AirBnb vs. BnBs in Seattle

Join us for a webinar with PAIIProfessional Association of Innkeepers International— next week on Sept. 30th at 10:30am PST/1:30am EST on “Top 10 Online Marketing Recommendations for Inn Websites” – » Register online (it’s free)!

The debate rages on about AirBnB versus some hotel industry trade associations and city governments.  A lot of innkeepers and hoteliers we talk to continue to resent AirBnB.  That’s understood.  But it still looks like this “disruptive” technology play is here to stay, so what can we learn when we take a look at the big picture?  Are there opportunities for smart, progressive BnB owners?

Let’s focus on Seattle inside the city.  In future posts we’ll consider smaller rural areas, but a review of three different map sources of data for Seattle is quite revealing in this major metropolitan area, to start with:

AirBnB-Density-Seattle

Look at the pure density of rooms and homes being rented out in the emerald city. AirDNA produces this map and counts 3200+ AirBnB properties available in Sept. 2015 for Seattle, WA.

(more…)

Million $ FAIL: When Office Depot & Microsoft Forgot to Test

Forgetting to test means game over

Remember in the iconic Sci-Fi flick, Aliens, when the marine (played by Bill Paxson) said “Game Over”? That’s exactly what happened to Office Depot and Microsoft when they forgot to test.

I’ve got a book coming out about CRO — Conversion Rate Optimization — which involves testing your websites and landing pages as an essential tactic, so I thought I’d tell you a story about two well known brands who failed to test, and lost millions because of it.

It was the year 2000 and the two big brands looked around them and realized things were going to change.  Microsoft realized that software in a box was going to move into the cloud.  Office Depot saw the same writing on the wall and realized that it would mean aisles of software in boxes, representing significant revenue, drying up and vanishing.  What to do?  Bingo.  Start selling software as a service in the stores.  So, they created something called bCentral (yep, the official press release is still out there) — a package of website creation, scheduling, and ecommerce tools — then hired a cadre of sales and ecommerce consultants in 20 different major US cities to sell the services and consult with clients. (more…)

What’s the Right OTA Play for Inns & Hotels?

OTAplaySmaller properties of 6-20 rooms can be reluctant to maintain a presence and room inventory on OTAs like Expedia and TripAdvisor.  But are they shooting themselves in the foot?  Both the “Billboard Effect” and the “Pay to Play Effect” do indicate that you’re leaving money at the table.

The Billboard Effect:  Did you know that industry studies show using OTAs increases room reservations — at your own site?  According to an article on Hotel Business Review, “…Cornell Professor Chris Anderson found that a hotel’s direct bookings increased from 7.5 to 26% when listed on Expedia, perfectly illustrating the impact that the billboard effect has on a property’s direct bookings.”

It works like this… a prospective guest sees the generic site they create for you on Expedia or Hotels.com or TripAdvisor (your “billboard” on that platform), then leaves the OTA site to book at your own site, assuming you are set up for smart on-site booking and mobile ready.   (more…)

10 Marketing Tips to Boost Profitability at Your Inn

Innkeepers and hoteliers wear so many hats, that it can be hard to concentrate on lifting your marketing game. Fortunately we live in an era with a wealth of online marketing resources and technologies plus research for boosting results.  But the the best solutions go beyond tactics and technology to the core of persuasion psychology. I’ve learned a lot about all this in close to 35 years in the trenches, so I’m pleased to share my own top 10 list to help you win the quest for heads in beds:

1) Triple-Leverage your blog content:  Make your blog do triple duty.  First, write each blog post with highly relevant content to increase your rankings.  Second, use an automation tool (we like Hootsuite, or Delvr.it) to automatically push posts to social media — set it and forget it.  Third, set your blog RSS feed to go out monthly with excerpts from your posts and a special or two using a smart email service like MailChimp (great pricing — send to 2,000 subscribers monthly for free).

Use of photos showing human emotions is essential in hotel marketing

Which of the three images are essential to engage prospective guests? Answer:  The people shot (bottom right) — folks buy on emotion. But which pictures do innkeepers show more of on their websites?

