Google Search Ads: A Quick-start Guide to Drive Bookings

Meetup Description

Google Search Ads are not sexy, but are they one of the most important tools in the digital marketers’ toolbox. Why?

Unlike most online marketing tools, Search Ads are able to immediately “turn on” a steady stream of new bookers and buyers to your website. However, like all tools, there’s a right way and a wrong way to us them and mastering them requires practice and making mistakes.

I’m sure the first time you picked up a hammer and swung at a nail you didn’t always hit the head. You may have even smashed a finger or two. Well, the first time you dive into Google Search Ads it might feel like the first time you swung that hammer. But, instead of swollen fingers, it may be a quickly blown budget with zero return and lots of regrets.

But the data and craft behind Google Search Ads really does work! So the question is, how do we get started running profitable ads?

At Improve & Grow and Accelerate Tourism, Google Search Ads are one of our primary revenue drivers for most of our clients. Based on the experience we’ve gained over the years, we’re going to give you a quick-start guide to running ads that drive more business to your operation.

In this session of Accelerate Tourism we want to answer a few key questions:

  • Will Google Search Ads work for my business?
  • How much should I plan to spend?
  • How do I set up a campaign?
  • What should my ads say?
  • Where should I send people who click?
  • How do I know if they are working?

Want more tools? At the end of the meetup, we’ll share one of the tools that we use to audit our clients’ Google Ads accounts.

Guest Panel

Meetup Video

Key Takeaways

Business Case for Paid Search Ad

  • Google generated 62 percent of all core search queries in the US In July 2020. (Statista.com)
  • 3.5 billion Google searches are made every day. (Internet Live Stats)
  • 10% Growth in searches per year
  • 15% of searches every day have never been seen before

How to start a new search campaign

  • Unparalleled Targeting= Right Audience + Right Time + Right cost
  • Determine the right target audience
  • Create your campaign
  • Monitor analytics and make improvements
  • Google Ads yield a high return on investment
    • 2019 Tourism PPC Stats
      • The average cost per click ($1.42)
      • High click-thru rate of 7.83%
      • High conversion rate of 3.95%
      • Low cost per action of $27.04
      • If your average booking is $200 you can estimate a 7.4X Return on Ad Spend

Resource Links

Meetup Transcript

(Sam Shoemaker) Today, we’re going to be talking about pay-per-click advertising. Really, our goal here is if you’re looking to do any sort of PPC marketing, pay-per-click ads, however you want to define it, if you’re looking to run ads on Google, essentially, we’ll call it what it is, if you’re looking to do that, especially in the tourism space, we’ve had a lot of history in our agency, we’ve done a lot of pay-per-click advertising for people in the tourism space and have had a lot of success. We’ll look at some of that here as we get into the presentation.

(Sam Shoemaker) Just some housekeeping things, obviously, this is a meet up for business leaders serving the tourism industry, focusing on sharing ideas and having discussions. Right now, we are in a monthly rhythm, where we’re having these once a month to talk about a specific topic that we hope will you’ll find useful.

(Sam Shoemaker) Speaking of which, if during this presentation you have any questions, we’d love for you to ask that question to us and we’ll address those questions at the end of the presentation. If you would, there is a Q&A functionality in this webinar on Zoom. If you click the button, if you’re on desktop, there should be a black bar that would have this little icon here that you see or if you’re on mobile, you might have to swipe left or right in order to get that button to show up but drop your questions in the Q&A feature, in the Q&A section and we’ll try to get to them at the end.

Topic Introduction

(Sam Shoemaker) Skip, let’s just get into it. We wanted to start off this conversation. This is Skip Lefever. He’s on our team at Accelerate Tourism and Improve and Grow. Skip is our PPC director. He’s talked at a couple of our different meetups on paid ads, whether they’re on Google or they’re on social media. He’s been with us before talking about some of the things that he does for that.

Panel Discussion

(Sam Shoemaker) Most of our other conversations have been more high level. I’m not going to say that we’re going to get down into the real, fine details of the campaign of running a successful search campaign but what we are going to do is hopefully set you up to be able to, first of all, if you’ve never run a campaign, to get going with Google ads to run some campaigns or if you’ve tried them before, hopefully, this will be a different another perspective and maybe you can identify some things that you can improve on, maybe some places where you might have gone wrong. We’re trying to make this a very practical presentation. Skip, in order to do that, let’s just kind of set this all up with the business case for Google Search Ads. I’m going to advance the slide here and give it over to you.

(Skip Lefever) Great. Thanks, Sam.

(Sam Shoemaker) Yeah.

Business Case for Paid Search Ad

(Skip Lefever) By the way, speaking of travel, I’m traveling to New England today. Coming to you from cloudy but colorful Massachusetts. Good morning, everybody. The first part of the business case for Google Search Ads is the massive reach of the search engine. For example, Google generated 62% of all core search queries in the United States in July 2020. About two thirds of all search engine volume in the US is going to Google these days. Then, another key stat 3.5 billion Google searches are made every day. Now, I think that’s global as opposed to US but that just gives you a sense for how much volume. A couple of ancillary stats, right now, the annual growth rate in Google searches is about 10% from year-to-year. GOOGLE also tells us routinely that about 15% of the searches that come through every day they have never seen before. The search queries that people use are constantly morphing and changing. Okay, Sam, go ahead.

How to Start a New Search Campaign

Determining the Right Target Audience

(Skip Lefever) Let’s talk about targeting. Google Search Ads give you some great targeting options. One way we like to sum it up is targeting the right audience, at the right time, at the right cost. Search gives you a lot of control to be able to do that. Here are some examples of the kind of targeting that you can do. You can target by demographics, things like location, age, gender, and income. You search for ads by their very nature. You are triggering ads based on search queries. You choose search queries that you want to use to bid and trigger your ads. Those search queries, by the way, and we’re going to do an actual session today, where we’re going to demonstrate for you how we typically approach identifying search queries that prospects are using in the travel and tourism industry.

(Skip Lefever) If you look at the little graphic on the right of the slide there, we’re showing the sales funnel. We’ve talked about that previously in another webinar but basically when people are searching, they’re doing a number of different things. In the early days, they might just be doing some basic research and becoming aware of possibilities. In the consideration stage, they’re further down the sales funnel. They’re getting a little more serious. They’re putting little more specifics in their search queries. They’re kind of narrowing down. Then, in the decision stage, they’re actually ready to make a decision. They’ve done a lot of research. They’re looking at their top options. They’re going to make a decision. That’s when they become either a qualified sales lead or an actual booking in your case. That’s one of the great things about search ads is you get to analyze potential search queries, choose the ones you want to serve ads for, and what position in the funnel they’re in.

(Skip Lefever) Other types of targeting options you have, you can schedule ads anytime you want. You can run 24/7 365 or you can run specific days of the week or specific hours of the day. You can target by device, if your prospects tend to search on smartphones, for example, versus desktop computers. You can specify only one or the other. If your business tends to be one that gets a lot of sales through phone calls, you can actually target just calls, if you prefer. You can also exclude unwanted traffic. Just like you can target who you do want, you can also exclude those searches that you don’t want to serve in that too. Google Ad platform makes available to you a number of options for bidding strategies everything from fully manual, where you retain 100% control to machine learning, smart bidding strategies where the work is done for you based on some parameters that you set. Bottom line, there are lots of targeting options and there’s lots of ways of optimizing that targeting.

(Skip Lefever) Finally, return on investment. There is very high ROI potential in Google Search Ads. A couple of stats here, 96% of advertising pros who are working on behalf of the travel and tourism industry are using Google Search Ads. That’s a pretty huge testimony for that many pros marketing for travel and tourism to be able to be using this single ad platform.

(Skip Lefever) A second major point, the startup costs for AdSpend are relatively low. They’re not as cheap, for example, as Facebook to get started, but it’s a different type of advertising, but it’s still reasonable. Our recommended minimum AdSpend for travel and tourism companies is typically to start at about $500 a month.

(Skip Lefever) Just 2019 travel and tourism industry statistics for Google search, the average cost per click was $1.42. Every time someone clicks on an ad, on average, across all travel and tourism advertisers, it was a buck 42 in 2019. It has a high click-through rate for travel and tourism, 7.8% in 2019. By the way, to put that in perspective, across all industries, a good click-through rate is considered to be between 3 and 5%. You can see travel and tourism enjoys a higher than average click-through rate. The same thing is true of conversion rate, again, across all industries, a pretty solid conversion rate is between 2 and 4%. You can see that travel and tourism is at the high end of that range.

(Skip Lefever) Low cost per action or cost per acquisition, you might have heard it called. Once somebody actually does do a booking, the average cost in the tourism and travel business was $27 in 2019. As a hypothetical example, if you’re in, let’s say, the lodging part of the travel and tourism business and let’s say you’re selling bed and breakfast rooms for $200 a night, based on those statistics, you can estimate the potential for a 7.4 times return on AdSpend. Great ROI potential with Google Search Ads. That’s kind of the final part of the business case for us.

(Sam Shoemaker) Skip, when we were doing our prep work, I think we talked about, we chose to use these 2019 numbers realizing that there’s been a whole lot that’s happened since then but these being conclusive numbers, you also mentioned, though, with the numbers that are not fully yet in for the year for 2020, for travel and tourism, you mentioned that there’s indications that they actually look like they’re slightly higher even or better numbers for 2020, despite all that’s going on.

(Skip Lefever) Yeah, that’s absolutely true, the same source that I quoted these stats from, which is called WordStream that benchmarks every year for Google Search Ads. For this year, under COVID-19, the average click-through rate is more like 10%. The average conversion rate is a little over 4%. Even though the travel and tourism business has been hammered this year, there’s no denying that travel and tourism businesses that are open and that our advertising with Google search, are actually enjoying higher than 2019 statistics. I can further attest to say that our travel and tourism clients, we’re seeing click-through rates in the 15 to 20% range for a number of them and we’re seeing some amazing return on AdSpend numbers this year.

(Sam Shoemaker) Fascinating.

(Skip Lefever) Especially if you’ve got a niche that has been able to still serve clients, whether it’s locals or more regionally isolated traffic, some of our travel and tourism customers are seeing really good results in Google search.

(Sam Shoemaker) Wow. Cool. I think you have a, kind of talking through all that, I think we can kind of break it down into something that’s a little bit, an example that’s kind of easier to understand, if you want to walk us through some of these numbers?

(Skip Lefever) Yeah, absolutely. One of the questions that we’re trying to answer with this presentation is well, does search ads work for everybody in travel and tourism? What do I need to spend? Well, we already gave the example of most advertising pros advertising for travel and tourism are, in fact, using Google search. That’s one huge testimony. Secondly, we recommend a starting budget of about 500 bucks, but there is a way to actually calculate a budget.

(Skip Lefever) Here’s a hypothetical example. Let’s say that your goal for your travel or tourism business is to add an additional 20 sales or 20 bookings in a month. Well, just walking that through using those average benchmark statistics on the prior slide, if we take those 20 sales and we divide that by the average conversion rate of 3.95%, that means that you need to get 506 ad clicks. You need to show your ad enough times at that 4% click-through rate to get clicked on in visiting your website 506 times.

(Skip Lefever) If you take those 506 ad clicks and divide those by the click-through rate of 7.8%, you need to show your ad 6,462 times to get that many clicks, again, at that average click-through rate. Then, finally to calculate the actual potential AdSpend budget, if you take those 506 clicks times $1,42 per click, you’re talking about an AdSpend budget of about two $719 to get those hypothetical 20 additional bookings per month. It is very possible to do budget calculations and budget forecasting using those benchmark statistics.

(Sam Shoemaker) Cool. Seeing that, I don’t spend a whole lot of time in the PPC world in our agency because that’s your domain but it’s always helpful for me to see just a clear… I know it’s not a formula, but just this clear progression of being able to quickly put something into perspective. This was even a good reminder for me.

(Sam Shoemaker) Now, once we’ve determined that these ads are worth doing and I think, in general, based on the benchmarks, somebody in the tourism and travel space, they could optimistically make that assumption. Obviously, it’s going to be different for everybody’s business and that’s where that little example that we looked at is helpful to be able to do but once we move past that, now we want to get into this practical, let’s take a couple steps and talk about actually starting a campaign and to make sure that we are taking those steps appropriately, this is kind of this 1-2-3 step processes is kind of the launch point of moving into this. We’re actually going to get into the practical things next but right here is where we can make some key decisions that set that next part up. You want to talk us through these couple quick steps here?

(Skip Lefever) Yep, absolutely. There are some steps to take before you build an actual campaign. Doing this analysis and making some decisions ahead of time will inform how to build your campaign. Number one is determining the right target audience. How do you do that? Well, we have three steps that we typically go through and recommend to our clients. First of all, always first identify your business goals and be as specific as possible. For example, is your goal to increase brand awareness? Do you feel like your brand is not well known and you want to be known? That’s one strategy.

(Skip Lefever) Another strategy might be to increase bookings. We find that’s most where most of our clients are but both are valid strategies. Identifying your overarching goal with the potential to run Google Search Ads is number one. Part of that is also to identify what products or services isn’t that you want to sell? You may have a suite of services or products, do you want to advertise and try to increase bookings in all of them or do you want to focus on one particular product or service? That’s a valid question to ask and make a decision about. Another is what’s your budget? How much can you afford to spend or how much do you want to spend? We would say invest in running Google Search Ads.

(Skip Lefever) Finally, just a real strong admonition, when you’re identifying these goals, be as specific as possible. You can always broaden your business goals later, particularly if you start out more narrowly-focused and have some success, you can always broaden but we find it best to start as specific as possible, get going, make some headway, have some experience, and then widen out or broaden out afterwards.

(Skip Lefever) A second part of it of determining the right target audience is to define who your audience is. Who are your prospective customers? Are they men or women? What age group are they in? What income brackets are they in? Are they housewives? Are they whatever? I think you get my point. You identify who your prospects are, you identify where they hang out, and we’re talking about Google Search Ads today and we’re actually going to show you how you can determine whether your prospective audience is actually hanging out on Google search engine.

(Skip Lefever) Really, Sam’s our messaging expert. He would talk about personas, kind of identifying who the people are and kind of defining them a little bit and you might have more than one target audience. You might have, for example, one tourism client that we have caters largely to younger families with children. However, there’s also another big part of their demographics for their prospects that is grandparents, who might be treating their children and grandchildren to a travel experience. Define your target audience. It might be more than one. That’s okay. Then, the final step is to actually do some research on the actual word, search term, search queries that people are using to find your kind of products and services.

Creating Your First Campaign

(Skip Lefever) Okay, how do you actually go about creating a Google search campaign? Well, the first choice that you can make is which Google Ads experience to use. There are two: One is called Google Ads Express and then there’s the full Google Ads experience. Just to touch on this for a moment, Google Ads Express is a very easy interface and a very easy way to start running Google search ads. That’s the plus. Essentially, all you have to do is create an account, create an ad or two, and set a budget and some and the locations that you want to target people in and then Google will do the rest for you.

(Skip Lefever) It’s a very quick and easy way to launch a Google search ad campaign. The downside is that you’re relinquishing a lot of control to Google. It’s not all bad. We’ve seen some good experiences. We’ve also seen some very bad experiences. It’s harder to sort of manage wasted AdSpend, I’ll just say that. We don’t typically recommend using Google Ads Express but we didn’t want to ignore it or to say that it’s not available because it is and some people start out their Google Search Ads experience that way.

(Skip Lefever) Google ads, the full experience is what we typically recommend. That’s mainly what we’re going to be talking to today. All right. The first actual step then after you’ve chosen which ad platform and literally, you can type Google Ads or Google Ads Express and find the links and help documents that will help facilitate you through that process. Once you’ve decided on the experience that you’re going to use, the next step is to create an actual Google Ads account within that experience.

(Skip Lefever) By the way, you’re going to have to have a Google account. That simply means that you need to set up an account with Google, for you personally or for a business account that maybe you’re going to use to run this ads account and you have to do it with an email address. By the way, it does not have to be a Gmail address. It doesn’t have to be a Google email address. It can be your company email address or your Yahoo! account. It can be a Gmail account but you basically create a Google account and associate your email address with it. Once you’ve done that, you can then create a Google Ads account.

(Skip Lefever) Okay, step two, is to actually do search query or keyword research. By search query, that’s industry jargon. All we’re talking about is the words that people use in a search engine to look for your product or service. We’re going to call that a search query. Then, when we’re doing that research, the Google terminology or the search ad terminology typically used to identify which queries you’re going to trigger ads for is called keyword research.

(Skip Lefever) Keyword research is the next step. There are tools that you can use to identify potential keywords that people use. You can refine those. You can choose which ones you want to use and then use that as the foundation just to start your campaign. We’re going to walk you through a demo here today. We’re going to use Google’s actual Keyword Planner. It’s the easiest way to do keyword research and immediately create a Google search ads campaign and to organize it into relevant groups of keywords and ads. Okay, all right.

(Skip Lefever) I’m going to do a demonstration for you today on doing keyword research and choosing which keywords to use. It’s going to be a relatively simple and quick example, but fairly powerful, I think. Keyword research and using that kind of terminology with our clients and with our prospective clients, almost seems like this big mystery. My goal here is to demystify what keyword research is. Okay. We like to talk about, first, starting by figuring out some seed keywords. I’ll explain that a little bit further but we recommend to our clients that we typically help walk them through an experience like this or we’ll ask them a series of questions that will help us to do this.

(Skip Lefever) First of all, we start with, “Hey, what’s the product or service you want to sell, you want to advertise for Google search.” I’m going to use the example today of a bed and breakfast business and do this demonstration based on a bed and breakfast. I’m showing you here some potential… I’m going to pretend that I have a bed and breakfast business. I want to advertise that business and get more bookings for my bed and breakfast. I know that I call my business a bed and breakfast and I know that the way people talk about it is to use that terms. Sometimes they’ll spell it out. Sometimes they’ll use the ampersand. Sometimes they’ll shorten it to B and B, sometimes within without spaces. I know there’s lots of ways that I would search for a bed and breakfast and I know there’s lots of ways that my prospective customers.

(Skip Lefever) The first column there that I’m showing you is how to express or search for my particular product if you will. The second column we call intent qualifier. You remember earlier, we showed you the funnel and we talked about people just starting to research, what the heck is a bed and breakfast or where are they, that kind of thing but they really don’t show much intent. They’re using very generic, very broad search terms.

(Skip Lefever) Intent qualifiers to us demonstrate that the searcher is looking for something much more specific and they’re potentially down in the consideration and even the decision-making phase of their research. Intent qualifiers we look for are things like a time qualifier like I’m looking for a bed and breakfast this weekend or next week, that kind of thing.

(Skip Lefever) Another intent qualifier is a price or cost or I’m looking for a bed and breakfast that’s less than $150 a night as an example. Maybe I use the actual brand name. I’m going to call my bed and breakfast XYZ because I’m not really creative. Maybe the intent qualifier would have XYZ in it. Maybe it’s something like a package deal. They’re looking for a bed and breakfast that’s running some promotions or some kind of a package deal.

(Skip Lefever) Then, finally, I want to talk in this example, about we call them geo qualifiers or location qualifiers. This is where a searcher has indicated, “Hey, I’m looking for a bed and breakfast this weekend that’s in Lancaster or in Lancaster County.” My hypothetical bed breakfast is going to be located in Lancaster County today and it’s going to be in an area of the county that people generically called Amish Country, right? A geo qualifier or location qualifier could be Lancaster, Lancaster County, it could be Amish Country. It could be near me. It could be PA. It could be Pennsylvania.

(Skip Lefever) You can see I’m identifying words that people might use to find my product or service or bed and breakfast, how they might indicate that they’re pretty far down the sales funnel when they’re looking for price or package deals or timeframes, that kind of thing. Also, when they’re specifying an actual geography, that tells you that they’re pretty far down the funnel and they’re getting ready to make a decision. With search ads, what I’m talking to you about right here is identifying where they are at the search funnel. This example I’m setting up is to identify people that are down at the bottom of the funnel and are ready to make decisions as opposed to people that are just becoming aware of that.

(Skip Lefever) In this example, down in the blue panel here, I’m specifically choosing some words for each of those columns. I’m creating some three and four-word, what I’m calling seed keywords. I’ve identified four here, Bed and Breakfast Lancaster, Bed and Breakfast Amish B&B near, by the way, by not saying near me or nearby or something like that, I’m making a little bit less specific and just a little bit more generic but it’s still got a geo qualifier on it and then B and B package deal. Okay, Sam, let’s move on to the actual demo.

