Monday, December 14, 2009
I hadn't planned on posting again til the new year but I as I was washing my face this morning, I had one of those light bulb moments - I LOVE my new faucet. I love it.
And it struck me how relevant my new faucet story was to the path of getting a new website.
So pay attention.
My Mom loves to home improve. And I like it... to a certain degree. Certainly not as much as my Mom. Some people like technology, others LOVE it.
So my bathroom looks the same as it did 10 years ago. And while everything was functional, the tops of the faucets...those H and C plastic things, would fly off each time I turned them on, and it was one of those models with a lot of detailing and would therefore collect a lot of soapy "crud" on it that I hated to clean off.
Frankly I didn't spend a lot of time looking at it because it wasn't pretty.
Anyway, I saw a nice one with clean lines in the Home Hardware flyer on sale, a really really good sale. So I bought it - in August.
And then I went on with my life, and it sat in it's box on the counter judging me. And lingering in the back of my mind as basically a $50 investment in a box of parts.
Finally last week, I used Facebook to find a friend willing to help me install it, so I could move it from faucet investment to faucet usage.
And I loved it from the first time I turned it on.
It's fantastic. It turns on with one finger. And the aerator is saving me water. And it looks so shiny and new. And it came with a sink stopper mechanism! (Before I just had a hole and a rubber stopper plug - which I never used because who knows where the plug is hiding)
So the new faucet needed a new mirror to go with it, and so I installed that this weekend.
Lessons I've learned from this:
1. It feels so GOOD to finally complete a task that is sitting in the back of your mind. So if you're contemplating a new site or updates or changes, just DO THEM! It's so refreshing to take steps forward.
2. Improvements are great. There is always a new technology, even in faucets, that will make your life easier and save you time (or water). While there was no learning curve involved with my faucet, there will be with a new website. As you learn to use it, the joy and time saving will come and you'll wonder why you ever stuck with that old technology for so long :)
3. You don't need a Cadillac. I mean my shower is another story, and the bathroom floor ... terrible. But I made a small stride, and am reaping the benefits of the improvement. Get your game plan set and make a few improvements to your site this year, with targets set for the following years. Ask for the basic model website and add a feature each year. It can be really overwhelming to add too many new technologies at once. Add them one at a time, when you are ready to fully commit to them.
4. Reach out to others. Find other operators who have a website you like and ask for a reference for their developer. Take the Tourism Technology mentoring session. It's the best $125 you'll every spend. We can help you find the focus and develop the game plan you need to succeed online.
5. Try it, you might like it. So where my Mom would have gutted the bathroom, I started with the faucet. And while there were no frantic trips to the hardware store during the installation, I know that like website development, some improvement jobs hit snags and you just have to have the determination to keep going!
6. BE OPEN TO CHANGE - it's so easy to stay the same. Change is scary. But once I had taken that first step, I found the courage to hammer up a new mirror! And I'm internet educating my self on installing a new floor. My spring project. If you're open to it, it's so much easier to learn new things.
Have a Happy Holiday
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
The 12 Days of Website Best Practices
12 premium photo galleries
Have at least 12 photo galleries on your site. Include pictures of all seasons, and include pictures with PEOPLE in them - be sure and get photo releases or use your family.
11 minimum updates to home page content per year
Update your home page ONCE a month. Even in the off season. So 12 is the optimal number but I gave you one month off :)
10 pages of content and description
Content is king. Include history of the area, and other delightful content to maintain search engine ranking and improve website visitor experience
9 or more rotating images in your flash banner
If you must have a rotating flash banner or images, make sure you have enough so that they don't get stale. A potential customer will visit your site at least 10 times.
8 or more Frequently Asked Questions and answers
Make your FAQ page extensive. If you're referring clients to it, make sure it's useful.
7 or less menu tabs
Keep your main menu selections to 7 or less. Yes you can do this and still have 10 or more pages of content. They're called sub menus. The less clutter on your site the better.
6 testimonials, guest reviews
I cannot stress the importance of guest reviews, the ability for guests to make their own feedback posts to your site, the ability of guests to reconnect with other guests via your site. It's invaluable to you as a tourism operator
5 videos of the property
If you're going to do videos, have at least 5. Videos should be short, under 2 minutes each, and so you will not be able to showcase the whole establishment in 2 minutes. And some clients will be looking to see just a specific area.
4 featured staff members and bios
Feature your staff, yourself as owners, community characters... someone. Add some local personality into your website
3 latest news stories
If you're operating the kind of establishment where you post a lot of news items etc, have only the last three showing on the home page and the rest in an archive. Be wary, the last thing you need on a website is a stale "latest news" item. So this one is also cautionary, if you can't have at least 3 current news items on at all times, then you shouldn't have any news items at all.
2 languages whenever possible
Whenever possible have at least a portion of your website in a second language, and it doesn't have to be French. Dutch, Mic Mac, German, Polish...anything that shows off your values and culture OR caters to the market you are trying to attract. People will stay on a site longer and absorb more information from a site if it is written in their native language
1 go to source for information
Make sure your website is your clients goto source for information. It should answer almost every question so that when they call to book, they are a pre-qualified caller. When you can't answer the phone, refer the caller to the website and let the site lead them on the same journey as you would over the phone.
Your website is your 24 hour sales person !
I hope you've enjoyed today's tourism tech edition of the 12 days of websites.
Contact me for a one-on-one website critique, mentoring session, helpful tips, and MORE!
Beth @@ tianb.com
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Or your neighbour knows someone who can "do you a web page"?
Or even luckier - your daughter's latest beau can set you up with a Facebook page and a Twitter account. How lucky can you get!
Or not. In this issue - why is this a bad idea?
If there is one particular story that breaks my heart, it is this one. Clients talk to me about a friend or relative who developed their website and then ended up being disappointed.
A second relates scenario that plays out when a web designer fails to deliver, drags his or her feet or is not available for further support.
In both cases the root cause of the problem may be similar.
Was the Scope Clear?
