Friday, February 27, 2009

Product Development

So you think you're best angle is your sweet coaxing voice on the phone...once you have them on the phone you tell me you can sell them on whatever it is you're selling (overnite stays, meals, tours).

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.

Brand Management and maintenance

The best way of convincing ourselves to continue to spend marketing dollars in a recession is by thinking of brand management as a sustained effort where returns are cumulative and compounding.

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

Shameless Corporate Plug

In the news recently, a restaurant in NB got slammed on facebook. This is every operator's worst nightmare. This is the dread in the back of every operator's mind - the posting of negative feedback ONLINE.

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

The Oprah factor

Oprah, the most influential woman in the world, I would dare say. Still going strong after all these years. And how does she do it?

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

The process of buying lettuce

There has been a shift in the process of buying travel. For the better or for the worse, it's happened.

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

The "did you knows" about the internet

A few fun facts and trivia gleaned from the e-connect conference

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.