(Sam Shoemaker) Great.

(Skip Lefever) I’m going to share my screen at this point. I’m going to do into our research account. Can you see in my screen okay, Sam?

(Sam Shoemaker) Yup. I’m seeing it.

(Skip Lefever) Okay. In this example, we’ve already created a Google account. We’ve created a Google Ads account. This happens to be one we use for doing research like this today. I’m actually in the Google Ads interface. This is the full experience, not the Google Ads Express. You typically, when you log in, you come to a screen, a screen that looks like this that is an overview screen, I am going to go to the Keyword Planner Tool, since that’s what we’re demoing here today. I’m going to choose this wrench up here. I get a whole bunch of options. I’m going to go over here under planning because that’s really what I’m doing today. I’m going to choose Keyword Planner.

(Skip Lefever) Now, I’m in the keyword planner and my goal in this planning session is to actually discover new keywords. I’m researching new keywords. I’m going to click on that arrow. I’ve got two options. I’m going to actually demonstrate both of them for you. One of them is to take those seed keywords and enter them into the keyword planner. Let me just do that quickly. I’m going to copy and paste those seed keywords that I just showed you and I’m going to simply paste them in here. Let’s see, bed and breakfast Lancaster, bed and breakfast [inaudible 00:32:41]. Okay, it only brought me two of the four. Let me grab the other two. I’m going to type them and not allowing me to paste them for some reason. Oh, I see why because I’ve got the same keyword copy twice. I’m going to choose here B and B near and Sam, can you remind me what my last one was? You have the presentation still open.

(Sam Shoemaker) It was B&B package deal, B&B without any space.

(Skip Lefever) Okay. All right. You can see I’ve now either pasted it or typed those four seed keywords. Now, I’m simply going to click get results. The Keyword Planner is going to search its history. I’m also going to put some geography qualification on here because I’m not looking to advertise in the whole United States. I want to start smaller and be more specific. I’m thinking for this particular demonstration, I’m actually going to target potential prospects that are in the Greater Philadelphia area. By choosing these location targets, I’m actually in the interface.

(Skip Lefever) It’s actually linking up to the Google Map facility and showing me location options. I’m going to choose this thing called the Philadelphia Nielsen DMA region. You can see it mapped it for me there that’s right there. It actually crosses over into Delaware in New Jersey as well as Pennsylvania. Then, I’m also going to choose New York City because I know that I get a few Lancaster County gets a fair amount of tourism, people coming from the Greater New York City area. Again, I’m going to choose this DMA region, which will be larger than just New York City. Now, I’m going to save that. By doing that, I’m saying to Google, “Hey, I’m interested in showing ads to people in those two regions,” and I still got my keyword seeds up here.

(Skip Lefever) Now, down here, you can actually see the keywords are the search queries that Google Keyword Planner is reporting to me are being used by searchers that are looking for these products, these search queries. I’m just going to order these by average monthly searches. I’m going to put the biggest quantities at the top. What the Keyword Planner is showing me here, that based on the seed keywords, Google Keyword Planner found these relevant keywords and it has this average volume per month in this geographic area. It also gives me a couple of other data points. It shows me how much competition there is for the search queries or these keywords. Low means not a lot of people, not a lot of advertisers are bidding for that particular keyword. That makes that one particularly interesting to me. Then, you can see there are others that are identified as medium. There can also be some highs. I’m actually seeing highs right now.

(Skip Lefever) Also, another data point here is the Keyword Planner is giving me some idea of what I’m going to have to pay for cost per click. It’s giving me a top of page bid that’s kind of on the lower end. What that means simply is that if I want to be on the top of the search results page, we call that above the fold or above the organic search results, to get in that range, I’m going to have to pay this much per click. If I want to be higher up or closer to the top of the page, I’m going to have to pay more like this. You can see based on the benchmarks that I showed you earlier, we’re squarely going to be in that buck to a buck 50 kind of range for cost per click for bed and breakfast search queries in the Greater New York City and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. Hopefully, that gives you a sense of how you start the process of doing keyword research.

(Skip Lefever) Now, I’m going to quickly make some choices here. For example, B&B near me has some definite intent that is more bottom of the funnel intent. This is somebody that is looking for a bed and breakfast relatively close to their physical location when they did this search. To me, that’s a bottom of funnel keyword. I want that keyword. Bed and Breakfast Lancaster similarly shows geographic content. This person’s pretty fallen out of the funnel. Not only are they interested in a bed and breakfast, but they’re interested in one that’s in Lancaster. This one is very similar. It’s just slightly different word choice and different order. Here’s one that’s specifying Amish bed and breakfast. My Bed and Breakfast is located in what’s called Amish Country. You know what? I’m going to take that one too as well as this one. I’m even going to take this Lancaster B&B, I think.

(Skip Lefever) Now, I’m also making some qualified judgments here. Personally, I’ve found from my own experience that I’d rather only choose keywords that have at least 20 or 30 searches per month and more. You can see that I’m not going to choose these ones that are only 10. Okay, that’s a deliberate decision I’m making. You can make a different decision. That’s the one I’m making today.

(Skip Lefever) Another thing I want to point out to you, just by looking at these keyword ideas that the Keyword Planner has presented, I also see some keywords here that I really don’t particularly want to show ads for. For example, I consider my B&B in this hypothetical example to be kind of a mid to high range B&B in terms of price. If somebody’s searching for a cheap B&B, I’m thinking they’re probably not going to choose my B&B. I’m not going to choose that keyword. In fact, I’m going to register the fact that that cheap, as part of a search query, is probably not one that I want to use. I’m going to actually start a little list for myself over here. I’m going to call this negative keywords, which you could also think about as an exclusion. I’m going to start a little list for myself. You could write it by hand. You can do whatever you want. I’m going to put the word cheap, right there.

(Skip Lefever) Okay, let me search this a little bit more for a couple more examples. Okay, here’s a branded search or, well, I’m not going to call that branded search. That’s another town that’s in Lancaster County, the Town of Paradise. That’s okay. I’m okay if people are… I’m close to Paradise. I’m good with that search query. But this one, this is an actual brand name somebody knows about a B&B called Beacon Farm, Amish Bed and Breakfast. I don’t want to serve my ads for that query because they’re already calling out that by brand name. I’m thinking, chances are, they’re not going to book with me. I’m going to write in my negative or exclusion keyword list here, Beacon Hollow.

(Skip Lefever) Let’s take another quick gander here. Here’s another one that looks like a branded search to me. It’s called Lowfield B&B. I’m going to add that to my exclusion list. Okay. All right. I’m going to put that aside for a minute.

(Skip Lefever) Now, I’ve made my selection. I’m choosing… By the way, you can choose lots of keywords. You can choose a relatively small number of keywords. Again, it kind of comes down to budget. How many bookings you’re looking for? How many sales that kind of thing.

(Skip Lefever) Now, I’m going to start the actual grouping process. I am going to take the ones that include the word Lancaster. I’m going to unselect these again. I know the ones I’m keeping are just up here in the top. I’m going to choose all the ones that include the word Lancaster. In the interface, I’m going to create a grouping for those keywords. I’m going to call that Lancaster B&B. I have those keywords selected on the left hand side. I’ve created a group name. Now, I’m going to click on this add keywords button. We’re going to go back to that in a minute. I’ll show you what happened by doing that.

(Skip Lefever) I’m also going to go back and grab this near me keyword. It’s the only one like that. I’m going to create a group called B&B near me and I’m going to add that keyword to my plan. Then, finally, I’m going to grab these two that used the word Amish in them and I’m going to create a separate grouping called Amish. In this case, it’s spelled out so I’m actually going to put that in my group name, Amish bed and breakfast. I’m going to add those to my plan.

(Skip Lefever) I have just added these six keywords to my keyword plan and I’ve put them in a group. Now, I’m going to look at the plan that I just created. I’m going to see that these are the three groups that I just created. Google calls them ad groups. You can also think of it as a keyword group. Their platform is called Google ads. They like the idea of identifying the groupings by ads. It’s six or one half dozen the other. Then, I’m going to click on keywords. Here’s the keywords I’ve chosen and you can see the group that they’re included in.

(Skip Lefever) Okay, I’ve just done in this session of, I don’t know 10 minutes or so, I’ve just done some research based on some key some seed keywords I created. I’ve identified the ones I want to choose that are more bottom of the funnel keywords. I grouped them into three groups. I put them in my plan. I’m going to do one more thing. I’m going to go back to keyword ideas just to show you that there’s also another way of identifying potential keywords. We usually do both of these in our keyword research sessions. In this case, I’m actually going to start with a website URL. What I’m going to choose to do in this case, I’ve identified two of my competitors for my B&B and one of them is called Limestone Inn. I’m going to go over here and put their website in here. I’m going to say, “Yeah, go ahead and use the whole site.”

(Skip Lefever) Now, I’m going to click get results. Well, Google Keyword Planner is going to do the same thing, but instead of using my seed keywords I created earlier, they’re actually going to crawl the limestone website and come back with keywords that match it and you can see the same sorts of things.

(Skip Lefever) Now, for the sake of time, I’m not going to choose any additional keywords but I very much could choose additional keywords. Again, I could group them into groups and I could add them to my plan. Again, just for the sake of time, I’m not going to do that right now. I’m going to stick with the ones I’ve already selected. All right, I’m going to show you really quickly, how am I doing on time, Sam?

(Sam Shoemaker) We are starting to get closer to 12.

(Skip Lefever) We are beyond. I’m not going to dwell on this but I’m simply going to select the keywords in my plan. I’m going to click this button right here that says Create Campaign. I’m going to give it a name. I’m just going to call it bed and breakfast. I’m going to choose a starting budget. I’m going to say that my budget is $15 a day. I apparently already did a test earlier. I’m going to change my name. That’s it. What the Keyword Planner just did for me was take those keywords that I chose and they actually put them in a search ad campaign. Sam, I’m going to stop the demo there. You go ahead and take back control.

(Sam Shoemaker) Yeah, Skip and I know that we went a little long there but I think for me, like I said, I said this before, I don’t spend a whole lot of time doing these PPC campaigns but other than doing a few of the things that we’re going to talk about next and we’ll give some sort of categories of things, prioritization of what you should do, must do, things like that just for reference but other than actually writing the copy for the ad campaign, in 20 minutes or so you did the research and had something that we would say is, when we’re actually doing the work at our agency, we’re probably we’re spending a lot more time doing that. We’re going into the real details and the best practices that we’ve learned over the years but what you did there is really, if somebody wants to test out running PPC ads, what you just did is exactly what they should do. We would say they have, while it’s minimum, there’s a lot of things that are going to set you up for success, especially those how we came about those keywords with the different qualifiers.

(Sam Shoemaker) I think we have the next slide here. We’re going to take a look at… Well, we’ve got some must do’s, should do’s, could do’s and don’t do’s and I think, Skip, instead of talking, I don’t think we actually intended to talk through all of these but is there any specific ones that you want to call out quick in the time that we have, but overall, this is just a simple slide that you can look at to see, okay, if you just want to do something quick, here’s some basically a good rule of thumb on what you should prioritize your time doing.

(Skip Lefever) Yup, that’s exactly right, Sam. Good way to say it. The must-do column is these are things that you have to do on the Google Ads platform in order to actually create a campaign that can run and serve ads. You have to choose geo-targeting.

(Skip Lefever) Now, they’ll default to choosing the whole United States for the whole world. It behooves you to narrow down to where your prospects actually live. You have to add keywords. We just showed you how to do that. You have to set a budget. We just did that. You have to choose a big strategy. Those are the prerequisites. You have to do those things in order to run an ad campaign. Things we identify it should do’s, you see the column there, there’s something called match types that you can add to your keywords that helps control the targeting and the level of position precision. We also highly recommend adding those negative keywords or exclusions. We are also highly recommending doing conversion tracking. I’ll leave it at that.

(Skip Lefever) The next column could do, those are other things you can do to control your campaign even more deeply. Let me just touch on the don’t do’s. When you choose keywords like I just did and added them to the campaign, they’re automatically added as what’s called pure broad match keywords. That means there’s little precision. Google still has a lot of, it takes a lot of latitude in choosing what search queries to match up to those keywords. That’s why we recommend choosing match types and we recommend not running all broadcast, just pure broad keywords because you’re going to get a lot of unqualified searches.

(Sam Shoemaker) Yeah.

(Skip Lefever) Secondly, don’t forget about your negative keywords or your exclusions so that you can exclude the searches you don’t want. Don’t do single word keywords. They’re too broad. You would be amazed at the kind of stuff you’ll get matched up for. Those are just some quick don’t do this.

(Sam Shoemaker) Yeah, that’s great.

(Skip Lefever) That’s based on some hard fought experience.

(Sam Shoemaker) I’m sure. Step four here and this is… I’ll let you just give a talk about what we mean when we say keyword location and call to action but we’ll show in the next slide, we also have some additional resources, but Skip, you just want to talk about that real quick?

(Skip Lefever) Yeah. This is an actual screenshot or a preview, if you will, of a Google search ad that will appear in Google search results on a mobile smartphone device or a tablet and it’s just formatted like a mobile ad as opposed to a desktop ad. We recommend always including the keyword or a representative keyword for the group that this ad pertains to. In this case, we tend to put it right in the top left headline. You can see here, we’ve got Bed and Breakfast Lancaster PA in this example, that is a representative keyword for this keyword group that this ad is for.

(Skip Lefever) Secondly, we recommend, particularly for travel and tourism, use a geo qualifier. In this case, we’ve killed two birds with one stone, it’s in the actual keyword, therefore we’ve got a location qualifier in the ad, in fact we’ve got two of them, Lancaster and PA.

(Skip Lefever) Thirdly, we’ve got a call-to-action here. It’s book online. It shows up as part of the URL in the green type on this preview but we’re calling the searcher to come to our website and book. It’s important to highlight a keyword in your ad copy. It’s important to highlight a location. It’s important to call them to actually do something and then you see the rest of the ad, we’ve got some other key messages that we feel like are germane to our hypothetical B&B here, “Great service and amenities. We serve a full breakfast. Hey, in this COVID time, we’ve got an actual external entrance. You’re not going through a general entrance that everybody goes through.” Just to point out a couple of things. Well, I won’t. We’ve got it in another slide. Go ahead, Sam.

(Sam Shoemaker) Sure. Just to call out what I mentioned before, we have done a couple previous episodes of the meet-up on messaging and creative for ads. Now, creative isn’t going to be as relevant force pure search ads because it’s really all about the text that you put in but just referencing these two meetups, one of them back in May and the other one in August, where they were a mix. The one in May was a mix of social ads and search ads. The one in August really focused on social media ads but there were still some really good content around what you should be saying in your ads and some of that would carry over. A lot of it would carry over to search ads as well.

(Skip Lefever) Yes, absolutely. Okay.

(Sam Shoemaker) Ad extensions.

(Skip Lefever) Yeah, let’s jump into that for a minute. In this preview, we’re showing you down at the bottom of the ad, some ad extensions. Ad extensions is simply a way to make your ad even bigger. This is something many folks when they first start running Google Search Ads miss. We’ve got several different examples of an ad extension here. The top part in white there is the basic ad. Everything in gray below that Sam highlighted in the orange box there, those are all ad extensions. The ones in blue are called sitelink ad extensions and if you click on those, you actually go to a page on the website that is specific to those things. I’m saying about my bed and breakfast, “Hey, we’ve got dine in and we’ve got both an indoor and outdoor dining experience.” If you click on one of those links, you’re going to go to a different page on my website that talk about those things.

(Skip Lefever) There’s also this local theater group that a lot of our clientele like to go visit. We’re putting a link to that. Then, I’m putting an actual link to my, in this case, my hypothetical B&B. Then, at the bottom is my phone number. If this is a smartphone, which this ad is intended for, if I click on that phone number with my finger on my phone, it actually calls me. It calls my business and you make a booking. That’s what ad extensions are. They’re a way of making your ad bigger and allowing your prospective customers to do other things.

(Skip Lefever) Okay, launch it. Once you’ve done all those things, it is literally as easy as flipping a switch. You’ve set a budget, you’ve chosen keywords, you’ve written some ad copy, you literally click on a switch and click on enable that tells Google this campaign is ready to run, Google start serving ads for those search queries.

(Sam Shoemaker) I think the one thing that people get in trouble with is that they tend to overthink the rest of the stuff. I think one thing just to stress just from talking with you and hearing what you’re saying on this meetup but also through our other conversations, just don’t start too broadly. You said earlier, it’s picking a specific product. Don’t try to market for everything that your operation offers. If you offer just one thing and you specialize that and that’s your bread and butter, it’s pretty easy for you. Then, you can start off smaller with trying to target a specific group of people or a specific geographical region or even testing out a specific message to your audience but for those operations that offer, multiple things that somebody could book, just start by trying it with one of your product lines or one of your operations.

(Sam Shoemaker) Just don’t rush into it too much because I feel like when people rush into it, in my experience, those are the people that say they get burned. Then they say, “Well, you know what, it’s just Google taking my money.” If I have to be honest with the person, I would say it’s, “Well, you probably just went at it a little too cavalier and I think if you rethink it and take it slow and be very intentional, you’ll find that this can work out for you.” As we said in the very beginning of this, the numbers show that this works for the tourism industry in general and more than likely it can work for your business. You just have to, in a sense, be patient and be working out each one of those pieces at a time. Once you do that, it really is fairly simple to do and to test.

Open Q&A from Participants

(Sam Shoemaker) We’re going to skip right to… Well, we’re going to go right into Q&A here. I think we’ve got a couple questions from when people registered. We’ll ask a few. I think there’s maybe only like two or three questions. We’ll be able to go through it pretty quickly. Scott, what do you got for us?

Should you use competitor’s business names as keywords?

(Scott Rehnberg) Sure. Skip, I know you had talked a little bit about leaving out competitor business names when you’re doing your keyword research. Why would we do that? Why wouldn’t we go after competitors when we want to target?

(Skip Lefever) Yeah, a couple reasons. Probably the first one is that your website… I’ll use that example of Limestone Manor, I think it was called as I’m calling them my competitor. Well, my website has nothing to do with Limestone Manor. Automatically, Google is going to see my bidding on limestone keywords as being less qualified than limestone would be themselves. In a sense, I can’t take the time to go into it in great detail, the point is me trying to serve ads or bid on ads for limestone, I am never going to perform as well as the actual limestone brand. That’s why we tend not to recommend that. It doesn’t mean you can’t or you shouldn’t, you should just go into it with your eyes open. Your ads are not going to perform as well for branded search queries.

(Skip Lefever) Another, frankly, is that sometimes competitors get upset. We’ve had several situations where a business owner of a competing B&B, as an example, has called our business and said, “Hey, the heck you’re doing? You’re targeting ads that show my name and your ad. What’s going on here? If you don’t stop, I’m going to sue you.” That’s a secondary reason why we often don’t recommend it. It’s often possible to navigate your way through that but most of our customers don’t want to deal with that.

How do you get a potential customer to click-through?

(Scott Rehnberg) How do you get a potential customer to click-through?

(Skip Lefever) The important thing there is to be relevant. Sam summarized really well there about choosing what you’re doing well that also includes your messaging. It also includes the content on your website. Really, we’re starting with a search query and that we’re designing an ad that we want to serve that is relevant to that search query. Then, as a result of clicking on that ad, we want to send them to a page on our website that is relevant for that search query and for that ad copy. The ad copy and the connection to the search query or the keyword is really your opportunity to convince somebody to click. You need to send them a compelling message about your product or service that might include features or benefits or promotional offers or something of that sort but it also needs to be highly relevant to that specific keyword.

(Sam Shoemaker) Yup.

(Skip Lefever)If you do that, if you’re relevant and you’re offering a product or service in your messaging that people want, they’re going to click-through at a very good rate.

(Sam Shoemaker)That’s great. That’s great.

What’s the best way to narrow targeting when you can’t do a look-alike audience?

(Scott Rehnberg) One more quick one for you, what’s the best way to narrow targeting when you can’t do a look alike audience?

(Skip Lefever) Okay, that’s really kind of mixing two different online advertising techniques. A lookalike audience is really an audience that is used for running display ads. That’s like a cold audience. You’re pushing an ad in front of them. They weren’t looking for something. You’re just pushing like on a billboard or radio commercial online and ad in front of them. That’s actually a different scenario that’s not related to search ads, really.

