Tag Archives: tourism

6 Reasons To Think Mobile

“Because Google says so” apparently wasn’t a good enough reason for a client’s CEO to say yes to making his websites mobile-friendly.

We were reviewing a client’s web presence and one of the first things we noticed was that none of their three websites were mobile-friendly. We mentioned this to our contact and he said, “Oh I know, but our CEO will need some numbers and data to convince us to re-do our websites.”

If you or your CEO is needing additional convincing, we’ve compiled 6 data points and reasons to think mobile.

1. Because Google Said So. Remember “Mobilegeddon? The day this past spring when Google’s new mobile-friendly algorithm went into affect? The change made it easier for users to find content formatted for their devices (smartphones, pads, etc.) The change is bad news for websites that aren’t mobile-ready – ones with large text, easy-to-click links, and that resize to fit whatever screen on which they’re viewed.

Mobile-friendly sites will be ranked higher in Google search. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly will get demoted.

“A lot of small businesses are going to be really surprised that the number of visitors to their websites has dropped significantly. This is going to affect millions of sites on the web,” said one industry expert on the verge of Mobilegeddon.

2. More Mobile than Desktop. We are now past the mobile “tipping point” as a report from comScore shows. More people are using mobile devices than desktop devices.Mobile Number of Global Users

 

3. More Mobile than Desktop 2. Mobile media time is now greater than desktop and other media. 51% of internet usage is through mobile. 42% through desktop or laptop.

Mobile Internet Usage

 

4. More Mobile than Desktop 3. The trend in mobile device usage (‘vertical screens’) compared to desktop/laptop usage shows 2.8 hours of our days are spent on mobile screens vs. 2.4 hours on desktop or laptop screens.

Mobile Time  Spent on Screens

 

5. Search Begins on Mobile. Google’s mobile path to purchase report surveyed 950 US consumers across 9 different verticals to assess how they researched purchases via mobile. A key finding is the starting point for mobile research. As might be expected search was the most common starting point, but it’s lower than desktop showing the importance of branded apps and mobile sites.

Mobile Search

6. Enhancing the Visitor Experience. What experience are visitors to your website having on their mobile device? If they are finding the desktop version on their smartphone, they are finding small text and hard-to ‘click’ links. They are enlarging and scrolling left and right, left and right. We’ve all experienced it. It’s not a pleasant experience.  Give users the best experience on the devices that they’re actually using to access your site. It should be simple for shoppers to make a purchase directly from their mobile device.

Wondering about the state of your website? Is it mobile-friendly? Could it offer visitors a better experience?

Right now we’re offering a free scan of your website. Actually we’ll run it through three scans. We’ll provide you 10 tips to improve your website. Email me today. Let me know which website you’d liked reviewed and we’ll get right on it!

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Takeaways from the Oklahoma Conference on Tourism

Another VERY informative Conference on Tourism put on by the Oklahoma Travel Industry Association. I heard many co-conference attendees exclaim, “Information Overload!” Great appreciation to Debra Bailey and the Board for putting together such a great day of education.

OTIA Conference

So what were the key takeaways? Mobile, Content and Customer Service. Let’s break them down…

Mobile – The data shared by Santiago Jaramillo should not be surprising:

  • There are more smart phones purchased each year than babies born.
  • 60% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices.
  • 2 of 3 consumers are less likely to engage further with a brand if they have a poor experience with that brand on a mobile device.

So the key question to ask is ‘what kind of experience are potential visitors having through your website?’ We’ve shared Google search is rewarding mobile-friendly websites on search. Now is the time to build a responsive design website so your potential visitors have a positive experience with your brand on their mobile device.

Content – Daniel Levine encouraged attendees to ‘put online as much information as you can about your destination, hotel or attraction.’ Jennifer Kaulkman shared potential visitors want info so give it to them. ‘Draw them in with great content.’ What is great content? Howard Tietjen said it’s storytelling. Don’t just list the facts about your attraction. Tell the story behind the exhibits. Don’t just list the menu items. Tell the story behind your Oklahoma famous chicken fried steak. The story should also connect with the reader. Answer the question ‘why do they care?’

