Monday, November 28, 2011

Hop like a Jack Rabbit

EXCLUSIVE - for my NB readers  

Let's dispel some of the myths and confusion around Jack Rabbit and online booking :)

Jack Rabbit is first and foremost an INDEXER.

A few times a day the Jack Rabbit "widget" - that white box on the TAP (tourism and parks) consumer facing website ( hops over to each operators online booking system and asks how many rooms are available.

It doesn't hold anything or take a portion of your rooms, it just asks "how many rooms do you have not booked?" Then later in the day it asks "OK now how many rooms do you have that are not booked?"

It then holds on to this information and so when  a consumer puts date ranges into the white box, it searches its information that it is holding on to and returns results

From there the consumer sees what operators have rooms available, and can choose to book, view the operator's website, start again, etc.

To actually book a room, the consumer must go to the operator's online booking system.

And here's where some people are confused

The operator can run ANY online booking system s/he wants to. The Jack Rabbit will hop over and  "talk" to any online booking system.

There are many many many types of online booking engines and they range from online web based engines to full property management systems. Some which interface with online merchant accounts and some that don't (ie take credit card deposits, hold credit card information)

It's up to the operator to choose which online booking system s/he wants to use.

They also range in pricing from a percentage to a flat monthly fee.

AS AN OPTIONAL BONUS - the people who developed Jack Rabbit will provide any operator who wants it a free online booking system.  This is SEPARATE to the Indexer the Jack Rabbit team runs on the TAP website.

The free online system is basic but they, the Jack Rabbit program team, are also making some improvements to it. Neither TAP or TIANB can make any improvements to the free portion online booking system.

There are many ways a consumer can find an operators website:

  • Rack card at a VIC
  • Google search
  • (TAP)
  • You Tube video search
  • RTA or DMO site listing
  • a direct link from a previous customer / friends / family
  • a facebook ad
  • etc etc etc

Being in the TAP check availability widget is not the be all and end all of people finding your accommodation. It's just one route to it. 

The cost for showing up in that widget is $125 a year

PLUS the cost of an online booking system. OR you can choose the free one from the Jack Rabbit company. 

You must do your RESEARCH on what online booking option is going to work for your operation!!!

Implementing this technology and making the change from that notebook or calendar to online is a BIG one.

It takes planning and commitment and knowledge and money. 

Remember when you wanted to build that garden for your guests to enjoy. So you plotted it out, bought the tiny plants and voila ... your guests sat in front of 5 inch tall hostas and said, "ah, that's cute"

Now it's a few years later, the hostas, which you moved to get more sun, are 2 feet tall and the bistro table set you purchased on clearance is a perfect spot for guests to relax.

The point being, the garden didn't start out as a magical place, and neither will your online booking engine. 
Because you didn't understand flowers  that well, you might have lost some, and had to replant others. Same with online booking - make sure you understand your options.

However in time, your online booking engine will be a magical place and as you sit in your garden, sipping a cup of tea while it takes reservations for you,  you'll wonder how you ever got along without it. 

As always, anyone from the team would be happy to help explain how online reservations works (the other Atlantic Provincial portals are different) and we also have reviewed at least 12 online booking software engines and can dispel some of the myths. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

To Tool or not to Tool ...


While at the Altantic Internet Marketing conference last month in Halifax, I attended a great panel session called the Internet Marketer's Toolkit. Each panelist shared their top four or five internet / social media / business tools. Some are free, some are not. But here's the list for your education.

Salesforce - a contact manager software for sales or other applications

Constant Contact - an online email marketing solution. Let's you create mass emails and send them to your stored contact lists

Forrester Research - internet / social media stats for gurus

Social Media sharing buttons - not a tool per se but make sure you have social media sharing on your website and that you use social media buttons on other websites to share interesting content with your followers  - analyzes your past tweets and finds the best time slots for you to send new ones

Namechk - if you're starting a new business, or signing up for social media use namechk to see what user names and domains are available so you can have the most consistent online presence

Hootsuite - an online application that lets you manage your social media like twitter and facebook with one application and one log in

Tweetdeck - same as Hootsuite but different (most people like either Hootsuite or Tweetdeck)

Seesmic - same as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite

Google Blogsearch  - (found under the more button) narrow down your google search to just what is happening in the blog sphere

Ice rocket - real time search of Twitter and Facebook and others

Social Mention - same as ice rocket

Radian 6 - a brand monitoring platform, mainly for larger companies with a lot of people talking about them - a URL shortening service, you can track clicks once you set up an account, then you'll know how many people clicked on a link in your tweet etc.

klout score - mostly for geeks to measure how important they are on the internet - my klout is 11.

Friend or follow - see who you are following but who is not following you and vice versa

Mail Chimp - same as Constant Contact

Survey Monkey - a low cost survey program, with monthly options, sign up for a few months, run a survey, close your account

Google Analytics - analyzes the traffic to your website - you need this.

Google Link Builder - Google has lots of free tools like this one, Google keyword, and Google Local Business listing - check them all out

Hope you find these helpful !