Ask yourself whether the scope of work was clearly defined. Did both parties know EXACTLY what was agreed to and at what cost? Scope creep (like colouring outside the lines) eats into profit - in terms of time and money, leaving two unhappy parties.
In the first scenario you have the added complication of personal relationships that get in the way of making tough business decisions or speaking your truth.
Quacks Don't Cure
You take your health problems to your doctor. Web development and Internet marketing are professional services too - don't take them to a quack - the pain is not going to go away. Pay fair value for fair service. It is investment you make in the health of your marketing.
Here are some suggested questions to ask a web developer before moving forward:
How long have you been in business?
What do you know about my industry? (Super important in Tourism !)
What's included in the design - how many pages, what features, etc.
How much will it cost?
Is hosting included?
How much is it per month - is there a discount if I pay annually?
Is setup included?
I don't have a domain name; can you recommend one and register it for me? How much will it be?
Will the domain be registered in my name? (Insist on this!) How is that billed? How can I register the domain name myself?
How do you like to communicate? By e-mail, phone or in person?
What can I expect in the design process?
How many designs and revisions are allowed for?
How long will all of this take?
What are your terms?
What happens if the scope of the project changes?
What happens if we cannot seem to work together?
At what point is the site considered "done"?
What happens when the work is completed?
Do you have a guarantee?
How will the site be maintained? Do you have a service contract? What is included?
Will there be a construction page posted while the site is being built?
What do you need from me?
How should the content be delivered (via email, disk, hard copy)?
Do you take credit cards?
Get your answers in writing
Ask for and check client references
Programmers are not always people friendly, don't let that deter you from hiring one, just keep it in the back of your mind while going through the interview process.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Many operators are asking me about Twitter, what is it? Should I be tweeting?
And the answer is not straight forward.
Twitter is the ability to talk to all your followers with one "text message". Messages in twitter can only be 124 characters. Frankly there's not much you can do on the twitter page itself, twitter requires you install Tweet Deck or some other third party "tweet organizer".
In a nutshell:
It will take some creativity to come up with new and useful 124 character tweets
You have to gain followers (and keep their trust)
And you need to install Tweet Deck
Twitter is not a place where you can just tweet out your specials one right after the other. All your followers will drop you. Applying the dead mouse sandwich principle, you need to wrap tweets about your business with tweets that are interesting and meaningful or retweets.
Twitter is working best in a customer service capacity to some degree for companies like Comcast, or Dell. Celebrities are having fun with Twitter.
It's definitely a time consuming venture.
For our market in Atlantic Canada, your best online bet is still your website, and perhaps a facebook fan page. But definitely your website. It's still your best online impression and close to 50% of Atlantic Canadian travel operations are making a terrible online impression.
Twitter, I wouldn't get my feather ruffled over it.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sorted by Gen X and Gen Y, but I want to focus in on what method came in first, second and third.
As I tell all my clients, it's the women in the family who are reseraching holiday travel.
And so what are the top three methods used to discover new products (products would include travel destinations and attractions):
- referral from an article or newspaper online
- search engines
- online ads, whether directly clicked or not
And how do they share this new product or vacation spot with friends:
- they call them
- they email them
- and fairly close together are writing a review and posting on facebook
How can this help us create a better website for Women researching new products and destinations?
- never underestimate the value of the press, having your establishment reviewed in any online forum will result in natural search engine ranking and hits
- never stop updating or refreshing your website content and working on maintaining that natural search engine ranking
- direct clicks are not always the best measure of your online ad campaigns, impressions count
- nothing will ever replace girl chat
- email is not dead, and having the "email to a friend feature" on your packages page will come in handy - as well as share this on facebook feature
- always provide a way for your clients to write a review or provide feedback directly on your website. Women will read other's comments and value that information.
When you're ready to make your site the best it can be, ask your developer about these features and how to incorporate them into your new website.
For more information, just drop me a line beth@@tianb.com
Monday, November 9, 2009
Operating your own Bed and Breakfast? Well tell me why and for how long? You're going to tell me when I get there anyways? Why not give me just a little taste on your website?
Did your jam win 1st place at the local agricultural fair?
Got pets? I want to know their names and quirks.
Anything special you do or have MUST be showcased on your website.
- Who lived in the house before you
- Knitted mittens for sale
- Home made soap
- Antique furniture collections
- Dessert of the week, collection of mouth watering photos
- Heated mineral pool and it's benefits
- Tire swing
Call me for the tourism technology one on one mentoring session, I can find your website's hidden potential.
506 451 0173
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Regardless of your industry or size, email marketing should still be playing important roles in your overall marketing strategy. When embracing Facebook and Twitter, let us not forget our friend the monthly email newsletter.
While some social networking sites come and go, email shows no signs of slowing down or becoming obsolete. Email is not a fad. Email, dare I say it, could be here to stay.
What makes email so appealing?
Well if you use a company like Constant Contact or another email manager software then email is completely trackable. You can find out how many of your emails were opened, who clicked on which links, and other useful information.
Email is thusly more accountable then social media.
Consumers more and more are relying on their emails. Even the older generation have emails to keep in touch with Grandchildren who are living at a distance. For the user, it's fairly easy to learn and manage.
Email vendors (such as Constant Contact) are getting better and their software options and tracking are improving. It's low cost, based either on the size of your list, or the number of emails you will be sending in a 30 day period.
Email software programs can personalize your email, Dear Beth Ashton.
You can include basic html and logos
And always include a call to action.
To get you started check out the free version of MailChimp. Upto 300 email addresses, and send up to 10 emails per month.
Email - don't start marketing without it.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
For some tourism operators in Atlantic Canada, what's new in your life IS what's new in your business.
Take myself in this example... Have I been putting forward the best blogging content over the past two months? Not really and here's the inside scoop. While during the Day I work tirelessly on tourism issues and technologies, at Night I become the Volunteer Director in charge of putting together all the details for the Fredericton edition of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure. The event is the first Sunday in October and gets more time consuming as it gets closer to event date.