(Skip Lefever) With search ads, the way that you’re doing the narrowing is by doing that keyword research and choosing the keywords that are highly relevant to what you’re trying to sell and where they’re positioned in the funnel. The example I gave, we’re trying to find people that are ready to buy.

(Sam Shoemaker) Yeah, great.

(Skip Lefever) That’s how you do the narrowing by choosing the right keywords. Really, by doing that analysis where I chose keywords to describe my service, words that showed people had intent that they were near ready to buy and also some geographic qualifiers. For travel and tourism, I would highly recommend those three components to your keywords.

(Sam Shoemaker) That’s great.

(Scott Rehnberg) Great. Thanks guys.

(Sam Shoemaker) That’s it, Scott?

(Scott Rehnberg) Yup, that’s it.

(Sam Shoemaker) Great. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you Skip, as always. I do feel like you said, a demystifying search ads. I do think that is a very accurate way to put it. There’s confusing terminology around it. Google has actually changed some of the ways that it refers to itself recently that can leave a lot of people confused but I think, just a quick summary would be, this is for people, you’re targeting people who are literally raising their hand and saying, “Hey, I want to buy your service.” Instead of literally raising their hand, they’re typing it out into Google, getting the right keywords, writing the right ad copy. If you don’t overthink it, which I know a lot of us, including myself, are prone to do, if you don’t overthink it and you follow some of the simple steps that we put through there, you’ll have success.

(Sam Shoemaker) I also want to mention too, I forgot to include this in the slides but we do have some tools on our website. If you go to our website, if you go to either acceleratetourism.com or improveandgrow.com, the name of our agency, both places have a free tool that if you already have an ads account, if you already have tried running ads, you can submit your ad account into that free tool. It is basically a free audit that will give you some suggestions.

(Sam Shoemaker) If you are starting up and this is brand new to you, what we recommend is doing what we’ve laid out in the video, doing what Skip has kind of walked us through, especially with the keywords. If you do that, pick a budget that’s not going to break the bank and run an ad for a month. See how it happens. See how it performs. Then, if you’re interested in getting some feedback, go to that tool and submit your ad account then and we’ll go through the auditing process to get some feedback about what to do. It’s hard for us to know exactly what to do without ad accounts, with no history, with no ads that have run. Us, looking at an ad account before it’s actually performed at all, we won’t be able to really offer a whole lot. We recommend if you’re looking at doing it, set up an account, follow the steps, test it out and we’re happy to take a look and give some additional feedback for you to hopefully find some success. It’s really good [crosstalk 01:08:12].

(Skip Lefever) Hey, Sam, just because I’m thinking of it, when we publish the video and the notes and so forth, add some other resources like links to Google ad tutorials…

(Sam Shoemaker) Perfect.

(Skip Lefever) [crosstalk 01:08:27]. We have on also on our website a glossary of…

(Sam Shoemaker) Yes, that’s helpful.

(Skip Lefever) … ad terms. We’ll put that there as well.

(Sam Shoemaker) Yeah. Half of it is just understanding the lingo that goes behind the platform. That’s great. Thank you, Skip. Thank you to our team. Thank you for joining us today. We don’t have a topic for next month yet. We’ll be hosting one on November 13th at the same time and we’ll let you know what the topic is going to be in probably the next week. Look for that email. Thank you all very much. We hope you have a productive rest of October and productive November. Thanks everybody. Bye.

(Skip Lefever) Bye-bye.

Video Marketing: A Beginner’s Guide

Meetup Description

It’s a big claim, but surveys have shown 80% of marketers confirm that video helped them increase sales. With the enormous amount of video content consumed by users each day, it is simply undeniable – Video matters.

So why do many business owners decide not to use video in their marketing strategy? One reason is that making or appearing in videos can push people out of their comfort zones. This is especially true when they see their competitors highly produced, blockbuster-budget videos.

However, creating effective marketing videos has never been so accessible using only a smartphone and some DIY lighting setups. And, for those wanting to justify investing in professionally produced videos, there are statistics that show that customers that watch videos are much more likely to book.

This Accelerate Tourism meetup video is going to help answer a number of key questions that you might have about using video in your marketing:

  • What do my videos need to say or include?
  • How should I go about making my videos?
  • Where should I put my videos – my website, social media, YouTube?
  • How can I help potential customers discover my videos?
  • How can I tell if my videos are helping drive more activity?

Our guest panelist Derek Lau of aideM Media and Dean Sell from Sight & Sound Theatre will help answer these questions and more. Our goal is to give you the confidence you might need to get out and create revenue-boosting videos.

Guest Panel

Derek Lau, Executive Producer at aideM Media
Dean Sell, Brand Director at Sight & Sound Theatres

Key Takeaways

What do my videos need to say or include?

  • Think about video as a way to have an ongoing relationship with your customer base and potential customers.
  • Think about how people discover you as they’re doing research or looking for whatever your product or service type is.
  • Stick your company’s story and your company’s brand. make sure it comes across authentic.

What are some key things to consider when making videos?

  • You don’t have to have to spend a lot of money to make a video the performs well.
  • Be relatively cognizant of your lighting and your sound.
  • Smile, be friendly. Look into the lens.
  • Get over the fear and just embrace the fact that it’s a process just like anything else.

For a larger production budget

  • Higher quality cameras and professional lighting setups.
  • Making sure you’re doing color grading and having professionals edit them.

Where should I put my videos – my website, social media, YouTube?

  • It takes a strategy to make decisions.
  • Social media, Instagram, and Facebook are great places.
  • Ask, how are you using digital marketing right now? And how can you introduce and integrate video into that?
  • Understanding where you’re going to place it also should inform the content and the way that you’re going to develop the video as well.
  • There is an option for broadcast television.
  • Look for opportunities on-site to use video for upsell purposes.

How can I help potential customers discover my videos?

  • Two main things to consider: paid versus unpaid or organic versus paid
    • Unpaid: If you can get your fans and your friends and your followers to share your video content, that’s worth its weight in gold.
    • Paid: It really comes down to decision making. What are the things that you’re going to elevate and say, “This is a priority, this is where I’m going to spend my time and energy.”
  • User-generated video content.
  • Find a place to begin and really get to know that place and spend some time and energy there

How can I tell if my videos are helping drive more activity?

  • Be careful not to fall in the trap of thinking that you have to measure ROI on every single piece that you send out: look at what you’re trying to measure and why you’re trying to measure it.
  • You can look at things like views, shares, traffic sources to your website
  • Look at how long people are watching the video: If they are dropping off early at a specific point, you may need to make adjustments
  • Measure the conversion rates of sales focused videos.

Resource Links

DSLR Video Shooter– Great for equipment reviews, lighting tips, and DIY setups
Think Media–Loads of tutorials and how-to videos
Peter McKinnon– Photographer turned YouTuber with lots of great inspiration and how-tos
Shutterstock Tutorials– Step-by-Step videos for making and editing videos
Primal Video –Video marketing influencer teaching people how to use videos for their business
YouTube Creators Channel– Lots of how-to videos for newbies

Meetup Transcript

(Sam) So let’s go ahead and get started. And welcome everybody again to the next Accelerate Tourism marketing meetup here. Today, we are going to be talking about video marketing. But first, to just introduce everybody, obviously, this is a virtual meetup here where we’re meeting monthly to discuss mainly marketing in the tourism industry, because of the way things have been affected in that group of businesses and tour owners and things are starting to change and starting to get better. But there’s still a lot of, I don’t even want, it’s sad to say, but a lot of changes that have to be made and decisions that need to be made.

(Sam) And we do hope that we are helping you out each month as we have these, and please reach out to us if you have any suggestions or if you have any particular needs because we want to focus on sharing and encouraging each other through what we’re doing here. And we would love to hear your feedback on that. And with that said, we still have room for more questions. Even you know, with all the questions that we have. So the Q&A feature in the webinar, if you’re on your mobile device, you might have to swipe left or right. But if you’re on desktop, you should see something similar here with a little Q&A. Click that, ask your question. Even if you entered your question at the registration, I do recommend if you want to make sure that you have that question answered, you can also go ahead and enter it in the Q&A feature here. And Scott, who’s with us, he’s going to be monitoring those questions in the Q&A feature or if you end up asking a question in the chat, we’ll try to address that as well.

(Scott) Good morning, everyone.

Topic Introduction

(Sam) So Video Marketing: A Beginner’s Guide, we had, this was I think the third most requested topic after we did our poll a few months ago. And we’re going to take a real high-level flyby of what video marketing means. And we want to make sure that we address some specific points and answer a lot of those questions that you sent in. And some of those questions are going to be answered really in the five main points. I think in the email that we send out to describe what we’re going to be talking about here, we’re going to cover things or at least I’m going to say introduce things about when you’re creating a video for your business, for your tour, for whatever your specific need is, we want to quickly talk about what should you be saying. We’re going to touch on how-tos and tips and tricks and things like that. But we also have a list of resources that we want to share with you that you can go out and explore to learn further.

(Sam) Once your video is created, where do you put it? What do you do with it? How do you promote it and get it out to your audience? And also looking at how can we evaluate whether our videos are actually enhancing our marketing efforts and actually driving qualified, which is qualified traffic, which is those customers that we anticipate that are going to buy that are more likely to buy or book your experience or your tour.

Panel Discussion

(Sam) So with that said, we want to introduce our panelists. We have Dean Sell and Derek Lau with us. Dean is an executive producer or Dean is a brand director, sorry, Dean at Sight & Sound Theatres here in Lancaster, PA, which is one of the biggest draws to the county. We know that in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a lot of our other businesses do actually fluctuate and see impact on what is going on at Sight & Sound. So we’re going to have a unique perspective from Dean, who has also been in the video production, video marketing field and Derek Lau, who is the executive producer at aideM Media, which is a great local media company here in Lancaster, PA. So guys, go ahead and say hi. And if you want to introduce yourself real quick, if I missed anything, please do.

(Sam) Hey good morning, everyone. Dean Sell here. Derek, I’ll let you go first.

(Derek) Good morning, everybody. I’m Derek Lau with aideM Media Solutions. We help organizations tell better story with video. We’re just going to be talking today about some things that you can do yourself and giving some input on ways that you can better your business and get more bookings and appointments with video.

(Sam) Cool.

(Dean) And as Sam said, I’m Dean Sell with Sight & Sound Theatres, where we bring the Bible to life on stage here in Lancaster, as well as Branson, Missouri, and more recently on Sight & Sound TV, which is a brand new online video streaming platform, came from video producing background, but now work primarily in kind of brand strategy, marketing strategy, but still get my hands dirty every once in a while with video production. So excited to be here.

What do my videos need to say or include?

(Sam) Great. Thank you guys. So we’re going to jump right into it, because we want to touch on some things pretty quickly, like I said, so we can get to your specific questions and have some good conversation there. So, guys, what do we need to say in our videos? We’re trying to figure out, we want to drive more traffic to our websites, we want to make more money with video for our tours or for our businesses. Real broadly, what should we be saying? Dean, why don’t you lead us off?

(Dean) Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think for those that are just kind of venturing into the video space, it’s easy to think about a video, like I want to create a video and what should it be. But I would just encourage everyone to really think about video as a way to have an ongoing relationship with your customer base and potential customers.

(Dean) The number one website on the internet is YouTube. And so people are wanting to consume video and engage with people through the means of video. And it’s really a powerful medium. I mean, outside of face to face communication, it really is the next best way to be able to engage with potential customers and existing customers.

(Dean) And so as a brand guy, I would say, “What do you want to say? Make sure that whatever you’re saying, and whatever you’re communicating, is really truly authentic to who you are.” It’s so easy to look at others and say, “Well, look at this video that this person made.”, and try to parody that or mimic it. But really, you need to understand who are you? How do you want to present yourself? How do you already present yourself not in video? And how do you then translate that to video?

(Dean) And there are tons of different kinds of videos. So I would just say think about your customer journey. Think about how people discover you as they’re doing research or looking for whatever your product or service type is. Think about the way that they then start to engage with you, think about the way that they buy your service or your product. Think about the way that you can follow up with them afterwards.

(Dean) And the question is, where is video best utilized in that customer journey? A really great example of video that I encountered recently was I took my Toyota 4Runner to the dealership to get serviced and I was sitting in the waiting room. And I got a text that said, “Hey, your service is finished. Here’s an overview of what your technician did.” I clicked on the link and right on my cellphone was a video from the technician in the service station with video. My wheel was off and he was showing me underneath my truck, “Hey, this is the quality of your brakes. This is what your tires look like.” And it was a way to take me right inside and see something that I never would have been able to see before. So videos don’t always have to be these amazing produced high quality, try to sell something. Sometimes, it’s really just good to use as a deeper way to engage with your audience.

(Sam) That’s great. And Derek, do you have anything you want to add to that?

(Derek) Dean covered a lot of bases right there. And I completely agree with pretty much everything he said. Again, just to reiterate, I would stick to your feel and your company’s story and your company’s brand and make sure it comes across authentic. Don’t try to be somebody else or be somebody you’re not. Try to find something about your business that’s unique and figure out why your customers like dealing with you and like dealing with your business and make sure that comes across in every video.

(Derek) If you are the face of your company or you’re personally representing your company, make sure you’re being yourself and find out what your customers like and sure you get that message out to them in every video that you’re making. As far as what the videos need to say, again, kind of like Dean said, there are different phases and different ways, different touchpoints you’re going to be reaching your customers through video. So certain videos like the first time they ever hear about you or something like that might have to be a little bit different than a follow-up video or a thank you video or something like that that you’re sending to somebody who’s already a customer and already in your system.

(Sam) Cool. And I think we have a few examples at the end that we’ll click through but we’ll also share out later. So you all can to get a little bit more context about what these guys are talking about. And Dean, I want to mention something just as a reference point for our audience here. You mentioned something about a buyer’s journey. And one of our recent, this is kind of a plug for a recent meetup that we did, I think maybe it was either last month or the month prior, where we talked about marketing funnels and things like that.

What are some key things to consider when making videos?

(Sam) So if you’re wondering more about that, you can go back in our episodes on acceleratetourism.com and check that out. And there’s also lots of resources online to learn more about funnel marketing, buyer’s journey, and how you can create content that aligns with the way people actually buy from you. So our next question here, practically speaking, we obviously want to make videos that look, I didn’t use the term on the slide, but good enough. And really good enough is that’s determined by your audience. I know we, our agency, we actually don’t do a lot of video marketing right now. So this is sort of a learning experience for us, which is why we’re sort of facilitating rather than sharing our own knowledge, but we’re getting into it a little bit more. And the interesting thing that we’ve noticed is we have some clients who make videos and when we see them, we’re like, wow, it feels like it could be better. But then when their audience sees it, they eat it up. And it’s super effective. So, let’s talk about how we can make videos look good or good enough for your audience. I think Derek, do you want to take us on that one?

(Derek) Yeah, I think they say the best camera, I mean people want to say what, I get questions a lot, what camera should I use, things like that? What camera should I be buying? But I think the best camera a lot of times is the one that you have on you. And you’re going to see a lot of successful marketers shooting stuff selfie style, walking and talking, things like that, walking and talking right into the camera. It’s very engaging when people are scrolling through their social media feeds. That simple cellphone video, that Facebook Live video, that Instagram Live video and stuff, that’s going to attract a lot of people. It’s going to stop them in their tracks when they’re scrolling through their feeds.

(Derek) So as far as making your video look good, I would just say be relatively cognizant of your lighting and your sound. I know sound isn’t the topic on this, but they say sound is the most important half of video. So try not to shoot with a bright window right behind you where your camera is going to be confused on exposure. Try not to shoot where it’s extremely loud. Don’t shoot right by like a air conditioner vent or air conditioner handler outside or something like that.

(Derek) Just basic lighting and audio principles is going to help make your video look good. Smile, be friendly. Look into the lens. Sometimes people are shooting videos on their cellphone and they’re looking at themselves and it’s not as engaging because they’re not looking into the lens. So think of the lens as a human being when you’re talking to them. As far as professionally produced videos, I mean, it’s kind of a whole another topic, but you want to make sure obviously you’re shooting on higher quality cameras and professional lighting setups and making sure you’re doing color grading and having professional edit them but there’s different levels of video, like Dean and I had said before, but I think the most effective and easiest way to do it for small business owners is to be shooting some videos themselves and just get over the fear or any uncomfortableness you have. The more that you do it, the more comfortable you’re going to get. But just the basics would be sound and lighting.

(Sam) Cool. Dean, do you have anything to add?

(Dean) Yeah, that’s awesome advice. And I think that last point is a really important one that Derek said like get over the fear and just embrace the fact that it’s a process just like anything else. None of you started your businesses fully formed. It took a step. And so the same thing is true about introducing video into your marketing plan. Just taking a step is really important and not thinking that you have to have this amazingly produced super viral million view video right out of the gate. It’s not going to happen most likely. It might, but most likely will not.

(Dean) But just remember that regardless if you’re taking a lo-fi approach or a hi-fi approach, quality still matters. So those tips that Derek gave, you don’t have to take a fully produced hi-fi approach to your video, you can take a lo-fi approach, but the quality still matters, you can still get good quality, even though it’s lo-fi. There’s some examples that we can share later on. But just remember that all of these pieces are a reflection of who you are. And so you want to put your best foot forward, whether you’re taking a selfie style, shoot it on your cellphone approach, or you’re taking, investing in a partnership with a professional partner like Derek, but it’s a reflection of who you are.

(Dean) And so really just think about what your audience wants to know about you is one part of it. Are you trying to create entertaining content? Or are you trying to create educational content? Or are you trying to create something that really is a matter of a sell point? This is a conversion tactic. But don’t confuse those things. Because if you’re trying to create something that really is meant to be engaging or entertaining, and then you try to slip in a conversion selling point, it can kind of twist your audience a little bit like wait a minute, it doesn’t feel right. So it really is similar to dating or like getting to know somebody. You don’t typically meet somebody for the first time and start to give them your sales pitch. So just understand where you’re creating content and what part of the journey, of the relationship you are on with your audience at that moment.

Where should I put my videos – my website, social media, YouTube?

(Sam) Yeah, that’s great. So it’s being very intentional, this is kind of going back to what should we say but it will affect even just the quality of your video because if your content is confusing, your video is going to be interpreted as just not good. So narrow that message down and have a laser focus of what you’re trying to say, not trying to say five different things in our video. That’s great. Thanks, guys. So where do I use my videos? After I’ve figured out what I’m going to say, after I’ve pinpointed that message, whether it’s a strong buy message or a CTA, a call to action, or whether it’s just sort of a behind the scenes just to kind of build brand engagement. What do we do? Where do we put these videos once we’re done? Obviously, they can go to YouTube land. But I forget how many billions of videos are on there. If not, I don’t even know into the trillions, I wish I would have looked that number up. But it’s not as simple as just putting a YouTube video up and letting it sit there. What do we do next?

(Dean) It’s really not, I mean it can feel like you have done something by doing that, like, “Hey, I posted it. It’s out there.” But it really does take a little bit more strategy and intentionality around making some of these decisions. And honestly, it can be very complex. And we won’t get into all the technicalities in the deep trenches, but just know your options are yes, you can post it to YouTube, you can use that as an embed into your website, or it could be native video on your website that’s not on YouTube.

(Dean) Obviously, social media, Instagram and Facebook are great places. And then not even just those destinations of putting it on Facebook. But there are different ways to post videos on Facebook. You might do a story versus a video that’s a post. So I think really what you want to be thinking about is, how are you using digital marketing right now? And how can you introduce and integrate video into that, into your already existing strategy or already existing platforms? And how can you use video to maybe take you into a new platform or a new space digitally that you’re not in right now?

(Dean) It’s always good to build on what you’re doing, and to continue to develop that. But video can live in a lot of different places. For us at Sight & Sound, we use it on our website. And we use it on social media. We use it on YouTube. We use it through email by pushing out emails that are connecting to some of those destinations. And there’s different reasons why sometimes, we take people to YouTube in an email versus taking them to our website versus taking them to social media versus taking them to our new platform Sight & Sound TV. But it really does take intentionality and a strategy around where do I want to take people and why. Social media might be a great place to have conversation and lower-fi maybe quick bits, quick video bites. Whereas you might want to have something that’s a little bit more polished on your website, unless it’s housed maybe within a blog section of your website that can feel a little bit more disposable, meaning it’s fresh content for a day or a week or a month, but then it kind of expires because you have something else new coming next week or next month. But understanding where you’re going to place it also should inform the content and the way that you’re going to develop the video as well.

