Innovate or miss your “Target”

Innovate or miss the mark. Change is not only good, but necessary.

Target is the perfect example of failure to innovate. I am certain that the Target Corporation had the best of intentions bringing its promise of quality retail at low prices to Canada – only two short years ago.

The popular US retail giant had successfully positioned itself in the US as an upper-end discount store, and all indications were that Canadian’s were ready for it.

Why did Target fail to hit their target in Canada? Lack of innovation.

The Target brand launch in Canada was big and splashy. Colourful (note the Canadian spelling) Ads, with messaging that showed Target understood Canadians.  The creative and messaging almost invited the country to welcome the big kid from next door. I dare say that the Ads were even “Tim-Horton-esque

targetcomestocanada_ideahatching.com

The ads and fanfare brought excitement and a promise that the Target cache, products, and pricing model could be replicated for Canadian’s, who loved to shop at Target when across the border.

When Canadian discount retailer “Zeller’s”, succumbed to the competition in 2011, Target swooped in to save the day. Surely it was just that Zeller’s, the Canadian retail staple founded in 1931, and acquired by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1978, failed to keep up with new superstore discount retailers like Wallmart. The Zeller’s stores that failed provided much of the initial space for the first Target stores to open in Canada.

Obviously Target had all the right stuff to make it right?

 

Innovate.Def

Wrong. Target failed to innovate.

 

Whether it was that Target did not understand retail in Canada, how to work in Canadian communities, or the government policies that may have impacted how they delivered on their brand promises, Target failed to meet the requirements to thrive in Canada. They rested on the success they had in the US, and did not recognize the need for change.

Target was not the first, and it won’t be the last brand that has failed to innovate while pushing forward into a new market, sustaining profitability, or attempting growth.  Even brands that have a unique offering, and strong brand have failed due to lack of focus on systems and process that may have worked at one time.

Think Blockbuster.

 

Had Blockbuster Video innovated by providing something like the new “Red Box” that now sits at the front of supermarkets – perhaps Blockbuster’s fate may have been different?

Or consider Netflix. Netflix launched in Canada in September of 2010 This is a brand that saw the opportunity in streaming video that came with increased access to high speed WIFI and mobile devices that could handle streaming media.  Netflix took the lead in delivering streaming content, and then showed innovation in producing the content as part of their offering.

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.12.16 AM

 

Netflix took a queue from HBO and Showtime – traditional content producers, and added what worked for them into their mix. They changed what they offered their customers, and provided more value.  More importantly, they innovated at a time where the competition could have left Netflix lost in cyberspace.

The Netflix model is now being replicated by others including Amazon with “Amazon Studios” and Yahoo!. Both are producing their own content, and adapting tactics that have worked in other mediums.

It was only in November 2014 that Canadian streaming media competitor “Shomi” – a joint venture between Rogers Media and Shaw entered the market as an alternative to Cable and Netflix.  Shomi came out of the gates as an alternative to the streaming service that Netflix offered in 2010 – in November 2014!

Bell Media’s “Crave TV” launched only a month later in December 2014, one month after Shomi. Need I say more?

Perhaps if Target had spent additional time and dollars in preparing to enter Canada, and more importantly considered how to manage products, services, people, and pricing that may be different in a new market – we would not have 17,000 Canadian’s unemployed as of last week’s announcement.

The moral of this story?

 

Innovation might be the next buzzword or hot catch phrase, but those who are actually putting it into practice will hit their targets.  Of this, I am convinced.

###

 

About:

Alicia Whalen is a process innovator, social media influencer, digital media evangelist, and Co-founder of the successful digital marketing conference – Online Revealed Canada – now in its 10th year. A Blogger at ideahatching.com, speaker, trainer, and lover of ah-ha moments. Tweet me @acoupleofchicks or connect with me on LinkedIn

PredictandPromote_ORC2015

 

Online Revealed Canada Conference:  Join us March 31-April 2 2015 in Toronto for the 10th annual Online Revealed Conference for digital marketing in tourism and travel.  After a decade of challenging the “old ways” of marketing online, and with a theme of “Predicting and Promoting A Look at The Future of Travel Marketing.” my partner and co-founder Patricia Brusha and I are excited to deliver a special 10th anniversary edition event with a new format, exciting venue and top speakers in the industry CONFERENCE REGISTRATION is now open.

I look forward to seeing friends and colleagues to share in where we have come and where we are going in digital marketing for tourism. What a ride it has been so far!

 

Article references:

  1. Financial Post: 2015/01/15 
  2. Financial Post: 2015/01/19
  3. Toronto Star: 2015/01/25

The beginning: One post, tweet and heart at a time

I am feeling especially reflective as we approach the end of another year. It may have been Christmas music and snow day that have brought me to this place. Maybe it is the Songza Singer-Songwriter playlist that did it.

Or perhaps it was the highlights of our collective social story over the past year highlighted in a Wall Street Journal article…but I digress.

Our use of social media in all area’s of our lives has made us “Life Scribes,” documenting not just pop culture and news applicable to the masses, but also the daily life, relationships, work, connections, the desires and dreams of well…everyone on the planet.

The way we tell our stories has changed.

heart

Our stories have become interwoven into all that we do. Media weaves over from our televisions, and into our Facebook timelines and tweets.

 

“Our moods move with the streaming song lists and Netflix binge watching.

We consume our media and share our stories, our music, our feelings.”

 

We share it all, across multiple devices, and sometimes while sitting in the same room. We watch and participate at the same time, and are all contributing to one big collective social story.

I wonder now where storytelling will go from here.

A tweet has the shelf life of about 30 min or less depending of course on your chosen #hashtag. A beautiful moment caught on Instagram may be shared a few million times.

 

What if we are simply flying by these beautiful moments?

 

Social media and our ability to always be connected and interconnected has made us all story tellers, journalists, photographers, artists and therapists. The devices that connect us to our social networks have enabled us to participate in our world, far outside of what we were able to do only a few years ago.

Consider that we are now getting birthday wishes from people from all area’s and times of our lives on Facebook. Well wishes posted to our walls from childhood friends, to business colleagues, to family and friends – allowing us a connectedness to people and experiences that would have been impossible to maintain and grow in the past.

We are sharing music, personal photo’s, locations, and are able to express ourselves with words; comments and reflections, and sometimes overused quotes from Deepak Chopra, Oprah, and of course Bethany Mota.

  We are now contributors to the collective story and not simply passive observers. We have a big responsibility.

 

I feel especially responsible to reflect on my highlights and observations as a student of digital media. I am excited to say that I intend to do this the good old fashion way.  I am going to write a book. This article is the start to my adventure.

This book might be written as a series of blog posts, or on Wattpad, but while reflecting on how we are telling our collective story, I am excited to tell my own in whatever place I am comfortable to do it.

Thank you for listening friends, followers and fellow scribes.

AliciaWhalen_stories

 

SEARCH SWEET SPOT: Beyond Google's Mothership

A look at travel distribution online in SEARCH – Beyond Google. Part-One of a Two-Part series.

 

Over the past 5-years, online travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73%, with 57% of all travel reservations now made online. (eMarketer; 2014)

Travel marketers know that a large portion of their digital advertising budgets should be focused on driving targeted traffic to the website, and that organic search and paid search advertising campaigns in Google are a critical part of hotel distribution in today’s connected world.

During this time Google has become the MOTHERSHIP of search engines.  Consumer use of search has skyrocketed with no signs of slowing down, even with time spent online becoming increasingly divided by time spent on social networks, news platforms, gaming and streaming of media, as well as search.  Having said that, Google Adwords is an extremely smart advertising platform that has set the standard in the digital industry, and absolutely offers marketers the tools, the reach, targeting options, and the conversion data to prove it.

The current state of search for Travel  

Over the past decade, the travel sector specifically has become heavily reliant on search, and all signs point to more to come. Device targeting and other smart optimization tools will continue to bring advertisers closer to the point of consumer conversion.