2) Sell the sizzle, not the steak:  Should a sailboard manufacturer sell the composition of the board, or the experience of sailing across the water?  Should a restaurant show it’s store front and food only, or sell the social experience the venue affords?  Should an Inn show only its rooms (the steak); or show guests enjoying breakfasts and heading off to local adventures (the sizzle)?  You get it.  Sure, it’s easier to settle just for room and building photos, but you’ll sell more when you present the sizzle of the vacation. (more…)

What Channels for Hotel Room Inventory?

Online Hotel Reservations

When it comes to online reservations at various OTAs — which should you get more heads in beds?

There are a lot of OTAs — Online Travel Agencies (like Hotels.com) — out there for Innkeepers and Hoteliers to consider in their marketing mix.  There are also GDS’s — Global Distribution Systems — that give you access to the Google Hotel Booking network among other things.  How best to make an informed choice, and should you use these channels at all?

Our Webdirexion Hotel Marketing Solutions philosophy is that while you should seek to maximize bookings at your own website, the OTAs and  GDS’s are the devils you must deal with — and pay the 15% (or higher) commissions.  Why?  Industry statistics show that most hotel searches begin at the search engine (usually Google, of course), and then about 20% of searches continue at an OTA with about 20% at your own site.   (more…)

Webdirexion Announces New Hotel Marketing Solutions

Webdirexion Hotel Marketing SolutionsWebdirexion LLC, an online marketing agency with clients across the US and overseas, has announced a new focus on Hotel and Inn Marketing Solutions, now with cloud based, mobile-ready booking integrations. The package includes components that facilitate automated room inventory allocations to OTAs, plus integrations with point of service software for coffee shops and gift shops, accounting software, analytics and marketing software.

“We have an experienced team for marketing hotels and inns, and saw a growing need for smart room booking and online marketing in the hospitality industry, so we’ve put together some great packages for all hotels of all sizes,” explains Scott Frangos, President and “chief optimizer” for Webdirexion.  “For the past two years, we’ve helped a Hotel and Resort client in Costa Rica grow with smart lead gathering landing campaigns, attractive slideshows, and compelling mini-sites focusing on the different business aspects of the property.” (more…)

How to Increase Your Conversion Rates

C.R.O. is an Art and a Science in which you are always testing to create more leads.

C.R.O. is an Art and a Science in which you are always testing to create more leads.

What are you key conversion rates (a conversion happens when a visitor moves one step closer to becoming a customer)?  How do you increase conversion rates?  Answers to both questions are vital to your business, but a good number of marketers don’t know their conversion numbers and aren’t taking the right steps to increase results.

…you need to test at each key point in your funnel for optimal results, from headlines in PPC ads to calls to action on landing pages to open rates in followup drip marketing.  Then you’ll win a higher percentage of qualified leads.”

First, let me tell you a couple of things that CRO — Conversion Rate Optimization — is not about.  It’s not about traffic volume.  You could have a low volume of visitors in a very small niche, for example, but be converting a good number of those visitors into prospects that become customers.  C.R.O is not primarily about content marketing… because content is not king.   (more…)

What is Everyone CROing About?

“Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.” – David Ogilvy

A/B testing often results in better CRO.

A/B testing often results in better CRO.

If increasing sales is the holy grail for marketers, why don’t more pay attention to CRO — Conversion Rate Optimization?  Let’s say your typical B2B sales campaign looks something like this when it comes to Online Marketing:  Set up a landing page; run a PPC campaign; send out a promotional email to your list, drive warm prospects back to your landing page; look for visitors to convert via a form on the page which puts them into your CRM? Done?  Not by a long shot. You need to find ways to improve results.

There’s a chain of “C” focus points on the way to a sale which all may be optimized: Content; Conversion; Connection; Close. You need to test each step of that process for better performance. That’s when you start CROing.  Only then can you maximize ROI — Return on Investment. Only then will your boss understand how valuable you are to the organization.

Learn more in BLIP Magazine — this week’s edition is dedicated to CRO

If you are not writing at least three (more…)

Social Media Marketing & Content Strategy

Are you closing your social media connection loops?

Are you closing your social media connection loops?

How can you engage strong Klout leaders in social media, then close the engagement loop?  Let’s take a look.  This post begins with a focus on a great engagement tip using HootSuite — the pro social media dashboard, scheduling and swiss knife tool.  Then we’ll look at a SlideShare presentation (still another content engagement tactic you should explore) and with a takeaway on content strategy.  The beauty of the sequence is that using social media, one connection led to another and this post closes that loop.