(Sam) I like that. And even that little distinction, maybe it’s because it’s relevant to us. Our agency is in digital marketing. So we build a lot of websites, and we do a lot of ongoing work with those websites. So that slight distinction, there might be a video that is appropriate for your homepage that’s going to be maybe a little bit more higher produced that you’re going to want to share front and center. But then, something that’s a little bit more organic that you can use in your blog that really could in some cases, you could almost use a video as a blog post with some technical adjustments. If you’re going to have some additional text in there, that’s always good, saying that to please our SEO director. But yeah, that distinction out there might be even on your website. There might be different places to use different types or different qualities of videos. Derek, is there anything you want to add?

(Derek) I think Dean hit the nail on the head, agree with everything he said 100%. Just a couple things they don’t forget about. There’s not as many people putting as much on broadcast television, but there is the option for broadcast television. Also, for tourism, there are some lobby videos and things like that. There’s different hotels that have videos playing in the lobbies, there’s some programs that tie into the cable systems in the hotels that people can take advantage of for tourism, but as far as digitally, I agree with everything Dean said, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, depending on who your audience is, there’s different ways to get it out there. But you can do broadcast television. Obviously, you’re going to have to pay to buy your airtime. And there are some other programs in hotel lobbies and stuff like that, that as far as from a tourism standpoint, and get people to do things locally, might be an option you get into.

(Sam) Yeah, and that’s actually something that I would refer to as like a point of purchase, like video just because I used to do some grocery store marketing, and that’s what we called it, but having that in person video right when somebody is about to engage with you, there’s a opportunity to upsell even. I’m thinking of one of our clients that does zip lining, with having video advertising, GoPro add ons or something like that, as you know, it’s an upsell for the tour owner, but then also an additional piece of memorabilia or additional takeaway for the customer.

(Derek) Yeah. And even from an upsell standpoint at your own business, if you can afford to do it, put some TVs behind you and have some of your own video programs playing. Dean, do you have stuff like that in Sight & Sound?

(Dean) Yeah, I mean, not in our lobby. But once people are seated in the theater, there’s pre-show content, so opportunity for us to talk about other things that make up the Sight & Sound brand as they’re waiting for the show to start.

(Derek) Yep, yep.

How can I help potential customers discover my videos?

(Sam) Cool. So our next question here, how can I get these videos out there? So they’re living somewhere now on our website, they’re living on YouTube, they’re living on social media. What are some strategies that we can start to push this content in front of our potential audience instead of just letting it sit there and eventually sort of fade into the darkness? What are some things that we can do to really push our video content out there? Derek, do you want to take this?

(Derek) Yeah, I’ll lay this one out. Well, there’s a lot of ways. I think the two main categories you want to break it into would be paid versus unpaid or organic versus paid. If you can get your fans and your friends and your followers to share your video content, that’s worth its weight in gold. Definitely, your organic and free video views and things like that are going to be helpful. One, you don’t have to pay for it. And two, it shows loyalty and it shows appreciation that people really love your business. The best way that someone can show that they appreciate your business is by giving you a referral or recommending a friend to visit your business. So definitely free traffic is awesome. So if you can find ways to get people to share it, that’s great. As far as paid goes, Dean, I’ll let you talk about paid. There are all different kinds of stuff you can do with paid. So I don’t want to talk about all that here. But yeah, go for it.

(Dean) Yeah, well, I just want to tag on one thing that you said just sparked an idea. We’ve been talking about, essentially you creating video content and you pushing out video content. There’s another side of that, which is user-generated video content. If somebody comes to your destination, or your property or your business, and you could incentivize them to create video content about their experience, and then use what they’ve created if it’s good, and a good representation of you and promote that, repost their post on social media, you’ve got to be careful with it.

(Dean) But that’s another way to utilize video that you don’t have to be worried about creating. But on the paid media side, again, let me just say this first, too. I think anytime you dive into a topic that’s new like this, and it has all of these tentacles, it can feel really overwhelming. Like, oh my goodness, I have to create video for Instagram and Facebook and YouTube and my website and blogs. And I would say no, you don’t. No you don’t. As a leader, which I’m assuming most of you are within your businesses, you know that part of your job is to look at all of the tentacles and details and facets of your business and listen to your customers. But it really comes down to decision making. What are the things that you’re going to elevate and say, “This is a priority, this is where I’m going to spend my time and energy.”

(Dean) So you might make the decision to say, “You know what? I could be on all these platforms, but I’m going to choose to really focus on Instagram. That’s going to be my platform, or I’m really going to choose to focus just on my website.”, and that’s okay. Sometimes it’s better to do fewer things to the best of your ability than to do many things at kind of a subpar level. So the same thing is true about paid advertising. I mean, Derek, it was a great addition, broadcast television, yes. And you can buy digital broadcast television and where you’re airing spots digitally on say, WGAL’s platform. There’s also paid advertising on YouTube. There’s paid advertising on social. And so it can get really complex. So I would say, find a place to begin and really get to know that place and spend some time and energy there, getting familiar and getting comfortable before you start to open up the landscape and try to manage all the pieces.

How can I tell if my videos are helping drive more activity?

(Sam) That’s great. So our last prepared question here, how can we monitor the success of our videos? How do we know, how can we justify to ourselves it’s working? Because in reality, it takes time. You might be doing it yourself. But if you could be spending your time making money in another way, it really is costing you money, and it’s costing you time to do things yourself. So how can we tell whether or not our time is being spent wisely, or even what we should change about what we’re doing? Dean, any thoughts?

(Dean) Yeah. Another danger of the digital landscape is that you can measure everything, and it’s awesome. And you should measure things. But you have to be careful not to fall in the trap of thinking that you have to measure ROI on every single piece that you send out. ROI is really important. Do not hear me say that’s not important. It’s very important. But many of you cannot draw a conclusive ROI from many of the things that you’re doing in your businesses. So just be careful about what you’re trying to measure and why you’re trying to measure it.

(Dean) So there are some natural things like people would naturally go to video views. Yes, that could be a source of success metric potentially, shares, traffic sources to your website from a post that you made with video. But there’s also word of mouth that comes from your customer base, “Hey, I saw this thing and it really helped me make the decision.” So there are lots of places that you can turn to, to see and ask if you’re being successful, I would just encourage you not to fall into the trap of can I draw a distinct ROI from every single video piece that I put out there? Because the reality is you can’t, at least you can’t afford to because unless you’re going after some kind of big research study around net promoter score and looking at all the activity that you’re doing, you’re not going to be able to really truly understand the value for all the pieces, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t decide which pieces to identify ROI from and truly measure that.

(Sam) Great. Derek, any other thoughts?

(Derek) One easy way that’s a metric that’s available on Facebook and YouTube, a lot of the platforms is how long people are watching the video. You want your video to be sticky, just like you want your website to be sticky. And you can check and see kind of where people are falling off. And then one thing you can do to analyze that is you if there’s a certain part in the video, or a lot of people are dropping off, you can watch the video say, “Hey, what’s going on with the video in this part? And why are people starting to tune off here?”

(Derek) Now if everybody’s just watching the first three seconds of it that’s going down, then you might need to rethink your video strategy and things like that. But if you see a lot of people watching it to a certain point and then falling off, there might be something you can do. Maybe you can switch up the music at that point. You can say, “Hey, my video is dragging on too long. Maybe I was talking about the same subject too long.”, or maybe you need to switch it up a little bit to keep them on there.

(Derek) But yes, Dean covered a lot of other stuff as well. The only thing that I wanted to add to that is you can also tell by conversions and things like that, you can plug and you can research the data and see on the charts where conversions are coming in. So shares, organic shares, people sharing the videos, it would all depend on what type of goals you had with the videos, but for your Facebook Live videos and the videos you’re producing yourself, it’s mostly going to be about engagement, how long people are watching it, how many shares and things like that they’re getting, but if you are doing some sort of direct response or some sort of sales type video, there are conversions and things like that you can measure as well.

(Sam) Cool. And then just an additional thought from a non-expert, the way we view the video in online marketing is that it’s really, it is truly another piece of content in the world of content that lives. Let’s just narrow the focus and talk about websites. So it’s one piece of content or type of content that’s on a website.

(Sam) So for us in sort of our novice testing or whatever with video, one of the things we can practically do and we, meaning anybody who has a website that’s managing it themselves or trying to improve it, it can be as simple as just if you have, let’s use a tour guide, if you have a particular tour, put a video on that, and there’s no video on that page, make a video and put it on that page and see what happens. See if you improve on your conversions at all, just by adding a video. We can go by the benchmarks and statistics that are out there by people who get paid to just study these things, I guess. And it seems like video, if there’s a video on a page, generally speaking, it improves conversions.

(Sam) Obviously, there’s factors that go into that, depending on who’s the buyer, who’s the seller, what are they selling, the way that they make the purchase. So there’s a lot of different factors. But when it comes down to it, plain and simple, if you don’t have a video, put a video on your page, even if it’s just a video that you’re shooting with your iPhone. I’ve been throwing this phrase around that a video is better than no video. I still want to test that. So if any of you out there tests that, if you have a landing page and if you create a quick, down and dirty smartphone shot video and you put it on your page, tell us the impact that it makes on your conversions for that particular tour, for that particular booking product, whatever it may be. We’d love to hear that kind of as a testimony to really the power of this visual medium of video and how it affects our marketing. So I just want to go through a couple quick examples here. We’re not going to be able to play this, it just doesn’t work very well in this webinar format. But I want to switch my screen over. And we’ll check out some of these examples. And Dean, we’re first going to go over to you and you can lead us through some of these things for Sight & Sound here.

(Dean) Yeah, I think you said it well, Sam that video is a piece of content in the orchestra of content that you are creating and publishing. So just be careful that you’re not, again, going back to the singular mindset of like, I’m going to create one video, and I’m going to measure this and see what happens. I would encourage you to commit to four pieces of content maybe over the course of a month or two months, and really wait to establish a baseline until you have released those several pieces of content to see what happens. Because if you release one, and you look at the performance of that, you have nothing else to compare it to so you’ve got to make sure that you are putting out multiple pieces over time and then seeing okay, how has the performance been across these several pieces?

(Dean) So, two just examples from Sight & Sound, one is a real lo-fi grassroots approach to a campaign that we did last year in 2019. We were taking our show NOAH and broadcasting it into movie theaters across the country. And there were lots and lots of pieces of content that were part of that campaign. But one of the things that we decided to do was to create something called a street team. We knew that there were people across the country that were like super fans, and they wanted to get their communities excited about the fact that they could have a Sight & Sound experience in their own backyard at their local cinema.

(Dean) And so we created a private Facebook group. We invited people to join us there and we published exclusive content that was really meant to be relationship based. And so we did a five week series, five different videos. These are all shot on my cellphone. And there was no editing really. I mean, we trimmed off the front and the back just to make sure that they didn’t hear us say, action. But it was, first one was a welcome, hey, this is what you’re going to get, join us. And then each week was a different interview with a different person here in Sight & Sound that was tied to that particular show.

(Dean) And so, lo-fi but still high quality. I mean, you can see that they don’t look terrible, they’re not fuzzy. We made sure that there wasn’t background audio. But we didn’t have hidden microphones, we didn’t have stage lighting or camera lighting. We just found a spot that was lit naturally really well. And so they were effective for us in engaging with our audience giving them special content, they felt like they could relate to us and have an insider’s view into.

(Dean) And then the next batch is for a campaign that we launched more recently. This is this year, where we were doing a live broadcast online to our new platform Sight & Sound TV of our stage show Queen Esther. And I think there are three pieces of content here. One is the announcement piece, which is what you’re looking at right here with our President, Chief Story Officer Josh, and this is a mix of him talking directly to you. It’s also what we called B roll of showing some show shots from the show, so giving people an understanding of what they’re going to experience. And then also some motion graphics, which is helping people understand what this new platform is, Sight & Sound TV and how you get to it and how you sign up and what it looks like.

(Dean) So more highly produced, and yet it was relatively simple. I mean, Derek knows that as you put somebody on the green screen facing a camera, it’s not that costly if you’ve got really good B roll content in the queue that you can intersperse with that. So that was an announcement piece.

(Dean) The next one that you’re seeing here is the more formal commercial or trailer that was more higher end production of making sure that every shot was amazing and beautiful and compelling and telling a story because we wanted people to understand this experience was going to be really special. And then was it just those two pieces, Sam? And then there was this one other piece which is more behind the scenes. So it has some elements to it that make it feel a bit more polished. But it still is behind the scenes so some of the footage that you’ll see is not entirely beautifully lit or in its perfect presentation, but it’s intentionally so, so that people feel like they are truly walking backstage behind the curtain and getting an insider’s view. So again, you can take a lo-fi approach, you can take a hi-fi approach, quality still matters. But at the end of the day, it is about creating consistent multiple pieces of content for people to engage with over time. There really is no kind of one off one piece of video saves the day.

(Sam) So those are great and you know I like the point that you made too that, I forget which one you said it was but if you have somewhere throughout the history of your businesses, if you’ve engaged with a professional videographer or video production company, you might have some good high quality footage somewhere. And using that or reusing that in ways to make new content is really one of those, I don’t even want to call it a hack, because you guys can kind of confirm that that happens all the time. There is kind of this magic behind video production that a lot of us don’t see when we’re just consuming videos. So just to have an old video and chop it up and insert some interview style footage is one of those ways to produce something on a little bit lower budget. So a couple other, oh sorry, Dean, do you want to-

(Dean) I was going to say one more thing and Derek can talk more about this, but I think it’s also important, if you’re going to make the investment in producing a professionally created video, it’s so easy to look at the cost of that one video and be like, “Man, this video cost me this.” But what you’re also building is an asset bank over time, that the content that you shoot, yes it’s going to be used for this one piece. But you can actually go back and repurpose that for something else in the future. And over time, now you have almost a video library to pull from. And so your cost over time actually gets lower, because you don’t have to shoot as much the next time potentially, depending on what your content piece is. So we do it all the time. And you’ll see similar pieces of footage show up in a trailer and a behind the scenes video and a social media video. And so you’re getting more mileage out of that content. It’s just being edited in differently and used differently.

(Sam) Exactly. Cool. So a few more examples, then we’re going to jump to some questions. Derek, I want to bring up, I remember when you were doing these when COVID really first started interrupting our businesses. But this was a campaign that you, well, I’ll let you talk. Tell us a little bit about what we did here.

(Derek) Yeah, Sam, do you mind dragging through a couple freeze frames through it? And I’ll just kind of narrate what we got going on here. Yeah, so when COVID first hit, I know restaurants were definitely one of the places that were getting shut down. And people couldn’t gather in public places and stuff like that. So one thing that we wanted to do to help people out was to give away some gift certificates. There was several goals of the little video campaign that we did. We wanted to cheer people up. We knew people were freaking out and getting doom and gloom, all these bad news. So we wanted to do something positive and something fun. And we wanted to help out fellow business owners. So I made this little primer video that we put out. I shot it walk and talk style on my cellphone, just walking and talking, shooting it on my cellphone.

(Derek) And then we did a Facebook Live, where we did some trivia, and we had some like quiz style questions. And we were giving away prizes, which were gift certificates to local restaurants. So even if you couldn’t necessarily eat there at that time, you could support them. And we gave away small gift cards, I think they were $10 and $20. And the other reason we gave away small gift cards intentionally is because normally, if somebody gets a $10 gift card or a $20 gift card, they’re going to spend more at that restaurant. They’re not normally just going to buy $10 or $20 for the food. Hopefully they spend $30 or $40 and they get the gift card sale, and then they get the upsell of whatever the extra food purchase would be. So again, this is a walk and talk, we’re walking through the studio. I’m loving these freeze frames you’re pulling up. But yeah, that was a video that we did to prime it. So we kind of did a little teaser to prime and prepare the audience for the live stream contest that we did on Facebook Live.

(Sam) And this was great, because it was truly like, there’s no consideration for like, you just went and did it. You made the decision that no matter what happens in the background, you just did it. And one of my favorite frames is like you just walk out of your office. And there’s this gentleman getting out of his car, he’s having like a loud conversation with somebody. So for a brief moment you catch a little bit of what he’s saying. And then you keep talking, but it’s very organic. The thing I think you did here well was consistency too, because you were doing a lot of these at the time and you followed through with it. On the other side, you’ve got, this is a little bit, this is what you do, so I’ll just click through some of these real quick.

(Derek) Yeah. This was a broadcast television commercial. None of this is stock footage. This is all footage that we shot either in our studio or out on location. That’s my grandmother there. She’s had a couple of cameos in some of our Rutter’s commercials. But yeah, product shots, things like that, putting the sweat on there, those were actors that we hired, we were shooting on location and things like that. But a commercial like this, there’s a lot of planning that goes into it ahead of time. You write out a script, you storyboard things, and you plan it out, and you have a lot of logistics and a lot of organization, and then you execute it the day of the shoot. And then you tie it all together with graphics and editing, and enhancing colors and color grading and things like that. So the two totally different sides of the spectrum, one is like, “Hey, I’m going to walk and talk and kind of winging on my cellphone and use your personality and whatever you got naturally to work with the audience.” And then another one is a lot more planned out system of execution and making sure you get the results that you want.

(Sam) Cool. This last one that we’ll include when we include the examples with the follow ups, this was actually an example really of Dean, you mentioned, just putting pieces together. We worked with a local freelancer to put basically take footage that our client already had literally, and it already had, some it was actually pre cut. And so it was definitely, if you’re a videographer, if you really particularly care about the details, it made your skin crawl, because when you viewed all these videos individually, they just didn’t look like they were creating something that would be effective as far as a marketing video goes, but using the footage that was there, and then putting in some of these lower thirds and these quotes, and putting in testimonials and highlighting some particular things, some particular pieces of marketing messaging, this is a new piece of content for us, for our clients. And we’re very much looking forward to how effective it will be.

(Sam) But really just using it as an example of you can take your existing stuff that you have and make a video out of it. I’m like 98% sure that’s possible. And so if you don’t even want to shoot video, there’s opportunities out there for you to make video that will still be effective.

Open Q&A from Participants

(Sam) So with all that said, I want to move into some questions here in the last 10 minutes. I’m going to stop sharing the video for now, and just dive into some of these things. So there are a couple of questions I pulled out of the registration survey. Somebody asked, how can we start practicing? So for somebody who doesn’t, they’ve never done this before, quickly, what’s a really good tip for somebody to get that get out there and start practicing? You know one of you guys wants to address that, and give a bit of encouragement to those of us who might not feel like they know what they’re doing?

What’s a really good tip for somebody to get that get out there and start practicing?

(Dean) Yeah, I mean, not to take away from Derek’s business because he’s a great partner for you. But you do have tools in your hands. And so a great way to practice is with your kids, your family, your friends, start to explore what it is that you have in your hands already. What does it look like under different lighting conditions? Do you have the ability to tell somewhat of a story? If you’re going to be in front of the camera, do you have good camera presence? Can you maintain eye contact? Can you communicate clearly? Can you get good audio, you know, with the space that you’re in?

(Dean) So again, I think back to what Derek said earlier, don’t have fear to just begin. I’m an Apple guy. So I’ve got a camera on my device, but iMovie, which probably causes Derek’s skin to crawl a little bit, but it’s an effective tool. And honestly, they’ve put some really good capabilities within that to add things like lower thirds, which is your name that comes up across the screen or some graphical overlays over top of your video that help it just give a little bit of polish. So that’s a great first step. But again, I think maybe starting with something that isn’t necessarily going to be what you’re going to publish to the public, do a personal thing first. Do a test. It’s going to take you multiple iterations to get to a point you’re like, “You know what? This is usable.”

Is there a type of content that has really been effective at driving leads?

(Sam) I like that and yeah, it really ends up being a mental game. And I wish I could remember the particular quote, but I remember somebody saying, and this was a little bit extreme so I don’t necessarily agree with this, but it was if you aren’t comfortable doing a video for your business, you should maybe wonder why you’re in business. And that was a pretty big challenge, at least gets you thinking about how serious is it for me to actually have a video of part of my marketing strategy. So, Scott, feel free to go ahead and let me know if there’s a question I’m missing. I’m just kind of going off the ones that have already been prepared from the registration, but guys in your experience, is there a type of content that has really been effective at driving leads, business leads to any of the organizations that you’ve been part of? Derek?