Content includes visuals. Kauklman encouraged “killer photography” on the website. How many pics? “As many as you can!” Budget to pay for a photographer to take quality photography. Video is probably more important than pictures. Shaun Auckland shared more than 50% of travelers search YouTube in 5 of 6 steps of the travel planning process. Put your story to video!

Customer Service – It’s not sexy. It’s not a cool, hip trend. But it’s what travelers want. Actually Levine clarified that – travelers want OUTSTANDING service! “Forget the sales. Focus on guest happiness.” Jaramillo put it this way: “If we sell a visitor, we get them for a weekend. If we help a visitor, we get them for a lifetime.” If through the website and social media and apps and videos and SEO we forget customer service, we’re forgetting that we are the destination’s brand and the service beyond expectations is what visitors will remember, tweet, post, and share with their friends! It will also be why they return!

‘sō shəl (verb) people engaging with each other – Pt. 2

“Social media” suggests that we are sociable with those that like us, follow us or connect with us. However, as we get busier and busier, we too often either use a social media management tool like Hootsuite, schedule our posts/tweets and never review them after they are posted. Or we quickly log on to Facebook, post and log off, never reviewing the interactions.

Last month I shared a few ways to engage more through Twitter. As Facebook changes their algorithms and our posts appear in less and less news feeds, we focus on Facebook and – as our new definition of social suggests – design activities in which people engage with each other for pleasure.

1. Like every comment. Simple enough. Outside of the absolutely bashing comment – “The Anywheresville Zoo is the worst ever…” – like every comment! They took the time to comment on your post so like it. Is it the most eloquent endorsement? Can you use it in your marketing materials? Maybe not. But like it! It encourages more comments. And you want “Joe commented on Anywhereville’s post” to appear in his friends’ news feeds. Gold!

Fort Worth FB

Even more so, comment yourself – “Thanks for sharing Julie!” If it’s negative – “We didn’t particularly like the zoo. A lot of walking!” Comment with “Thanks for sharing. Did you know about the tram back to the elephants?” You acknowledged their comment and provided assistance. How can you go wrong with that? Plus you showed your DMO is knowledgeable about services at attractions. (It’s that whole relevancy thing…)

2. If someone asks a question, for crying out loud, respond! Again, they took the time to ask a question. I totally understand – no one can watch the page 24/7. Glance at it every now and then – first thing in the morning, before or after lunch and right before you leave for the day.

3. Do you have a friends page? Your Facebook page isn’t really a business page. “Anywheresville” is the first name and “State” is the last name? It’s common. And really it’s to your advantage! Birthdays! A client of mine had both a friends page and a business page. I kept them both and wished all of their friends ‘happy birthday’. Numerous times I’d get replies surprised they’d get a greeting from an attraction. It’s as personal as you can get with your customers!

facebook birthday

4. Pictures! When you scroll through your news feed, what grabs your eye? A text only post or a picture? So then why don’t you use pictures for your DMO or business’ posts? “A picture is worth a thousand words.” A picture might be worth a thousand likes.

Charlottesville Picture Post

5. Start conversations. Go ahead and prime the pump. Encourage dialogue. About once a week, a local Mexican restaurant posts a conversation starter. A recent one: Imagine you can only order one thing off our menu for the rest of your life: What is it? 28 comments. Try fill in the blanks. “In one word, our quacamole goes best with _____________” Combine this with pictures and have then provide the caption. (Possibly less successful as it really requires creativity more so than one adjective or commenting with your favorite burrito but worth a try.)

6. Feature customers. Get comment cards? Post the comments. “Thanks for the kind words Julie (followed by her quote)” or just a waitress in your restaurant was just asked to take a picture of guests at a table. Take a picture yourself and post it. Get their name and say “Peter and his friends celebrating his landing a big account.”