Day and Night become blurred, technology posts slide, what I think is more critical work comes first.
Dilemmas? Most certainly.
Should I have been upfront with my followers (all three of you) ?
Should I have even confessed to it today?
My exact situation is a little different from yours... my Day and Night job areas were quite far apart. However if I was organizing the "Giant Tourism Festival", then I should definitely have been blogging about every little detail !! That would be an ideal condition for making time to blog.
But I was doing something unrelated to Tourism. My dilemma being, if I mention upfront that posts are going to be sparser, does that incline you to stop coming by? (oops now down to two followers) Or do you take the break for what it is, a break, and take one yourself?
On the other hand, if I just start posting lame content without any rationale, some might think that I've run out of material and stop following me because they have learned all I have to teach (now down to a single follower, and I think that's my mom...)
Something to think about, and there's no right answer. You have to do what's best for you and your blog.
On a work related note, the Tourism Technology.com program just got it's renewal so I'll be here until 2012 doling out that personal advice. So drop me a line and let me know what technology questions you want to see featured here. beth @@tianb.com
Acutally by 2012 blogs will be so 2009 and we'll just have our memories of these bits and bytes.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Today I have a couple of random thoughts for you...
First for the Brand hotel property managers - Internet sales will be key in 2010, and every day your property is being sold on Brand sites and others like travelocity etc. It is YOUR responsibility to check your part of the Brand site. Check it for key words, relevence, images, and attractions. If your brand site says you're next to the Skydome - you're actually next to the Rogers Center - keep your details updated.
Most Brand sites don't allow for a lot of editing but do what you can with the tools you have and make your voice heard at the Corporate level about those changes you can't make on your own.
Second, according to eMarketer, Digital spending is expected to be 17% of total US Ad spending in 2010 creating a tempting slice of pie for Traditional Ad Agencies.
In addtion to these figures, a compelling study is just announced - Internet overtakes television to become the biggest advertising sector in the UK. A record 1.75 billions pounds online spend makes UK the first major economy to spend more on web ads then on TV
Death bells are tolling for traditional media...
Some random thoughts to mull over this Thanksgiving weekend.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Two of Cape Breton’s favorite fall festivals are Hike the Highlands, Sept. 11-20 and Celtic Colours – October 9-17. What makes them unique is they are the forefront with Online marketing and social media. They are starting small and learning along the way..
Dan Coffin, Marketing Co-ordinator, for Celtic Colours, has seen a change in demographics and found social media, e-mail newletter and new media have helped increased visits (20% plus) this year to their website.
Celtic Colours now has over 400 twitter followers, 1100 plus fans on facebook, a promotional video on youtube, a great venue google map and an e-mail marketing newsletter with a goal of 1,500 subscribers.
Coffin states online tickets sales are at 58%, up 4% from last year.
Last year, Hike the Highlands Festival had over 40% of hikers register online and expects this number will increase in 2009.
Facebook ads, Google adwords and e-mail newsletter along with online press releases & regular posts on our blog have keep us busy with new content on the web and attracting hikers to this annual September hiking festival.
“Our website visits in August are up 29% from last year,” says Tom Wilson, Chair, Hike the Highlands Festival. Wilson states we have hikers already registered from British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador and USA.
Both Wilson and Coffin agree that online marketing and social media has helped their festivals grow each year with more communication, online marketing, and user generated content.
Online booking and payment system has made it easier for people to purchase tickets and festival passes
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I recently came across this nice post from the Hotel & Technologies Software group in Linked IN, and thought I would share some of it with you today. If you're doing one new technology thing a month, consider joining Linked In as a business resource.
Why do hotels have Standard Rooms?
I am surprised by the number of hotels that are still trying to market themselves selling standard rooms. What is so special about that ‘Standard Room’ that it will persuade potential guests to buy? How is one standard room different from a standard room in another hotel? Where has our creativity gone? Have we forgotten that we have to differentiate ourselves from the competition?
I am sure we all agree that asking someone to pay €100 to €200 for something ‘STANDARD’ is not very convincing. It is probably a legacy from hotel GDS systems we are dealing with. Room names are deviated from the GDS room type coding like C2T, B1D or D2C. And how about that double or triple room, doesn’t it sound exciting? How come we are putting occupancy into the name? Doesn’t this get filtered when you put the number of people into the hotel reservation system?
Funny enough hotel meeting and conference rooms have been give some more creative attention. The have been given names of painters like Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso or Rembrandt. Or city names like Amsterdam, Barcelona and Berlin are being used. But why oh why aren’t we trying to do a better job at positioning our hotel rooms? Don’t we want to sell them and put heads in beds?
You have 30 characters at your disposal in the GDS and about 40 on most hotel booking engines. Use this space! We have been preaching this issue at many of more than 200 hotel training courses over the last 3 years and are happy we have seen some results.
The Hotel de Roode Leeuw in Amsterdam has uses names like ‘Comfort Room and ‘Budget Room’. The Berns Hotel in Stockholm has the following original room types: extra small, small, medium, large, large with balcony and extra large. Qbic Hotels calls their rooms a ‘Cubi’ after their cubicle shape furniture unit.
Most chains start simply at Classic or Deluxe and go up from there. W Hotels uses creative names like ‘Cozy’, ‘Wonderful’, ‘Mega’, ‘Fabulous’, ‘Fantastic’, ‘Cool’, ‘Spectacular’, ‘Marvelous’, ‘Wow’, and ‘Extreme’. I would like to sleep in one for those rooms...
It seems design hotels and boutique hotels have been much more original. Maybe other hotels should simply follow their example. Be different, be daring. Sell experience! A great word by the way. Why not call a room for a hotel in London the Chelsea or Piccadilly Experience? Simple, right? And why not call multiple occupancy rooms, Family Room? In the end that is the target market, right? Remember if you stand out, you will more likely to be chosen.
