What is a FUN expert? Ask Joanna Shebson whose name has become synonymous with having FUN in Jerusalem, because that is precisely what she does to delight consumers, promote businesses and strengthen Jerusalem tourism.
Joanna Shebson is a born marketer. Even as a young girl growing up in LA she understood that marketing success involves bringing together the different elements of exquisite design, inspiring content and a deep understanding of trends, behaviours and the strategic and artful sell. As an adult, she received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and brought her young family and marketing acumen to Israel. Little did she know that starting a blog and sharing her children’s fun after-school activities would balloon into a website with tens of thousand of readers. She is the now the go-to authority for up-to-date information and recommendations that connect Jerusalem-fun seekers with Jerusalem-fun providers. I met up with Joanna in Jerusalem.
Connecting the Dots
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.” -Steve Jobs
Soon after making aliyah and developing a routine, Joanna would take her two young children out every afternoon and do something fun. One day, she saw an ad for a blogging workshop run by Kelli Brown. At the time, she didn’t know a thing about blogging, but immediately knew she would blog about her daily excursion with her kids. After consulting with her sister, Joanna decided to call her blog FUN in Jerusalem. Her first blog post was about her trip with her sons and their Playmobil’s to the bunkers of Ammunition Hill. Joanna kept writing blog posts and then one Shabbat was introduced to “Kol HaIr” (English: the entire city) a local Hebrew weekly filled with events in the city. This sparked the idea for FUN in Jerusalem’s calendar of events and that’s when things started taking off.
Joanna always knew that she wanted to do something “super consumer-focused and fun.” And though at Kellogg most of her colleagues went on to work in consulting, banking and health care, much of what she learned applied to the field of tourism, though she didn’t yet know that she would work in the field.
Joanna cares about giving her vendors 100%, doing her utmost to make sure people hear about them and attend the activities and events they offer. Focusing on promoting things before they happen, means that Joanna is constantly looking for more ways she can bring more attention to her vendors. It’s a never-ending feat.
Things become especially stressful during times of war and unrest when vendors suffer. It’s painful because the government doesn’t really help and the situation can cause vendors to have to find a new line of work to support themselves. “So that’s one of the things that also gave me the drive to help smaller companies,” Joanna explains, “I really care about them.”
As every business woman knows, the choice (or lack of choice) to both work and raise a family comes with its own unique set of challenges. As a business grows it requires more time which can coincide with how we perceive our children’s needs.
“It’s a struggle,” Joanna explains, “because now the company’s growing…but my kids still come home at three.”
And despite the challenges and the need to juggle, Joanna recently chose to take part in a course offered by the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (the world’s number one hotel school) currently being offered to marketing directors of all the museums and attractions. The course furthers Joanna’s marketing education and will ultimately benefit her vendors. In fact, after the course, vendors will receive a list of tips that Joanna learned during the course. It’s one more way Joanna provides value and helps promote businesses to strengthen Jerusalem tourism.
During our conversation, Joanna shared many valuable insights. Here are a few more valuable takeaways from our conversation.
1. What’s the best advice you ever received?
Focus on your niche…don’t try to be everything for everyone..become an expert in one thing and then stick to it. So my niche is family travel, kids and and teen events or activities in Jerusalem.
2. What do you read?
Case studies…in business school we used to read them. They’re inspiring. As a marketing person you need inspiration all the time for new ways to market because you can’t keep doing the same thing. You always have to come up with a new way of getting someone’s attention.
3. What’s your biggest frustration?
There are times in the day when I can think and there are times in the day when I can do tasks. And I can’t always do both. So when I can think, I have to sit down and make a list and the tasks are very easy to do once I’ve organized a list…I’m trying to teach myself not to fight that…instead of fighting it and being angry with myself I need to go out and swim and do whatever it is that I need to do that distracts me and then I come home and in a half an hour I can get everything done.
4. What do you wish every vendor knew?
i. Exposure isn’t measurable. You need exposure multiple times for someone to want to do your activity. Because so much is online today, people think that everything is measurable, that you can follow the number of touch points directly to the sale. But it doesn’t always work that way. Especially when there’s a customer in New York who won’t be coming to Israel for a while.
ii. You cannot change the culture of the customer…A client coming from New York with money to spend isn’t going to care about a discount when they’d rather just wait for the last minute to see if they have a free day to do the activity.
5. What’s a marketing tip you recently picked up?
At the course offered by the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne they shared how to build a marketing pitch. Start with your goal, your message and your inspiration and then talk about how you do it. My pitch is – I inspire family fun by sharing great events and activity information for the city of Jerusalem, on my website, in my newsletter and on social media.