 

” The challenge in our reliance on Google search as a key distribution channel for travel is that Google Adwords is becoming increasingly expensive, with other large travel category advertisers such as OTA’s, brands and meta-search sites driving up the cost-per-click and overall cost of paid search. “

 

To add to this, Google is still adjusting how organic and paid search displays with ongoing changes to where locally optimized businesses are placed.

This is getting extremely complex when we look at travel search in Google, with changes happening continually in how results are displayed.

I am sure all travel marketers would agree, it has become more expensive to play the search game year over year, which is also reducing its efficiency in providing targeted reach, and converted sales – at a reasonable cost-per-conversion for advertisers.

The travel as a sector is heavily reliant on search, more so than in other industries including retail, automotive or consumer packaged goods. OTA’s, Hotel brands, Airlines, Meta Search engines, and other travel aggregators and intermediaries continue to dominate the paid search and content networks.

With increased costs associated with search, it will be difficult for smaller advertisers to continue to up the ante to compete for the consumer click.

In the past, only those located in markets like major city centers and popular destinations had to deal with high CPC’s, and usually the cost-per-acquisition of paid search compared with other advertising channels still made it an extremely effective sales channel.

Now with increased advertisers, specifically in Google’s paid search ad platform, search will likely become as expensive as television was in the past and perhaps more of a place for brand marketing and awareness campaigns.

This leaves travel marketers at a place once again of needing to shift digital dollars to a channels that have both the reach and engagement of the consumer – and that provide a healthy cost-per-acquisition.

Can travel advertisers afford not to look at other digital marketing channels?

Google Search will likely continue to be populated by larger travel category advertisers including major hotel brands and hotel groups, OTA’s, Airlines and other travel intermediaries such as meta-search engines like Trivago and even Tripadvisor.

Google Adwords will continue to offer extremely localized campaign options with more of a mobile focus for advertisers to target consumers closer to the point of conversion, but both CPC’s and cost to manage such complex marketing campaigns will continue to demand investment.

 

SearchSweetSpot_article_aliciawhalen_ideahatching.comThe digital distribution of travel is about to shift again. Considerations beyond the mothership.

Travel marketer’s will need to be smarter with digital marketing planning and use smart data and analytics now more than ever. Annual digital media planning must include consideration and testing of other online advertising platforms to ensure hoteliers remain in control of their online sales channels as the travel buying process continues to become more and more fragmented across multiple devices and platforms.

Where should marketers be looking to spend digital marketing dollars?  My recommendation is to plan ahead and test the waters.

Diversify your digital Adspend. Test and measure.

As search advertising continues to increase in cost, travel marketers should consider shifting online budgets to allow for testing of other digital distribution channels.

The sacrifice of a less mass audience reach may result in a more targeted consumer – at a lower cost-per-conversion. There are many of these marketing channels to explore.

Smart marketers will ensure that analytics are in place with key performance metrics and goal tracking, and then consider testing the waters more aggressively with some other highly effective digital marketing channels such as:

  • Local Search (Google Places and Business pages Optimization): with deep segmentation based on device, geo targeting and call and link extensions.
  • Yahoo/Bing Network Search: Approximately 1/3 of all search in US and Canada is delivered by Yahoo Bing. CPC’s are much lower, and audience is highly targeted for the travel industry. (more to follow in part-two of this series)
  • Social Media: Content and resources to support with some adspend allocated will ensure that brand reputation is strong. Social media is not as likely to lead to a direct conversion (yet), but plays an important role in the consumer buying process. It is critical for marketers to manage CRM and the ever-important travel review.
  • Tripadvisor Business listings provide for direct to property contact links (phone, website, deals pages) and special offers to drive direct, noncommissioned bookings.
  • DMO’s – Destination Marketing Organizations need to play an active role in being the travel guide and destination expert via social media marketing and strong website assets pointing travelers to stakeholders to convert. Stakeholder partnerships, combined digital media buys on behalf of the destination, content partnerships and optimized business/property listings to drive referral traffic to hotels are a must.

Specifically, Hoteliers can expect that the OTA’s, hotel brands, major airlines and other major travel category advertisers will continue to increase their investment in search.

Moving forward, small to medium sized hotels and travel advertisers can leverage this.  Hotels and other travel suppliers will need to be well positioned within each channel (Expedia, booking.com, kayak, Tripadvisor, etc.) – and then let the larger advertisers do the heavy lifting on digital channels such as:

  • Google search and display, content and video (YouTube) ad networks
  • Bing/Yahoo Ad network and content sites
  • MetaSearch Engines (Kayak)
  • Tripadvisor destination pages, display advertising, PPC
  • Online travel advertisers such as Expedia, booking.com
  • Brand marketing programs offered within major hotel chains such as Starwood and Marriott

Overall, travel marketers should be focusing on deeper optimization of ad campaigns across all platforms to keep spending as targeted as possible, and cost per conversions low.

CONCLUDING SOUNDBITES:

Search marketing is important but will continue to increase in cost.
  1. According to eMarketer, 128 million people, or 63% of Internet users, will research travel online on their computer or through their mobile device this year. Of those, 83%, or 106 million people, will actually book travel
  2. Travel advertisers should consider advertising on other search channels: Consider placing some adspend towards Yahoo/Bing Search. According to YahooBing (and comscore), its search platform serves 1/3 of search to those not using the mothership (Google) and reaches 34% of the overall Mobile Search Market . This is key as consumers continue to increase time spent on mobile devices over desktop.
  3. Marketers need to continue to focus on analytics and campaign performance analysis with marketing, sales and revenue departments working together to ensure search drives rate as well as direct consumer acquisition, with a focus on price transparency in all places online.

Part two of this article will explore other digital advertising tactics that can provide deep customer targeting and access to travel consumers online and who are close to the point of sale.  Until then, time to review the budget for 2015 and allow for some budget to test the waters – outside of the mothership.

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media.  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at her blog www.ideahatching.com 

 

 

Additional article references:

1. searchengineland: Bing Ads vs. adwords

2. Financial Post: Google or Bing Ads for SMB’s

3. searchenginewatch.com: Search Engine Market Share

4. Experian.com: Online Trends in Canada

SEARCH SWEET SPOT: Beyond Google’s Mothership

A look at travel distribution online in SEARCH – Beyond Google. Part-One of a Two-Part series.

 

Over the past 5-years, online travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73%, with 57% of all travel reservations now made online. (eMarketer; 2014)

Travel marketers know that a large portion of their digital advertising budgets should be focused on driving targeted traffic to the website, and that organic search and paid search advertising campaigns in Google are a critical part of hotel distribution in today’s connected world.

During this time Google has become the MOTHERSHIP of search engines.  Consumer use of search has skyrocketed with no signs of slowing down, even with time spent online becoming increasingly divided by time spent on social networks, news platforms, gaming and streaming of media, as well as search.  Having said that, Google Adwords is an extremely smart advertising platform that has set the standard in the digital industry, and absolutely offers marketers the tools, the reach, targeting options, and the conversion data to prove it.

The current state of search for Travel  

Over the past decade, the travel sector specifically has become heavily reliant on search, and all signs point to more to come. Device targeting and other smart optimization tools will continue to bring advertisers closer to the point of consumer conversion.

 

” The challenge in our reliance on Google search as a key distribution channel for travel is that Google Adwords is becoming increasingly expensive, with other large travel category advertisers such as OTA’s, brands and meta-search sites driving up the cost-per-click and overall cost of paid search. “

 

To add to this, Google is still adjusting how organic and paid search displays with ongoing changes to where locally optimized businesses are placed.

This is getting extremely complex when we look at travel search in Google, with changes happening continually in how results are displayed.

I am sure all travel marketers would agree, it has become more expensive to play the search game year over year, which is also reducing its efficiency in providing targeted reach, and converted sales – at a reasonable cost-per-conversion for advertisers.

The travel as a sector is heavily reliant on search, more so than in other industries including retail, automotive or consumer packaged goods. OTA’s, Hotel brands, Airlines, Meta Search engines, and other travel aggregators and intermediaries continue to dominate the paid search and content networks.

