If you run a tourism business, and especially if you run an accommodation business, you need to know what people say about you on Tripadvisor. A lot of operators do this already, but I’m amazed at how many don’t. You’ll probably find that most reviews are very positive. (Tracking Tourism blog did some research).
But some ratings might not be positive. Some might even be unfair. Tripadvisor gives you the ability to respond to any review, positive or negative. So you have a change to provide your side of the story and turn a bad review in an opportunity to show you care about your customer.
I’ve seen some very bad management responses. They often read like retaliations. I’m sure it made the operator feel better for a minute, but I don’t think they understand how it will only make things worse. This is one example I found:
Who knows, maybe the guest was completely unreasonable. But consumers don’t know that, and this kind of response won’t make them excited about a possible visit.
Good responses I’ve seen show empathy with the customer and demonstrate actions to avoid these situations in the future where necessary. The best responses I’ve seen include invitations to make up for it (when something obviously bad happened) or new policies based on the feedback. Here’s a good example:
I’m not suggesting to hand out free stays to anybody who complains on Tripadvisor. The bottom line is that you can make a bad review into an opportunity to show future readers you care about you customers and are willing to address feedback. And if you follow rule #1, Tripadvisor will be one of your best marketing vehicles. Maybe there is such a thing as “free bananas” after all.
Once in a while I’d like to digress from travel, technology and marketing on my blog. I have other interests and one of them is politics.
The US presidential election fascinates me on a lot of levels. In a lot of ways its great. It takes so long that there’s no way you won’t understand the differences between the candidates at the end of the process. Compared to Dutch and Canadian politics where election season is limited to a couple of months or so.
What I don’t understand is why I haven’t heard anybody talk about the complete unfairness of spreading the primary elections over months. Currently, there’s a lot of talk that Clinton should quit the process so the democrats can focus on the general elections. The reasons for this is that Obama is ahead in the delegate race, has won more states and has a majority lead in the popular vote.
This is based on the schedule of the elections. A candidates momentum is based on the last primary. Take the democrats for example. Obama won the first, causing huge media attention. Clinton won the second, and the momentum shifted to her. And on and on it went. Then other candidates started dropping out.
Maybe one of the other candidates could have won a state with an election months later. Just because Iowa and New Hampshire are first, it means that if you don’t appeal to these states, you’re done because the momentum has now swung to other candidates. Not fair to people living in other states who might like that candidate.
And imagine if the schedule of the primaries would have been something like New Hampshire, Arizona, Ohio, Rhode Island, California. These states were all won by Clinton. Obama would probably been forced to drop out; Clinton’s momentum would have been to much.
Montana and South Dakota (the last democratic primaries on June 3) probably won’t matter anymore. And if they do, it’s because of the extraordinary year for the democrats. The voters in these state essentially don’t have a say in the election of their party’s candidate. I seriously don’t get it.
Tonight I was flipping the channel as soon as the Vancouver Canucks gave another game away. I ended up watching American Idol where this guy (David Cook) sang a rock balled version of Michael Jackson’s Billy-Jean (I was a huge MJ fan when I was a teenager). I was blown away.
When my wife came home an hour later I told her about it. I looked on YouTube and of course it was posted already. I didn’t hear Ryan Seacrest say the first time that it was a cover of a cover by Chris Cornell (I was a huge CC fan when I was in my 20s). So I looked him up on YouTube as well. There are a few versions, but I like this one the best.
Then I started reading the comments on the Chris Cornell versions. Lots of comments about what version people like better, the Idols version or his. Some people never even heard of Chris Cornell (what a shame). I also found out that Chris Cornell’s album with his version is coming out in May. Wow, let’s talk about marketing for a sec…. do you get it?
This topic probably needs more than one post because I receive a lot of website related questions from tourism businesses. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that when you operate a tourism business that doesn’t rely on walk-by traffic only, your website is your most important marketing vehicle. Your website has to be up to snuff. I’ll try to keep it simple.