7. Ask for a like, a comment or a share. Word is Facebook is tweaking their algorithm to combat ‘spammy’ posts: How many likes can we get for the new dinosaur at the museum? Or What’s your favorite ride a the waterpark? Like for lazy river, comment for raft ride, share for death drop. I believe it you ask in a subtle tone, it’s still okay. “Let’s hear what you have to say” or “you gotta like this”.

Facebook-Like-Baiting

There’s other ways to engage – contests, exclusive promotions, apps – but let’s keep it with these seven tips this month. Social media isn’t easy! It’s not just posting, checking it off your to-do list and moving to the next task. Yes, it takes time and we’re all super busy – especially in the one man/woman offices. Perhaps it’s time to consider getting some help. Please let me know if we can help in any way. At the very least, the above can help you engage with visitors and potential visitors.

‘sō shəl (verb) people engaging with each other

We all know the social media statistics: 198 google billion posts on Facebook, 55 quaple million tweets, 127.4 hoople billion pics on Instagram, and more pins than all of Oklahoma and Iowa’s wrestling programs combined. Social media is today what websites were in the 90s meaning if you’re not on social media, well, you’re not in business. But social media is, well, social.

Social Media

Try this: ‘sō shəl (verb) to design activities in which people engage with each other for pleasure – or in your situation – commerce! You won’t find that in Websters but we should. I have noticed a few practices or in some cases, lack of practices, that really doesn’t help social media be social. Bottom line – we’re not engaging! Here’s some thoughts on engaging through Twitter. (Next month, Facebook.)

– If someone comes into your welcome center or business, you greet them right? You thank them for visiting and/or becoming a new customer, yes? When someone follows you on Twitter, thank them!

“@traveler123 – Thanks for following us @VisitAnywheresville.” Keep it simple!

Toss in the hash tag #loveourcustomers for added appeal. If you’re a destination, perhaps use #loveourvisitors.

– Someone mention you on Twitter? Favorite the tweet! If someone took the time to search for @VisitAnywheresville and mention you in their tweet, you have to, HAVE TO, HAVE TO acknowledge them and engage!

I am shocked at how many times I mention someone, some place or some entity and don’t get a favorite. I went to the OKC Energy (semi-pro soccer) game a week ago. Took a picture and mentioned @OKCEnergy. Nothing. Crickets. You think I want to do that again? You think I believe they care that I attended and want me back? Not so much.

I’ll pick on my friends in Branson. We visited Branson over spring break. Seven tweets about our activities. Mentioned @ExploreBranson each time. Only one was favorited.

The mentions should be easy to know about. Log into Twitter and check your notifications. If you’re mentioned, it’s there. Hash tags require a little more searching but if you’re promoting a hashtag and someone uses it, a favorite is required. I only run in Saucony shoes. Every ad of theirs includes #findyourstrong. As I come back from a hamstring injury and begin running again, when I tweet about a run and include #findyourstrong, I’m surprised, nay, shocked Saucony doesn’t favorite the tweet to encourage me to keep using the hashtag and their shoes.

– Don’t just favorite a tweet, reply.

“Really enjoyed the @AnyZoo in @VisitAnywheresville! The monkeys were especially lively.”

Reply:

“@traveler123 Glad you enjoyed your visit to @AnyZoo and @VisitAnywheresville. See you again soon!”

Heck, suggest another attraction to them.

“@traveler123 Glad you enjoyed your visit to @AnyZoo. If you like animals, you may like the @AnyPettingZoo.”

Or (dare I say) send them to your website

“Find out information about @AnyPettingZoo at http://www.VisitAnywheresville.com/AnyPettingZoo”

If I ever get the chance to hike I do. I hiked my fourth location in the state. Tweeted “Hiked Roman Nose, Beaver’s Bend, Wichita, Quartz Mtns & T-bird. What’s next @TravelOK.” They responded with a link to their webpage describing five beginner, five intermediate and five expert hikes in Oklahoma. Just added 15 more destinations to my list!

Hey social media isn’t easy! It’s not just posting or tweeting something, checking it off your to-do list and moving to the next task. Yes, it takes time and we’re all super busy – especially in the one man/woman offices. Perhaps it’s time to consider getting some help. Please let me know if we can help in any way. At the very least, the above can help you engage with visitors and potential visitors!