With increased costs associated with search, it will be difficult for smaller advertisers to continue to up the ante to compete for the consumer click.

In the past, only those located in markets like major city centers and popular destinations had to deal with high CPC’s, and usually the cost-per-acquisition of paid search compared with other advertising channels still made it an extremely effective sales channel.

Now with increased advertisers, specifically in Google’s paid search ad platform, search will likely become as expensive as television was in the past and perhaps more of a place for brand marketing and awareness campaigns.

This leaves travel marketers at a place once again of needing to shift digital dollars to a channels that have both the reach and engagement of the consumer – and that provide a healthy cost-per-acquisition.

Can travel advertisers afford not to look at other digital marketing channels?

Google Search will likely continue to be populated by larger travel category advertisers including major hotel brands and hotel groups, OTA’s, Airlines and other travel intermediaries such as meta-search engines like Trivago and even Tripadvisor.

Google Adwords will continue to offer extremely localized campaign options with more of a mobile focus for advertisers to target consumers closer to the point of conversion, but both CPC’s and cost to manage such complex marketing campaigns will continue to demand investment.

 

SearchSweetSpot_article_aliciawhalen_ideahatching.comThe digital distribution of travel is about to shift again. Considerations beyond the mothership.

Travel marketer’s will need to be smarter with digital marketing planning and use smart data and analytics now more than ever. Annual digital media planning must include consideration and testing of other online advertising platforms to ensure hoteliers remain in control of their online sales channels as the travel buying process continues to become more and more fragmented across multiple devices and platforms.

Where should marketers be looking to spend digital marketing dollars?  My recommendation is to plan ahead and test the waters.

Diversify your digital Adspend. Test and measure.

As search advertising continues to increase in cost, travel marketers should consider shifting online budgets to allow for testing of other digital distribution channels.

The sacrifice of a less mass audience reach may result in a more targeted consumer – at a lower cost-per-conversion. There are many of these marketing channels to explore.

Smart marketers will ensure that analytics are in place with key performance metrics and goal tracking, and then consider testing the waters more aggressively with some other highly effective digital marketing channels such as:

  • Local Search (Google Places and Business pages Optimization): with deep segmentation based on device, geo targeting and call and link extensions.
  • Yahoo/Bing Network Search: Approximately 1/3 of all search in US and Canada is delivered by Yahoo Bing. CPC’s are much lower, and audience is highly targeted for the travel industry. (more to follow in part-two of this series)
  • Social Media: Content and resources to support with some adspend allocated will ensure that brand reputation is strong. Social media is not as likely to lead to a direct conversion (yet), but plays an important role in the consumer buying process. It is critical for marketers to manage CRM and the ever-important travel review.
  • Tripadvisor Business listings provide for direct to property contact links (phone, website, deals pages) and special offers to drive direct, noncommissioned bookings.
  • DMO’s – Destination Marketing Organizations need to play an active role in being the travel guide and destination expert via social media marketing and strong website assets pointing travelers to stakeholders to convert. Stakeholder partnerships, combined digital media buys on behalf of the destination, content partnerships and optimized business/property listings to drive referral traffic to hotels are a must.

Specifically, Hoteliers can expect that the OTA’s, hotel brands, major airlines and other major travel category advertisers will continue to increase their investment in search.

Moving forward, small to medium sized hotels and travel advertisers can leverage this.  Hotels and other travel suppliers will need to be well positioned within each channel (Expedia, booking.com, kayak, Tripadvisor, etc.) – and then let the larger advertisers do the heavy lifting on digital channels such as:

  • Google search and display, content and video (YouTube) ad networks
  • Bing/Yahoo Ad network and content sites
  • MetaSearch Engines (Kayak)
  • Tripadvisor destination pages, display advertising, PPC
  • Online travel advertisers such as Expedia, booking.com
  • Brand marketing programs offered within major hotel chains such as Starwood and Marriott

Overall, travel marketers should be focusing on deeper optimization of ad campaigns across all platforms to keep spending as targeted as possible, and cost per conversions low.

CONCLUDING SOUNDBITES:

Search marketing is important but will continue to increase in cost.
  1. According to eMarketer, 128 million people, or 63% of Internet users, will research travel online on their computer or through their mobile device this year. Of those, 83%, or 106 million people, will actually book travel
  2. Travel advertisers should consider advertising on other search channels: Consider placing some adspend towards Yahoo/Bing Search. According to YahooBing (and comscore), its search platform serves 1/3 of search to those not using the mothership (Google) and reaches 34% of the overall Mobile Search Market . This is key as consumers continue to increase time spent on mobile devices over desktop.
  3. Marketers need to continue to focus on analytics and campaign performance analysis with marketing, sales and revenue departments working together to ensure search drives rate as well as direct consumer acquisition, with a focus on price transparency in all places online.

Part two of this article will explore other digital advertising tactics that can provide deep customer targeting and access to travel consumers online and who are close to the point of sale.  Until then, time to review the budget for 2015 and allow for some budget to test the waters – outside of the mothership.

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media.  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at her blog www.ideahatching.com 

 

 

Additional article references:

1. searchengineland: Bing Ads vs. adwords

2. Financial Post: Google or Bing Ads for SMB’s

3. searchenginewatch.com: Search Engine Market Share

4. Experian.com: Online Trends in Canada

The key to success in digital marketing = Happiness

I posted a version of this article originally on my Blog in 2011.  I am excited to share that the LinkedIn Pulse Publishing platform is certainly worth the investment of time and commitment to good content.  I am thrilled and humbled by the feedback I have received from this article both on LinkedIn and Twitter.  I look forward to ongoing contributions.  The response is inspiring!

 

LinkedInPulse_AliciaWhalen_SocialSellingWorks

 

 

This is a fast paced digital world we live in and we as marketers are always looking for new ways to get customers to buy.

Why is this relevant now in the age of an exploding digital media landscape where consumers are living online and across multiple devices like never before?

 

Perhaps we need bring marketing and advertising back to basics and take a queue from our favourite MadMen Ad exec. Don Draper says: 

“ Advertising is based on one thing:  Happiness. “

 

Bring digital marketing back to the basics.  There is content coming at us fast and furious – whether in search engines, on social networks and news portals.  We are witnessing a digital media convergence where more and more media is available online across multiple platforms, and to add to that we are accessing digital content across multiple devices. How do we really make consumers happy now?  Is it still as simple as delivering on a promise and providing a product or service that makes your customers Happy?

I think so!  Now, how do we engage with consumers who are changing their online user behavior as quickly as Facebook changes its profile layouts?  We are marketers are constantly second-guessing where we are allocating our marketing dollars, seemingly because of the following fears:

 

FEAR of missing the next big thing.

RESOURCES – both financial and human.

CONFUSION about what tactics to focus on as the online world shifts again – and again – and again.

