Tag Archives: Trends

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!

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We work in the NOW world

I live in Norman, Oklahoma.  There’s a small university here and the University of Oklahoma is pretty good at football.  The Sooners played Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two weeks ago.  (A Thursday evening.)  While friends were relishing the upset victory, a video starts popping up on social media.  An Alabama fan goes crazy on an OU student.  Friday afternoon a story is posted – Bama Sugar Bowl mom ‘sorry’ but would ‘do it again if I had to’.  Okay, sympathy for the mom?  Wait… have you seen this video – the Crazy Bama Mom BEFORE attacking OU student?  All of that played out through social media within 36 to 48 hours.  Anyone pay attention?  The first video has been viewed nearly 3 million times.  The Yellowhammer story has more than 2,000 comments.  Who knows how many views?  And the third video has been viewed 391,000 times.  (Warning: videos and comments contain offensive images and language.)

So what?  What if the headline is “attraction GM goes crazy on family” or “restaurant owner goes crazy on diners” or “salmonella outbreak after banquet at Yourville convention center”?  We never know what is going to set something off or when a mobile phone is recording.  What could it be that potentially embarrasses the destination?  Maybe it’s not even an embarrassing situation.  Perhaps it’s a hurricane that hits the Gulf or massive flooding in the east or ice storm just before the Super Bowl?  Welcome to your job in the NOW World!  What do you need to prepared to work in the NOW World?

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1. You need to be ready… ready now… ready now for anything!  You need to have an emergency public relations plan.  The next chance you get, lock yourself away with your staff and imagine the 20 worst scenarios.  Just scan the headlines: water poison, bed bugs, salmonella, tornado, hurricane, scandal… Then think of the 20 you’d never think of – Crazy Bama Mom.  Doubt the Alabama Alumni office wasn’t prepared for that one!  Talk through what your response should/would be for each situation.  Type them up and store them away.

2. You need to realize we’re not in an 8am to 5pm job any longer.  Tornadoes don’t strike during business hours.  Videos of drunk fans go viral at any time!  If you’re the PR / Communications person for your office, you need to understand that you may be called back in even though it’s after 5pm or it’s during the weekend.  And if it needs reminding, comments on Facebook don’t end at 5pm, people don’t clock out and quit posting and watching videos on YouTube, and tweets are tweeted 24/7.

3. You need to understand that you can’t be passive any longer.  We are not in control of the message any more!  They are and they can post, tweet, pin, comment anything they want – and they do.  It’s as Dan Patrick said numerous times on Sportscenter: You can’t stop him.  You can only hope to contain him.

4. For the messages you are trying to control, you need to understand social media is not posting something once a day and never going back to view the comments or looking at it the next day when you sign in to post another message.  Social media is not loading up Hootsuite on Monday and never participating in the conversation.  (And if Hootsuite is your only portal to social media, I’d suggest shutting it down now.)  Social media is monitoring 24/7 or if you’re a small office, 16 to 18/7.

5. You need to understand you don’t have a private life any longer.  Can you cringe with me just imagining if that Crazy Bama Fan was your employee?  No, this isn’t a case of bad press is good press!  The press would love to run “Executive Director of CVB is Crazy Bama Fan”.  And your personal social media accounts aren’t personal either.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask Justine Sacco.  We have a cool job that allows us to experience a lot of cool things but the bad news is we don’t have a private life any longer.

Those are my initial thoughts of our working now in a NOW World.  Did I miss one or two?  Leave your comments below and thanks for reading!

Kansas Tourism Conference Summary

Tourism-Conference-logo-2013

The Kansas Tourism Conference theme was Capitalizing on Tourism.  (The conference was held in the Kansas capital Topeka.)  The sub-theme might as well have been Getting Back to Basics.  Roger Brooks opened the conference with a two-part full morning general session sharing Deadly Sins and the New Age of Tourism, Jerry Henry provided guidance on doing research on a shoestring budget, representatives from the state revenue office gave a transient guest (hotel/motel/bed) tax 101, and the state tourism office shared their research and strategy the next fiscal year.

No fireworks.  No glamour.  “Just” a back to basic conference packed with information.  The top nuggets are offered in this month’s 5 in Five:

1. Arguably Roger Brooks’ key takeaway was the command to “jettison the generic”.   All too often we want to present our destinations as attractive to every audience – young, old, rich, poor, family, single, etc.  What we wind up with is a very generic ad that doesn’t attract anyone.  While he didn’t present them, I reflected on Roger’s 40 Overused Words and Phrases to Avoid in Destination Marketing.  Review the list here and then count how many of them are in your ads and publications.

