didn’t have to find parking, because parking in downtown Austin is impossible. He wanted to be able to run to the coffee shop, do quick errands, have a vehicle that was going to get there. So, he did a lot of research and found a company in Asia that was making an electric vehicle. Had one shipped over and saw how people reacted to it. So, he decided to form a business around it and sell these bikes. The problem was it was just, the vehicle wasn’t set for people who would use them.
SweetJohn: The city dweller doesn’t have a garage. This was a big vehicle. The impressive size and all that, he realized it wasn’t something to sell, but everybody wanted to ride it. Then the light bulb went off. It’s like, let’s do tours. It kind of feels like a ’70s minibike, almost like it’s a custom, small Harley. You kind of feel like you’re in a biker gang. And then it just clicked. It’s like that’s what we’re going to call it, Your Biker Gang. We’ll get a group together and it’ll be a lot of fun. We kind of take it as a parody of it, where you feel the bad side, so not the negative things of the crime and all the other things that go with a biker gang, but the fun thing of just that open road and feeling bad ass.
Shane Whaley: Absolutely. Let’s say I’m coming to Austin as a tourist. How would I discover your tours? Because it’s not something that someone searches for.
SweetJohn: Let’s just say if you’re looking for something [crosstalk 00:02:48]
Shane Whaley: It’s unique.
SweetJohn: … you can find us on TripAdvisor, Expedia, pretty much all the usual sites that you’d be able to find your destination attractions and events. We also work with Visit Austin and Visit San Antonio. You’d be able to find us there. And of course our website, which is also our name, YourBikerGang.com.
Shane Whaley: What do you find the most rewarding aspect about what you do?
SweetJohn: Honestly, the best part is when people see the vehicle, they see the photos because there’s a ton of photos of our tour that our guests have taken and have posted online. So, a lot of the times they hear about, of someone has done this. Now, the bike is the draw, but what has honestly brought people back and what is seeing the looks on people’s faces after they’ve done the ride, it wasn’t the bike as much as the experience with our road captain, who really brings it together. This is a guided tour experience and our road captain is the star of the show. So, it’s not just riding around and seeing sites. It’s honestly feeling like you’re part of something and you’re being entertained by a very engaging and entertaining road captain. And that’s what our tour guide is.
Shane Whaley: Yeah, absolutely. You’re all about that experience. And it’s a unique experience that you’re offering, by the sounds of it.
Shane Whaley: It sounds fun. What would you say has been the biggest challenge for the business?
SweetJohn: I’d say the biggest challenge for us has been sometimes people think it’s something different. When they’re looking for a tour, they’re always looking at something, let’s say Segway, which has been around a while. And that’s understandable. I’d say the biggest challenge is getting them to understand that it’s not just a bike ride. It’s not just riding on a vehicle. It’s not about the ride on the vehicle. That’s just a small part of it. It’s not just about seeing the sights of the city. I call it the three F’s. It’s fun, facts, and photos. Got a little liberty with the last F there, but it’s just you get these great moments.
SweetJohn: You want to have people take pictures of you. One of the other things we found too is we found that our best marketing tool has actually been our tours out on the road too, because when people see it and they go by and they’re around, they’re like what is that? I want to do that. That’s the most fun thing ever. Taking that passion and energy as people are seeing us going by and trying to market that, that’s been a big challenge. We’ve found some great ways to do it, especially with a lot of our user generated content, and the photos that we take during a tour too have helped to show that because all the photos that we post and all of that are actual tour photos. So, we’re showing what it’s really like to be on our tour.
Shane Whaley: What do you find to be the most effective social media channel?
SweetJohn: Oh, Instagram. Instagram and then Facebook. Instagram is great because of the fact that it’s photos. People scroll through it, I get a lot of commentary on it, and it also feeds to our Facebook and our booking pages, so that’s there too. And, of course, Facebook because Facebook people use as a search engin now.
Shane Whaley: Are you responsible for uploading the photos to Instagram?
Shane Whaley: Your job?