Differentiate yourself, not only on your hotel website, but also on OTA’s and GDS. Hopefully in a few weeks we will see those standard rooms replaced by some more appetizing and exciting names.
For more ideas and tips from Xotels visit our blog: http://www.xotels.com/en/blog
Cheers, Patrick Landman - Xotels
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Some are government, some are hotels, but they are all excellent examples of what a travel/tourism site should look like.
You'll notice about halfway through, Signature Attractions, Explore the best of Atlantic Canada!
Congrats guys on making the list.
Another Tourism Technology mentoring success story.
Friday, August 21, 2009
High-end hotels are going wireless -- latimes.com
Posted using ShareThis
Of course I was attracted to the title as I searched for something to blog about, but the content of the article was what I really found intriguing.
According to the article, high end hotels are taking advantage of low occupancy rates to renovate their rooms. In this particular case it's with new technologies.
Of course, I understand that we're not all high volume hotels with access to big budgets and the latest gadgets but the principles are the same. We could repaint. Put up new pictures. Recarpet.
And we could, make that SHOULD, revamp our website and start using AdWords so that when the economy does turn around, we are READY. Because it will turn around, and the Internet will be more popular then ever when it does. If one thing is certain in this world, it is that technology is here to stay.
Now is the time to prep for the upswing with fabulous images, online reservation ability, short videos, creative and engaging content.
- You NEED to be top five in Google, and Bing searches.
- You NEED excellent online reviews and testimonials.
- You NEED to show them via the web that your spot is the best place in the world.
Friday, August 14, 2009
And this is all assuming that your operation is mainly a summer seasonal business. For those who are year round operations, this is just one of the weird times of the year.
Can you tell that I'm grasping at straws for material?
Here's where we sit down at our computer and face that question
Frankly it's been a weird week for me at work, there are several things going on, none of which are blog worthy. I've been reading newsletters and tourism websites looking for something and not able to find items.
I've been distracted by other tasks, and really just not inspired.
What are steps I could have taken to prevent having to post such lame content?
1. Write a few posts all at once and save them for later
2. Have a guest blogger, assign it to another staff member
3. Assign a specific time of the week to blogging and stick to it, no distractions
4. Relax, I guess one missed week isn't so bad
5. Others ...
And so in conclusion, there are no strict conclusions in the Internet. Honesty and truthfulness will come through as authentic. Collect and use feedback. Try it and see if it flies.
Sincerely lacking inspiration today,
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
It's relatively subtle...
But it should lead to increased traffic on previous posts.
Ta-Da ~ I've labelled all my posts !
In total I have 43 posts, I took a quick look at the headlines for all of them and came up with a few common threads.
Then I added the labels gadget. Which I didn't have before. See how I'm learning as I go and incorporating more tech as I get more comfortable. See. See how I'm doing that.
Then I started from the first post and went through to the last one, opening each one, adding a label and resaving.
Took about 30 minutes in total and now if you're interested in reading just all my "how to" posts you can find them all in one easy click!
My labels are:
About TT.com - those are the posts where I boast about the great one on one website mentoring session that I provide to Tourism Operators for the low price of $125
How To - those are the posts where I give more explicit instruction, like this post
Informational - those are the posts where I publish stories that may interest tourism operators or items like what conferences I'll be attending
Successes - those are the posts that highlight great tourism successes online, and frankly there aren't nearly enough of those kinds of posts !
The great thing is I can add more labels if the need arises.
Til next time,
Monday, July 27, 2009
Take a 3 inch piece of string, lay it out on a table in front of you. Then PULL it along the table by one end. You can make it go anywhere and it will follow you. Now try PUSHING it. The string piles up on itself and nothing happens.
The same can be said for a website. You cannot push a person into a vacation, but you can pull them along a journey with great photos and narrative. You can influence them into wanting to take the same journey by outlining the whole thing from start to finish.
Flashing red buttons that say "Come Here, Come Here" simply aren't going to work. Putting your brochure (verbatium) on your site isn't going to work.
A steady tempting of what awaits them in your little corner of the world is a much better approach.
Nudge, encourage, listen and empathize.
Underperforming web tools (like your website or blog) are a reflection of the organizational objectives rather then the tools or technologies them selves. It really is about the organizational culture and the approach.
Friday, July 24, 2009
When I saw it, I felt that a lot of my readers would be having the same kind of conversation, and be able to relate to the interaction between Kevin and David.
So here is the embedded video.
You'll notice that this is my second embedded video on my blog, and unlike the first one (two posts previous), this one is custom fitted to the proper width. I left the first one AS IS, to show that blogging and embedding is a continuous learning process. And that you don't have to exactly master the whole thing at once. Just pieces.
I've been blogging for a little over a year and during that time video clips have become more and more popular, the code to embed them is presented for you, and so I've started to incorporate them into my blogging. I'm ever evolving :) It's not required that I or you be on the cutting edge, just that we add a splash of the new every now and then.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Views on the You Tube video - astronomical and counting
Appearance on Canada AM - check
Appearance on CNN - check
Wolf Blitzer mentioning your name - check
Print media tailgating on your success - check
Numerous Tweets - check
Facebook sharing links - check
Follow up video on You Tube thanking everyone for their support - check
People who whole heartedly agree with you - check
People who totally disagree with you - check
Did it work? Was it worth it? Only time will tell.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
The band, Sons of Maxwell, recently travelled to the US for a concert with United Air Lines. Long story short, the baggage handlers broke a guitar. After several fruitless phone calls to United, the frustrated band vowed to unleash their wrath on You Tube.
As of this writing, the video, posted 48 hours ago:
- has received 82,000 (and counting) plays
- was featured on the website consumerist.com
- was played on my local radio station
- was facebooked by many of my Atlantic Canada friends
- was facebooked by my local DJs
- was twittered
- was Dugg
- was shared and forwarded
Check it out, it's a catchy tune
Update: when I went to get that link the views were up to 132,000
How can I do something like this? Or do I even want to?
More importantly - How do I keep my operation from becoming a "United" and forcing someone to blast me on the internet?