 

My advice? Bring it Back to Basics:

  1. Know Your Customer (this will make them Happy)
  • Check your website analytics for top referral traffic and keywords used to find your website, then continue to build on the content that is attracting and engaging your customers to ultimately buy from you.
  • Use a social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite or Sprout Social or free tools like Google Alerts, Facebook insights, Twitter analytics or others to “listen” to your customers and understand how to make them Happy.
  • Allocate time and resources to understand changes in how your target audiences are researching and transacting online.  Read and educate yourself about digital marketing tactics that work to make customers happy.  I know a few things that work.  Price transparency and the delivery of a brand promise.  Pretty back to basics right?
  • Most importantly, if you’re taking the time to ‘listen’ to your customer’s online– be sure you act on that information. Simply monitoring the conversation without adjusting your strategy, or communicating with your brand ambassadors will not help you understand how your consumer wants to receive your messages now and in the future.
  1. Keep Your Eye on the Prize. Understand Your Objectives
  • What are your objectives in your digital marketing campaigns?  Are you looking to increase sales? To build a new audience? Launch a new brand? Increase brand engagement?  It will make both you and your customer happy if your advertising is delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right consumer.  Win win win = Happy!
  • With all of the new tactics available to marketers today, it is more important than ever to set specific and measurable objectives for campaigns. This makes me nostalgic for the Mad Men days really.  This whole marketing thing has become a little bit mind numbing.
  1. Stick With What Works.
  • If you have already developed an active Twitter following and you’re seeing ROI (in sales and or website traffic etc) keep going!
  • Continue to build on what works to make your customers happy. Build a team of Tweeters to help in building and engaging your audience further or in providing CRM – think about what would take a successful campaign to the next level.
  • If Google AdWords campaigns worked well last year to drive targeted traffic during need times, or to sell specific packages or products – build on it and do it again with a new twist, or put some dollars towards other search channels such as the Yahoo/ BING network that might provide a smaller reach but more conversions.  Don’t be afraid to test new channels.  Consumers are spending a great deal of time online, therefore advertising budgets need to adjust.
  1. Search is still king.  Your customers are Happy when they find what they are looking for.
  • Focus on making sure you have a strong web presence across all online channels that help to guide your consumers to transact.
  • Ensure you have taken care of the basics like search engine optimization, good creative and content, Google Places optimization, a good mobile version of your website etc. and then you can focus on other channels to build your traffic.
  1. Integrate. Integrate. Integrate.
  • Make sure you integrate your campaigns online and offline.
  • Your brand’s digital footprint should have a consistent tone, creative brand message, and should always drive your target consumers to transact. This is key and is sure to make them Happy.  Ensure that all your brand web assets are navigating customers to act.
  1. Test + Measure and then Adjust.  This makes stakeholders Happy.
  • Measure performance in analytics and benchmark against past campaigns to continue to improve advertising efficiency. Make sure you have defined KPI’s in place such as increases in unique website visitors, increases in time on site and of course –  sales.
  • Did you launch a new Blog that has increased traffic to the website by 20%? How do you grow it from here or how do you encourage more transactions on the website as a result of the Blog traffic? Test, measure and adjust.
  • Have your efforts on LinkedIn increased leads to your sales department?
  • What can you do to ensure you grow these successful marketing channels?
  • Do the tactics outlined in your Marketing Plan work to build on what you have already started?

Keep it simple – stick to the digital marketing tactics that will help you achieve your objectives and don’t worry about all the noise.

It can get overwhelming to look at all that is available to us today. If you execute marketing programs efficiently, with the proper focus on measurement of ROI, which is very do-able in the age of digital media, you may have the confidence and extra resources to be able to adjust and try new things.  This will make you a Happy marketer!

To take a lesson from Mad Man, Don Draper – Budget + target demographic + medium = time for a scotch.  

Just make them Happy!

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media. She is the co-founder of www.acoupleofchicks.com and the digital marketing conference for tourism www.onlinerevealed.com  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.  Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at www.ideahatching.com 

 

LinkedIn and Social Selling: Not your momma’s job board

As a recovering entrepreneur and student of social media, I am keenly aware that LinkedIn is not something that any professional should ignore.  LinkedIn is a powerful social selling platform and builder of Brand YOU.

Whether you are selling yourself to a perspective employer, or ensuring that your network of colleagues and customers are close by at all times.

LinkedInforSalesLinkedIn is the rolodex, filing system and fax machine of our time.

LinkedIn 101: The Basics

Although an update to your LinkedIn profile may still lead to a flutter of water cooler gossip, and an emergency HR meeting to find your replacement – it has become a necessary social platform for any business professional, graduating student or anyone who will ever have a career of any kind. Period.

If you are still ignoring those invites to connect, I invite you to turn your privacy settings on, grab a coffee, and take a look at the new LinkedIn. This is not your mamma’s job board.

A few tips before you start posting those congratulations on promotions and skill endorsements:

  1. Don’t blind post. When updating your profile, you can opt out of alerting your network to changes. This is advisable if you are not looking for a new career, but simply updating your profile to ensure your experience and skills are up to date.
  1. Update your profile. Your profile will get indexed in search engines, and people are looking. Use keywords that reflect your skills, post links to other social media channels including Twitter and YouTube and if you have a blog, start posting your content as a LinkedIn contributor.  Ask your colleagues for recommendations and give some back in return. Recommendations are key.
  1. Join groups and share content. Don’t share any and all content. This is not Facebook.  Be careful and purposeful about whom you endorse, content you share, and comments you make in groups. LinkedIn has become an excellent community platform to share good content, and to learn and engage with other professionals.  I recommend a minimalist approach.  Check in daily and don’t obsess. 
  1. Mind your manners. Random connections are not cool. I don’t accept connection requests from people I don’t know, or are not related to my profession – unless of course they write me a nice note to let me know why they are connecting. I guess you could call adding non-relevant connections the new “cold call.”
  1. Add some personality. Also add relevant skills and experience to match your professional profile, but keep in mind – this is not a resume. Ok so sometimes it can act like one.  Use an online resume builder like Do You Buzz to build your CV – then make that available to your network if you are job searching.

 

Beyond the obvious. Using LinkedIn for Sales and Marketing:   Warning – this is LinkedIn 2.0

If you really want to turbo charge your professional profile, LinkedIn has powered up the platform with the following tools and tricks:

  1. Know your audience. Don’t just know who looking at your profile, but understand why. With LinkedIn analytics, you can see what actions lead to increased activity and profile views. Actions such as endorsements, shared content, and comments can lead to more visibility for brand YOU.
  1. Dig Deep.  A new LinkedIn tool allows for a database download for sales and marketing professionals to use as a relationship management tool. Downloadable data includes first-degree connections, comments, endorsements and shares.

According to this article LinkedIn added this tool as a way for users to manage privacy.  Ironic.

  1. Use your network to open the door: Newly launched, the LinkedIn Sales Navigator promises to be a sales prospecting tool like we have never seen before. I believe them.

According to Techcrunch, the new tool will open the door to “social selling,” (queue the hot new buzz word) which consists of:

“Establishing a presence on social networks, finding the right people, engaging with those people, and building trust.”

Then of course comes the cold (ish) call. Perhaps then it is more of a warm and fuzzy “how are the kids” kind of call instead? Ok I’ll bite.

Note that this is a paid for “Premium” tool outside of what LinkedIn currently offers its users for free.  There are other paid LinkedIn Premium tools that include; Job Seaker Premium, and LinkedIn Premium Business Plus.  I have not paid for these premium services and used them and therefore cannot offer commentary – yet.

LinkedIn has become THE Career Network.

Beyond the obvious, LinkedIn is a connector, content distributer, door opener, and brand-YOU builder.  In a business world where YOU are our own currency, invest some time in making sure you are making the most out of your experience, connections and knowledge.

 

Alicia Whalen is a digital and social media marketing professional and recovering Entrepreneur, who has spent over a decade helping brands and people understand how to embrace digital and social media in all facets of business. An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on Twitter, LinkedIn or here at www.ideahatching.com 

A Couple of Chicks Talk Travel: A Guide to Traveling Newfoundland

On the road to Trinity, NewfoundlandAs a Chick, specializing in digital marketing for tourism, I pride myself on being able to plan a pretty great vacation – when I am actually taking one and not working.  I have been across Canada and the US and experienced amazing tourism destinations, but I had never been to Newfoundland.

Like many others, I have been intrigued and drawn into the commercials and YouTube videos for Newfoundland and Labrador.  I can now confirm that the magical place depicted in the commercials does in fact exist.

As a first time visitor, referred to as a CFA, or “come from away”, I did have some help in pre-planning my trip.  The “townies” from Destination St. John’s were the perfect hosts, and provided recommendations that ensured that I did see the most beautiful places in Newfoundland, had a warm meal at the end of a day of traveling, a cold pint of beer, and somewhere to sleep with the sounds of the ocean floating through my windows.

I share with you some of my experiences in this beautiful Canadian province, and give to you some of my “need to know before you go” insights.  This part of Canada is a must do, and you need to plan ahead to make the most of your experience.