(Derek) Yes. So Dean kind of hit on this earlier, there is different kinds of content that you want to produce. There’s your branding content. And then there’s content that you want to produce that’s specifically made to generate leads. One thing that we’ve had pretty big success with is direct response style, pre roll ads on YouTube. And they are not a branding ad at all. They’re not scripted a lot, I don’t want to say they’re not scripted. They don’t have the whole pre production value on them as much of the prettiness or the sexiness so to say, of a branding style ad. They are direct to the point.

(Derek) With YouTube ads, you have about five seconds in the beginning until someone can hit the skip button so you want to identify the problem immediately. And then you want to talk about, that way they can hit the skip button or not because with YouTube, you’re not going to get charged if they hit that skip button at the beginning. So you want to identify the problem, and you want to talk to them about how you can fix it or ease that pain point or provide that program for them. That’s probably without talking way too long, that’s the best style video that we’ve had to generate leads specifically or direct response style scripts that we ran as pre roll ads on YouTube, or even on Facebook video ads as well.

(Sam) Cool. Dean, anything to add to that?

(Dean) No, I mean I think just supporting the same point, different videos, different purposes, knowing when you are trying to generate leads, which is one thing versus a conversion, different thing versus feel good engagement, get to know who we are, different thing.

The budget question: What should you plan on spending?

(Sam) Yeah. And again, we either an episode or two ago, we discussed really how we market and accelerate tourism and improve and grow. It’s multistep. We’re not trying to have an end all be all when we use videos for our paid ads or paid campaigns. It’s never one campaign, we tried that and it failed. We know that value of you need to talk to, if somebody knew, Dean like you said, you’re not at that point in the relationship where they’re ready to commit to you. So you need to be a little bit more general. So let’s talk a little bit, a couple like lightning round questions here as we near the end. The budget question, if somebody wants to go and spend the money for either a series of videos or even just a single, maybe it’s a brand awareness video, that would be on like their home page or a landing page, I know it’s not a direct question or one that is like a short answer, because there’s a lot of variables. But if we could kind of build a frame of reference here. Derek, do you want to answer that, because you’re really in that world all the time?

(Derek) A lot of it’s going to depend on what your expectations are, and what kind of experience you want to deal with when you’re getting your video made. There’s going to be high-end companies that are going to charge in the tens of thousands of dollars range, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 on up. You’re going to be pretty much-guaranteed everything’s going to be done right. They’re going to have people on staff, they’re going to give you an amazing customer experience or have the assistance that help you out with everything, hold your hand along the way. The complete opposite end of the spectrum will be that would be the kid working out of his mom’s basement or the kid that’s fresh out of college that just got a camera, and he might be able to do something for you for a couple of hundred bucks.

(Derek) You might not know what you’re going to get, you might get something good for cheap, you might not. He might not answer your phone calls or they might not reply to your emails for a week or two. And then all sudden, the video’s done, here it is and it’s kind of a crapshoot. You don’t know what you’re going to get. Our company kind of falls in the middle. Our typical videos are probably anywhere in the 2,000 to 20,000 range depending on what you want. But we’re going to make sure you get a professionally produced video, and I know we’re not supposed to be sales pitching on here, but you’re asking me the question. I’m not trying to sell to anybody. But we got full time employees, we have a legitimate office, we have insurance, we have all the stuff that you’re going to need to get the video done.

(Derek) But going back to what Dean said about having an archive of footage, there is an initial investment with video. But we also do have a program we call a VCP, or a video content package, where we kind of recycle old footage. And we can create content for social media based on old videos that you’ve done in the past. So if you make an investment for the video front, there is a lot of longevity that you can get out of it and kind of recycle that video footage.

(Sam) And if I can just interject, because I think that’s a good question when you’re talking with anybody, you know, make sure you’re asking. So what happens with the footage once it’s shot? I feel like that’s a question that people don’t necessarily think of. So we’ve got the video, but what is the final deliverable that we’ll actually receive?

(Derek) Right. Yeah, I’ve even heard horror stories of clients that I’ve worked with where they didn’t realize it, but the footage was licensed. So they paid a company to make a TV commercial. They ran the TV commercial for a year. And I guess they didn’t read the contract, or they didn’t go over it or what but they’re kind of hijacked for the commercial or say, “Hey, if you want to keep running this commercial, you need to pay an extra $500 a year, you need to pay an extra $1,000 a year.”, whatever it was. So yeah, make sure you own your footage and make sure you ask about are you going to get a copy of all the raw footage or are you just going to own the finished video, that kind of stuff.

Wrap Up and Preview for the Next Meetup: Pay Per Click Search Advertising

(Sam) Great, cool. I think that those are some of the highlights. There are a few more questions here. Well, I think what we’ll do is like we’ve done in the past, we’ll take some of those questions and we’ll post them on the Facebook page, which we encourage you to check out. I think I lost my slide, oh there it is, for the Facebook page here. Just search in groups Accelerate Tourism. Join that. There’s a ongoing conversation. And it’s a good place to ask any of us a question. Derek and Dean, if you’d like to join and be able to answer any questions that come about video, I welcome you to do. We’d love to have you. But we’ll also make sure any questions that are put into the group get answered. Sorry, I realized that I’m not sharing the right screen. Let me share my screen here quick as we wrap up, just so you can see that information.

(Sam) But our next meetup is going to be October 16. That is going to be on pay per click search advertising. So we’re going to kind of narrow down our focus here. When most people think about pay per click advertising, or PPC as it’s often abbreviated, the thing that you think of most is Google and those Google search ads that show up when you’re searching on Google. So that is kind of one of the things that is our bread and butter here at Accelerate Tourism and Improve & Grow. We’ll have Skip Lefever, who’s our PPC director, on the panel with us.

(Sam) But we also want to ask if any of you who are listening right now are running your own pay per click ads, we’d love to hear from you. If you’re having good experiences, we might even ask if you’d like to share some of those experiences or even be a panelist and tell us what you’re doing that’s working so well. We’re looking forward to that conversation. Again, that’s one of the things that we really love to do here at Improve & Grow. So we’ll definitely be passionate about a subject that may seem a little dry but it is immensely effective at driving that high quality traffic to your website in a timely manner so you can make more money, which is what we would all love to do. So thank you very much, everybody. We’re so glad that you were able to join us today. Dean, Derek, thank you very much for taking the time out of your days, your busy schedules. And we’ll see you all in a few months or a few weeks. Thanks.

(Dean) Thanks, everyone.

Getting Down & Dirty with Social Media Ads

Proven strategies to making paid social ads work for your tourism business

Meetup Description

Social media platforms offer advertisers great promise with large, highly engaged audiences and sophisticated targeting capabilities. But many advertisers express a mixture of confusion and frustration when asked about their experience with social media ads and few report significant return on investment. We’ve helped a variety of tourism-focused businesses achieve high returns with their social media ads over the last 5 years and want to help you do the same. That’s why we’re dedicating this meetup to breaking down what we’ve learned and sharing our best practices for achieving success with social media ads. Watch the video below to learn how to move from confusion and frustration to confidence with your social media ads.

Guest Panel

Meetup Video

Key Takeaways

Business Case for Social Media Ads

  • Massive Reach (3.9B active users, average of 2.4 hours per day)
  • Facebook Ads is the best entry point for most tourism companies
  • Unparalleled Targeting (see video or transcript for list of targeting examples)
  • High User Engagement (visual nature of content, inline placement, high response rates)
  • High Return on Investment (benchmark stats, ROAS example)

Best Practices for Facebook Ads

  • Ad Creative: Focus on images & video that tell the story of the experience
  • Messaging: Focus messaging on emotional connections that engage the user
  • Targeting: Get as close to your ideal fit customer as possible
  • Other Campaign Settings: Setup your campaigns for success
  • Ongoing Optimization: Don’t “set it and forget it”; always be testing

Awareness>Interest>Offer Ad Strategy

  • Success formula for Facebook Ads: Right Audience + Right Message + Right Time = High Return on Ad Spend
  • Awareness Stage: Target lookalike audience and focus content and message that will engage your target audience
  • Interest Stage: Target users that engaged with the Awareness ads, focus on developing interests in your specific experience
  • Offer Stage: Target users that visited your website landing page(s) and focus on direct sales message with booking call to action

Resource Links

Meetup Transcript

[Sam] Good morning everybody. Good to see you all, well I don’t see you but it’s good to see your names. If you’re just rolling in for the first time, you’re in the Accelerate Tourism, tourism marketing meetup. We know that there’s been quite a lot of registrations of first time participants, first-time attendees. We’re excited that you’re able to join us. We know this has been an absolutely bonkers season. Tourism has just been thrown into chaos. And I know that things aren’t any clearer than when we started this. Carl, did we start this about 10 weeks ago, 11 weeks ago, something like that?

[Carl] 11 weeks ago, yep.

[Sam] If you’re joining us and if you feel comfortable sharing some of your experience that you’ve had so far, please leave it in the comments just get an update about what’s going on with everybody, how y’all are doing and hopefully we’ll see some good stories. I know that a lot of people out there are still trying to figure out what to do next and how to do things. So I hate to call it the new normal cause I feel like I’m holding out but in this COVID season as I call it, I hope people are starting to figure out what’s gonna be working for them. I’m Sam Shoemaker by the way, I am a part time host here with Accelerate Tourism. We’ve got our panelists and I’ll introduce them in just a minute. Give it another couple seconds here to make sure everybody’s rolling in. If you can though if you’re not comfortable leaving a story in the comments please just introduce yourself. Tell us where you’re from what your business is and we’ll get to know each other a little bit this morning.

[Skip] You’re manning the chat, Sam.

[Sam] Yeah, Skip if you want to just to get clarification. Just drop your information down in the chat so we can get to know each other. So we’ll go ahead and officially kick things off here. Again, for all of you who are joining us and for those who are new, we just wanna say hello. Welcome to Accelerate Tourism. This is obviously a virtual meetup for business leaders in the tourism industry. We wanna share ideas that really focus around online marketing and each time we have guest panelists, guest speakers, and we always will open it up at the end for Q&A, which I’ll get to in a minute. And right now, during the lockdown period during everything shut down, we’re doing this weekly now we’ve moved to a month to month. And just to better accommodate people’s schedules. So speaking of Q&A that is a large part of what we do here. We obviously have questions from when you registered so that’s important. If you want to re-enter those questions or if you have new questions, please go ahead and click the Q&A button if you’re on a desktop. And if you’re on a mobile device, I think you have to, like swipe back and forth to find the area you’ll see the little thought bubbles or speech bubbles, and it’ll say Q&A you can just tap that and ask a question anytime. If you have a question that you know that is relevant to this topic of social media ads and Facebook ads, go ahead and just even leave the question right now if we don’t address it, we’ll at least have it there so we can add it to our Q&A list when we get to it.

Topic Introduction

[Sam] So as I mentioned, we are here to talk about getting down and dirty with social media ads. We’ve gotten to do a lot of ad campaigns on social platforms, specifically Facebook, Instagram, and that’s really gonna be our focus today. But before I sort of take the spotlight away from our guest panelists, I wanna introduce Carl Lefever. He’s the owner of Improve & Grow. And he also really helps to run some of the strategies for these ad campaigns. And then Skip Lefever is with us too. And he’s the one that is constantly monitoring, improving, and optimizing these campaigns from start to finish, he’s also a key part in this team that we have here.

Panel Discussion

So, Carl, I want you to just kind of kick it off and help us understand, what’s the business case behind doing social ads? Why are they so important to not only what we’re doing at Improve & Grow and how we’ve seen them work so well but just in general.

What’s the business case behind doing social ads?

[Carl] Yeah, sure thing. So yeah, one of the biggest things is social media is a captive audience. You’ve got nearly 4 billion users across the world that are using social media on an active basis. I don’t have this stat on the slide, but I believe 1.8 billion of those users are using social media daily. So more than half of those people are daily users of social media, the others are a little bit more casual, but that’s just a significant number of people. And those users spend an average of almost two and a half hours per day on social media. So in terms of finding a place to reach people, we’ve talked on other sessions about search engine optimization, we’ve used stats like 80% or more of people when they’re searching for a new brand, begin a search on a search engine. That’s why search engine optimization is so important, social media is a similar way. Most humans who are internet users are using social media and they’re using it quite a lot based on these statistics. So it’s a great way to get in front of people. And, there’s lots of different social media platforms. But as the stats on this slide show, Facebook is definitely the dominant one. And I only have stats on this slide that are specific to industry. But in terms of the typical demographic for a tourism business, Facebook also makes a lot of sense from that perspective.

So we’re gonna talk more specifically about Facebook ads today for two reasons. One, because Facebook is just so huge in terms of its reach with social media. And two, because with Facebook ads, you can reach both Facebook and Instagram. So Instagram’s a little further down the list, but they have almost a billion active users. Now there’s a lot of overlap between Instagram and Facebook, but you have the potential if you were a worldwide company to hit over 3 billion users. So those two platforms specifically, are two of the best platforms to be advertising on. And you can hit both of them with the Facebook ad platform. The other benefit of Facebook ads is it is the most mature social media ad platform. So there’s a lot of advertising options on LinkedIn, on YouTube, on Twitter, there’s also advertising options on TikTok and Snapchat and some of the other newer social media platforms. But Facebook ads is definitely the most mature in terms of targeting options, and reporting and all the other features that really come in handy when you’re really wanting to do a good job with that campaign. So we’re gonna focus a lot more on that. So this is true with Facebook this is also true with most of the other social media platforms.

Another reason that advertising with social media makes a lot of sense is just unparalleled targeting. There’s very detailed demographics, gender, age, where people live, what their behaviors and interests are. You can also target people based on their engagement. So you can retarget people that have liked your Facebook page, you can retarget people that watched a specific video. If you’ve got the tracking pixel running on your website, you can retarget ads to people who visited a particular page of your website or read an article. You can even target people that follow other types of pages or other types of industries. And there’s another feature which we’re gonna talk more about later, you can create what are called lookalike audiences. So you can take your customer email list, upload it to Facebook, let them use their algorithm to find all the other users on Facebook that match similar profiles to that of your customer base, which means you don’t even have to worry about trying to guess at what behaviors or interests your target audience might have. You can get very precise with lookalike targeting. So just some amazing targeting opportunities. Social media ads also have super high user engagements because of the highly visual content because of the inline content placement. What I mean by that is most social media ad platforms, the ads are being placed in the newsfeed as opposed to on the right-side panel or up above or down in a corner somewhere. The ads are showing up in the newsfeed and look I mean, you can see this post here from Refreshing Mountain. It looks very similar to a normal organic social media post. And recently, you have a lot more options, you can use emoticons, you can use videos, you can use stilts, you can do all kinds of different things to really grab people’s attention.

I’m also kind of a stats guy another reason we really promote Facebook ads or other social media ads over just more traditional banner advertising placements is because of Click-thru Rates. You can see here with the staff that’s at the bottom of the slide that Facebook ads get almost double the Click-thru Rate of the same display ad running on the Google network. So that’s an important thing. Maybe most important, or at least from my perspective, thinking from the perspective of the business owner, most important is a high return on investment. Most of the social media platforms you can get started at a pretty low cost on Facebook, you can run a campaign for as low as a buck a day. The cost per click for social media ads is usually in the range of a quarter to 75 cents. You certainly can pay more than that for certain types of campaigns or certain industries that range is based on what we’ve typically seen within the tourism industry. The conversion rates are usually pretty high. Again, this is a stat-based on the tourism industry. The average conversion rate for a Facebook ad and what I mean by conversion rate is the percent of people that see an ad and then take an action like fill out a form, place a phone call to your business or even more important place an online booking.

So the average action rate or conversion rate for a Facebook ad is 2.8%. That’s compared to only half a percent on Google Display. So conversion rates are higher. And then if we just compare the cost to the rate of taking an action, the cost per action on Facebook is about $22.50 whereas on Google Display it’s almost $100. So you can see that just from that the return on investment potential for Facebook is a lot higher than a Google display ad. By the way, I do wanna point out that you can run different types of ads on Google. Google search ads are more expensive, but also have a comparable cost per action to Facebook. I’m comparing to Google Display here because the Facebook ad platform the other social media ad platforms are more of an outbound display-based advertising medium versus a search ad which is what I’ll call a demand-based ad platform. So just comparing apples to apples here, Facebook ads to a Google display ad much better return on investment. Just as an example you know, I know everybody’s business is different, the experience you offer, might have a low or high ticket value depending on what you do. But if you just look at if your average booking was about $200, with that 22.50 cost per action, that’s more than a nine-time return on Ad Spend. So a very significant return on Ad Spend opportunity. And this is just based on averages. You’ll see later a lot of the campaigns that we’ve been a part of doing significantly better than most of these stats in which cases your return on Ad Spend can be a lot higher. And there are also situations like you’ll see later we do marketing for a theater where the average ticket is not anywhere close to $200. But there’s still a healthy return on Ad Spend there.

[Sam] So I think it’s safe to assume Carl that probably most people on this call have tried Facebook ads specifically, and throw Instagram in there as well. And if they haven’t run the actual ad campaigns. And I know we’re gonna talk about this distinction I think at some point in our conversation here. If they haven’t tried an ad they’ve at least tried like boosted posts and trying to kind of take that strategy as well. So let’s just get right in, obviously, best practices. Can we can we talk about that a little bit and Skip can you kind of kick us off and walk us through some of these things that we’ve learned that we’ll call best practices?

What are some best practices for Social Ads?

Yes, absolutely. Yeah, hi everyone. Good to be with you today. As Sam mentioned in my intro, I’ve been managing all kinds of pay per click advertising for a number of years now, and especially for a bunch of our tourism clients. So I wanna share with you some of the best practices that we have discovered and learned over those years and employed today. So let’s go ahead. First we’ll talk about the difference between boosted posts and Facebook ads. Boosted posts are normally most businesses first experience or first exposure to running advertising on the Facebook platform. Boosted posts are a great way to play, to experiment, to try something out. For example, if you’ve done an organic post and it’s gotten a lot of traction, it’s getting a lot of likes, a lot of comments. A great way to try advertising cheaply is to simply take that post, boost it by applying 10 or 20 or $50 to it and identifying an audience of people to show it to. So it’s a good way of taking a post that already has some success and broaden its exposures to a lot more users. Boosted posts are often good ways to grow Facebook page engagement, to get page likes, followers, comments, things like that. Boosted posts are usually short campaigns, people will usually run them for a few days or a week or two weeks, and then they tend to kind of fizzle out a little bit. One example recently that one of our clients tried, they introduced a new event for this season, and they ran a weekly boosted post, they did a weekly post, then they boosted it. And it was a way of talking about some of the key features of that event for a number of weeks in a row.

Facebook ads. A completely different situation where you’re talking about a more organized, more strategic, more targeted way of advertising, where you might be focused on developing a new audience. It might be branding and awareness focus to introduce new prospective customers to your brand, to your activities, to your tours, et cetera. They’re ideal for driving website traffic. If your website is your key means of driving sales or one of them, then traffic is important and Facebook ads and ad campaigns can be very good at doing that for you. Facebook ads can be used to generate leads and bookings leads. Carl identified earlier we mean things like phone calls, form fills, those sorts of things. And then finally, Facebook ads are more ideal for doing longer duration campaigns. Think more in terms of weeks even months, as opposed to days like for boosted posts. Okay, let’s move on to the next topic, ad creative. Ad creative options with social media platforms there are many options. We tend to find in terms of best practices that live-action images. So a photo of some sort of a group activity or an individual experiencing an activity. In this case, we’re showing a piece of creative that has a panoramic view. This happened to be a hot air balloon experience so live-action shots and videos that show a visual of your experience we tend to find do a lot better than just text. We recommend that with your visual images and videos in terms of text overlays, we recommend minimal use of text. So use some text, it’s okay to overlay your visuals with text, just be very economical, give a key message and not overuse it. You can see in this case of the example we’re showing you, not only do we have the visual of the experience, but also a quick focus on a promo at that time, which was gift cards and discounted experience. We definitely find with Facebook and most social media platforms, that video tends to outperform still images. So videos, slideshows, that sort of thing with some motion and again with people enjoying that experience, tend to do a little bit better.