Let’s start with a Hootsuite tip (disclosure, Webdirexion is a pro solution partner with Hootsuite and both Julie Hume and myself are certified in Social Media Marketing by Hootsuite University).  In a nutshell, this tip focuses on finding and engaging Klout leaders.  You read it right — “Klout” is the name of a ratings service that looks a key performance indicators in social media and assigns you a score.  The higher the score, the more Klout you have… see Webdirexion’s Klout score here.

The Klout Technique in Hootsuite

In the screenshot below, using Hootsuite, you can see that I have first filtered in the “stream” of twitter users that have mentioned our company (@Webdirexion) using the Klout filter set for at least 40-45 strength.  This reveals at least one possible Klout leader for engagement:

engaging with Klout leaders as a social media marketing tactic.

3-steps for engaging with Klout leaders as a social media marketing tactic.

Reply to Klout Leader as a social media engagement tactic

My reply, which links back to this post, shows in the Hootsuite stream with the original message.

After I review a Klout leaders profile, I check number of followers (Vinay has 4400+ followers that may see my reply to him) and further qualify the the contact. Then I actually read the post and follow the link in it.  I need to do each of these things to qualify the contact (ie. a possible client or a colleague?) and make an intelligent reply.  No robo-replies here — being “social” means you actually talk to one another with authentic dialog.

Following the link in Mr. Koshy’s original post led me to the slideshare presentation included below — and gave me the right inspiration for a reply.  Note that in the reply, I did three key things:

  • I linked back to this article which mentions the dialog
  • I put some text before @vpkoshy because if I did not, only vpkoshy would see the reply (credit to our Julie Hume for the tip on that tactic)
  • I used a hashtag to extend visibility for the reply

The Content Strategy Concept (from a Slideshare presentation)

Note how the Content Pillars support each of the objectives above.

Note how the Content Pillars support each of the objectives above.

On slide 28 shown at right, in a presentation recommended by our Klout Leader friend from Australia, the author  (Christel Quek) gives a diagram of three “content pillars” supporting the audience, brand objective and user motivations.  What a concise way to picture your “content marketing” work to be done.

There are also a number of great tips for social media marketing in that presentation, including:

  • Using hashtags as a call to action
  • Let your brand personality shine in social media
  • Remember to use social media to “listen to understand”
  • Focus on how your products or services touch people’s lives
  • Make your user the hero
  • Recognize your champions — influencers

I then left a comment at the slideshare.  Thousands of people will see the tweet.  Mr. Koshy will see that Webdirexion replied directly and followed up and respected his tweet.  Ms. Quek will find out that a Koshy tweet led to a blog post with her slideshare embedded (below).  Who knows, maybe Vinay Koshy and Christel Quek will learn about and help be influencers for Webdirexion.  It’s a social circle — see how that works?

Here’s the slideshare on winning at content strategy:

Hootsuite:  Social Insights with Adam Pisoni Co-founder – Yammer

At the center of this post’s tactical tools is Hootsuite, so we’ll end with a short video of thoughts related to using the platform.

How does a company respond fast enough to their customers that are themselves, communicating, sharing and learning at faster and faster speeds due to technology?  Adam Pisoni of Yammer has some thoughts in the following video. Yammer is a private social network that helps employees collaborate across departments, locations, and business apps.  Note that you can add Yammer and dozens of other networks and apps into your convenient Hootsuite pro dashboard.

Announcing BLIP Online Marketing Magazine

Our curated Online Marketing magazine, BLIP, includes articles from our favorite strategic thinkers and our experienced marketing team.

Our curated Online Marketing magazine, BLIP, includes articles from our favorite strategic thinkers and our experienced marketing team.

We’re pleased to announce the launch of BLIP Magazine (@ BLIPmagazine.com) — a curated publication featuring articles for marketing communications professionals on strategies and tactics for SEO, Social Media, Content Marketing, A/B Testing, Conversion Rate Optimization and more.  Inspiration for the name BLIP came from how fast things move in this space — Blip… Google has changed its algorithm… Blip we’re mobile centric now… Blip… there’s a new social media marketing tool.  You get it.