Shane Whaley: Any Instagram tips for tour operators that you’ve found really effective, or any tools you use that …
SweetJohn: Our road captains actually take all the photos. I used to be a photographer, so I know how to really do all the great editing and cropping and take the image to the next level, but I don’t really need to do that much. It’s honestly showing those smiling faces of someone enjoying something. If you know how to take just a good, candid photo something and capture it, and a way to capture that energy and that excitement and that look of wonder that someone has when they’re doing your tour, that’s what people want to see. They want to have that feeling. They want to have that passion about something they’re doing. If I want to do something fun, do you want to, when every has a straight, blank look on their face? I don’t want to ride on that. You see people who are excited and they look like they’re pumped up, and the picture looks fun, that’s the kind of content that people want to be a part of. They want to ride on that tour.
Shane Whaley: Which booking platform do you guys use?
SweetJohn: We are actually using two right now. In our San Antonio market, we use Bokun. In Austin, we use Rezdy. We wanted to just see between the two which was a better platform. They both do a really good job. Bokun is nice because of the TripAdvisor experiences integration, and Rezdy is probably one of the most robust, solid platforms. That’s probably the most tried and true thing. It’s an unbreakable kind of a system. So, there’s benefits to having both.
Shane Whaley: For people who are listening to the show, we got a lot of tourpreneurs in waiting. They want to launch it all and they’re a bit nervous What would you say is the one thing that many people don’t realize about running your own small business?
SweetJohn: You have to think of what your experience is like from a guest perspective completely. Now, it’s really easy to take things personal. You can’t take them personal when you get feedback on something like this because you have to understand you know what you’re doing, you know what your accomplishment is. Someone who’s not familiar doesn’t know. So, you have to play around with it. You have to make mistakes. You have to be willing to push things a little bit and experiment, and change things up if they’re not working. I’d say flexibility is the biggest thing that you need to have. That’s also something you can be afraid of because something you may not be able to practice all the time, but if you can have sort of an improvisational skill about manipulating your experience, and then you’ll find the direction it needs to be. I think that’s the best thing that you can actually do to make an experience that’s memorable, and then guests will want to come back, bring their friends, and do it again.
Shane Whaley: How did you go about pricing your tours? I’m interested because you have a very unique experience. It’s not like oh, they have a walking tour. They charge $50. We can do the same. You’ve created something completely unique. Because this is a question we get a lot from our listeners. They don’t know what to price a tour at.
SweetJohn: Well, we also look at the market. What are other tours in the going for? And what do they provide versus what experience are we providing? What level of service are we giving? And what value set is on there? We are probably one of the more expensive tours in the area. In fact, we’re probably double most of the other tours. Part of the reason is one, we don’t really nickel and dime our customers. Like, they need bottled water? They can have as much as they want. We’re an outside tour. It gets hot in Texas. We want our guests to be comfortable. It adds to the experience. If I have somebody that oh, I don’t want to pay $3 for a water bottle and they’re miserable, or they feel like they get heat exhaustion, that’s not good for us. That’s not good for our guests, that’s not good for the business.
SweetJohn: We want them to feel a part of it. Sunscreen, bug screen. If it’s going to rain, we have rain ponchos. All complimentary. We include these things because it’s part of the overall experience. We consider us a premium product, so we also like to give that premium feel to it too. Now, when we were looking at pricing, you can’t price yourself out of the market, so we took a look at everything. What would people be willing to pay on it? We did a lot of market research on it too. We had some friends look at some things, what would you be willing to pay on this? Asked them some questions too.
Shane Whaley: Brilliant.
SweetJohn: Other travelers and all that. And then we’ve looked at some other experiences around the world to see as an average what they’ve been doing for other premium experiences. So, we did a ton of research and we found a good price model to start at. Now we’ve found what we think is our sweet spot, and it’s worked out perfect for us. We don’t really get complaints on pricing at all.
Shane Whaley: Excellent. That’s really good advice for our listeners. Where can people find your tours online?
Shane Whaley: Fantastic. Thank you very much for joining us today.
SweetJohn: Thank you for having me.
Shane Whaley: We need to say hello to somebody don’t we?
SweetJohn: Oh yeah. We’d like to say, back home to our team, Patrick, Cope, and our newest road captains, Gator and Tyrone.
Shane Whaley: There you go. Good shout outs. Thank you.
SweetJohn: Thank you.
Speaker 2: Thanks for listening to the TourPreneur podcast. Be sure to visit tourpreneur.com to join the conversation and access the show notes, including links to the resources mentioned on today’s episode. This is TourPreneur.