First of all; hire a professional, or a company who build websites. There are still people who think that buying a copy of dreamweaver or frontpage will save them a few bucks by building a website themselves. Please don’t. You’re busy enough already. A simple way to find the right company or professional is to look at your colleague’s websites and get a recommendation.
You first need to think about what you want to achieve with your website in a way that you can measure; sales, transactions, customer emails, phonecalls, etc. The more tangible the better. This is your objective. Your exact objective depends on your type of business. But as a tourism business, I think in most cases you should go for the sale.
There are 4 main aspects to building a website; visual design, content, usability, technology. Most people focus on design and technology (because its fun). Instead, you should worry about content and usability (not so much fun). Content is what your website visitors need, usability is organizing content and providing the functionality to make things easy for your website visitors. The design should reflect your business (if you run a flowery B&B, your website can be flowery as well). Finally, technology is what enables you to deliver everything above.
Your web professional(s) should be competent in all areas. But you’re the expert of your business and should know what content is needed to turn a website visitor in a customer. In general, people don’t visit tourism operator websites for the fun of it. Their visit has a purpose. They want to validate their intent to visit your business, sort out the details and hopefully purchase.
Validating the decision is about the excitement of the experience. Consumers want to picture themselves having fun kayaking a river, playing a round of golf or relaxing in the hot-tub of your B&B. Pictures, videos and testimonials are the most compelling ways to achieve this. The details they nedd depend on your type of business and it can include simple things such as opening hours, your location, pricing, policies, etc. Some consumers just want to make sure a business is legit. Providing contact info is often crucial to meet this.
Make sure you get the content your professional need. Don’t just focus on making your website look pretty. It’s about the content. You probably don’t even need a ‘redesign’, you just need better content (ok, I think I made my point). Finally, you need a mechanism to get the sale. If you can offer an online reservation often, great. If you can’t there are other options.
Looking for an example of a good operator website? Nahanni River Adventures won the Canada eTourism Award for best website. It’s a great example of using pictures, videos and testimonials to validate the intent, provide detailed information, and provide a mechanism to get the sale.
I hope to provide a bit more detail in certain areas soon. In the meantime, if you have any questions about any of this, or have anything to add, or need help finding the right online professional, please leave a comment or drop me an email. My email address is under my picture in the right column.
A little googling lead me to the following very interesting NY Times article called The New Advertising Outlet: Your Life.
There’s another great quote in there from Stefan Olander, global director for brand connections at Nike:
What he’s saying is “how can we be remarkable?”
I like to investigate research, make observation and detect patterns to develop theories, create models and build strategies. But I’m very aware that a lot of people who read my blog are running a business and would like to know: What can I do today? So here’s the first post in what I hope to be a series about marketing your small tourism business in the 21th century.
1) Be remarkable
The title might not suggest it but this has everything to do with online marketing. Because it starts with the basics. In order to market something, you need a product. And when you have a product, the way to market it in the 21th century is through word-of-mouth. It’s nothing new. Travel has always been about word-of-mouth marketing. But in a Web 2.0 world, word-of-mouth is amplified through review websites and social networks.
Tourism operators often offer ordinary products because conventional wisdom tells you that ordinary is safe. Serve to the lowest common denominator and nobody will complain. Maybe. But people don’t talk about something ordinary.
They forget ordinary.
What people talk about are things that are extraordinary. An extraordinary experience. Extraordinary customer service. Extraordinary value for money. Extraordinary weather.
Extraordinary experiences are remarkable experiences. A remarkable experience is something worth making a remark about. That’s why you don’t hear anybody talking about the restaurant with average food. You hear about good food or bad food. Good customer service or bad customer service. Good weather or bad weather.
I stayed in a hotel in Berlin that was too expensive for what it offered. But the breakfast buffet was unreal. Guess what I tell anybody who asked me about my trip? “You should have seen the breakfast buffet!”. A couple of years ago I visited the sunshine coast with my father and sister. We never bothered to book a place to stay. We ended up at a B&B in Madeira Bay that was full. But the owner offered us her own bed and slept on the couch herself. She was super nice and treated us like family. I’ve been back twice, and so has my sister, and a few of our friends.