From what I had thought, pre-season mid-May, before the long weekend, would provide the best experience as tourists would not be overtaking St. John’s, and the operators in the remote towns on the Island would be happy to see early visitors just as the season was about to kick off.

I started planning my itinerary about a month in advance, and through my experience I have summarized some tips to ensure you get the most out of your visit.

Flying into St John’s from Toronto is easy as St. John’s has direct air access from many Canadian cities including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and as far west as Calgary.  Direct air access is also available from some major US cities, and some European destinations such as London.

Explore the city of St. John’s, more specifically; George and Water streets.   The streets are alive with tourists and locals, live music, restaurants and bars, and of course a pub or 2, or 20.

Signal Hill, NewfoundlandA walk up Historic Signal Hill is a must do.  You can also drive to the top if the hike uphill is too much.  Signal Hill was not an easy climb after walking across downtown to get there, but well worth the hike to the top.  The view of St. John’s, the iconic painted houses, Cape Spear, and the ocean is spectacular.

Yellowbelly Pub and Brewery on Water Street was one of my favorite stops.  Their beer was also served on tap in many other restaurants and bars in St. John’s and across the Island.

O’Reileys Irish Newfoundland pub also did not disappoint, with live music starting late afternoon and continuing into the evening, and featuring traditional Newfoundland music, and even some tap dancing.  Ok, one lone tap dancer, but I digress.

The city also offers some fantastic finer dining venues.  After pub fish and chips, or as Newfoundlanders refer to it as “brown food,” a restaurant like Portobello’s provided for a perfect evening.  The scallops and trout were outstanding, but it was the appetizer of cod tongue with scrunchions (crispy pieces of salted side pork) and tarter that was the surprise favorite for me.

Although there are many smaller Inns and hotels to stay in around St. John’s, the Delta St. John’s was home base. A great location just at the entrance to George and Water Street, the hub of St. John’s – which according to Wikipedia, offers the most pubs and bars per square foot of any street in North America.

I can confirm that this could possibly be the truth.

 

After a weekend in St. John’s, it was time to see some of those vistas of the Atlantic Ocean; waves crashing up against rugged rocks, flowing clotheslines, coloured houses, and small inlet towns around the Island.

My friends at Destination St. John’s, the official visitor and convention bureau for the city, were quick to advise me of a few things as I planned my trip prior to my arrival in St. John’s.  It was technically pre-season for the island and we “CFA’s” need the help.

 

I had been dreaming of the cool breezes off of the Atlantic, and eating lobster fresh from the Bay since seeing Newfoundland and Labrador commercials and YouTube video’s.  As a digital marketing specialist for Travel, it is my job to ensure that the images, video’s and websites tell the story of what a visitor might expect when traveling.  The experiences I had in Newfoundland were everything that I had imagined and more.

As such, I have prepared a list of  “Things to know before you go to Newfoundland,” as I did encounter some surprises along the way, ones that can be avoided with the right kind of planning.

Newfoundland Chicks’ Trip Tips Preface: (try saying that 5 times!)

Cape Bonevista, NewfoundlandI consider myself to be an experienced traveler.  I have pretty good knowledge of how to plan travel online, and I had some help that prevented travel misfortunes (which may have included driving to Cape St. Mary’s, home to the popular Ecological Reserve – instead of St. Mary’s Bay, where I had reserved accommodations – 1.5 hours away).  To my defence, when one Google’s “Cape St. Mary’s,” the 3rd search result is a Tripadvisor listing and reviews for the “Claddagh Inn St Mary’s.”

OK so that happened.  Make sure you know exactly which place you are trying to get to.  Google clearly does not know everything.

These are not the typical “things to do and see.” My list instead is “people to meet, and how to get to the right places, with a full stomach and a place to sleep.”  This list summarizes some of my experiences and highlights, with points of note for planning a trip to really experience Newfoundland as I did.

Book a car in advance:  Especially in pre-season.  Newfoundland is an island accessible by boat or plane.  Although the ferry access allows for cars, many tourists opt to fly in and rent a car.

There is no other way to get around the Island to experience drives like the “Irish Loop,” or to see remote town’s living on the edge of the Atlantic without a car, or a boat.  If you plan on taking in the coves and inlets along the coast, or you are planning a visit to Gros Morne National Park, or any of the many other spectacular sites, then you will need to rent a car.

In addition, be forewarned that some of the roads are still quite rough coming off of the winter season, and there is not a gas station or diner, or even convenience store on every corner once you veer off of the TransCanada 1 Highway.  This of course is part of the charm.

Book all accommodations (and some meals) in advance:  Innkeepers like Patrick and Carol, who run the Claddagh Inn in St. Mary’s Bay have done such an amazing job in telling the “story” of the experience through Tripadvisor and Facebook, that tourists are making this small fishing village located directly along the Irish Loop a preferred resting point.

St. Mary’s Bay is not a bustling tourist area – at any point in the season.  That being said, the experience that Innkeepers Patrick and Carol have created is well worth the stop.  The stories allow you to get a sense for the community, and what other small communities around the island are like for those who live there.

I was welcomed with a pint of Yellowbelly Irish Red in the small quaint pub before checking into my guestroom.  The Inn has 6 rooms, and Innkeepers Pat and Carol prepare and serve a homemade 3-course dinner for their guests, as well as a full breakfast.   Dinner included Crab from the Bay that was brought in that morning, homemade pea soup, and a window table to watch the sunset.

Pat and Carol shared stories about the town, the history of the Inn, and their adventures since taking over the Inn two years ago, in a town of people that had lived and worked there all of their lives.  The town mayor even stopped in for a Scotch and a chat.

Past guests of the Inn rave about the Claddagh experience online, so much so that they are booked months in advance for rooms, and with limited (or no other) accommodation available in St. Mary’s Bay.  Drop-ins in August, or even just stops for dinner without reservations are almost impossible as the dining room primarily caters to guests of the Inn.

Planning your journey around the Island is a must do for anyone looking to explore the small inlets and coastal towns, and make sure to pre-book not only your accommodations, but also your meals.  Those of us who are used to booking hotels on the day of, or waiting for last minute specials will not get the chance to experience the charming Inn’s and B&B’s in the smaller towns without reservations.

Reserving accommodations and even dining where you plan to stop will allow you to truly enjoy the ocean views, the people, the stories, and the peace and quiet of these small coastal towns and villages.  The Claddagh Inn provided a relaxing and quiet retreat after two days in St. John’s.  It also provided the cool ocean breeze through the window.

I found the Artisan Inn, located on the eastern shore in picturesque Trinity, by searching Google for “must go places” in Newfoundland.

The Inn and the town certainly deserved the accolades.  Trinity, a well-preserved and still populated town, surrounded by the Atlantic, and on route to Cape Bonavista, is reminiscent of a European village.  The town is a popular tourist destination in the summer, and the Inn and surrounding area have been the site for the filming of many movies.

Innkeeper Tineke Gow has been managing the Inn for 22 years, and is just as passionate about Trinity and the surrounding area as if it was her first.  Tineke’s daughter Marieke, who is a trained sommelier and very involved in the local tourism community, manages the Inn with her.  The passion for this place by those who live and manage it is inspiring.

Eastern Newfoundland was recently named a National Geographic Geotourism Destination www.nlgeotourism.com.  The Inn’s restaurant, The Twine Loft is also recommended and awarded an additional star in “Where to Eat in Canada” published annually by Oberon Press.

At breakfast, I spotted a seal in Trinity Bay just outside the window.  Not something you see over coffee and croissants in Ontario.

Trinity Travel Tip: Don’t miss breakfast or Tineke will remind you throughout the day of what you missed.  Freshly baked muffins and fruit are always a nice way to start the day.

Planning your driving route:  My advice is simple. Don’t count on Google Maps or GPS.  Ask the locals, and refer to the good old fashion printed map.  It is kind of fun to pull out the big paper map (preferably without hitting the driver next to you in the head).

A kind of throwback to childhood road trips before Google maps and GPS existed.