All good questions. Ask me when you sign up for your Tourism Technology mentoring session.
beth at tianb dot com
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Quoted from a Linked In group discussion:
Tripadvisor.com Secondary Use for Employers & Job Seekers
Two additional uses for Trip Advisor :
Not only is Tripadvisor a great tool for consumers it is also a great tool for employers and job seekers.
1. Recruiters and employers should check all GM candidates past hotel’s placement on Tripadvisor. As past performance is a good predictor of future success.
2. Job seekers should check a hotel rating on Tripadvisor prior to a job interview to learn of any operational weaknesses that they could help to address. I believe most employers would be impressed to learn that a potential candidate took the time to research their property beyond the company website.
So here's the challenge, do you have a favorite website that you use for a purpose that might not be what the developers intended?
Can you think of outside the box uses for other sites?
Send in your ideas and I'll share them in the next post
Thursday, June 25, 2009
"Make your blog/website your home base and Twitter your outpost"
That strikes me as great advice for those wondering if they should twitter or not. Twitter for kids is all about the status updates, but Twitter for business is about something else... It's about engaging customers with your product, and driving traffic to your website or to your physical store.
Your website is your archive. Twitter feeds are not archived. Facebook events are archived but in a hidden sort of fashion. So if you Tweet that your tourism operation is now serving lobster chowder, if you do not also include that on your website, only the few fellow Tweeters who read that initial Tweet will know about your new product offering.
For tourism operations, archives or history of success is important. It relates stability to new buyers. People do have (rational) fears of airlines going under, hotels closing, and travel agents closing. You must show that you are going to be operating the whole season and they will not be losing their deposit.
Websites and blogs are showcases of true passion and commitment to your operation. If there is one thing I know about tourism operators is that they are passionate. You need to express that to all who visit your site. And if your passion is waning, find someone who's passion is exploding to write the blog for you. A summer student, another employee...
I know you're busy, I know you're stretched thin, and I know you think it's going to take a lot of time. Frankly sometimes it does. Sometimes I sit for a while before I know what to blog. Sometimes it comes quite easily.
If your website and blog are functioning properly then that should lead to less repetitive emails and phone calls that require your time and energy. If your website and blog are functioning properly then your increased sales will justify hiring another part time worker and again leave you with more time and energy to put forth. It's a cycle. You just need to get started.
Twitter is like social sticky notes (another great quote that I can't take credit for). It's snack size content, a nibble to wet your appetite. Your website is the full meal deal. And it should satisfy their hunger.
So first build a great website (actually first take the Tourism Technology website mentoring session to learn how to build a great website)
Then start to Twitter
And know when to draw the Twitter line
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Especially for Tourism Operators.
A successful tourism website has the information that the visitor is looking for... and how are you going to know what information they are interested in unless you ask them ?
Why does a Tourist visit a website?
- to confirm that they want to visit there
- confirm hours and costs
- confirm directions
- to see other people enjoying the property or attraction (validate)
- to find out what unique things they can do while visiting
- perhaps to find rules or regulations
Are you providing that kind of information?
View your website through the eyes of your target market? Is everything there that I would need to know if I was coming to the area, plus some exciting pictures and tidbits that reassure me that your destination is the best choice.
The summer is the perfect time to research your clients. Are they mainly elderly? Are they families? Ask them if they looked at your website? Ask them what they thought of it?
Then take all that information and compile it over the fall and find a developer over the holidays and have your new site launched for the new year, when visitors are just starting to scope out where they are going to spend their summer.
- If you don't tell your developer what you need, you'll have a nice new site but it won't fulfill the needs of your customers and you'll have wasted your money
- If you don't get a nice new fulfilling site for next season, you've missed the boat.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Monthly Commitmentby Stephanie Lummis
You may have noticed this monthly eNewsletter has not always lived up to its billing. Mea culpa. In site is a year old and ISL is not practicing what it preaches.
It was a big step to start this eNewsletter. We planned and talked for months. We knew we were capable but realized the commitment it would take. It was this very threat that held us back. I could claim it’s a case of the shoemaker’s children - we are busy with client projects and there isn’t enough time or resources to devote to our own Internet marketing efforts.
And it is, but it’s more than that. After all we are also encouraging and advising our clients: non-profits, CPG companies and government alike, to do more of this kind of Internet marketing. The fact is it’s harder to give priority to an email newsletter – or any non-direct-revenue generating activity, such as a blog, Twitter feed or corporate Facebook page.
These activities can be at odds with sales and business development resources as they are direct revenue generators. How do you convince your organization of its value? How do you justify the investment of time and effort?
The True Value is Intrinsic Relationships – People don’t like to be "sold", preferring to come to informed decisions on their own. They are more apt to engage in advice or conversation instead of a sales pitch. It establishes a level of trust and comfort that they will have the ear of those they buy from.
Reach – These types of marketing efforts create long tentacles and expand your circle of influence. These peripheral connections are more apt to produce a customer. They have more to learn and their investment will be greater.
Goodwill – For people who know you already - clients or partners - an eNewsletter can serve as a reaffirmation of your commitment to your company and the industry as a whole.
Measured Success - This eNewsletter has been a tremendous tool for ISL. Subscribers look forward to seeing it in their inbox each month (sorry we’ve kept you waiting), and some print it off to share with their bosses and colleagues. A few articles have even been reprinted in other eNewsletters for tourism and manufacturing industries.
So while you may not be able to tie these Internet marketing efforts directly to sales, you can gauge their influence in many areas: list growth, forwards, referrals, reprints, comments, and time on site. These are all valuable measurements of success that justify the investment.
It has been one year and we’ve published 10 issues. Not how we planned it, but we remain committed and thank you for reading each month. Writing this article was just the pep talk I needed.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Several points made by Mr Brooks, I have been telling you for the past two years. If you had taken the Tourism Technology website mentoring session prior to the conference then little bells should have been going off in your head ... "Beth mentioned the very same thing during her mentoring session"
"I guess she knows what she's talking about"
That's right folks, I'm not just a pretty face.