The Fifth P of Marketing

A colleague at a recent tourism function was sharing how her DMO was getting in a “turf war” between the City and the Chamber – both trying to take over the management of the organization. She concluded by sharing ‘I’m staying out of it. I’m not in politics.’ A few of the glancing looks from others at the table communicated that we were thinking the same thing, “Oh yes you are like it or not!”  (And you’d better engage now or you may find yourself in a place you aren’t going to like!)

 

I thought going from a DMO to an attraction I’d find less politics. Boy was I wrong. On the heels of her statement above, I thought I’d dust off this post from April, 2011. Still as timely today! 

 

Remember the Four Ps of Marketing?  Product – Price – Placement and Promotion.  It’s Marketing 101. It’s the core of what we do – destination development (Product), drive hotel rates (Price), advise on the location of the attractions (Placement), and of course advertising and media relations (Promotion.)  But the longer I spend in destination marketing, the more I realize there is indeed a fifth P of marketing.  That fifth P is Politics.

 

I once read that destination marketing professionals are “politicians with marketing skills”.  And while I don’t like to consider myself a politician, I recognize more and more frequently that we do a lot of politic-ing.  Consider that…

 

– The CVB was active in recent City Council elections.  We assisted with candidate profiles and submitted questions for the candidate forums.

 

– Recently we’ve monitored and spoke on City issues related to business lighting and storm water runoff.  Further back, we took a stance on a state education issue and supported both a parks master plan and funding for a business park. (Following this post, we monitored and spoke on high density housing near a popular shopping district and engaged in the passage of a bond issue to improve one of the main corridors into the destination.)

 

– I accompanied our Chamber of Commerce on a ‘fly-in’ to DC to meet with our five representatives and Senators. We also met with NOAA as weather is big business in Norman! (Delighted to see my successor continued the practice!)

 

– In the near future we’ll discuss raising the transient guest tax and the split of that tax to maximize it’s economic impact on the local economy. (It passed increasing the DMO budget by $250,000.)

 

US Travel Association has long recognized the fifth P of destination marketing.  DMAI is engaging more and more in advocacy.  A committee is developing a tool kit for a community to utilize.  Not soon enough as we spend less and less time on the Promotion side of our jobs and more time on the Politics of our job. Update: that tool kit has been developed. It and many other resources can be found here.

 

It’s not the customer interaction we crave. It’s not the full conference hall corridors we like to see. And it’s not the dynamic new advertising creative we like reviewing but politicking has become a vital part of our jobs. Again, like it or not.

 

I’d love to hear success stories or best practices.  Please share those below.

What’s the Plus Side? Using Google+ for Business

I do nothing with and know nothing about Google+.  I don’t even believe I can remember how to login to my account.  Not knowing anything about this social network is what made a former colleague’s blog on Google+ appealing.

Amy Garton, is the Director of Interactive Solutions for the Overland Park (KS) Convention and Visitors Bureau.  I share her blog as a guest column this month…

What is Google+ and what do we know about it?

Google+ is a social network that was created by Google. It is the social element to all of Google’s other services (search, Gmail, YouTube, Blogger) – bringing the social elements people love from other social networks to the Google Family.

  • Launched in 2011. Google had previously launched five other social networks, of which only 1.5 exist today. (The .5 is a feature of G+.)
  • More than 540 million users and more than 300 million active users (versus Facebook at 1.19 billion active users.)
  • Average time spent on G+ per month is 6 minutes and 47 seconds (versus Facebook at 15 hours and 33 minutes.)
  • The +1 button is clicked more than 5 million times per day.

What’s the Plus Side?

1. It is Google. This is not meant to say Google does everything right, but rather we know that Google is the number 1 website in the world so it matters by virtue of size.

2. It is not just another social network. While people like to compare G+ to other networks, and it offers similar features to a variety of the networks, it is unique in both implementation and value.

3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Search is now social and Google+ is Google’s answer to this.