As a tourism operator you have a huge opportunity. An opportunity to be remarkable. Because people love to talk about their trips. And people love to hear about other people’s trips. And not just over a dinner party anymore. But via email, on a blog, on Facebook, on Flickr, on WAYN, on Tripadvisor and dozens other social networks. Read by millions that look for the extraordinary.
So be remarkable, and do it in a positive way. It doesn’t have to be hard. Start by investing in customer service. And do that little bit of extra that make something say “wow”. Achieve that and they’ll do the marketing for you.
I recommend reading online marketing guru Seth Godin’s books and blog to learn more about being remarkable. I recommend Tourism BC’s Superhost programs and workshops to become a customer service wizard.
It’s easy for me to say. But you can start being remarkable today.
Marketing your small tourism business in the 21th century:
As the importance of our web presence is growing every day, we have to make sure we can meet the demands of our organization and it’s stakeholders. So we have posted two positions to strengthen our unit.
The first position is an Online Specialist whose primary responsibilities are related to managing our User Experience but understands the context of the big picture.
The second position is an Online Specialist whose primary responsibility is to manage our Search related activities; both through Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing.
If you, or somebody you know is ready for the challenge, please check out the detailed descriptions and send in your resume. Tourism BC is a great place to work and our online programs unit rocks (see picture below of our Rock Band extravaganza last Friday).
Mikala (Mickey-La) on guitar, Holly (H-meister-C) on drums, Jose (J-Go) on the mike
Chris Anderson’s the long tail has inspired much of my strategic thinking the last year or so. It’s a great book that highly recommend reading. Or at least his article in Wired magazine. Recenly I was asked to speak about the changing expectations for content in the tourism industry. First thing that came to mind.. the long tail.
Traditionally (well, pre-internet), consumers had limited information about destinations and available tourism product and experiences. Guidebooks were the most common source for planning information. They do a terrific job at providing information about the most popular tourism experiences. But Guidebooks are constraint by the number of available pages and the result is that only most popular tourism experiences are included, with a sample of supporting services such as accommodation and restaurants.
Tourism websites like ours don’t have a limited number of pages. We can include much more information, in a greater level of detail. As a result, consumers have access to more information and potential experiences that could meet their specific interest. Websites have removed the physical constraints of paper pages in a guidebook and can go further down the tail. But there are constraints still. There’s only so much content publishers can create and maintain.
To go all the way down the tail, publishers need help. That’s where user generated content plays a key role. This is how you can get the information about all kinds of experiences you will never find in a guidebook, or even on a website. But these experiences can be very appealing to some consumers, and play a key part in making decisions about where to go, and how long to stay there. This how to fill the tail, provide consumers with the information they seek, and maximize benefits to tourism businesses.
The Travel Blogger Summit was great yesterday. Just like Orlando, we had a lot of turnout for the blogger private meetings. The discussions were great. Not just about blogging, but we talked about a range of relevant topics that’s impacting the travel industry. It was really nice to have a bunch of smart people in the room to share thoughts with.
The workshops were well attended. We had a Phocuswright style session, complete with the professional AV set-up. The panalists were very diverse, both from different areas of the industry as well as different countries. Jens and Yeoh Siew from Shyventures did a good job moderating. I received great feedback from the audience including some who emailed me since (thanks for emailing me the picture below Barrett)
On the workshop pannel.
Next time I think we can make the sessions even better if we take some of the conversation from the private sessions and take them into the workshops. Either by introducing an unconference format, or by having the panelists talk about the topics of their blog. I think people were checking out a bit after two hours of bloggers talking about blogging 😉
Now it’s 5:30am and I’m wide awake again and hungry. Gotta love a jet-lag. Breakfast in one hour.
There are two workshops happening today. I’ll be on the second panel. The first panel just started and the only reason I’m posting this is because they will show my blog on the screen later and I’d like to have this picture up there 😉
There’s a lot of interest it seems, there are a large number of people attending.