There's more to the session then the long winded title implies.
70% of tourism shoppers are frustrated with the online experience
80% of operators are still spending more on print, then their website (backwards!)
e-newsletters are essential
user friendly domain names are essential
have seasonal content
have updated content
It's not too late to call me for a session, and at $125, I'm way underpriced.
PS If you did take the session and haven't done anything yet, dig out that manual and get on it!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Your home page should state clearly, who you are and what you do.
It should relate your core business aspect in a few simple lines. Yes, it can be done.
What are the properties of some of the best home pages?
It's all about knowing your audience. When you surf the web, what pages make you feel tranquil and serene? What pages make you feel adventurous? Why do they invoke these feelings- imagery, colour selection, sounds?
Be upfront and honest about who you are targeting with your website. Grab their attention with imagery and key descriptives that relate to that demographic.
The most simplistic home page could be Google. What is Google's main product? Search. And so what is their home page comprised of? A search box. They haven't changed their core home page since they started. They've added a few buttons off to the side, and they change up their logo every now and then, but the basic core aspect stays the same. And it works for them.
A person who is interested in the latest news, and flashy ads for their home page would be more inclined to choose msn.ca or canoe.ca for their home page rather then Google.
Match your online esthetics to your audience. Your website belongs to your customer not to you!!!
Be totally awesome - not mediocre
Monday, May 4, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
How to make love to your client, Mike McDermont, Freshbooks.com
People are people, they don't want to be treated like a business.
Freshbooks is an online invoicing service for professionals. They have, through social media, positioned themselves as more then an accounting software firm, they are a firm that is in the experience delivery business.
Aren't we all in the experience delivery business?
Consumers talk about their experiences - good or bad. And as tourism operators we would hope for it to be all good !
You can use social media to get to know your customers - just like we used the 1-800 number to get them to call us, we can leverage social media to find out what they want to see, and what they really think.
You can use social media to DRIVE the one on one communication.
Social media, for example Trip Advisor, allows you to "track" the coffee table conversation. People used to take a vacation and then go home and complain to their families, their neighbours and perhaps their co-workers...around the coffee table. Now people take a vacation and go home, get online and complain to the WORLD...around the social media table.
The web is a word of mouth machine !
You can leverage negative Trip Advisor comments into positive ones. Respond in a positive way, let other viewers know the proposed resolution.
Every product can be reinvented
That's assuming you'll ever get a negative comment, 95% of the WWW comments are positive ones. And savvy users can tell a true negative comment from one that's a result of an impossible customer.
Take the negative comments under advisement and reinvent your product if need be. Just like the new Triscuit with addition of rosemary, your B&B can with a bit of revamp, suddenly become the hot spot of the Maritimes.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
While I normally tell my session participants to have an expert run their keyword campaigns and SEO (search engine optimization) there are a few of you who handle it yourselves.
I've only taken a passing glance at the tool but like all Google tools, it's easy to use, free and has lots of help features.
Like I preach in my sessions - repetitive content is key to natural search engine ranking, and this tool can help you find your meta data keywords and your content keywords.
So if you're stuck on keywords, give this tool a try.
Firstly, the annual TIANB conference is coming up, early bird registration ends April 17 (save over $100). We are having TWO Tourism Gurus this year, Joe Pine and Roger Brooks. This conference is value for your money. May 22 in Caraquet. Visit http://www.tianb.com/ for more information.
Second, the Atlantic Internet Marketing conference will be next week in Halifax. I will be attending along with my other tourismtechnology.com counterparts. While not geared to tourism specifically, it's a great broad base of information and local contacts to help you generate the most out of your website and blog. http://www.aimconference.com/
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
I'm generally pro technology, and bubbly smiley about websites. However I get the feeling that not all people are like that ... imagine.
Imagine not being at one with your computer, imagine not being in total sync with MS office products ... I shudder at the thought.
So I have a confession.
I dislike to exercise. I loath it the way most of you loath checking and composing email. Not just general loathing, but a deep deep psychological loathing of lactic acid pain.
But for the past two weeks I've been on the exercise bike and drinking at least one glass of water EVERY DAY. And that includes Saturdays and Sundays. In fact I'm sitting at work right now with my water and drinking that bland ol' H2O as I type.
So if I can make the effort to Exercise, You can make an effort with your website !
Start like I did, with a small goal, and just keep at it. Set up a time of day, and stick to the routine.
There are two main factors in my success:
One - there is a chilled water dispenser at my office. It's right there in front of me. And chilled water is a bit tastier, so it's not to much of a hassle for me.
Two - I also own an exercise bike. It's not fancy but it does the job. And it's right in my house, so again it's not a hassle.
Look around at your technology options, are they a hassle ? If so, think about making some changes.
- If your computer is too slow, take it in for a professional "cleansing" or a few upgrade parts
- Consider buying a new computer
- Is your computer in a comfortable work area?
- If your website is a pain to update, consider getting a new one.
- Or talk to a web developer to see what can be done with the one you have.
In this market, every developer should be keen on any business, even a few hours of work. Find someone who speaks to you at a level you understand and don't be afraid to get a second opinion (or a third).
I finally started thinking in terms of the rewards, rather then the tasks. The rewards of exercise is good health, long life, better fitting clothes.... while on the beach visiting one of your fine establishments.
The rewards of a technology / website upgrade is that it will make your life easier, it will encourage you to make those frequent updates, and it will lead to increased business.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Bill runs Trinity Escape, a small cottage property on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula. He offers a dozen oceanfront cottages from June through September. He is usually booked solid in July and August.
Bill has had a website for four years that was built by his brother-in-law. He cannot update it himself so every 4-6 months Bill pays to make any changes that are needed. He receives about 30 email and phone inquiries per week, but this number has dropped off over the past year or two, even though travelers are already starting to plan their summer vacations.