Earlier I wrote about four different content curation tools we use and one of them is FLIPboard, the technology behind BLIP.  It’s hip (sorry, couldn’t resist that).  But seriously, we like it as a collaborative tool for our SEO Editing and Marketing Consulting team to work together to find intermediate and advanced level articles on strategic marketing.  The app versions are strongly implanted on the majors — iOS, Android, and Windows.   We like how the app versions flip you from page to page with your index finger — recalling that “old technology” experience… reading a printed magazine.

BLIP:  Great Analytics Tactic To Find Blog Post Ideas

So here’s a take-away from the latest BLIP issue — an Analytics tactic to uncover your popular content so you can write more articles on the same topics. (more…)

Online Marketing Tactic: Curating a Publication

Remember that curation is a content strategy, while tools are tactics in search of a strategy.

Remember that curation is a content strategy, while tools are tactics in search of a strategy.

One of the tactics in the Content Marketer’s arsenal is called “curation”, where you find and republish quality content in a newly “packaged” way.  The idea is that you add value at least three ways — you assemble a package that would be hard to find or gather elsewhere; you contribute some editing and related content yourself; and the UI of the “package” facilitates readership (on different devices and through smart layouts that leverage content in a streamlined fashion) and social sharing.

We’ve tried four of the major services for curation over the past 3-5 years, so I wanted to give you some take-aways about each — Flipboard, Paper.li, Rebel Mouse, and Scoop.it.  I’ll give you a sample of what we have used them for and thoughts on results but first the most important thing I can tell you is that these tools are tactics… in search of a strategy.  What do I mean by that?  Well, too many content marketer’s seem to rush into the latest greatest tool and deploy it as a tactic with no clear publishing strategy (niche, readership, purpose of publication, editorial guidelines, etc.) in hand.  Planning is in order.  And, remember the old adage — if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  Curating a good publication takes time and consistent effort, so you need to have a clear picture of the end goal and how it will pay off for you.  Remember that curation is a content marketing tactic, not a publishing strategy. (more…)

Smart Marketing for Your Law Firm

Most law firms have caught onto SEO and other online marketing tactics, but do you sell the brand, the firm, or individual lawyers?

Most law firms have caught onto SEO and other online marketing tactics, but do you sell the brand, the firm, or individual lawyers?

The Jan/Feb issue of Law Practice Magazine (published by the ABA — American Bar Association) is focusing on Marketing, so we thought it would be a good idea to review a few of the concepts in the issue and contrast with some things we’ve learned in our own focus on smart marketing for your law firm.

What we have found, generally, is that while top-level marketing solutions are the same for professional services firms — branding, positioning, differentiation — the nuts and bolts of tactics, marketing automation software, and even some strategies will differ between firms.

Analytics to learn what prospects do and do not do:  In an article on Leveraging Analytics in Marketing, Adam Severson, CMO of Baker Donelson (ranked as the Country’s 68th largest law firm) recommends four components of marketing analytics which include “creating dashboards of activity,” and “tying activity to revenue”.  Perfect.  We like to use Google Analytics to look at site activity, and sometimes use 2-3 other dashboards including Hootsuite* for social media, SEO profiler and/or Bright Local for search results; and even Google Webmaster Tools for some insights you can’t get in Analytics.

STJSE-Stats

Above is a quick look at page performance for a law firm client we have, where the key is what people do leading up to becoming clients.  In the last column we measure “Engaged Visitors” — those who view 3 or more pages — because studies have shown visitors who engage with your site are more likely to do business with you.  Note that “/” (the top line) is the firm’s homepage, and that it more highly engages visitors at 13.78% is a good sign it is performing well.

…part of “selling” each attorney means that they write blog articles, sometimes with personal anecdotes so prospects can get to know them. People buy from people they feel they know.”

Then there are reports from Google Adwords and other pay per click advertising we manage for clients.  Lots of places to look, so the question then becomes just what do you look at in these tools?  That’s where you stats to desired business outcome goals — which goes to the revenue talked about in the article.  We like to create quick top-level custom reports for clients, and then take deeper dives into data as required.  Deeper dives for what?  What indeed.  It is “what prospects do” and don’t do that you can learn from analytics, but usually the “why” of their behavior.  For that you need to actually ask them and there are some testing methods, social media tactics, and visitor polling that can help you with that.