Google+ versus Facebook

One of the biggest barriers to success is Google+ is the public’s opinion that G+ is Google’s answer to Facebook.  Some of the key factors to keep in mind include the following:

  • Facebook is designed to connect us to our existing friends. Your goal is to stay in touch. G+ is designed to connect us to new people via shared interests. Your goal is to connect your brand with Google’s platform to raise awareness for your message.
  • Facebook is designed to build relationships with customers and prospects. G+ is designed to build recognition with a niche.
  • For business, Facebook is designed to demonstrate accessibility to your customers, providing them with service and information they need where they are online. Google+ is designed to support search engine optimization, create brand identity and authority and share content including links.

You can think of Facebook as your short-game and Google+ as your long-game.

Facebook Fans already know and love your brand, but your message has a short shelf life. Google+ Circles are very niche, but your message is tied to search and actually gains momentum with longevity.

The Google+ Features

* Circles: While all networks allow some degree of targeting, especially with their ad platforms, Google really understands the importance of niche marketing and messaging. You might not want to share your child’s latest adventures with your business acquaintances, just like you might not want to share your every thought on the state of social media with your friends. For business, this is an extremely important tool and one of the most useful features of Google+.

* Communities: Google’s answer to groups. Give people a place to hangout around a specific topic

* Hangouts: This Skype like feature allows you to video chat with your connections – bringing once tedious conference calls into a new dimension. The plus side of this feature is you can invite people to Hangout or do an “On Air Hangout” which feeds live into YouTube.

* Events: Create events and invite attendees. Unique feature to this events option is that it will add the event to anyone that uses Gmail or Google Calendars if they are attending and automatically adds it to the calendars of those in your Circles.

* Local: A way for people to review your business and find places near them. These reviews will “help” Google determine what to recommend in the future.

* Hashtags: Google gets this right. They actually add tags to your post if you have not added tags that deem appropriate.

Search brings you information from across the web. Now, search recognizes those you think are important and brings you their information in a personalized results based on your connections, interests you’ve established, location, etc.

According to a study connected by MOZ, the number of G+’s a website has is the second most influential indicator for the Google Algorithm, only behind page authority.

You need to establish a personal and professional network on G+ to demonstrate authority in the industry. And then create a Business Page with a Network to establish authority directly connected to your company’s web presence.

To optimize your Google+ account for SEO, you should:

1. Give your Google+ Page a Name.

Visit Overland Park is the name we use because it is our social profile and our website address.

2. Customize your Google+ Page URL.

To set your custom Google+ page or profile URL:

  • Go to your page or profile and click About.
  • Scroll down to the Links box. You’ll see your existing Google+ page URL.
  • Click on the link and Google+ asks you if you want to convert to a new custom Google+ page URL.

3. Local Page

Merge your Local with Places for easier management. Here is an article on merging the two.

4. Establish Authorship.

Authorship is a form of HTML coding that tells Google that your Page is being managed by an authority related to your website. Your email address must include your website (example agarton@visitoverlandpark.com). You can go further and establish Publisher, which connects all your employees as authors, which is especially useful for blogging.

Seeing Success

* Posting

* Be sure that the information is keyword rich.

* Use links to your website and blogs.

* Use hashtags and review the hashtags Google creates for the post.

* Reshare your evergreen content to increase the number of +1s and increase your SEO.

* Ask for +1s and shares.

* Share your posts publically, unless best fit for a specific circle or needed on a targeted basis. This will reach those in your Circles, but will also go public so more people can find you.

Beyond the Post

* Grow your Circles to grow your Circles. You need to network here. This is one social network that does not punish you for following more people than follow you (and the best way to get new followers is to follow someone else). In fact, it rewards you for having a large network and degrees of connectivity (note that you can only circle 5000 people for your Page). This is a true content-contact marketing effort.

* Add Google +1 Button to website pages.

* Include +1 Button in emails.

* Measuring

* Review posts to see what is getting +1s, comments and shares to drive content curation.

* Establish unique URLS for links to follow in Google Analytics.