2. Roger suggested 80% of people use the internet before they buy.  While I have seen that number as low as 60% and as high as 95%, regardless it’s a reminder that consumers are using the internet more and more.  Based on that, Roger suggests 45% of a destination marketing budget should be spent on the web/digital/social.  (In case you’re wondering about the other 55% – 20, PR/media; 20, traditional advertising; 10 collateral; and 5 outdoor or trade shows.)

3. Did you know 70% of all spending takes place after 6pm?  I’ve never heard this but Roger sharing it opened a lot of eyes and changed a lot of paradigms as we were challenged to thing about how we should create – or reschedule – events to after 5pm.  Sure it means retail outlets and workers of the events don’t get home to 9pm or later, but want to attract the most spenders?  Start after 5pm.  Our communities’ farmer’s markets are Wednesday mornings.  Yep, a lot of people working at that time.

4. Clearly a testament to the quality of Roger Brook’s presentations when four of the five aha’s are from him, but I appreciated when he stated cities and towns should not hang their hat on a festival or event.  What about the other 364 days (or 51 weekends) of the year?  I reflected on a time I was driving to a meeting in beautiful southwest Oklahoma.  Outside Idabel was a billboard welcoming travelers to the Home of the Dogwood Festival.  The festival is the first Saturday of April.  I was passing through weeks after.  I instantly thought “there isn’t any other reason to visit for the next 50 weeks!?”  (When in fact there is a lot to do in Idabel and McCurtain County.)

5. The last takeaway isn’t going to help your marketing plan or provide any ROI.  It’s merely professional development.  Developer Jack DeBoer welcomed the attendees at the Statehouse and provided sage advise from his book Risk Only Money.  The best was he shared if he had it to do all over again, he would listen more.

Thanks for reading.

Secret Shopping Visitor Guides

It really simply started as a curiosity about what other destinations were doing with their Visitor Guides.  But then as co-workers will tell you, my ideas get bigger and bigger!  How are other DMO’s Visitor Guide request processes?  How long does it take Guides to arrive?  Are they sent first class or bulk?  What size are they?   And then to the original question, what features are destinations including in the Guides?

Where else does one get the answers but to ‘secret shop’ Visitor Guides.  So we sent off – or attempted to send off for 60 Guides.  Major destinations.  Smaller destinations but primarily ‘benchmark’ destinations – University cities or cities of 100,000 in population.  The results?

Delivery Of 60 attempts, twice we were unable to even find an ability to request a guide online.  Two more fulfillment pages were broken.  Eight only offered online versions and we weren’t able to order a printed Guide.  So we were only able to order 48 Guides.  Surprisingly, we have only received 39.  Nine requests for Visitor Guides have gone unfulfilled.  Sure there’s got to be some explanation but perhaps that’s the next study – my asking the nine why they never sent a Guide. 

Delivery II The average Guide took 6 days for delivery.  Thus the challenge to our staff – 5 days or less!  Matter of fact, I have a side anecdotal story below about the importance of a speedy delivery!

Delivery III Only one Guide was not sent First Class.  Explains the average six day delivery.

Annual or Multiple Issues per Year We experimented printing three issues per year.  For too many reasons we’ve decided to return to an annual.  We’re right in line as only seven destinations don’t print an annual and those seven – the larger destinations – each printed twice a year.

Size Apparently out is the adage that Guides need to be small, pocket-sized for the visitor to put in their back pocket or purse.  23 of the 39 were magazine sized 8.5 X 11 (or a close size to that, 7.5 X 11.)  12 were digest size (5 X 8 or a close size to that, 4 X 9.)  The other three were 8 X 8, 7 X 9 and 4 X 7.

Length All over the board!  The smallest Guide was 10 pages.  Lengthiest – Orlando’s 233 pager.

Inserts / Enclosures A handful of destinations included a detailed Calendar of Events.  Six enclosed a thank you letter for requesting the guide.  And one destination hand wrote a note and dropped it in the envelope with the Guide!

Content –  Social Media meets print  There are numerous instances in which destinations have included Social Media content in the Visitor Guide.  Detroit’s is the most prevalent.  Detroit includes these “Travel Tips” throughout the Guide which the content is pulled from social media.

Detroit Travel Tip

They even go full-page with the social:

Detroit Social Page

Durham has similar features throughout their Guide:

Durham Fan Favorites

But Detroit keeps pulling from social media and nicely promotes the online world through their “Depict the D” page.  Click here to see the page.

Content – Use of QR Code While I bashed QR Code use last month, I will hand it to Columbia and Grand Rapids for both utilizing QR Codes to bring the online world to the print world.  Columbia offers the reader a chance to scan and have a walking tour of their downtown:

Columbia Walking Tour

Grand Rapids provides a map of their smart phone tour.  The page from the Guide has 10 QR Codes that a visitor can scan and learn more about the public art.

Content – Research back to Detroit where they point blank say ‘We Need Your Help’ and give you a QR Code to scan so you can answer a few questions about their Guide.