One such traveler is Jane from Calgary who has just clicked onto Bill’s website. Jane is flying home in the summer to visit her family and is planning a girl’s weekend away with her sisters. She went online and Googled "cottages for rent in Newfoundland" but found no good results. She then Googled "tourism Newfoundland" and found a list of properties on the provincial tourism website, which she is going through one at a time.
Jane likes the location on the ocean and the cottages look comfortable. She needs to bring her sister’s dog but it takes her awhile to find the policy information. It’s a bit ambiguous as to which cottages will allow dogs but she is willing to take a chance. The cottage fits her budget and she is ready to book. After scanning around for online booking, she realizes Bill doesn’t offer it. Jane hits the "back" button and returns to the provincial tourism website. She may be back if she doesn’t find another property that is suitable -- and if she remembers the site.
Jane clicks the next link in the list and she arrives at the site of Gary’s Oceanside Cottages, 25 km down the road from Bill’s. Jane quickly finds an ideal cottage. She stares in awe at a photo of the sun setting over the ocean, as seen from the deck of the cottage, and salivates at the homemade raspberry scones, crème fraiche and coffee that are delivered each morning. She sees that the cottage is available when she is visiting. Jane is sold and clicks the Book this Cottage button adjacent to the room description. Jane is so excited she calls her sisters
Gary is relaxing by the pool at his condo in Bradenton, FL. He spent the day deep sea fishing. He checks his email and sees that cottage 8 was booked online for a 2-night package in the second week in June. That brings his occupancy for that month up to 74%. He sends Jane a short email to thank her for her business and asks if they have any special requirements for their breakfast or her sister’s dog.
Its mid-June and Bill is shaking his head. For the first time in 20 years he still has vacancies for July. He looks around his property – his gardens are in full bloom and the new dock he built over the winter is just waiting for visitors to launch the kayaks. "Maybe I should lower my rates and put an ad in the paper?" he asks himself.
What do you think?
Do you think an Ad in the newspaper is going to do anything for Bill's occupancy rates?
You know what I think - I think that Bill should have taken the Tourism Technology Website Mentoring Session from myself, and updated his site. Even just a few updates/changes may have prompted Jane to perhaps reserve by phone, and would not have cost Bill a lot of money.
Call me to book your session.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Travel is a social activity. You meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. On a business trip, you hang out at your hotel bar and meet others doing the same thing. You strike up a conversation. Sometimes, you stay in touch. Every business trip is really a trip to meet someone.
So it’s not really surprising that the social aspect of travel has morphed into social networking. Sites like FlyerTalk are not just message boards about airlines and airports but also places where people “meet” and talk and, eventually, socialize.
The endless number of applications built around travel speaks to our desire to see the world or, if we can’t, to experience it vicariously through others. What these sites do is something many are calling “intelligent networking.” Our business trips are often networking opportunities, and the Internet has allowed us to network without leaving our desks.
On Twitter anyone who is thinking about travelling announces it to the world. The “tweets” come in waves when someone is actually on the road; it’s almost as if you’re travelling with them, and, in a sense, you are. From Twitter you can link to a site where you’ve uploaded your photos, so your followers can see what you’re talking about.
Go to Flickr, another photo-sharing site, and you can sort through millions of vacation photos from all over the world.
Why are we doing this?
Well, what’s the first thing you ask when meeting someone who’s been away?
How was the trip?
Because travel is social. You want to know the story. Watching others travel allows us to construct our own stories in our minds. Every traveller has something to relate, no matter how mundane the reason for travel, and every anecdote has the potential to illuminate and entertain.
And if this social travel allows me to grow my network and even wins me new business? Well, that’s about as intelligent as networking gets.
Friday, February 27, 2009
And I ask you, "Is the best use of your time?"
Yes, we all like the interaction with our customers/clients. It's the best part of the day sometimes. But is it the best use of YOUR time.
What about that garden that needs tending, scoping out those new tours routes you have in mind, running cross promotions with near by attractions, even those dreaded HST returns.
What if clients could ferret out a lot of information via your website?
What would you spend your time doing if you weren't answering the same questions over and over again on the telephone?
Would you be able to spend more time mingling with the clients you already have? Leading to better referrals and repeaters.
Would you be able to spend more time with your family and pets? Leading to less home life stress.
Would you be able to build that sunroom/gazebo/rock water fall? Again leading to better referrals and repeaters.
Let your website be their guide, and shift your focus to product development/renewal.
Building brand equity can be thought of in the same way as building a retirement fund - slowly and cautiously.
What is the best way to spend those scarce dollars?
On your website of course.
What better time then now to find a "hungry for work" website developer and negotiate your best price ?
No time. There's no time like the present to put forth your best "web face".
Not going to be able to hire a student this summer to take phone calls, change your voice mail to redirect clients to the website for more FAQs and other useful information. By the time you have returned their call, they are ready to make the booking.
Better yet, include online reservations into your site and the bookings will come to you.
Make sure your website reflects your brand to the best of it's ability.
Friday, February 20, 2009
While I won't mention details, the scenario is that it was a busy night, a patron was seated, was not happy with the seating, and was verbally rebuffed by management. She took her issue to her facebook page, created a group to ban the restaurant, and almost immediately got 1,100 others to join her.
There are many lessons here.
First, if the management and staff had Superhost training from TIANB, perhaps they would be better at customer service relations. We also offer Food Safety, and Responsible Beverage... that's the shameless corporate plug. It's a fact that trained staff know what to do and not to do in situations like this. Trained staff feel better appreciated and stay longer.
Second, if the patron had known of another outlet to vent her rage, she may have used that instead of facebook. For example corporate emails, corporate blogs and forums on your own corporate websites. You need to provide outlets for patron rage, in a sense it will give you some control.
Third, there's a golden rule that if you're getting negative comments online, then you've got a problem offline. It's as simple as that. This patron didn't start out to create such a fuss, but it appears she is not alone in her opinion of this establishment and 1,099 others were just waiting for this group to start ! They were just out there waiting.