Making your Practice Credible:  In an article on Cultivating Credibility, author Brad Shepard offers up some real gems.  First noting that two things prospects seek are, good experience with the specific legal issue they are facing, and recommendations from trusted sources, including other clients, Shepard goes on to give these take-away points:

  • “Firm credibility isn’t the same as brand awareness.”
  • “Research indicates that clients are buying attorneys, not firms.”

Presenting experience and recommendations goes to credibility — and that means a focus on both firm level credibility and that of each attorney.  Then you add a brand awareness goal to the mix and you have your marching orders.

Klout

Above, we’ve identified a “Klout” influencer using Hootsuite dashboard — a possible “amplification” ally with 4,100 followers.

 

The fun part is choosing the tactics and tools to accomplish those goals.  Here’s an outline of some methods we like:

  • For websites, we custom develop on the WordPress platform with an eye on hitting experience, and brand awareness on the home page with an introduction to the firm’s lawyers as well.
  • WordPress began as a blogging platform, so it then becomes easy to use a blog marketing strategy where part of “selling” each attorney means that they write blog articles, sometimes with personal anecdotes so prospects can get to know them.  People buy from people they feel they know.
  • Next we make sure there’s a good presence in all “big four” social venues — G+, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn — for brand awareness and some conversation.  Sure, you want to post links there back to blog posts, but social means you actually talk to one another too.  Hootsuite offers a time-saving, all-in-one dashboard for this.
  • For email newsletters (another great way to leverage the content you produce)  and quick “postcard” announcements

We’ve already talked about Analytics reporting, and we also like A/B testing, smart PPC advertising, and sometimes even “old-school” tactics like direct post-card mailings.  But these all have to prove out for ROI, and we believe one essential component of that to be studying phone calls direct from your online marketing effort — with a smart solution that provides ROI for call tracking, call routing and lead scoring.  We’ll cover these items in some future posts.

* Webdirexion is a pro-solution partner with Hootsuite, and Scott, Julie and Wendy are certified in Social Media Marketing by Hootsuite University.

 

 

Webdirexion Team Sled Race (and SMM)…

The Webdirexion Sled Team, left to right:  Scott, Miranda, Serhii (who gets his revenge after being hit with a snowball), Julie and Wendy.

The Webdirexion Sled Team, left to right: Scott (Chief Optimizer), Miranda (Content Wrestler), Serhii (Programming Ninja), Julie (SEO Maven), and Wendy (Project Chauffeur).  Sherri is not in this race (only 5 allowed on the slopes), but will appear in a forthcoming video.

Quick… what would be a great way to unwind after all that online, digital, content, internet marketing work?  A sled race, a la Jib Jab, of course.

We were inspired to create the following video for our Holiday Greetings in the spirit of fun and good humor when one on our team, Sherri Gutierrez (Marketing Consultant), did her own greeting using the same tool.  We’re reproducing our sled race here, in case you missed it, and we do wish you a Happy New Year — watch it below.

But beyond the good fun, here are some technical social media marketing points for consideration: (more…)

TacTech Talk: Responsive Schmonsive; and Authentic SMM

Scott Frangos, President of Webdirexion

Scott is Chief Optimizer for Webdirexion and includes Marketing, Content Strategy, WordPress, CSS, Photoshop, Tai Chi, and Coffee among his passions.

This month, my “TacTech Talk” Column (a fusion of Tactical and Technical tips for today’s marketers) discusses Responsive Design vs. Mobile App solutions; and I have an “authentic” Social Media Marketing tactic or two for you.

Responsive, SchmonsziveResponsive or Mobile App Solution?

There are a lot of gurus out there claiming that “responsive design” (your site shrinks according to the size of the mobile device screen) is the only way to go nowadays.  Wrong.  You have two choices — compromise your desktop view and go for a smartphone/tablet view that looks the same but smaller, or design for desktop, then optimize in an app-like interface for mobile devices.  Is one “better” than the other?  It’s debateable, and the answer depends on two things:  your budget; and how best to serve your visitors.  Let’s look at strengths and advantages to both: (more…)

TacTech Talk: SEO, Blog Marketing & Editing Team Tactics

Scott Frangos, President of Webdirexion

Scott is Chief Optimizer for Webdirexion and includes Marketing, Content Strategy, WordPress, CSS, Photoshop, Tai Chi, and Coffee among his passions.

