Digital First for Business Masterclass Announced for Niagara

I am thrilled to be bringing my first Digital First for Business Masterclass to the Niagara region! The first in a series of classes dedicated to arming professionals with what they need to do to thrive in a digital first economy.

I will provide sales and marketing professionals, business owners and Entrepreneurs what they need to know, with a focus on the website, the fundamentals of the new search engines and Local search, as well as social media, and measurement of ROI on investment in digital media.

I will continue to post updates and information about this Masterclass and others planned for 2017. Until then, check out the information above to learn more and REGISTER HERE to confirm your spot.

Please share, post and register to join me on January 26th from 2:00-5:00 PM in St Catharines to be part of the first Digital First For Business Masterclass group in Niagara!

 

AliciaWhalenMasterclass

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 

 

Social Media Case Studies by A Couple of Chicks™

A couple of Social Media Case Studies from A Couple of Chicks™  Digital Tourism Marketing.

Enjoy some of our favourite client case studies from Travelodge Canada, Worldhotels, Ontario’s Finest Hotels, Inns and Resorts, and the Shaw Festival Theatre.   A “bird’s” eye view of our approach to planning and executing successful social media campaigns.

[Bird’s Eye pun intended

 

 

 

the evolution of an online marketing agency

Reflecting on the past 6 years, it is amazing just how much the online world has changed. When Patricia and I started A Couple of Chicks eMarketing over lunch in September 2005 (now that is another story!), we were inspired by a great idea and a passion for sharing what we knew about how the internet was changing how we reach our customers.

It was our mission to make sense of how the internet was going to change marketing and distribution, to demystify online marketing, and to provide a fun and non-intimidating approach to educating brands about the power of the web.

At the time, our primary focus was on developing strategies for marketing websites, and above all for making sure that websites could be found in the search engines.  It was all about search engine optimization (SEO), paid search marketing (PPC), and website usability – and specifically about showing marketers how to leverage this new powerful distribution channel to reach their customers.

Today, 6 years later we are living in a world where consumers are not simply going online, but living online. The pace of change has been fast and new media has pushed marketers to keep up in an ever evolving online ecosystem that now includes Social Media, Wifi Mobile access from devices such as smart phones and tablets, Cloud computing, instant messaging, Video sharing, VOIP technology and so much more.

It has been quite a ride! On behalf of Patricia, and our entire team of 14, thank you for sharing in our adventure – and specifically thank you to all of our clients who have allowed us to share in their growth and success.

We look forward to what the next 6 years brings!

Can the internet get full?

ORC2011A valid question posed at the most recent Online Revealed Canada Conference, held March 8-9 in Toronto.  From an opening keynote delivered by the inventor of Google maps, Michael T. Jones, who spoke about everything from how he and his colleges invented Google Maps at his dining room table, now used by more than 1,000,000,000 worldwide, to an interactive workshop presented by Alfredo Tan from Facebook Canada, which allowed for an intimate discussion about the inner workings of Facebook – this year’s Online Revealed Canada Conference hit a new level.

When I was preparing conference recap “sound bites,” which are traditionally delivered by myself, and conference co-chairs Patricia Brusha and Edward Perry at the end of the 2 day event, I was overwhelmed by the concepts and success stories that were shared, and the amount of information that we had to summarize.

This year, Online Revealed was presented in association with the Hotel Investment Conference and the new Canadian Tourism Marketing Summit.  The three events brought together the who’s who in the hospitality industry in Canada and beyond, culminating with the Google e-Tourism awards presented at a special luncheon, which featured such digital marketing success stories as….Newfoundland Labrador and National Capital Commission – Mosaika – what really stood out to me more than anything was the pride we had in our industry, and in each other for the work we have done in marketing Canada, and Canadian destinations, to a very global audience online.

Six years ago, the first Online Revealed Conference was held in Ottawa, where a group of 150 attendees gathered to share and learn about how to market ourselves in an new online world.  This year in Toronto a packed house of over 550 attendees gathered to learn, collaborate and share the many successes in digital marketing we have had in this industry over the past 6 years.