One pleasant surprise was the availability of satellite radio in the rental car, and in restaurants and pubs across the island.  This allowed for a customized soundtrack for the longer drives from town to town.

Access to cellular networks: To sum it up, if you are with Bell Canada or TELUS you are A OK for most of the populated area’s around Newfoundland. Rogers – not so much. This is where the access to WIFI in the Inns around the Island really came in handy as SKYPE or Facetime work to communicate – if you absolutely have to.

The experience and hospitality of the people of Newfoundland is unique and special. The people of Newfoundland are incredibly welcoming and proud of their Province, and will make it easy once you arrive “from away.”

On the Eastern shore of Newfoundland

As a coastal tourism destination, Newfoundland is still fairly raw – which is part of the charm and the authenticity of the experience.  A slower pace of life, friendly people with unique accents, live music, fresh seafood, breathtaking scenery, unpredictable weather, and charming tours from fishing boats, with local guides that are passionate about home are what made Newfoundland for me.

There are a few highlights that I won’t soon forget. 

 

The crisp moist Atlantic Ocean air mixed with the smell of lumber and campfire.

The goats.  I like goats, especially this one.

Watching the ocean crash against the rocks at Cape Bonavista, surrounded by nothing but the ocean and rocks.

Tales of lost coastal inlet towns from locals like Bruce Miller.

Alicia and Bruce Miller having some screetchBruce operates a unique tour of the Eastern shores around Old Bonaventure. With his fishing boat and stories of his life, he speaks passionately about the ocean, fishing communities, and the people of Newfoundland.

He speaks authentically of life in small fishing communities, and about his family who have lived in the area for decades, taking travelers by boat to pockets where small fishing towns no longer exist.   He started doing tours of the area 2 years ago so that he would be able to remain in Old Bonaventure, when many locals have been forced to leave for work.

 

Just don’t ask Bruce how long it would take by boat to get to Ireland, the first land from Newfoundland’s east coast you will hit by water.  He told me we didn’t have enough gas.

  A few other Chick Travel Tips:

1. Don’t ask the tour operators to “Guarantee” that you will see a Whale, a Puffin, or a Moose.  They don’t appear on command.

2. Eat the pea soup and try Cod Tongue

3. Get “Screeched In” on George Street.

4. Enjoy the fresh Lobster and Crab.

5.  Stop at the Bonavista Social Club.  It is completely off the beaten path, but so worth it.  I did not try the Moose burger, but I wish I had.

6. Plan your driving route, and where you will stop along the way.

7. Book in advance.

8.  If you are near Trinity or Bonavista, take the boat tour with Bruce, but don’t ask to use the bathroom.

9. Try the local diners.  The food is home cooking comfort food.

10. Take the lack of cellular service as a sign to totally disconnect.

11. Be ready to hit the treadmill when you return.  So worth it.

These are the real experiences that are reflective of Newfoundland for me.  It is the passion of people that really make an experience, and a tourism destination like Newfoundland so special.

The scenery is not so bad either.

 

 

Finding "Your Thing": Building A Career in Digital Marketing

I was asked to speak tonight at the Goodman School of Business at Brock University about how to succeed in business. It does not feel like long ago that I was a student at Brock attending a similar talk, with business professionals telling us how they built their career and what we would need to do to succeed after graduation.

I remember feeling overwhelmed at the time thinking of the long road ahead to find a career that inspired and fulfilled me. I remember that I wanted it to just start now! I now reflect on how lucky I was to have carved out a career that truly excites me and inspires me every day, and what I might tell this group tonight about my story that will help them.

I was asked to outline what I do (sometimes still figuring that out), and how it was that I got this point with my business.

Digital marketing has evolved since I graduated University in 1998, in fact, “digital” was not even part of the marketing mix according to my textbooks. All of my training in marketing online has been on the job, and real world trial and error. Online usage has exploded over the past decade, and access to WIFI and mobile devices have completely changed consumer buying behaviour.

I wonder now how the world will change over the next decade for the group I am speaking to tonight?

My experience in building websites and marketing online began when I was hired as a Marketing assistant for the Marriott Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I worked for the ownership group, and became the Director of Marketing Communications over an 8-year time period. I was empowered throughout my time there to try new things, and so I did.

Hotel chains did not want us developing our own websites, and at the time hotels were relying heavily on the brands and the intermediaries to sell rooms online for them. Direct to consumer digital marketing through tactics such as paid search and organic search engine distribution was so new and foreign, and quite frankly there was no place to get formal training.

My experience in digital marketing began in understanding search engines, and how to ensure that a website could be found by target consumers. Equally important was to understand how a website would lead to online conversions as consumer usage of the internet, as a means to research and buy online.

Since starting our digital marketing firm; A Couple of Chicks™ in 2005, with my business partner Patricia Brusha, the digital and overall marketing landscpape has changed dramatically. We now have a team of 10 who specialize in all facets of online marketing specialties that are now necessary to reach today’s connected consumer.

Marketers must now understand concepts such as; Social media marketing, mobile marketing, web analytics and measurement, consumer user behaviour – as well as search engine optimization, and web usability in researching and buying online.

The marketing mix has never been as complicated and more fragmented.

As A Couple of Chicks, we have always been known for our focus on education and training for marketers both senior and junior, who need to understand this new and complex media mix. Our conference, Online Revealed now in its 8th year, has become the leading conference in the Canadian tourism industry for travel and tourism professionals to learn about digital marketing trends and best practices bringing together industry professionals from leading Canadian hotels, hotel groups, destinations, attractions and other travel suppliers, along with experts from industry giants such as Facebook, Google, Tripadvisor and Expedia to bring marketing professionals hands on knowledge and training.

 

How did I get here?

 

Throughout my career I have continuously learned about my industry, engaged in debate and conversation with my colleagues, attended conferences, and read about digital marketing and people doing innovative things. Today we have access to learning all around us with social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, and Blogs written by real people with real experiences.

The key is to understand consumers, keep a few steps ahead of consumer trends, understand why they buy, and most importantly what makes them buy. That is one thing that has never changed for marketers.

In addition, learn from the experiences of others. This is key.

What is also key is people.  Especially in this age of texting, emailing and social media.  I am one of the most digitally connected person there is, and yet I still pick up the phone, go to lunch, and travel to visit clients and colleagues.  Face to face communication and relationships are more important than ever.

I think that I might focus my advice tonight around a few things in particular that have helped me get here.

 

1. Hard work and commitment.

Sounds passé, but the hard work and commitment continues throughout your career.

2. Relationships are key.

It is all about the people you work with and do business with.

3. Continuous learning.

You are never really done learning, and if you think you are, then you are wrong. Read, talk to colleagues, attend seminars and talks that inspire you. It is not all about degrees, diplomas or certifications (although these don’t hurt either), it’s about a commitment to continued learning.

and finally….

It’s not about finding “the next big thing” it’s about finding “your thing.”

 

Finding “Your Thing”: Building A Career in Digital Marketing

I was asked to speak tonight at the Goodman School of Business at Brock University about how to succeed in business. It does not feel like long ago that I was a student at Brock attending a similar talk, with business professionals telling us how they built their career and what we would need to do to succeed after graduation.

I remember feeling overwhelmed at the time thinking of the long road ahead to find a career that inspired and fulfilled me. I remember that I wanted it to just start now! I now reflect on how lucky I was to have carved out a career that truly excites me and inspires me every day, and what I might tell this group tonight about my story that will help them.

I was asked to outline what I do (sometimes still figuring that out), and how it was that I got this point with my business.

Digital marketing has evolved since I graduated University in 1998, in fact, “digital” was not even part of the marketing mix according to my textbooks. All of my training in marketing online has been on the job, and real world trial and error. Online usage has exploded over the past decade, and access to WIFI and mobile devices have completely changed consumer buying behaviour.

I wonder now how the world will change over the next decade for the group I am speaking to tonight?

My experience in building websites and marketing online began when I was hired as a Marketing assistant for the Marriott Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I worked for the ownership group, and became the Director of Marketing Communications over an 8-year time period. I was empowered throughout my time there to try new things, and so I did.