This month, my “TacTech Talk” Column (a new feature bringing a fusion of Tactical and Technical tips for today’s marketers) features an SEO tactic; a WordPress Writing Team Tip; and a look at Blog Marketing results.

First a quick note about our new logo.  We’ve found the winner after receiving over 200 “votes” via a five second test, plus a number of you wrote and gave an opinion (thanks — T-Shirts on the way).  We wanted a clean, web 2.0 brand that visually reflects what we mean by web direxion (direction).  You can see the new logo above.  We believe that with the right direxion, you will optimize your online marketing efforts, promote them well, and then connect with new customers and clients.  And that’s our core mission.

WebDx-Logo-14

SEO Tactic:  We’ve seen Google ranking tag index pages highly of late and recommend you go after same.  What are tags?  When you write an article using WordPress, you can check off a category(s) and tags in which to place your post.  Think of tags as (more…)

Content Marketing Agency versus Online Marketing Agency

Webdirexion is an Online Marketing Agency

What’s in a name? We chose to call ourselves an Online Marketing Agency… learn why in this article.

Content Marketing… or… Online Marketing?  Short answer:  Yes.  Both apply.  Right now, we’re going with Online Marketing, as in, Webdirexion is an Online Marketing Agency.  Sure, the discipline of Content Marketing has become quite the rage in recent years, helped along by the realization that content can make connections that lead to customers.  This is central to the work we perform at Webdirexion… so why not call ourselves a “Content Marketing Agency?”  Short Answer:  Content Marketing doesn’t define all that we do.

We recently redesigned our site, and are updating our brand, so that question came up a few times.  To answer the central brand question — who are we? — we benchmarked competitors and saw they called themselves a range of things — from Digital Marketers to (more…)

TacTech Talk: Testing, Speed, SEO

Scott Frangos, President of Webdirexion

Scott is Chief Optimizer for Webdirexion and includes Marketing, Content Strategy WordPress, CSS, Photoshop, Tai Chi, Pizza and Coffee among his passions.

This month, my “TacTech Talk” Column (a new feature bringing a fusion of Tactical and Technical tips for today’s marketers) will cover a recent lead gathering landing page test, some insights on site speed and WordPress themes, and SEO strategy tips.

First, I want to say wow — how great our growing team is… and thanks to each of you.  All are currently taking online marketing and/or programming courses (including myself… see, you can teach an old dog). I’m lucky to be working with them as Webdirexion celebrates a new site, new logo, and some fun new client campaigns.

Making the Croc’s Happy — Test Lifts Leads for Resort Client

We recently ran an A/B test for Croc’s Casino Resort, arguably one of our funnest clients — a 17-story Hotel and Casino with three restaurants and a 4-star pool on the pacific ocean in Costa Rica.  If you’re scanning the column, the takeaway learned is — always be testing to increase conversions and maximize your ROI.

We used Google’s “Content Experiments” and saw these results from our efforts: (more…)

Win A T-Shirt

Vote for our new logo and help us celebrate our growth... you could win this T-shirt.

Vote for our new logo and help us celebrate our growth… you could win this T-shirt.

UPDATE 11.14.14:  Thanks to all who participated.  We got approximately 200 votes and you have helped choose our new logo (finishing touches being applied).  We also have T-Shirt winners — we’ll send yours out soon.  And stay tuned — people liked the shirt, so we plan more promotions and rewards soon.

Webdirexion is celebrating our new website, new team members, and our new logo.  We’re growing, and thanks to you we’re happy to be offering up a free T-shirt to 5 winners who follow these two steps:

  1. Vote by clicking on the new logo of your choice here (it’s a 5 second testing program we often use to determine design options for clients)
  2. Write us why you made the choice you did to Hello [at] Webdireixon.com (click to open a direct email reply)

That’s it.  Our “The Internet is Interstellar” has three meanings:

  • You and your company are stars that get connected with prospects online, and we thank our clients for all the campaign projects we’re working on with you!
  • We like SciFi (geeks here) and the new Interstellar movie is great.
  • There are actually plans by NASA to have an internet between planets!

We will have our new logo finalized, thanks to your help, by mid-November, and notify T-shirt winners at that time.

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