Detroit Survey

If you ever wanted to benchmark your Visitors Guide with others, there you go.  That’s a rough summary of what Visitor Guides are looking like today.  Thanks for reading.

Oh, by the way, here’s that story…

In the midst of our Visitor Guide research above, our family is planning our three family vacation next summer.  Thanksgiving Day my brother and I discussed three destinations.  I perused three destination websites.  My wife is still a printed piece person and heck, I being in the industry doing the above research thought here’s two more that I can test.  So, I requested three Visitor Guides.
Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the first one arrived.  (That’s TUESDAY after Thanksgiving it ARRIVES!  Standing O for someone or their mail house working on Friday or Saturday to get that Guide out!)  Wednesday my wife flipped through it while my daughter practiced.  My wife started texting me ads and pictures from the Guide.  She gets home and starts showing the family pages that were dog-eared.  When my son asked ‘can we go there.’  My wife declared, ‘Yes.  This is where we’re going next summer!’
But, what, um, uh, we have two more Guides on the way!  We have two more options!
Not in my wife’s mind.  Destination 1 beat the other two to the mailbox.  She’s already studied the Guide.  She liked what she saw.  She’s made up her mind!
Destination 2’s Guide arrived two days later.  She hasn’t even looked at it.  Destination 3’s Guide is yet to arrive.  Doesn’t matter.  Game over.

QR Codes – Pointless or Effective Tool?

QR Codes… (Quick Response Code).  They’re the little squares with dots.  (See below.)  A consumer scans the code with their smart phone and, well, in most cases, becomes very disappointed in the results!  Most of the time we’re only being sent to a website – and most of the time, the websites aren’t even mobile friendly.  One gets the desktop version of the website that is difficult to read and navigate on an iPhone or android smart phone.  Fail!

I’ve become obsessed with QR Codes mainly from the ‘let’s-see-how-this-one-is-done-poorly’ sense.  I’ve heard how they’re supposed to be used and successful ways they are being used (shared later.)  But first, let’s review the top five worst ways QR Codes have been used.

I’m not quite sure which one is my favorite so they’re in reverse alphabetical order.

Website Bring up the offending website and there it was – right in the middle of the home page.  Naturally I’m curious so I get my phone and try to scan it.  You can’t scan a QR Code off a computer monitor!  Did no one think of trying this before they went live with the site?

I was really curious where the code would lead me so I printed the screen shot, scanned the code and you know what it allowed me to do?  See a picture!  Um, just put the picture on the website and save us a lot of time and frustration and you a lot of humiliation!

Television Commercial Yep, there it was in the corner of the advertisement.  I guess they’re placing it in the ad based on research that more and more are watching TV with laptops, pads or smartphones in hand but for those of us that don’t have it in hand, can one grab their phone, access the scan app, and get up to the TV in time to scan the code?  And based upon the fact you can’t scan a code off a computer monitor, can you scan one off a TV monitor?

Restaurant Menu The code was on the back of the menu.  I scanned it.  It took me to the restaurant’s website – that WAS MOBILE FRIENDLY!  It was a desktop version.  As I flipped through the site, it shared the location of the restaurant and their menu because when I’m sitting in the booth in the restaurant reading the menu, I need to know where the restaurant is and the large menu is too difficult to read so I want to squint at my smartphone to see what kind of burger I want!

Billboard Who in the flip is going to slam on their breaks on the Interstate to stop on the side of the road to scan the code off a billboard?  Genius the one that thought of that use!

Airline Magazine Um, VP of Marketing Genius… we’re on a plane.  and our phones are supposed to be off… and there’s no internet… and one needs a phone that is turned on and internet to follow the code… and, ah forget it!

So after all that sarcasm and ridicule, how are QR Codes best used?

“Getting the consumer one step closer to purchasing” was the best way I’ve ever heard it.  Got them interested in your destination?  “Scan here to book your hotel room” or “see our weekend trip packages” or “purchase your tickets to the (museum, theatre, park, etc.)”  

Don’t give them something they already have, give them something new!  Most likely they are scanning the code from a visitors guide or advertisement.  Don’t take them to more reading.  Take them to a video that then takes them to your hotel reservation system (or ticketing page if you’re an attraction.

I’ve seen QR Codes in ads to travel writers.  The code took the writer to a page on the website that had dozens of story ideas.

Colleagues have QR Codes on their business cards linking new contacts to their Vcard saving time of typing in the contact information!

Put them on conference badges so when one scans it, they have the attendees’ contact info.

Sign at an expo booth.  “Scan to register to win!”

Receipt… have them directed to your TripAdvisor or Yelp or UrbanSpoon listing so they can give a good review or so they can join your email list.

There’s seven.  Bet with your and other reader’s comments, we can come up with seven more!  Comment and share your example of how to use a QR Code.  You can share your QR blunders too!  I always enjoy a good laugh!