Hotel chains did not want us developing our own websites, and at the time hotels were relying heavily on the brands and the intermediaries to sell rooms online for them. Direct to consumer digital marketing through tactics such as paid search and organic search engine distribution was so new and foreign, and quite frankly there was no place to get formal training.

My experience in digital marketing began in understanding search engines, and how to ensure that a website could be found by target consumers. Equally important was to understand how a website would lead to online conversions as consumer usage of the internet, as a means to research and buy online.

Since starting our digital marketing firm; A Couple of Chicks™ in 2005, with my business partner Patricia Brusha, the digital and overall marketing landscpape has changed dramatically. We now have a team of 10 who specialize in all facets of online marketing specialties that are now necessary to reach today’s connected consumer.

Marketers must now understand concepts such as; Social media marketing, mobile marketing, web analytics and measurement, consumer user behaviour – as well as search engine optimization, and web usability in researching and buying online.

The marketing mix has never been as complicated and more fragmented.

As A Couple of Chicks, we have always been known for our focus on education and training for marketers both senior and junior, who need to understand this new and complex media mix. Our conference, Online Revealed now in its 8th year, has become the leading conference in the Canadian tourism industry for travel and tourism professionals to learn about digital marketing trends and best practices bringing together industry professionals from leading Canadian hotels, hotel groups, destinations, attractions and other travel suppliers, along with experts from industry giants such as Facebook, Google, Tripadvisor and Expedia to bring marketing professionals hands on knowledge and training.

 

How did I get here?

 

Throughout my career I have continuously learned about my industry, engaged in debate and conversation with my colleagues, attended conferences, and read about digital marketing and people doing innovative things. Today we have access to learning all around us with social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, and Blogs written by real people with real experiences.

The key is to understand consumers, keep a few steps ahead of consumer trends, understand why they buy, and most importantly what makes them buy. That is one thing that has never changed for marketers.

In addition, learn from the experiences of others. This is key.

What is also key is people.  Especially in this age of texting, emailing and social media.  I am one of the most digitally connected person there is, and yet I still pick up the phone, go to lunch, and travel to visit clients and colleagues.  Face to face communication and relationships are more important than ever.

I think that I might focus my advice tonight around a few things in particular that have helped me get here.

 

1. Hard work and commitment.

Sounds passé, but the hard work and commitment continues throughout your career.

2. Relationships are key.

It is all about the people you work with and do business with.

3. Continuous learning.

You are never really done learning, and if you think you are, then you are wrong. Read, talk to colleagues, attend seminars and talks that inspire you. It is not all about degrees, diplomas or certifications (although these don’t hurt either), it’s about a commitment to continued learning.

and finally….

It’s not about finding “the next big thing” it’s about finding “your thing.”

 

Benchmarking ROI of Social Marketing in Travel: Part One Destination Marketing Organizations

Social Media has changed forever how consumers buy travel.  The traditional marketing mix has been turned on its head with marketing tactics moving far beyond printed travel guides, display media, traditional print, radio and television – pushing travel marketers to become transparent participators in consumer conversation, and more importantly, pushing them to account for the ROI in allocating resources to social media marketing.

Whether we are talking about a travel related service such as an airline, hotel room, or attraction, social media channels have been a game changer in both marketing, as well as in distribution, sales, public relations and CRM.

How do we measure success or specifically ROI in using channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to sell travel related products, services and experiences?  Specifically, how does a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO or VCB) tackle the measurement and communication of success of social media programs to stakeholders?

Before we can accurately measure the success or ROI of social media marketing tactics, it is important to take a step back and first establish the point of conversion.  It seems simple enough, but it is a step that many marketers are missing as new buzz generating digital tactics enter the picture every day.  As well, a traditional DMO or CVB may not necessarily have a transaction point, which further complicates benchmarking of the DMO role in marketing the destination.

1.    The first step is to determine which social media channels are key to the success in selling the product, service or experience.

Consumers spend time in search engines, websites, blogs, review sites, and social communities on their journey to the point of conversion.  Resources must be focused towards those social media communities where the majority of consumers are spending their time during travel research.

2.    Identify the point of end conversion.

The conversion may be a reservation or a sale, a coupon download, or an email sign up.  Each campaign, whether the tactic is social media in isolation, or in combination with other media channels, should be measured against the same key metrics for marketers to begin to see trends and properly benchmark successes.

It is almost a necessity for a Destination (DMO or CVB) to be on both Facebook and Twitter at this stage in the game.  The question then becomes what role does the DMO play in the online conversation, how does this role support the consumer buying process, and most importantly; how does the DMO communicate the value of these programs to its stakeholders?

It is important to keep in mind that the transaction point is not necessarily a booking or a sale, and therefore the key performance indicators may be tied instead to reach, share of voice in comparison to other destinations, traffic to stakeholder websites, or social media chatter or buzz related to core destination products and services – or any combination of key metrics that are important to the DMO in achieving its mandate.

3.    Determine Key Performance Indicators and metrics of campaign success.

Once the conversion point is determined in a social media campaign, and goals defined, metrics can be put in place.  Some key metrics that may be measured to benchmark the success of a DMO or VCB social marketing campaign or overall social media marketing efforts include:

  • Facebook posts, comments and likes (usins Facebook Insights or other measurement tools in combination)
  • # of Post views and Post feedback (posts to social channels like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and beyond)
  • Average interaction per post
  • Number of new fans in relation to fans prior to campaign
  • # of broadcasted messages via Twitter
  • # of RT’s (retweets)
  • # of @replies
  • Contest entries
  • Hashtag trending and reach (on Twitter)

Points of measurement that will become even more important as we go forward include; Number of App downloads and Mobile location.

App downloads will be a critical point of measurement of performance moving forward, but also mobile location as we are now able to pinpoint further the success in reaching target markets (geographically), as well as to gain metrics on how close to the sale or transaction that the DMO really is based on where an app download or location tag was used.

In most cases the DMO or VCB takes the role of influencer of a travel transaction, and when a DMO can successfully measure the impact on buying behaviour close to the point of sale, and is able to tie that back to a specific campaign on Facebook and Twitter through key performance measurables we have a #WINNING benchmark for measurement. [yes I inserted a hashtag reference #Cheesy]

4.    Determine free and paid tools available to properly measure campaign success and overall reach.

There are numerous measurement tools currently available to assist destination marketing organizations in measuring the success of social media campaign tactics.  At this time, there is no one best solution or silver bullet social media measurement tool, but putting key performance measurables in place and consistently measuring social media initiatives against goals and defined KPI’s is the way to begin.

Once KPI’s are established, there are many tools that can assist in tracking to determine success.  Social monitoring or measurement tools are available in every price range, and with varying levels of service and support.

There are however Social media monitoring and measurement tools, both free and paid, that can and should be used to assist in measuring KPI’s of social media campaigns for Destination Marketing organizations.

At the basic level, social monitoring tools such as HootSuite, and free tools like Tweetreach and Facebook Insights that can be used to measure reach and engagement at the campaign level.  Tools such as these also assist in managing campaigns allowing community managers to track buzz and topics related to their destination, and then contribute to the conversation.

Marketers should also be using GoogleAlerts to monitor content related to their brand, and measurement tools such as Google Analytics also have social and mobile tracking capabilities.

Depending on goals, more robust monitoring and measurement tools are available  There are Social measurement tools that have been developed to work specifically for tracking social activity for hotels, resorts and hotel groups; these include solutions such as Review Analyst, and Revinate to name a few.  As of yet, there are no tools that I have reviewed that specifically work for Destination marketers.

Some well known social measurment tools include; Radian6, SproutSocial, Heartbeat (a solution by Marketwire), Awareness Social Monitoring software, Ubervu social media dashboard and more.  There is no one size fits all solution for measuring social media.  The medium is still new and evolving at a rapid pace.  What we do know is that consumers want to talk about their buying experiences, they want to hear from brands, and they are buying online across multiple channels.