Okay, next up messaging. One thing that we find particularly helpful, I mean most advertisers tend to focus on features, benefits, they tell people about their experience or about their offerings. One of the things that we find works really well is combining some of that, but especially an emotional connection. So by emotional connection we mean, a connection that evokes some kind of a memory, or some kind of an emotional response, happiness, sadness, those sorts of things a thrill, and a memory of something like that. So here’s some examples. A hot air balloon experience. One of the obstacles they faced was that some of their prospects actually have a fear of heights. So what do you do about that? Well, they had written some content on their website and had actually done some video that dealt with that specific area of fear and fear of heights and that kind of thing, and helped to increase comfort with their experience. So there’s an example of the emotional connection is, hey, this sounds interesting, but I’m scared of heights can I enjoy this. So addressing that right up front, making that connection. Another one was the zip line experience and appealing to thrill-seekers. Ziplines, depending on the type, the length, that sort of thing, the elevation for thrill-seekers, that can be a pretty big rush.

So using some content, some images, some video that evokes that sense of a thrill or a rush was very helpful. And then finally and here we have an example with the ad we’re showing an outdoor activity or an experience of some sort, using ad copy that emphasizes being family-friendly, being safe for children and families using images and videos that include whole families, even wide ranges in age groupings with seniors as well as grandkids for example. Here with Bird-in-Hand ad we’re showing you a couple of different things in this example. So this is a theater experience. It’s a more intimate theater as opposed to some of the larger theater experiences in this particular geographic area. And what they’re highlighting here in the text of the ad is being family-friendly. So they’re making that point and they’re also addressing in this season the realities of the COVID environment and the need for social distancing, safety, comfort and that kind of thing. So they’re sending those two messages here. Being family-friendly, being wholesome, and so forth, as well as sending a safety and comfort kind of a message. You can see the ad is using a video, it’s got a nice thumbnail that gives an actual live shot from this particular stage offering and so forth and so on. Next slide, please. Targeting. One of the most critical best practices to pay attention to and to follow up on. So first of all, we recommend knowing your customers and your prospective customers as well as possible. So identify your ideal fit customer there might be more than one so understanding for example, if you find that your ideal fits are children and parents of children or children and grandparents of children, understanding those different customers and what their needs are versus others is beneficial. So identify your ideal fit customers understand who they are, even spending some time just getting some thoughts down on paper. And here I also recommend, don’t just deal with anecdotal data. Look at the actual data. What does your actual data tell you about the demographics of your customers?

Okay, some of the important things to consider with targeting. Location targeting, who do you wanna reach and where are they physically located? Are they in five miles of your event or your experience or are they within 25 miles are they 50 are they 150, identify that and use that in your settings for your campaigns so that you’re honing in on that geography. Age and gender. Know who your ideal fit customers are, and then use that in your targeting settings so that you’re not serving to the whole universe, perhaps within your geographic targeting, but within the age groups, and the genders in some cases that most identify your ideal fit customers. There are some other demographic criteria that you can get after, you can often get at household and income levels, and those sorts of things as well. Interests and behaviors. You can target audiences based on the interest they display on their Facebook profiles also the behaviors they display. And you can use things like Facebook Audience Insights, to give you some of that information to help you hone in on that. Custom audiences. Retargeting or remarketing audiences would fall in this category. If you have a large number of people coming to your website, you can target them with ads based on specific pages that they visited. If they visited, for example, if you’re a lodging provider if they visited and you have more than one type of room or more than one lodging facility, you could create an audience that is based on people that visited a specific page, a specific room, a specific property. It could be if you offer multiple tours, you could create an audience that is specific to audiences that visited individual tours and you can target an ad to them that is specific to that tour. All right, Carl mentioned lookalike audiences.

The best way to create a lookalike audience is to start with an existing list of your customers over time. So if you have an email list, or an address list, or a phone number list or a list that has all of those, you can actually upload that list to Facebook. Facebook will then look for those same people on their platform to see if they are currently on their platform. And if they can you’ll end up with an audience that is your existing customer list that actually has profiles and are members of Facebook. So that’s an audience that if you have a business where you get repeat customers, you could actually show advertisements online on the Facebook platform to those existing customers over and over. Once you have that customer audience, you can then turn it into a lookalike audience. You can say to the Facebook, “hey I wanna target people that look like my existing customers that share the same characteristics.” Facebook will help you to create that. And you can actually specify level of matching by the way. We tend to think about audiences, the criteria they use would identify a 1% match that’s the highest match the most close and most precise match. And then we’ve also had some success with audiences that are 2% matches, 3% matches that kind of thing. Also with targeting you can do the opposite.

You can not only target who you want, but you can also exclude the people that you don’t want. So keep that in mind that when you’re targeting, you can go after the people you want but you can also exclude the people that you specifically do not want. And that is one of the best ways by the way to eliminate wasted spend. Targeting helps you to most closely identify the people that you do want and exclude the ones that you don’t want so that you can eliminate wasted spend. Okay, next slide please. Other campaign settings for Facebook ads. You definitely wanna set up your campaigns for success. Some of the ways that you can do that is by intentionally choosing a bidding strategy. We recommend choosing a bid strategy that is focused on action-based objectives such as clicking on the ad and going to your website or going to your website and making a phone call or doing a booking or buying a ticket online. Focusing on high-performing placements. With Facebook, there’s a myriad of options for placements on both Facebook and Instagram. We tend to find that the news feeds, particularly mobile are the best placements, but you have plenty of options. There’s the Facebook marketplace, there are Instagram placements. So look at your placement options, I would definitely recommend the mobile and desktop feeds. But then it’s also worth testing the other placements to see how they work for you.

You can use ad schedules to maximize your spending in the prime buying windows. So use your data from bookings and so forth to identify when people are most likely to book and gear add schedules for when your ads run to those prime buying times. Those might be days of the week, they might also be times of the day. So use that to your advantage again, that helps to eliminate Ad Spend that is in less effective times so that you can maximize the most effective times. Budgets, you can budget in a couple of different ways. We typically recommend daily budgets we recommend going conservatively or starting with a small budget at first, and then scaling up based on the actual results of your campaigns. In addition to daily budgets, you can actually set a budget for a period of time. So you could for example run a campaign that is based on a particular event you’re running or a holiday period, back to school, Christmas, holiday spending, that kind of thing. You could set a budget at a campaign level to run the campaign for a period of time until you hit a certain budget and then stop. So that’s another option. Tracking. Man, tracking is so critical. It’s how you get relevant data to understand how your campaigns are performing. So when you’re running Facebook ads, we definitely recommend that you have the Facebook tracking pixel installed on your website. And that will send back signals to Facebook ads, so that you can correlate your actual ads to actual bookings, phone calls, et cetera and understand and interpret what’s working and what’s not and use that to help adjust your campaign settings. And definitely make sure you’re tracking those conversion events.

Make sure you’re tracking phone calls, booking, purchasing, form fills, that sort of thing. Okay, next slide, please. Ongoing optimization. Ads are definitely not a set it and forget it event. We recommend constant testing. Yes, you need to make some decisions about an initial campaign launch or a boost and launch it. But then we find that we get the best results when we’re continually refining and testing new things. That might be new content, new ad copy, new placements, new audiences, et cetera. So here’s some examples. You can start off you can launch, maybe you launch base just with the feed. You refine that experience over a period of time and now you wanna test a different placement. Go ahead, try a different placement. Try the Facebook marketplace as an example. Try messenger, Facebook Messenger as a placement. Test different creative, different images with and without text, different videos, by the way, one that people don’t realize or don’t think about when you have a video the first thing that people are gonna see is called a thumbnail. Well, Facebook will automatically choose thumbnails for you or you can intentionally choose your own thumbnails. And you can even upload images to be used as your thumbnail. So with video don’t feel like you have to accept whatever Facebook chooses as your thumbnail. You can choose your own thumbnails within the Facebook ad setups. Or you can upload your own images to use as your thumbnail.

Test different copy short copy, long copy, benefit, its features, pain points, address pain points or problems that your customers are trying to solve. Test different audiences test different bid strategies. You can bid on for impressions, you can bid for clicks, you can bid for video views as examples. We definitely recommend, once you’ve been up and running for a while, look at the data, particularly from the tracking coming back from the pixel and from your conversion events. Use that data to tell you which ads are working well and which ones aren’t. Pause the ones or throw out the ones that aren’t working well so that you can promote the ones that are working well. Turn off campaigns that aren’t doing well turn new ones on et cetera. Ads get stale. We find this, particularly on social media platforms. People might see your ads constantly for a week or a month or a couple of months. It makes sense to refresh it. And when we say refresh it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start over. Refreshing can be as simple as swapping out one image and trying another image. It could be swapping out a thumbnail for your video and trying a different thumbnail. It could be rearranging the order of your ad, switching the last phrase to the first phrase, and vice versa. It could be to use slightly different wording. Use synonyms for words that you think are important. That’s a way to refresh creativity. I often will use an ad that is a paragraph in length, but then try a different version that’s only a sentence in length or two sentences versus a paragraph or switches the order of those sentences. Particularly with social media, we recommend watching the balance of impressions. Impressions is the term that’s generally used in the ad business to talk about how many times an ad gets shown to a person. So watching that along with frequency we find important. After a while it doesn’t make sense to show the same ad to a unique user 20 times in a week or 20 times in a month.

Some of the rules of thumbs that we use a general awareness ad if you’re just doing branding and awareness, maybe once a week or five times a month is probably sufficient to be in front of people. With an offer ad, we’re actually trying to get them to book and you’re maybe giving them an incentive, maybe a discount or something like that. Then maybe more like three to five times a week, and maybe up to 10 or 15 or 20 times a month is reasonable, but we suggest watching that data and using that as a means and a way to gauge how big a budget, how often to show that kind of thing. One other little hint. There are in addition to the Facebook ads platform, there are some third-party platforms that you can use that may assist you with doing testing, and developing different ad types and so forth. One that we use is called AdEspresso. Next slide, please. And that is it. So we’ll give you some Q&A time here at the end. But Carl’s going to talk about one particular recipe that we’re having a great deal of success with for tourism, businesses, and related businesses. And even in this COVID time, so Carl have at it.

What’s one good Social Ad strategy that works for the tourism industry?

[Carl]Thanks Skip. So as Skip mentioned, we’ve been working on and refining our approach for Facebook ads over the last five years or so and one of the benefits perspectives that we have as an agency is helping lots of different clients. So we have lots of chances to practice we have lots of situations to try. And frankly, we’ve had lots of situations to fail in and figure out how to pick ourselves back up and try it again. And we’ve had clients that are gracious to allow us to experiment and we’ve had a lot of good success with that. And that’s helped us put together best practices that Skip has gone over a lot of the general best practices there that would be applicable to pretty much any type of Facebook ad campaign.

What I wanna talk to you here is more specifically about really kind of a more broad advertising strategy where Facebook ads would take a prominent seat in that of really helping you from all perspectives in your business, not just promoting offers, but building an audience, engaging that audience and ultimately, driving that audience into becoming good customers for you. We’ve been running ads for an outdoor activity center for the last five years now. And Facebook ads has been a key component of that, over those years. And what you would have seen from the numbers is in the first year we ran ads, there was barely a return, I think it actually had technically a negative return. So we were getting bookings, but it was not enough to compensate for the Ad Spend. So we went back to the drawing board and really kind of started doing a lot of experimentation. And they’ve kind of landed on this recipe that I’m mentioning to you today. But it really all comes back to what should feel like a pretty kind of like motherhood and apple pie that right audience, your way to succeed on Facebook is you gotta make sure you’re hitting the right audience. So all those targeting criteria that Skip talked about earlier that’s really key. You’ve also gotta have the right message, and you’ve gotta be sending that message at the right time. And when you can combine those three things, we find that we almost always get not just a good return on Ad Spend but a very high return on Ad Spend like you’re generating positive cash flow and it almost becomes like a lever like hey, do we need more bookings right now? We can move that lever up if we’re too busy or wreck capacity we can pull that lever down. So if I were to kind of walk back and look at the different things that worked or didn’t work, it comes back to this kind of tried and true maxim of making sure you’re hitting the right people with the right message at the right time.

For those of you who said in one of our earlier sessions, we talked about the buying process and how when people are buying online, it’s not usually a search click by transaction there’s multiple interactions. Facebook or other social media platforms are a great way to encourage those interactions. It’s also a great way to start to stimulate awareness for your brand. But it’s important to realize that if you’re doing what we call an awareness ad, you’re hitting a cold audience for the first time. You don’t wanna be hitting that audience with bio messages, right? These people may not even know who you are. Hitting them with a message right away of hey, get $5 off to come enjoy our experience or book our experience now it’s kind of equivalent to asking to marry someone on your first date, that’s usually premature. So that’s just one simple example of not just hitting the right audience and hitting them with the right message, but doing that at the right time. So let’s use that as a construct to kind of talk through this recipe for success, which really involves having multiple stages in your ad campaign. So not just having a single ad to promote a single thing but really, this is more talking about an ongoing campaign that you’re using to promote your business.

So in the awareness stage, this is usually more of a branding stage. Your goal is to generate awareness of your brand within your target audience. So if you as a business are looking for ways to get in front of more people, Facebook is a great way to do that. We already talked in the business case about how much reach there is. So awareness ads can be great to build awareness within your audience. With the target audience all that stuff that Skip talked about applies. You wanna get as close to your ideal fit prospect as possible, and hands down the single most effective and efficient way that we found to do that is using lookalike audiences. So, lookalike audiences, you can look that up online and get a lot of detail about that. The simple long and short of it is you upload a list of your customers, use Facebook algorithm to build a profile of what those customers look like and then you target your ads to other Facebook or Instagram users that match that same profile. We have found that those types of audiences do at least two to three times better than trying to pick and choose the behaviors, interests and demographics. And then overlaying that, you know the overlaying some of the targeting criteria that Skip mentioned before with a lookalike audience can be even more powerful. The ad messaging is gonna need to be different for an awareness ad. Remember, think of this like you’re doing a cold sales call. If somebody just called you randomly and the first thing they said when they picked up was that they’re trying to sell you something. Most of us are just gonna hang up that phone right away unless we happen to be in the market for the thing that they’re selling. So you wanna focus your awareness ads on messaging that’s gonna engage a cold audience, you wanna think about that. You’re gonna focus more on content, videos, blog articles, things that are gonna really be engaging and relevant to your target audience. They might not even be specifically about your business, or they might be about your business, but not specifically about a sale. And with your bidding strategy here you wanna focus on metrics that are gonna drive towards user engagement, like views of your video or views of your blog article or views of the content that you’re trying to promote. And the reason for that is cause that’s gonna feed into the next stage.

So in the interest stage here we’re looking at people that are now aware of your brand, but they haven’t yet decided, to really make a purchase or maybe even gotten to the point where they’re even seriously considering your experience, but they are interested. So the whole goal of the interest stage is to generate interest in the specific experience or packages you offer. So now we’re starting to get into sales but we’re still not specifically making an offer. So the target audience here is not a general audience. This is an audience that is already engaged with the prior step. So the best way to do that, for instance, if you used the video in the awareness stage, one of the ways you can create a target audience is you can target people that watched your video, or that watched a certain percentage of your video. So in the case study that I mentioned earlier, in that case, we have a one or two minute video that runs in the awareness stage out to their lookalike audience.

And then in the interest stage, we’re only showing the interest stage ads to people who have watched 50% or more of that video. With a one minute video if someone sits and watches 10 or 15 seconds of that, that might just mean they were browsing in their feed. But if someone sits and watches 30, 45, 60 seconds of that video, that’s a pretty strong indicator that something about that video grabbed their attention, and since that video is about the experience they offer, it’s a pretty good indication that they might be interested. With the messaging here we’re trying to develop interest or curiosity in the experiences that they offer. With the ad creative now we’re using images, specifically of people doing that experience. And in the example that you’ll see later, we use a carousel ad format where you can show multiple images or multiple videos, because this particular property offers multiple experiences. The bidding strategy here, here we’re gonna focus on action, we’re gonna focus on website visits. Because we wanna focus our next step on the people that have actually engaged and demonstrated that interest by visiting the website and checking out the experience that you’re marketing.

That brings us then to the offer stage. So here’s the sales stage, here’s where we’re actually generating bookings. So the whole goal of this is to generate bookings for the experience. And the way we do that is we’re now focusing on people that have participated in both steps of the prior advertising campaigns. So they’ve seen the video, they’ve watched the video, they’ve seen the experience that are offered and they’ve clicked on a link that takes them to one or more of those experiences and they’ve visited that page. That’s a pretty strong indication that we now have someone that’s interested. But if they haven’t bought yet, maybe we just need to give them a little bit of a nudge. Maybe they just weren’t ready or maybe they need some kind of compelling offer. So with the messaging here’s where we now have a direct buy message. We’re making a direct offer, we’re calling them specifically to action and that action is for a tourism company is usually book now or buy tickets, or whatever the most relevant call to action for taking a booking action for your property would be. The ad creative, here we’re being as specific as we can.

In the example that I’m gonna show you on the next slide in the offer stage, we’re not just giving them a general offer for any type of outdoor activity, we’re gonna be showing them an offer that’s specific to the activity that they visited. And the whole objective of this campaign at this step is getting to that booking. So if we kind of put this all together, the company that we’re looking at here is Refreshing Mountain which we’ve highlighted earlier. So this is an outdoor activity center, they offer zip lines, they have obstacle courses, escape rooms, climbing towers, and also overnight lodging experiences. This particular ad campaign or a group of ad campaigns is focused on promoting outdoor activities. In the awareness stage, there’s an overall video. This is a one to two-minute video, depending on the platform we’re advertising for that is marketing the overall experience. So it’s not specific to one particular experience. It’s marketing the experience it shows families, it shows young people, it shows couples, just the different types of experiences that are available. If someone watches more than 50% of that ad, they now become a candidate for the interest step.

In the interest step, we’re showing a carousel ad you can only see like one and a quarter of the panels here, just with the way the screenshots work. But there are actually five or six panels on that ad that the user can scroll through that show them the different types of outdoor experiences that are available. And each one of those panels if they click on the link will take them to a landing page on the website that is about that particular experience. And then the third step is a dynamic offer ad, where you can see in this particular example, the user clicked on the challenge adventure course. Once they visited that webpage, now they become eligible to see the dynamic offer ads, where they’re seeing an ad that’s super specific to the challenge adventure tour. Now in this particular case, there’s not even an offer there, there’s not a specific percentage off or anything like that. So I wanna clarify the offer step doesn’t always have to involve a discount. It can really just be connecting someone back with the experience that they visited.

And just for time sake I’m not gonna go through these numbers in detail, but you can see that this is truly like a funnel, which is why the funnel is a good example because we start with a lot of people at the top that is in the target audience, but only a percentage of them engage. But when we focus our marketing on the people that engage, we get a very high conversion rate. This particular campaign this year, so far has generated over 2,000 bookings and a 17-time return on Ad Spend. So a very significant opportunity there. Another example here from a local life theater, similar experience. They started off with just running one step ads going out to a cold audience, very mediocre return on investment, or I shouldn’t say mediocre, it was a two-time return on investment. So it wasn’t bad. But by applying these steps of developing the audience, nurturing the audience with the interest step, and then promoting the offer to people that really showed that they were engaged or interested. You can see here that the volume of sales and the return on investment on Ad Spend grew significantly. So with that Scott let’s open it up for questions with the time we have left.

Open Q&A from Participants

[Scott] Right, yeah. So we have some questions that we pulled from the signup. I noticed that Skip has also been answering some questions in the chat. If we get to the end of this and you still have some questions, we’ll be continuing this conversation on our Facebook group, so make sure to check it out there as well. So for our first question for Skip, what platforms seem to be the most effective for tourism businesses?

What platforms seem to be the most effective for tourism businesses?

[Skip] Yeah. We have definitely had the most success with Facebook and Instagram. As Carl mentioned earlier Instagram is one of the placements offered on the Facebook ad platform, Facebook owns Instagram. Hands down the most successful platform that we’ve had. YouTube which is a Google property, that you can look at as somewhat of a social site. It’s a place that people spend time looking at videos and one of the benefits of YouTube it’s video focused, video ads tend to do a little better than image ads we’ve had that. Also, it’s very cheap. It’s on the lower end of some of the numbers that Carl showed earlier, per click or per video view. And we think it’s also a pretty successful platform, but still not as good as what we’ve seen on Facebook and Instagram.