Back then, we were just starting to discuss the impact of the internet on selling tourism online, with concepts such as  search engine optimization, and building quality website content. Now, we are discussing concepts (then unheard of) such as mobile marketing and managing online reputation in a saturated online review-osphere that extends beyond Tripadvisor to include Blogs, OTA reviews, and niche social websites, where consumers are spending more time interacting online than actually viewing websites or even searching in search engines.

Who could imagine six years ago that in 2011 we would be discussing concepts like Google maps, a technology that is literally mapping out our planet?!

Our marketing reality is now a complex online ecosystem consisting of search engines, online intermediaries, review sites, social networks, news portals, niche discount sites, destination portals, brand portals – all of which are now being consumed on various platforms including mobile smart phones, tablets, laptops and beyond.  This digital evolution represents the largest shift in media consumption that we have seen since Television, and it does not seem to be slowing down.

In addition to the pride I felt in being part of an industry that has grown together and learned together to master this ever-changing online medium, and through the various highs and lows of the past six years including SARS, a world-wide recession and a Canadian Olympics to name only a few, it was overwhelming to once again see how coming together at an event like this, with a community of people willing to share and learn from each other makes a difference in how brave the new media world moving forward.

Thank you to all that shared in this year’s Online Revealed Canada, and those who have contributed to doing innovative things to market Canadian tourism.  As an industry we are doing amazing things, we are reaching our consumers in new ways and interacting with them in the digital places where they are living.  We are also doing what we have always done, and that is to tell stories and to share with the world the Canadian experience.

By the way, the answer to “can the internet get full” (according to Google’s Michael T. Jones) is No.

Storytelling and its role of marketing online

Patricia and I were recently asked by a colleague “why the focus on the story?” … “Isn’t what you do really more about Google algorithms, applying online marketing statistics and trends to individual web strategies, and measuring ROI for the client?

This question has had us thinking.

Why the story? Over the past five years since Patricia and I founded A Couple of Chicks’, we have had the pleasure of not only traveling across Canada and the US, but also of really knowing the places and people we are working with – and more importantly – what makes them unique.

So why are these stories so important to the success of what we do? I guess we could just go back to the marketing 101 textbook, which among other things, teaches us to understand the customer. Yes, we have research for that (and lots of it), and while many businesses don’t have the time or resources to individually know every customer, Patricia and I have been lucky enough to be invited into communities, and to really know the people we work with and are speaking to in the workshops and presentations that we do.

In fact, the “stories” have become so ingrained into our methodology that I am not quite sure that our strategies would be as effective without them.

Yes the latest digital marketing trend is important and relevant, and yes we need to understand the latest shift in Google’s algorithms, the new rules on 301 redirects, and how to add a source code to paid search ads for proper measurement – but we also need the narrative behind each unique web strategy, and the people that are building them. How can we truly roll out a successful and engaging web marketing program without first understanding the nuances of the business and who the customers are?

I will quote a Blogger who recently attended one of our presentations (said Blogger happens to be the “techy” son of the owner/operator of a successful Inn in Eastern Canada, who tagged along with his dad to listen to what the Chicks’ were saying about this whole online marketing thing). (Note the “story” in this paragraph)

He writes, “If every prospective guest to the Carriage House could flip through the pages of the guest book sitting in the lobby, they wouldn’t even consider staying elsewhere. With Facebook and Twitter, this is now entirely possible to do online, and relatively easy to promote.”

I could not have said it better myself! So although the research, the training, efficient process and project management skills are all key to assisting businesses to be successful online – sometimes telling a story does it best.

Hey L.S – we think you are on to something btw. The technology driven “writer’s utopia” may just be in sight, but alas we must make sure it is profitable too. And yes I did just use “btw” in that sentence!

How Social Media is really affecting the electronic distribution of travel

Patricia Brusha, co-founder of www.acoupleofchicks.com, moderated a panel this week at the HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Association) Conference, held in Las Vegas. The panel discussion was centered around the affects that Social Media has had on the electronic distribution channels for travel.