Next in this series on social media measurement and monitoring, I will look at benchmarking social media ROI for hotels, resorts and hotel brands.  Until then, I will set up some KPI’s to determine the reach of this Blog post.  I hope to be reporting hundreds of Retweets, Facebook likes, new Fans, Shares, Comments, Replies, Google+’s, tags and recommendations.  Maybe I will even get a high five or a woot woot!  I will keep you “posted”.

Online Revealed Canada,March 5-7 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel presents an opportunity to participate in a limited benchmarking / measurement project for DMOs / PMOs / CVBs. Participants in this groundbreaking study will be able to benchmark Online Performance in comparison to other participating Canadian DMOs, PMOs & CVBs, as well as other US & International Destinations. Miles Media and A Couple of Chicks e-Marketing (in conjunction with TripAdvisor) will be offering the free benchmarking report to PARTICIPATING ‘Online Revealed’ DMO conference attendees.  Visit our website for details.

References used in this article include:

Slideshare presentation by Altimeter Social media marketing analytics report

Createwanderlust.com article on Social Media Integrated Campaign

Hotelmarketing.com: mixed results for travel sites on Facebook

Thank you also to our valued clients, and colleagues in this industry for always pushing us forward in ensuring we are at the head of the curve in providing ROI driven digital marketing programs.  We are looking forward to seeing you all next week at the annual Online Revealed Conference where we will once again dive into what is new and now in marketing tourism online.

Social Marketing Steps To Success

Social media – the most overused term in marketing since Web 2.0 – is not simply changing the nature by which we consume online media, it has morphed into a way of life on the Web.

We are no longer talking about simply building websites, writing blogs, or optimizing Pay-Per-Click Advertising campaigns; the media world in which we live has become location-based, review dominated, App heavy, text happy, plug-in this and plug-in that – and do it all within 140 characters!

Planning a Social Media Strategy is about as straight forward as asking a toddler to “sit still for a minute”. So what is a Marketing Director (or Community Manager, or Digital Marketing Manager or anyone else for that matter, we don’t even know what to call ourselves anymore!) to do?

Social Media has morphed many skill-sets together and may be managed by a variety of different people or positions within an organization.  Generally, an outside agency should be brought in to set up a social strategy, as well as train and execute a brand social community – but long term, the heart and soul of your brand should be managed by trusted and skilled team members within your organization.

Having said that – stick with the three S’s and your digital media efforts will be integrated with your overall marketing efforts and will ensure success and ROI.

Strategic, Streamlined and Sexy:

1. Be Strategic

Build your Social Media and marketing campaigns with a strategy in mind, and with the right resources and a plan in place to make it happen.  Start with what channels you need to build a presence on.  Don’t jump in on every channel until you are doing one really well.  Maybe you have a killer Facebook business page but it’s time to grow the community.  Perhaps you have not had the time or knowledge to dedicate to LinkedIn for your Sales team, but you know the networking tool could really make the sales process easier.

Write a pain point about each social channel you are already using or think your brand needs to have a presence on.  What are you (or your competitors) doing well, how could you improve, how you measure your ROI, what resources are in place to manage it, and goals for each community for next year.

As one wise Chick on our team always says “plan the work, and work the plan”.

2. Be Streamlined

No one marketing campaign has ever worked in isolation.  At the same time, each of your communities will be different in the way you deliver content, respond and engage with your followers and brand champions.

Be smart and streamlined with your messages.  If you are looking to run a contest on Facebook – ensure you plan it out properly, and ensure all roads lead to a point of conversion.  Conversion may be more “likers” or traffic to your website, but ensure that your target audience follows a path to enter the contest and do what you intend them to do.

Also, be streamlined in your efforts overall – avoid trying too many tactics on too many channels.  Stick with what’s working and make sure you streamline your resources to be able to manage your social brand over the long term.

3. Be Sexy

Yes I said sexy.  Digital media allows us to think outside the box.  Try some unique marketing tactics and have fun with it!  If you are going to dedicate time and resources to develop a presence on social communities – you better use them to their fullest potential.  You have to stand out, shout out, and be proud of your brand on the social web.  Learn to listen and respond instead of pushing out messages to your target audiences.  The social web is the place to show the personality of your brand and really engage your consumers – not to announce a 20% off special.

There are many other must do’s as you are building out your digital media campaigns for 2012, but if you keep these points in mind, focus on good design and content, and at the very least commit to allocating resources to get in the game in 2012 – you will be ready for any “likes” “Diggs” “pokes” “plus’s” “sparks” “circles” or “huddles” we may be talking about next year.

 

YouTube Strategy Tips from A Couple of Chicks

The online buying process is shifting rapidly with consumers in general spending more of their online time on Facebook then on Google, still stopping at review sites, social networking sites, blogs and forums, and now YouTube to round out the buying funnel – and in many cases starting the buying process.

YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google itself, which means that a properly defined YouTube marketing strategy with the goals of engaging consumers, drive them to continue the research process towards other brand content on social media sites, review sites etc. – and finally leading them to conversion or purchase is a must.

With expanded marketing opportunities such as customized YouTube channels, promoted videos and display Ads, and in-stream advertising – there is a huge opportunity to position ad content around rich media – which is more emotive and “real” than descriptive content on a website or photos and reviews on Tripadvisor. This is especially relevant to marketers of travel and tourism as travel research and buying is an emotive process.

YouTube Strategy Basics:

1. Tag content with proper keywords – According to Google, approximately 1/3 of all videos watched on YouTube use search to be found, this means tagging the content and understanding your target keyword market just, like we do with the SEO for websites, is crucial for any marketer utilizing video content.

2. Consider placing ads alongside content from well known brand channels targeted to specific niche end users (like Home and Garden Television for example) or run Ads against competitor content and user generated video’s that have been tagged to be found for the keywords your audience would likely use to research travel.

Example: A search in You Tube for “Bay of Fundy” serves up video content such as this Local Tourism associations or hotels and Resorts could position Ads appearing on the content and guide the interested consumer towards making travel plans.

These are examples illustrate how effective YouTube advertising can be in leading your customer to transact. These types of ads are available as overlays or in-stream, and can click to a website or a YouTube Brand Channel.

Tip: When setting up a YouTube campaign such as this, ensure that there is a strong call-to-action and a relevant landing page to send your traffic to as opposed to simply sending the click to a home page.

YouTube Beyond the Basics:

1. Promoted Videos: The Ad message and target keywords are tagged to the video. The video then appears on results pages for contextually relevant searches, and alongside other relevant videos. This is a pay-per-click model much like Google Adwords, where the advertiser pays only when a user watches the video.

2. TrueView’ Video Ads: These ads appear in-stream pre or mid-roll, as an option to choose one ad, or as regular commercial breaks.

3. Mobile Youtube Roadblock: For an entire day, all visitors to m.youtube.com will receive the advertisers marketing message, in a variety formats. This tactic would require a large marketing spend and would be effective for targeting a specific niche audience or for overall brand marketing efforts.

4. YouTube Brand Channel: A brand channel or destination page is a customizable interface between your business and users on the YouTube platform. Users click on video’s that have been uploaded and live on a brand channel and the content will play in the brand channel, and the surrounding videos and links belong to that brand only (not other advertisers can place ads against this content).

This is a great way of keeping users involved with your content longer, and to ensure that they are not jumping off your content to a competitor who is buying your brand terms.

YouTube brand channels also allow for in depth tracking and for content from the channel to be embedded into a site or ad. Advertising products available to brand channel advertisers include; Homepage 24 hour Roadblocks and Masthead placements, which allow brands to deliver a creative message to enormous audiences. A brand channel is not for every business and requires substantial budgets to maintain – but it is also incredibly targeted and measurable and a must for large well-known consumer brands at this stage of the game.

With 100 million unique monthly users, YouTube has become an important consideration for marketers. For more on developing a YouTube strategy or to receive the full version of this article, contact The Chicks – and of course you can check us out on YouTube too!

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
alicia.whalen@gmail.com
905-401-2249

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