44 Marketing Tips, Trends and more for 2012

Here we go… 44 tips, trends, initiatives to consider if you are going to move some dials in 2012.  Full disclosure – they’re not mine.  I’ve gathered them.  You employ them and watch this year rock!

2012 Successfull Website Checklist… 11 things to consider for that website of yours.  (I don’t even ask if you have a website.  If you don’t, quit now.  Seriously, just quit.)  Content, media, social, calls to action, and mobile.  Take a gander at the list and get with your webmaster.

6 Important Marketing Trends to Watch in 2012… Maybe not the most groundbreaking of list but then again, the simple reminders that “photos are the thing” and “creativity is the center stage” are maybe just the reminders we need to get us out of a rut.  Those 6 are here.

5 Marketing Trends to Ask to Grow Your Business… Sometimes a little reflection is needed.  “What did my marketing dollars do to grow my business?”  “How focused were my efforts?”  And “What programs did I add that made an impact?”  Stop.  Reflect and consider what lessons might be learned THEN move forward!  Those questions are here.

10 Digital Trends Set to Go Mass Market in 2012… It is about working smarter.  Defining your inner circle, personalizing your news feeds beyond RSS feeds, utilizing clouds, geo-tags and location-based discovery.  How might these 10 trends affect or assist what we’re doing?

12 Marketing Predictions for 2012… We just got on Facebook.  We finally are sending e-newsletters.  Now we need to integrate the two?  Are customers will be a part of our marketing team?  More on location-based marketing… the predictions are on MarketingProfs.com but if you don’t want to register, grab a PDF of the article here 12 Marketing Predictions For 2012.

Good luck going through things!  Here’s to a great 2012!  Thanks for reading!

Aha’s from Fall Conferences

Information overload? Close. Between TEAMS, Oklahoma’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism, USTA’s Marketing Outlook Forum and a couple other seminars, I’ve heard a LOT this fall. Some was repeat. Some was dated. And some simply inspirational. There were some helpful gems though! Some real nuggets of ‘A-ha’! I’ve weeded out the trite and trivial and share with you the biggest A-ha’s of this fall’s conferences in this month’s Five @ 5.

America is very different… A lot of dissection of the 2010 census. The key number to know – 1 in 3 Americans is not white. No more “Joe Consumer”. In fact it’s more like “Jose Consumer”. 1 in 4 children are Latino and every 30 seconds a Latino turns 18. And it’s an aging population… median age is 41 and over 40 million consumers are over 65.

Take away 1… need to start printing your materials in Spanish and large print.

Take away 2… 50% of the population is over 50. Thus, 50% is under 50. Again, 1 in 3 is not white. Your generic ads may only be attracting half of the audience or turning off 66%. Now, if you know your target demo and you have a limited budget, keep targeting that demo and earn market share. Don’t try to advertise to all on a limited budget.

The Complex Consumer… Consumer confidence is down. Household income is down. But spending is at an all time high. The number of leisure trips per year are up over last year – 3.9 vs. 3.7. And the length of the trips are up – 8.3 days vs. 7.9. But affluent is out and value is now. The consumer is a deal seeker. I.e. dining – “fast casual” is hot. Think Panera. With 92% it is more about cutting back than cutting out.

Take away 3… Even the “experts” don’t know what to make of today’s consumer but now is the time to Be Relevant. Be Knowledgeable. Now is the time to do more research than ever before to really know your target demo. And Be Fearless. Go ahead and try it!

Going Mobile… Or should I say Gone Mobile. In 2011 we’ve purchase more smart phones than computers.

Take away 4… That website of yours better be able to be read by the Iphone, Android and Blackberry. If Jose Consumer is dialing into VisitDestination.com and your .com is not ‘mobilized’. Game over.

Social Media… I picked up on a stat last year – only 6% have been influenced to travel through social media. Well this year that number is up to 9%!

Take away 5… You’ve got to be doing the social media thing but it’s not the only thing! 91% of those on Facebook and Twitter aren’t gonna come cause you tweeted something cute.

QR Codes… We’re doing it all wrong. QR codes are not about simply sending them to your website. (And I’m just as guilty as everyone else.) If it’s just about sending Jose Consumer to the website, print your URL and don’t ugly up your ad with that black and white freaky thing.

Take away 6… One way to think about QR Codes is that the benefit of scanning it should be to experience something no one else is. A unique video. A discount. Or scan to win. The other way to think about them is to solve problems. Think where the consumer is in the buying cycle when they see your QR Code. When they scan yours, it should move them one step closer to the buying cycle!

Take away 7… QR Codes have to stay black. You can’t change their color to make your ad pretty. I tried two that were brown to match the ad background and they never scanned.

Have an A-ha from your fall conference? Feel free to share. Thanks for reading.