This article in Hotel News Now summarizes the discussion nicely – but I must also highlight the summary of points that Patricia gave me that nicely puts things into perspective.

The panel, which was titled, “Economy in Transition” with Panelists from Expedia, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Trust International Hotel Reservation Services, and Smith Travel Research, pointed out the following:

1. Watch the Buzz – but Buzz doesn’t always = Buy

2. Go back to basics with your value proposition, an easy booking process and good service. (seems logical)

3. Use Social Media to better understand your customer (Customer relationship management at it’s best – isn’t that a no brainer!? We can now see exactly what our customers are saying – all of the time.)

As Patricia stated “We’ve gone from going online to living online…Consumers, particularly in hospitality and travel, are looking for things relevant and authentic.”

So is Social Media affecting the electronic distribution channels for the travel industry? Sure it is…but we have been through this before and will be down this road again.

Perhaps as this panel pointed out we should get back to basics of listening to our customers (who are living online) and providing an excellent travel experience no matter how they found us.

“A Couple of Chicks is also Hot”

I loved the title of this article so much I could not resist!  The Chicks have recently received the honour (spelled right in Canada I promise!) of ranking as one of Canada’s “Hot 50” Emerging Companies – according to Profit Magazine.

Both Patricia and I are thrilled to have been recognized in the Profit Hot 50 list and would like to take this opportunity to say thank-you to all of you who have been reading our articles, Blog posts, following our adventures on Facebook and Twitter and who have supported the plight that started four years ago to take on the Internet – “one title tag at at time!”

We also would like to recognize our incredible team who are virtually located around North America in Austin, Texas (We love you Texas Anne, even without an accent!), Ottawa (shout out

Canadian Online Marketing firm A Couple of Chicks

Canadian Online Marketing firm A Couple of Chicks

to our “Chiquette” yes that is really her last name – and we did not hire her for it), Toronto (snardi – always trying to keep the Chicks’ on time amongst a million other things), Halifax (Sandie- our grammer-hammer), Mississauga (Christy is the newest Chick in the coop), Niagara (Amy is the original artist behind all things chick, and Ray who keeps our shopping under control – hard to do).

Without all of you, our ‘peeps’ – and all of our partners, clients, friends and families, we could not have achieved this with our sanity intact. And I guess that is even questionable! 🙂

With that I will sign off this post and leave you with the article from the Mississauga Business Times who said A Couple of Chicks is also Hot” – These Chicks are blushing!

"A Couple of Chicks is also Hot"

I loved the title of this article so much I could not resist!  The Chicks have recently received the honour (spelled right in Canada I promise!) of ranking as one of Canada’s “Hot 50” Emerging Companies – according to Profit Magazine.

Both Patricia and I are thrilled to have been recognized in the Profit Hot 50 list and would like to take this opportunity to say thank-you to all of you who have been reading our articles, Blog posts, following our adventures on Facebook and Twitter and who have supported the plight that started four years ago to take on the Internet – “one title tag at at time!”

We also would like to recognize our incredible team who are virtually located around North America in Austin, Texas (We love you Texas Anne, even without an accent!), Ottawa (shout out

Canadian Online Marketing firm A Couple of Chicks

Canadian Online Marketing firm A Couple of Chicks

to our “Chiquette” yes that is really her last name – and we did not hire her for it), Toronto (snardi – always trying to keep the Chicks’ on time amongst a million other things), Halifax (Sandie- our grammer-hammer), Mississauga (Christy is the newest Chick in the coop), Niagara (Amy is the original artist behind all things chick, and Ray who keeps our shopping under control – hard to do).

Without all of you, our ‘peeps’ – and all of our partners, clients, friends and families, we could not have achieved this with our sanity intact. And I guess that is even questionable! 🙂

With that I will sign off this post and leave you with the article from the Mississauga Business Times who said A Couple of Chicks is also Hot” – These Chicks are blushing!

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

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