There’s other options. People ask about LinkedIn all the time. LinkedIn, to us our best success has been B2B. So if you’re a business selling to other businesses, if you’re a tourism related business, lodging, events, conference center, that kind of thing, team building, LinkedIn might make sense just know going in, the costs are gonna be up to 10 times higher per click. The conversion costs tend to be higher as well, although it can convert pretty well. Just know it’s a B2B platform, not a B2C platform. Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok other platforms have their own form of ads. They’re worth experimenting with. Really the key here is understanding where your ideal fit customers spend time. And whatever ad platforms they spend time on that’s where you oughta try advertising. We use Facebook a lot, because we’ve had a ton of success. And it’s also got 75% of the users. So that’s why we answer that way.

[Scott] Great. Thanks, Skip. Carl, question for you. How much should I spend and what what kind of return can I expect?

How much should I spend and what kind of return can I expect?

[Carl] Yeah, so that’s a great question. It’s unfortunately got the answer that everybody hates which is it depends. Minimum Ad Spends are usually around $1 to $5 per day, depending on the campaign. So I would say you should know that going in. So if you’re running a month long campaign, you’re gonna be spending a minimum of $30 to if it’s a $5 minimum $150. So I would say that’s 150 to $200 is about the minimum, I would say you wanna invest in a campaign. And I would say you’d wanna run it for at least a month to really see how it’ll work.

If you’re gonna do a multi-step campaign, like we just talked about, you are gonna be spending more like in the neighborhood of five to $600 a month. But I think that’s about the range like for what we’ve seen for tourism businesses, a minimum of 500 plus per month is probably where you should be looking at. If you’re looking at running just kind of a spot campaign to promote a particular event or to promote a particular experience, say for a week-long, I would say five to $10 a day is a good place to start.

And I think Skip mentioned this earlier, starting small and then scaling up is good to do. So start off with that small $5 a day budget, see how it’s going. And if it seems to be working, you can always add money in and expand the reach. In terms of the return, I would say on a minimum, you should be getting at least a two to three-time return. So you should be convinced that you’re getting at least twice to three times the sales back versus what you’re spending. If you are getting that, that should work well for your business and over time, you should be able to refine and improve upon that. If you’re not at least breaking even, there’s probably something wrong with your targeting, or something else you need to fix. And I would pause that campaign until you can diagnose that and fix it.

[Scott] Great. Thank you. Skip, so how long should someone run ads, running recommendations on that?

How long should someone run ads?

Yeah. First of all I start with the length of time depends on your objectives. If your goal is simply to make people aware of a specific event, or a specific new attraction that you’re building then maybe it’s a week or so. If it’s a holiday period that you’re trying to promote an event for, think about starting to show ads two to three weeks in advance of the event or the holiday, and running through the holiday. If it’s a season then think about running for three months or something of that sort. And if it’s a full funnel approach, like Carl talked about where you’re starting with branding and awareness all the way through asking people to buy, that can be an on going campaign that could run all year long. So it really depends on your business, your seasonality whether you’re promoting an event, or an attraction or a holiday, or whether you’re just promoting your business in general. If it’s a six month business, then six months of campaigns. It’s kind of how I look at it.

[Carl] If I could add to that Skip said something really important there, which is if you’re promoting an event, consider running the ads starting two to three weeks before that event. I’ve seen people make the mistake of setting up the ads only in the week of the event or the days leading up to the event. And the thinking there is most people make their purchase of a ticket in the days leading up to the event and that’s certainly true.

But the thing you need to keep in mind is if you’re hitting a cold audience, it’s gonna take time to warm them up to the experience, make them aware, warm them up, get them interested, they’re gonna have to make arrangements and all that stuff and ultimately get to a purchase. So if you’ve only got a few days to market your event, I would actually not recommend you do that to a cold audience. I’d recommend you do that like just to the people who are already followers of your page or already existing customers if a repeat purchase makes sense for you. Those audiences are gonna respond more quickly because they’re already familiar with your brand. So there’s you can kind of be really timely. But if you’re trying to develop a new audience and develop awareness within it, it’s gonna take several weeks to move them from awareness to interest to an actual purchase decision.

[Scott] Great. And just to follow up on that, because there were some questions around it in the group. Would you recommend for events, ads or boosting posts then, would you start out with boosting posts to get your group familiar with it hit, audience and then do ads, like we talked about earlier?

Should I use boosted posts or ads for events?

[Carl ] Good question. If it’s a one time event, and you’re primarily marketing it to people that are already your customers or are already familiar with your brand I think a boosted post would be great. If it’s a large event that’s gonna happen multiple times or throughout a season, I would recommend Facebook ads.

[Scott] Right. Do we have time for one more we’re kind of reaching the top of the hour here.

[Carl] I think we could take one more.

[Scott] All right. So this can go out to anybody here. I ran an ad campaign and it didn’t seem to work. Where did I go wrong?

I ran an ad campaign and it didn’t seem to work. Where did I go wrong?

[Carl] Yeah. We could probably talk about this one for a whole session. But I would say the number one issue that we usually see, like if we have an ad campaign that’s not running as well as we’d expect. Or if we’re looking at an ad campaign for someone else, the very first place we go is targeting. Targeting is usually gonna make or break the campaign. Like if we have a campaign that’s just not getting any kind of return it’s usually a targeting problem. Those other things like the creative and messaging, they’re super important. They tend to help us dial up the return but the targeting is usually where somebody falls down.

I’ve seen some really good ad campaigns. I was actually listening to a podcast on TourPreneur earlier this week that had to do with Facebook ads and the tour operator that was talking about a situation they were running into had a very sound ad campaign good creative, good messaging, but the ad campaign just wasn’t working. And it really ultimately came down to the targeting they were using.

Wrap Up and Preview for the Next Meetup: Video Marketing

[Scott] Right. Well, thank you guys so much. Sam, why don’t you take it home for us.

[Sam] Yeah. Thank you, everybody. And thank you Skip and Carl for putting that together. Like you said that last question I feel like there’s a lot of people who might be thinking about that, cause we’ve all tried it. And we’ve had varying success so definitely recommend everybody join the Facebook group. You can reach out to any of us on the Facebook group. And you can reach out to your other attendees who are on there as well. Ask that question and let’s have a conversation around it. And if there’s enough people that are really talking about that, sometimes we do little intermittent videos that we can talk about a specific topic. So, let us know if you want us to cover some of that.

And if you’ve had varying success you tried it and failed, again, please leave a comment in the Facebook group and we can try to walk you through it, we can try to sort of figure out what’s going on. So just thank you guys, appreciate it as always. Our next topic is going to be on September 19th. We’re going to be talking about video marketing that we are sort of following through a list of topics that you all voted on and video marketing was the one that’s up next in requests. So we’re gonna be putting that together for you and that’ll be a fun time. Cause it’s a topic that I think all of us even on the panel right now are interested in. And somebody Carl said that is that a Saturday? We might have to check that date on that. But it’s gonna be around whatever September the Friday and September around either the 18th or 19th Eastern Time, obviously. So thank you, everybody. We’ll see you in the Facebook group so have a great weekend.

Managing Social Media with No Time and Zero Budget

Meetup Description

Social media was already an important channel for reaching and engaging tourists and local consumers, but with COVID-19 it has become a critical channel that business owners can’t afford to ignore. With limited time and resources, where should you focus your energy and how do you make sure your time is productive? Join us this week to learn important concepts that will help you maximize your time on social media:

  • Focus on the platforms that matter most for your brand
  • Leverage the content you already have
  • Curate content that will attract and engage your audience
  • Use tools to batch create and schedule content
  • Utilize live streaming to take advantage of the moment

Guest Panel

Meetup Video

Key Takeaways

Focus on the social media platforms that matter most for your business

  • Don’t try to sign up and use every social media platform
  • Get to know your audience and find out which platforms they use the most
  • See resources list for links to research that compares social media platforms
  • If you do manage multiple social media platforms, adjust what, how and when you post based on how people tend to use that platform

Re-purpose content that you already have or can easily create

  • Re-post popular pictures with a different caption
  • Re-post testimonials from TripAdvisor and other platforms (with a good picture)
  • If your guests sign waivers – include a waiver for photos and videos so that you can shoot images and use them without having to chase down permissions later
  • Use content you are already using on your property or in print and repurpose for use on social
  • Post about what is happening on your property or in your area

Schedule time for social media and get organized to make the most of time

  • Batch content development. Schedule time on a particular day and develop/schedule posts in advance for the next week or month
  • You can schedule posts in advance directly on Facebook. There are also scheduling platforms like Sprout Social, Buffer, HootSuite, etc.
  • Pick a schedule and stick to it, make it a regular part of your campaign
  • Map out ideas that you can repeat, like throwback Thursday or post a relevant fact every Tuesday or post responses to frequently asked questions
  • Keep your photos and videos organized so that they are easy to find when you have them

Curate relevant content to share or re-post on your social media

  • Monitor people talking about the destination you market in and like, share, comment or re-post from your company profile
  • Check your local DMO for local events that you could promote
  • Get the know other businesses in your area and establish relationships; like, comment and share their posts, collaborate on promotions, etc.

Use live video to create highly engaging content on the fly

  • Video content helps to build engagement. Live video does particularly well.
  • Shoot a short video tour of your property
  • Do a live product overview
  • Interview a satisfied customer
  • Take a behind the scenes video

Key your eye on important metrics so you can see what’s working and what’s not

  • Engagement mertics like likes, shares, etc. are helpful, but may not tie back to actual bookings
  • Focus on longer term metrics like followers – if your followers are growing, that’s a good sign and provides an engaged audience you can interact with
  • Consult with peers – get feedback on the quality of your posts
  • Use Google Analytics to see how many users are visiting your website from social and what kinds of actions they are taking

Other Tips

  • Don’t overthink it. You don’t have the be perfect. Don’t’ be afraid to fail. Try something, see if it works and it does, repeat it. If it doesn’t, move onto the next thing to try.
  • Reply back to comments on your posts; this shows you are engaged, it expands the reach of the post
  • Monitor private/direct messages regularly. Make sure to respond

Resource Links

Comparisons of Social Media Platforms

Scheduling Software

Meetup Transcript

[Sam] For all of you that are new, that are coming into the webinar right now, this is obviously the Accelerate Tourism Marketing Meetup. We focus on digital marketing here for tourism owners, operators, business leaders. And our usual host, Carl Lefever, he is actually joining the call today, but I am gonna be hosting today, along with my friend, Scott, coworker, and he’s gonna help moderate. And also joining, with our panelists, Tony and Jamie. We’ll give it another minute, while the numbers keep coming in, make sure everybody is in. It feels weird that this is obviously the first- Well, this is obvious, for those of you who have been with us for the past couple of months, this is the first meetup we’ve done on kind of a monthly schedule. We are obviously doing this weekly when, you know, the majority of the state and the country was shut down. So we’re moving now to this monthly rhythm and we hope it’ll give us some more time to improve the quality and improve the engagement of what we’re doing here. And we hope that we continue to be helpful. And I think we will. I think we have a great panel and a great discussion on the docks for us today.

Topic Introduction

[Sam] So as a segue, obviously we are talking about social media. This was the highest rated, the most requested topic from our last meetup. We ran a poll where you all voted to suggest what you wanna talk about. This was the the clear, most popular topic. We weren’t sure what to do. There’ a couple of different ways that we could kind of go into this and take this discussion. But the main thing we wanted to do was really talk about social media from the perspective of somebody who is a business owner, somebody who is really busy and how can they effectively do social, you know, when they have no time and no budget.

Now obviously, let’s just put something out on the table to be clear. That’s idealistic. We know that there’s certainly going to be things that, you know, if time is money, there’s obviously gonna be cost here in some way, shape or form. But I think the thing that we wanna kind of combat is that, you know, social is supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be this thing that comes naturally. And ’cause we’re already doing it in our personal lives, and it should be just as easy for our business, but that doesn’t typically happen. So I think the ideal for the busy small business owner, is to build a process around social media that achieves the feeling that social is just naturally happening. But maybe in other words, it’s so integrated into what you actually do, that it kind of just happens. And you know, that in itself might be idealistic, but I think that is maybe a more achievable way of thinking about how social can work for somebody who’s busy that has no time and no budget.

But the first thing about that, I think it’s important to set a healthy perspective on social. Because I think a lot of it is just really kind of it’s mindset. And I think we need to just watch ourselves when we’re on social and we’re seeing these other sort of social media stars or influencers or whatever we wanna call them, and make sure that they’re not setting the standard for what we’re doing. I think that’s a good foundation because, you know, there’s a lot of industries out there, there’s a lot of businesses out there, who have been very successful in social, and they more than likely have spent a lot of time and a lot of energy and a lot of money in making social seem like it’s so easy, it’s so high quality for them.

So just like any other skill or trade or craft that we might have, you know, if we’re just starting out, if we’re just starting to try to figure these things out, we’re going to be less polished, we’re going to be less flashy. But we do have one advantage for social media, is that we will be authentic. Because social loves authenticity, and it loves transparency and it loves people being real with each other and real to their customers. That is, you will build a solid group that will be actively following you as your foundation. And that is really the advantage you have, when you’re starting out.

So with all of that said, I think one other rule we would like to apply on how we wanna go forward, and this is gonna set up the question for today. You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s the 80/20 rule. So it’s this idea that we can achieve 80% of impact with only 20% of effort, or I guess in other words, like accomplish 80% of our goals with only spending maybe 20% of time or 20% of our resources to achieve 100%. So that’s kind of the thing, how can we best spend our time or what’s the best thing for us to do with the smallest amount of time? That’s really the question I wanna use as the foundation, going into the conversation. What is the best thing for me, for us, to do with the smallest amount of time that we have.

Panel Discussion

So that’s what we’re gonna get into. Just as a reminder though, we do have a feature on this webinar format where you can ask questions. So while you’re getting into it, and while we’re discussing, you know, please use the Q&A feature. It will just help us move on into the Q&A with some great questions. So, anytime you have a question during it, please hit that button, please put in a question, and we’ll get to it after our discussion.

So with that I wanna move over here to our first question. Again, obviously, managing social media with no time, zero budget. And the first thing I wanna set up for this question is, with the many different platforms that we have, how can we evaluate, how can we prioritize where we post? So that’s the first question. Tony Gorick is the Creative Services Manager at the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce. And Jamie Burkhart is the Social Media Manager and Events Coordinator at the Amish Farm and House. This is your second time joining us, Jamie, thank you. So that’s it, we’re here. How can we prioritize and evaluate where we want to post? Floor is open to either one of you. Tony, you wanna start us off?

Which Social Media Platforms Should a Business Owner Focus On?

[Tony] Sure, definitely. Hello everyone, thanks for joining. I am excited to be on this. Like Sam said, I’m from Lancaster Chamber, and then also I’ve been involved in communications for the Recovery Lancaster project, which is the Economic Recovery Plan for Lancaster County too. So we’ve been deep in social media strategy with little resources, so this is good timing. I think the biggest thing about evaluating where and how to utilize social media is to really know your audience. And I know that sounds easy but it’s so critical to deciding what platforms to use. You know, there’s resources, and I know Sam mentioned maybe gathering some of these resources after this call, but there’s resources really showing the demographics of Facebook compared to Instagram, compared to, you know, Snapchat and LinkedIn, and things like that, where if you’re selling a certain product or if you’re marketing a certain experience and you know you wanna hit a certain demographics, a certain age group, you know, certain area even, you wanna make sure you’re utilizing the social media platforms that best capture that. So, you know, at the Lancaster Chamber, for instance, we are very B2B, and we skew much older in our audience. So our efforts go more into Facebook, LinkedIn, tend to be older demographics. We’re not gonna be signing up for TikTok any time soon, just wanna say that. But you know, you might have an escape room or a cartoon network hotel who, you know, is targeting families, but also kids. And you wanna evaluate the platforms. I think the words, social media marketing, is very overwhelming, especially to people who are not used to it, and think, oh my gosh, I need to be on every single platform, posting 16 things a day, and it all needs to be super creative and interesting. And that’s just not the case. You really want to look at your audience, have that influence, what platforms to use. And then I know we’ll kinda talk about this a little bit later too but, and then curate your content based on that audience and that platform. So, I’d caution signing up for every social media platform possible. It’s really relying on who you wanna reach, and then that will help influence how many resources you put into what platform.

[Sam] That’s great. Jamie, do you have anything to add to that?

[Jamie] The only thing I would add to it is, if you are going to be on multiple different platforms, like if you wanna use Facebook and Instagram, which might seem like a lot to some people, but if you’re gonna play both games, then post different things. So Instagram, the caption sizes need to be way smaller. Nobody’s clicking to read more. On Facebook, people are spending a little bit more time, so you can obviously put more information. So if you wanna play both games, you just have to go at it differently. Like for example, Twitter does not work for travel whatsoever. I personally never plan a vacation while I’m getting on Twitter. I get on Twitter to laugh. But on Instagram, you know, if I’m going to the beach, I’m gonna be clicking what beach I wanna go to, and then seeing people’s posts. So just knowing what platform is best for your business. So if you’re a Bed and Breakfast, and you wanna post 20 new pictures, well Instagram only lets you post 10. So maybe Facebook is the best way to go. So knowing what type of resources both of those platforms have, is great. So like on Facebook, you can post an event. On Instagram, you can’t. But Instagram, you can put up a story saying “Countdown to the event” and people are gonna be like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait! There’s something happening in two days? This sounds really interesting.” So knowing what platforms offer, helps you evaluate which one you should use.

[Sam] That’s great. Yeah, it’s one of those things where I think, it’s just our human nature that kind of want to think of everybody, which is a good thing, but that just becomes tiring. And, you know, just because your audience is on a particular platform, Jamie, your example was great, like, it doesn’t mean that it’s the platform that’s gonna work for your business. So even if you were on that platform, doesn’t mean that your business needs to be on that platform.

How do you find and repurpose content for social media?

[Sam] So the second thing I wanna talk about is content. Content is something that can really be a mental block for people, just because it can seem overwhelming, especially when we see the high quality content that these platforms, you know, host, and that these people that are posting on these platforms create. But for a business leader who has no time to do it, just seeing those and thinking that, oh that’s the standard, I have to do that? It can be enough that it just says, you know what, I’m not even gonna pursue it. So I think the thing that we’ve found in our business and for our clients, is whether or not we actually realize it, there’s a lot of content that’s typically created already in a business that can be, you know, if you find it, if you identify it, you can repurpose it for social. So just the question I have for that is, how can we do this? How can we discover and repurpose content? Jamie or Tony, either one of you wanna take that?

[Jamie] Okay, so one of my biggest hacks is reposting other people’s pictures. Obviously I work in a very, very specific thing, Amish. So there’s millions of people that come here every year. I am so fortunate that people take good pictures of the Amish and that they want to do that. So it is easy. You just follow hashtags, download the repost app, repost it, give them the credit in the comments. Usually people love their pictures being reposted, so even if you find a professional photographer, they think it’s great exposure. So reposting other people’s pictures. If you’re going to use your own content over again, like there’s a thousand pictures that I keep wanting to use, so what I usually do, if I’ve already posted it, like say it’s a picture of an Amish buggy, and I’m posting a fact about the Amish buggy, you know, “Come to Amish country, take a buggy tour.” “Did you know that they have turn signals?” But I wanna use that picture again because it’s really good. What I’ll usually do is repost it with a good review. So I’ll take a good review from TripAdvisor, from Google, and I’ll use that as the caption. Because, one, people don’t remember that you posted it two weeks ago. Even if they did, it’s gonna be a different caption. So it’s gonna mean something different. And also it makes that connection of, oh, that’s a beautiful picture. And it’s a beautiful review. Those two things in my experience, have worked really, really well. And then also, just repost old things. Honestly, no one is going to remember. Or something I use is, I will post a video on Instagram today, and then three days later, I’ll post it on Facebook. So even if I do have the same followers, then they’re probably not remembering that they saw it on Facebook two days ago, or Instagram two days ago. So I use that to help me gain more leverage with the content than I already do have.