Some great tools are available to measure success in a variety of areas. For more

on these tools, go here.

Other Tools that are Available:

* Friends + Me is a website application that allows you to set up an auto share from your google+ page to your other networks. This app allows you to customize what people see by network.

* Chrome Do Share allows you to schedule posts in Google+, but the Chrome browser must be open at the time you want a post to share.

* SteadyDemand.com will give you an analysis of your Google+ page and how it can be better utilized to gain the full SEO benefits of your G+ account.

Thanks for reading.

How To Create An Exceptional Experience

While it appears as if the need for customer service is going away, eventually the consumer has to have human interaction. We in destination marketing know a traveler can make a hotel reservation and book a flight online. They can get tickets to a show or attraction online. They can check luggage with minimal personal interaction and the flights offer minimal personal interaction. Eventually though they get in a taxi, get to the front desk of a hotel or are greeted by the wait staff at a restaurant. There is where the visitor must encounter exceptional customer service.

 

Pete Winemiller is the Sr. VP for Guest Relations for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He shared recently that 32% of customers leave a business due to death, moving away, friends’ influence, being lured away by the competition or dissatisfaction with the product. 68% though are turned away by an attitude of indifference on the part of a company employee. That visitor center volunteer’s customer service wasn’t necessarily poor, but it wasn’t so good either that the consumer felt that it truly mattered to that volunteer that they were visiting Anywhere-ville!

 

Pete puts it another way: “People will forget what you did. People will forget what you said. But they won’t forget how you made them feel.” The Certified Tourism Ambassador Program suggests we exceed customer expectations making for a memorable experience. I’ve been delighted to experience customer service at its best or at least to the point that it created a truly memorable experience!

 

customer service

 

Last summer, my family traveled with two other families to Wisconsin Dells. After a night at an amusement facility (think Chuck E Cheese on crack), on the way back to the resort we stopped at a convenience store to get something to drink. I went in with four kids under 10 years of age. You don’t typically think of convenience store clerks as the most customer friendly but this guy gathered the kids around the counter and did a magic trick! It was a simple thing with a quarter and a slight of the hand but to a 10, 9, 9 and 6 year old, it was cool! And after spending a week in the Waterpark Capital of the World, you know what they talk about just as much as the water slides? The magic trick! Clearly a memorable experience!

 

A conference took a colleague and me to Claremore, Oklahoma, in the end of January. We stayed in a Comfort Inn. I’ll admit, my expectations weren’t too high. I considered driving to and from neighboring Tulsa to stay in something a little higher on the hotel food chain than a Comfort Inn. But I conceded and stayed in Claremore. While we were there, overnight a thin layer of ice covered the town. As we left the property, the sidewalks had de-icer tossed on them. When we got to the vehicle, I was pleasantly surprised to find the hotel staff had tossed salt on the parking lot between the vehicles! The ice wasn’t completely melted as we got into the vehicle but it clearly exceeded my expectations of what a hotel staff would do to the sidewalks and parking lot after an ice storm! That exceeded this customer’s expectations!

 

Our family just visited Branson over spring break. We visited a small pizza place in West Branson. As a customer, I expect drinks to be refilled without even asking so I was initially bothered when the nice lady asked the table if we needed refills. When my 10-year-old son said yes, she turned to me and asked if it was okay. As I checked out, another little girl came to the counter and asked for a refill. The waitress told her ‘just a minute’. After she got my credit card slips to sign, she went to the table where the girl was sitting and asked her mom if the girl could have a refill. I realized she was getting parents’ permission before giving kids another serving of sugar water! Greatly appreciated! When she came back, I asked her if she was a mother herself. She said no. “I just assume all families have been at Silver Dollar City all day drinking pop and the last thing they need is more caffeine and sugar this close to bed!” I pulled out cash and doubled her tip! That’s customer service!

 

I am sure you can think of a time when your expectations were exceeded, when someone truly showed appreciation for your business, when they created a memorable experience! I challenge you to model their actions or those examples above. Together we can exceed customer expectations and create a memorable experience for our guest!