This is why you NEED to start a facebook group. If you had a facebook group of your own, perhaps she would have done a search for you on facebook, posted a comment to your group, and you could have answered personally about what you were going to do to prevent it from happening ever again.
If you had your own facebook group, perhaps a few of the other 1,099 folks that seem to have issues would have posted before now, and you could have sat back and thought, maybe there is a problem. (It's called an ounce of prevention.)
You would never delete such a comment but use it for what it is, genuine feedback, and respond appropriately. In your "contained" environment. Or in your online forums on your website.
People wanted to turn this into a problem with technology - the Ultra Bad Power of facebook. It's not. What this boils down to is a customer service problem that bled into the internet. There were many many many opportunities for this restaurant to resolve this patron's issue before it went online.
In today's economic climate - customer service is going to make or break you.
Get your staff Superhost trained.
And start a facebook group.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
She uses technology to reinvent herself and maintain her connection with her audiences.
Yes, she does.
While I watched yesterday's show, I realized how much Oprah is using today's technology to reach out to fan base all over the world.
She has incorporated online learning, and webinars into the fold. Through her series of online segments about spirituality based on that book, what was it called ...oh well it was the largest webinar ever held in the world.
She's "Skyping" regular folks into the show. Viewers with questions can contribute from their own homes via Skype.
She's using satellite radio to reach millions more.
Her website is a mix of show content and complimentary articles using various medias.
It's quite remarkable. I encourage you to watch the show and visit the site sometime. Yes folks I'm asking you to couch potato it for a couple of hours.
There is nothing on the Oprah show that you could not be doing yourself.
Skype is a free Internet calling program, in fact we use it in the Tourism Technology program. There are widgets you can put on your website for folks to Skype call you. With a web cam you could potentially have a face to face conversation with a potential guest.
I've mentioned the importance of online forums before, Oprah has those in spades.
Multimedia rich online experience is extremely important in the tourism industry. Images (that include happy shiny people) and videos that convey the experience will get results.
And that's the Oprah factor.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Travellers are using the Internet to search out their own deals and itineraries.
They are starting with inspirations from friends or broad based DMO campaigns and then drilling down from there.
Travellers are visiting as many as 22 different websites before making that buying decision.
Think about that.
Would you travel to 22 different stores to buy lettuce?
Of course not.
How would you feel after you trekked to 22 different grocery stores, compared prices, and lettuce volume? Made notes. Returned for second looks. Asked the grocery cleck for more information on the lettuce and waited two days for a response.
You'd be tired.
You'd be frustrated.
Imagine how the traveller feels about his/her online experience.
Review your website through the eyes of someone who has spent the last hour looking at similar bed and breakfast websites. Does yours clearly state information like prices, rooms, amenities, policies on kids and dogs???
While we may never get to the point where we are comparison shopping for lettuce, we are in the midst of online comparison shopping for travel experiences.
It's a reality that operators need to respect and deal with.
Remember when travel agents used to be Gods... We wined and dined them and sent them special gifts. Well the travel agent is feeling the crunch, and now we need to wine and dine the online tourist directly.
Clean and clear websites chocked full of relevant information and inspirational imagery.
That's what we need to present to today's lettuce shopper.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Did you know:
- 10% of a businesses marketing budget is spent online - however consumers spend close to 30% of their free time online
- consumers age 70 or older read a newspaper every day
- only 10% of consumers age 20 or older read a newspaper
- 1.4 billion computers have access to the Internet
- there are 3.4 billion mobile devices in the world today
- there were 12 billion online videos viewed in November 2008 alone
- 81% of travellers view videos of potential destinations
- 25% of the 122 million online travellers in the US do not know where they want to visit
- 80% of customer reviews posted on websites are positive ones
Stats are so ...boring. But hey, if that's the only way I can convince you that your website / Internet presence is important to the viability of your business, then I'll take the risk and publish the boring post.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
It's 1999 again.
Remember back to 1999, people were just starting to sign up for email addresses. Businesses were fussing and fretting over who would answer all these emails, where would the personnel come from? What would you say in an email? What was the optimum response time?
Well it's 1999 again, only instead of getting an email address, it's time for you to start promoting your business online via face book, twitter, blogging, and including customer forums on your website.
Again we're faced with personnel issues, response times, and managing risk.
And just like when we first got our email addresses and learned how to make that modem work - we will learn how to leverage social media.
We will prevail !
Monday, January 19, 2009
That's right, me.
As one speaker put it "Consumers have seen the economic headlines and now expect to see the deals. 2009 has been proclaimed the year of the travel deal"
I'll be hanging with my friends at TIAC.
I'll be learning how to engage the tourist via e-tourism, and many other exciting things which I will be sharing with you over the coming posts.
So have a great week, and I'll see you again at our usual Friday post.
Friday, January 9, 2009
I hope that the New Year is treating you well so far. As for myself, I spent a great holiday with my family, only to be taken down by a cold the first day back to work. Ironic - yes.
And so the first post of the year which should be full of fresh ideas and tidbits is going to be short and sweet...I'm too wiped out to look up anything new and exciting for you.
If you didn't do any of the following at year end, what better time then year's beginning to complete them:
Back up your files. Back up, back up, back up ! And put a reminder in your outlook or day planner to do it every week (that way you'll at least do it every two weeks !)
Clean out your email clutter, learn how to creat folders in outlook and move stuff around. Delete your deleted items. Clean out your sent items.
Go through last year's planner and find projects that are not finished. Move important dates into your new planner - such as my birthday July 15
Organize your sticky notes...and stop using sticky notes, it's not environmentally friendly, create a task list in outlook - much better.
Curl up and read those books you've been putting off. Winter days are perfect for that...this should not interfer with your casusal web browsing time that I recommended you do about 3 posts back :)
And so I leave you with this pearl of wisdom:
A smile is a curve that sets everything straight - Phyllis Diller
PS - My calendar is wide open for January and February if you would like to get together for a website mentoring session visit here for more information