[Sam] Yeah, I like that. You don’t have to go very far to find that content, ’cause you’re talking about just reusing the content that’s actually already on these platforms that you’ve already posted or that, you know, somebody else has posted, and doing it in a way that’s respectful and gives credit where credit is due. That’s great. Yeah, that seems-

[Jamie] Or also like something that, so other people can use too is, I know we’re talking about time, but if you can take one day, like one beautiful sunny day that you’ve got people on your property, go around with model release forms, asking people to sign model release forms. It’d be like, “Can I take pictures for the website?” Most of them will be like, “Yes, oh my gosh, I’m gonna be famous on Facebook!” Like, they love it. And then have them sign a piece of paper, and then you’re allowed to use that. I think that’s something that’s very, very underrated to do, which again, it is time consuming, but those pictures, if you take 200 pictures that day, you can use them for a whole month. So it does help you.

[Sam] Yeah, cool. And the other thing too is, you could always, if you have a friend who does photography or if you have somebody who does, you know, of course we are talking about a cost thing again, but there are a lot of- Anybody who has a half decent camera who, you know, whether or not they are professional photographer or not, if it’s a nice day and you respect them to interact with your customers well, you know, I’m sure anybody would love, who’s kind of like an aspiring photographer, would love that opportunity if you know anybody like that. Cool, Tony, do you have anything to add to that?

[Tony] Yeah, I mean, I just wanted to affirm what Jamie said. I’m really glad you brought up the, not being concerned to repost something again. ‘Cause I think some people think, well, I’ll post it and I’m done. And they put all this time and energy into this great post and they think, well, it’s done now. And that’s just not the case. So I’m really glad that you mentioned that. I also think when it comes to repurposing content, I think of how social media, like you mentioned to Sam earlier, which I’m really glad you mentioned, it’s just the importance of authenticity and how your social media posts and presence should be authentic. And so even if you have, you know, facts or sales or something that feels a little cold or stale in your organization, think about how you can repurpose that content in a way that feels like more of a storytelling aspect or, you know, Jamie mentioned, a cool fact, or, you know, instead of saying, I don’t know, we have, this deal on hotel stays, try to reformat that, try to repurpose that into something that’s a little more driven by personality and storytelling. Also because of social media, just really downplaying sales speech in general. They want you to pay a bunch of money basically to say the words like sale and discount and things. So I would just add that when you’re thinking about repurposing, even think about repurposing things that you already are doing from even a sales perspective, you just might need to funnel it through a storytelling perspective, to kind of pull some of that authenticity out on social.

[Sam] Yeah and the storytelling thing is pretty key. ‘Cause some of the stuff that we’ve done for our clients, you know, we don’t do- Actually part of our services, we don’t actually manage a lot of our client’s social media accounts. That’s something that some of our clients have asked about, well we just don’t do that yet. But we’ve repurposed content in other ways and whoever we’re working with on social, we will suggest, hey, we’ve repurposed this piece, we’ve repurposed this blog article into a video or we’ve taken all these different sales sheets and turned them into an ebook. So I think when you get into it too, like some of the content that might be out there in your business already, or even print materials that may have been created from a long time ago, or even photos of your business, physical photos, that you could simply just take your phone, put it in a nice, like outside, or somewhere where the lighting is nice and bright and even. You know, just take a quick photo of that photo and just repost it. There’s probably a lot, like even outside of the stuff that you’ve already posted, you can take and just copy the text from, or you know, you might actually have to physically type it out instead of just copying and pasting. But there’s probably a lot of assets that your company already has or your business already has that, you know, you can maybe just use to, instead of having to feel like you need to reinvent the wheel all the time.

How to batch create and schedule social media content?

[Sam] Great, so this next question is very much related to that. And I think Jamie, and I think Tony, you both touched on an aspect of this, but this idea of how can we efficiently batch create and schedule content? So, instead of having this pressure to be on social every single day, that can just get tiring. And it’s hard to maybe keep up a rhythm like that. That’s so intense with creating content. The one thing that I think is wise to do, and it helps to create some strategy and intentionality around what you’re posting, is to batch create the content. So, whenever you have, or whenever you schedule a time to sit down for 10 minutes, you could probably, if you can get into the mindset that, you know, it doesn’t have to be this revolutionary artistically perfect photo or you can start just knocking out like five posts at a time, a week’s worth of posts, you could essentially put together in five minutes, 10 minutes. So just talking about that a little bit, in your experience, how can we efficiently batch create and schedule content?

[Tony] Yeah, I mean, I would say social, I think people have the connotation with social media that it needs to be live all the time. And there’s definitely aspects where there’s live video components and there’s some exciting things you can do with that. But like Sam said, the user experience is not knowing you scheduled those five posts on Monday and then it’s posted on Thursday. So to the user experience, as long as you’re using an authentic voice and even throwing in a throwback Thursday or whatever, being able to sit down and schedule those out and not feel that pressure like, oh my gosh, I am in the middle of my crazy day and I need to throw up a photo about a, you know, throwback to an old building on my property. Those batches, that’s helped so much with just planning our time. Because I think some people think, how do I even begin to plan out my time with social media strategy? And that’s a step, one is, you can always batch. And you know, I’m sure programs have been mentioned before, like Sprout Social or like Hootsuite, there’s platforms that are pre-scheduling platforms, that make it really, really easy, that also provides some insights that help too. You can pre-schedule some things directly on social media platforms too, but I definitely think, and we can maybe provide you with some of these resources afterwards, but things like Hootsuite and Sprout Social and some social scheduling software really, really does help. The one thing I would just, as a caution with it, it’s a great resource and it’s fantastic, you just also wanna be aware of what’s going on within the context of your community. Things change, you know, I mean, even you think about the last three months, and the last thing you’d want, if you have this great post scheduled for Saturday, talking about how beautiful and wonderful the day is, and that was the day where, you know, our COVID trends spiked and protests were happening and there was a lot of unrest, and it could come off tone deaf. So the batch scheduling is great. Just, you wanna just be aware of what you’re scheduling and putting out there, just so you don’t happen to accidentally have as posts go out there that might feel like it’s a little off for the moment.

[Sam] Jamie, what do you think?

[Jamie] So I’m gonna be 100% honest and say that I am super bad at planning ahead. I will obviously use the scheduler on Facebook. Like, I’m leaving the next day, I don’t wanna to get up early to do it tomorrow, I’ll schedule it. But I, yeah, gotta be honest. I’m not one to sit down and be like, on Thursday, I’m gonna post this. So what I do instead is, I block out hours of the day. Obviously this is my full time job, so I’ve got it. I have time and I have money and I research this. I’m also kinda like the Operations Manager here too. So the days can get really packed with things. So I will get up early in the morning and my 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. is Instagram. That’s what I’m doing, I’m commenting on things. And then 3:00 to 4:00 is my Facebook time. So I’ll get on Facebook and do it then. Like obviously, I’m checking in between, but that’s really when I’m sitting down and I’m focusing. And that kind of pattern has really just helped me to make my posts every day. Obviously, if I’m on vacation, if there’s a day off, I have to do a tour, then I use the schedulers. But like Tony said, scheduling too far in advance can sometimes bite you in the butt. So I’m not the most organized person. And I think that’s like good for people to hear because you don’t have to. Like, if you slip up, it’s no big deal. My only big suggestion is, if you’re gonna post, post regularly, pick a schedule like, once every week, twice daily. You just have to pick your schedule and keep rolling with it. But don’t fret if you sleep in and forget to post something because the world will never know.

[Sam] Yeah, and I think that, you know, the key thing that you said there is, you’re valuing what you’re doing on social enough, that you’re actually scheduling it into your day. And you know, I know personally from that that is not the easy thing for me to do or business owners to do because they have so many other commitments. But it is like one of those things where we’re not gonna get around and we just kind of have to call it as it is. Obviously this takes time, obviously in some ways it takes money. But if you really wanna value it, you can schedule that little bit of time to start off. Or if you feel like you’re doing social and it just feels like a burden to you, it might be that you’re just kind of, it’s sort of like the spray and pray method, you’re just kind of all scattered and you don’t have a focus. And what you might wanna do is just say, okay, I’m gonna stop. And I’m just going to, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for 15 minutes, I’m gonna just jot down with a piece of paper, here’s the three posts that I’m gonna knock out, or I’m gonna put together for the week. And it’s just that intentionality. And I think with that intentionality, with scheduling out like even just the time that you’re going to do it, you can do it in less time that way. Because you can kind of get in the mindset, you can kind of prepare for it mentally that, okay, it’s noon right now, and I said I was going to sit down for 15 minutes at 2:00 o’clock and write social. So I can kinda be thinking that I need to mentally prepare for that when I get to 2:00 o’clock.

[Tony] I was just gonna add, I think a key part of it too, is not to overthink the content that you’re pushing out. I think sometimes, I know from my experience too, I’ve thought, oh my gosh, every single post has to be this fantastic in-depth something or, you know, this amazing photo or this really well thought out campaign. And like what Jamie even mentioned, with that beautiful photo of the buggy and a fact, I mean, that could be your post for that Thursday. I think I would just encourage people not to overthink, oh, my word. When we think content, I think that even also is overwhelming. Like, oh my gosh, I had to come up with content, just tons of content. That content can also be a fact every Thursday you’d even map out. Oh my gosh, I wanna to be consistent, I’ll do a fact every Thursday, I’ll do a throwback every other day. I just wanted to throw that in there too. When you talk about planning out social, to keep in mind, it’s all about engagement. And even if it’s just, you know, tell me your favorite memory from visiting Lancaster when you were here. There’s short, sweet and easier things to do that might not feel as time inducive.

Are there best practices for curating and sharing other peoples content?

[Sam] Tony, that’s a great segue. And Jamie, I think you might have mentioned this, or some aspect of this, but one thing that we can do on social is find things that are online. Find other stuff that’s going on, that takes no active participation of you to kinda create content. But just find the content that’s already out there, that might be, you know, one of your business partners, or somebody else in another industry, and just find stuff and put it in one place for your audience that’s gonna value it. This idea, this burden of having to create content, I think it comes from feeling overwhelmed, when we’re viewing everybody else that’s posting. But how can we just simply curate the content that engages our audience? So, you have both have spoken on this I think in some ways, but how do you, and Jamie, you talked a little bit about how you do it in practice, maybe just some other examples would be helpful. Because we kind of get the idea but, are there some tools or there’s some tricks that we can find this stuff and repost it quickly?

[Jamie] So if you wanna repost pictures, on Instagram, this is where I mainly repost pictures, because it’s the easiest to find. So follow hashtags. So if you’re a Bed and Breakfast, follow the hashtags that your Bed and Breakfast is located in. Repost pictures of, you know, maybe not the rooms of your Bed and Breakfast, but what there is to do in Lancaster. Like, oh look at this beautiful couple who had a beautiful weekend in Lancaster. They didn’t need to stay at your Bed and Breakfast, nobody needs to know that. But just giving that idea of, if you come to Lancaster, you’re going to have a good time. Also using the location feature always on your posts. So there’s like a location for Amish Country, Lancaster. When people post things on Instagram, they love to put where they are. That’s a really easy way to find them. Another really good way of finding stuff to post really quickly is being organized in the first way. So like my photo albums are very, very organized. Like I have pictures of- I have an album of animals, horses, like everything is down to the nitty gritty. So if I’m like, oh, I need a picture of a dog, family-friendly, bring your dogs to Amish country posts, then I’ve got it right there. So that does take time on the backend, but it’s something that’s helped me in the future since then. And something else that if I, because I’m guilty of this too, like blocking out time for my social media and then not doing it because I had to go do a tour or something, is replying back to comments. It’s the easiest thing to do to make it seem like you are still engaging with your audience. So there might’ve been a post that I didn’t think was gonna do very well, but all of a sudden, thousands of people are commenting on it. I’ll just spend time replying back to people’s comments. And it does make your page seem like you’re doing more because that post will show up on people’s timelines again, if you’re commenting on it. I personally hate, hate, hate, hate seeing people post something, and then there’s 63 comments, and nobody’s responding to them. And they’re asking questions or they’re saying, oh those are beautiful pictures, and things like that. You’ve got to engage with your audience if you have them, even if you just have one. Like, if one person is like, oh my gosh, I love your pictures, and they’re somebody who does it every day, post every day and say, thank you. Thanks so much. Easiest way to make it seem like you’re still on board and posting.

[Sam] That’s great. Tony, any thoughts to add?

[Tony] Yeah, I love that. I love what you said about interacting, and this might be something we might have coming up to discuss but I think, as much as we don’t wanna be on social media all the time, ’cause we don’t have time, it is a customer service touch point now more than ever. So I really liked what Jamie said about, you know, liking people’s comments, getting back to them. ‘Cause you’re right, that’s key. As far as , there are so many resources out there. And I wanna say you’re not alone in thinking about how to curate content. Jamie mentioned consistency earlier. So even coming up with, you know, on Tuesdays, I’m gonna focus on this type of content, whether that’s a fact about my business, and then on Thursdays, there’s always throwback Thursdays or something like that. Maybe I’ll do something specific about that. And maybe I’ll do an Employee Spotlight or a Visitor Spotlight on Wednesdays. And that, at least to me, I’m a really creative person and that’s a good thing, but it could also spiral totally out of control. And so when I have a framework like that, that also helps me just plan ahead and curate content. So it doesn’t just feel like every week is like a blank slate or every week I have to think of 16 new great ideas. But you can kind of start falling in those buckets. And then, the consistency’s there too, which always helps with social media. So I would just say think of, maybe step one is just think of a few things that you would wanna share about your company, and then funnel those through different ways on different days just to kind of hone in, and not feel so overwhelmed, if that makes sense.

[Jamie] Also on that, don’t think that things are too obvious. Like for me, I always forget to post that we have a 15 acre farm, ’cause to me it’s obvious, like, come enjoy the farm. But for other people, they have no idea that we have a 15 acre farm. But I might have said that six weeks ago and I’m thinking that my followers are already up with me. Like if you have a Bed and Breakfast, you know that they serve breakfast, but maybe being like, hey, we have waffles on the menu. Like, did you know that kind of thing? So no detail is too small, and nothing is too important to keep repeating. Keep posting it in there, ’cause you might get new followers, and they don’t know anything about your business. It’s a little thing, they’re big.

[Sam] So a little bit is almost curating your own content. Another way to kind of say it.

How to use live video, stories and messaging as part of a social media marketing strategy?

[Sam] Great, and you two set up the next question perfectly, going back to the beginning of what we were just talking about, engaging in kind of this idea of real time. So the use of live videos and kind of other time sensitive content, you can, like I said, direct messaging, stories in some instances, those are obviously tools that have gotten so popular over the last, just say two years even. So how can we use these things like live video stories, messaging, for real time engagement? You gave some great examples of commenting, which I wasn’t even thinking of. But you know, these other ways that we can, kind of be immediately in front of our audience, what experience, what things can you recommend? How can we do that better, and do it efficiently? So Tony, why don’t you take us-

[Tony] Sure, yeah. So this is another one where, you know, don’t overthink it. I’m thinking live video specifically, how video content right now is just so engaging and so popular. Some people think video content and they think, oh my word, it’s gonna be like a produced documentary film or, you know, something like that. And that’s just so not the case in social media. Like Sam mentioned, it’s authentic, it’s personality, it’s behind the scenes, it’s a sneak peek. I love what Jamie said about the number of acres, you know, even just a live video of panning around the horizon of the acres, just things that are just interesting that we take for granted. You know, we have a pretty cool office at the Chamber and we did like a quick office tour that, you know, did not take long at all. It was informal, you got some personality in there. It helps to, a, build engagement, but also just to kinda show some behind the scenes things. I used to work at the Ten Thousand Villages home office doing their social media strategy and digital strategy. And they would do just really quick fun product reviews, and they’re still doing that now. They’re 20 seconds long, quick show of products, quick, you know, say what it is. And, you hear people shopping and laughing in the background, and that’s great. Like that shows, you know, environment and context. And so I think I would just say, don’t overthink it specifically with the video. It doesn’t have to be perfect. And actually, I think, you know, depends. Some of the imperfections and the personality gives it that authenticity. And then I would just say, you know, as much as you don’t wanna be on social media all the time, make sure you are still monitoring it enough because it’s a customer service touch point now. I even think of my generation where like, one of my first things sometimes to think about is to message the business on a social media platform before going to their website and using like a contact form. And I think that’s even getting more and more prevalent as generations are coming up. So just to keep that in the back of your mind. You don’t have to give tons of your time to it, but a response is so important eventually from customer service.

[Sam] Cool, Jamie anything to add?

[Jamie] I’ll touch on Instagram stories because I think that people are not using them as they should be. Instagram has made it very easy to upload pictures from your phone. I don’t know about anybody else, but my big, nice camera, I only use for Facebook pictures because it is so ridiculously time consuming to download pictures on your computer, then send it to your phone, and then upload to Instagram. So, you know, it’s a beautiful day out. Just go out, push record. There’s a bunny running across the farm. Perfect content, put it up there. It’s a beautiful day. And it’s very simple to do. Also if I’m being lazy and I don’t wanna post anything, I will repost my own post to my story, and just say like, oh look how beautiful this was. Do you remember this day? Also reposting other people’s, so when they tag you, you can repost it in your stories. Some of that might not apply to anyone because you don’t have that many visitors or things like that. And just reposting things that are happening right now. Like we have a quilt sale, or tickets are going fast! Things that make it seem like, you guys are actually busy, and things are booming. We also do a lot of like COVID safety things, because we are a customer tourism business. So I am always posting like, hey, our buses are being sanitized. There’s a whole new group floating on, everything’s safe. So even if people were not thinking about visiting Lancaster, maybe they’ll continuously hear me saying that it’s a safe, open place. There’s no contact here, then maybe a little visit. So just easy things that, again, like I overthink all the time, but my visitors and my followers might not know that we have bus tours because I said it four weeks ago and not today. So using stories is very easy to do.

[Sam] I’m glad you mentioned the COVID thing. I mean, how can you be more real time than just addressing those things that we’re always thinking about right now? Even if I’m not looking to come to your business, it’s just a reminder.

[Tony] And people, I was just gonna add really quick. Sorry Sam, I didn’t mean to cut you off. People just love, love, love, behind the scenes peeks at things. People just really like to see how things are working behind the scenes. It feels like an exclusive sneak peek, you know. People just really like that stuff. So if you have a chef at your Bed and Breakfast, or if you have something, you know, a quick photo, or video of them flipping a burger, I mean, people just love to see how things, I think, are ticking from the background. And so, again to Jamie’s point, what we take for granted, as being part of these businesses, might be super interesting and fun for your followers.

How do you measure the success of social media?

[Sam] Yeah, I love that. So all of this being said, we’ve talked about all of these different things that we can do, but I have two last questions, as we wrap up here. And the first one, you both are active in running social media accounts. How can we measure the efforts? How can we measure the success of our efforts? Because we obviously wanna be able to evaluate enough that we can say, this just isn’t working. I need to stop doing this. I need to stop this and I need to try something else. How do you guys, how do you both do this? How do you measure the success of what you’re doing, what you’re trying? Jamie, why don’t you take us on this one?

[Jmie] Sam, that is a hard question because I have even had other people, this is more for paid ads, like, how do I know if my paid ads are doing well, but it would be relevant for any post. I’ve actually had other people in my team, look at my posts and say like, how would you have changed that wording to make it better? Because I feel like, as a creative writer, you have your own style. And I feel like I post the same kind of thing. So I try to do peer reviews to see if my posts could be better. I don’t think, at least for my business, I cannot tell by the amount of likes or comments or engagements, if something did well or not, because it’s hard for me to tell, like, did they book a tour? Like, where was the success measure? Like, that post might have blew up, it might have had a thousand likes, but did they just like it because it was pretty, or did it make them want to come? So I think it’s just hard. So instead of trying to focus on, was it successful enough, I just keep trying to change it up. And in hopes, my follower account is growing, my engagement group is growing. So things are working but I don’t know for sure, if it’s actually money in the bank. Which is the problem with social media, because you might have lots of likes but you might not have a lot of business. But you need to have social media, you can’t just cut it out. So that’s a hard question. You’ve stumped me, sorry.

[Sam] Tony, what about you?

[Tony] I mean, I think it’s hard because I think, like Jamie said, it’s easier with paid promotions because you have such a clear objective of, you know, are you looking at- You know, my time at the Ten Thousand Villages, it was very easy to say, okay we had X number of conversions on this mug, based on our social media ads. It’s hard because social media is so authentic and engagement driven, and that’s sometimes where I think, like Jamie mentioned, it’s hard to track that because that is so important, but it feels a little more vague as far as trackability. But I think it goes back to just how important brand awareness is, and this is such a brand awareness piece. And brand awareness does directly impact your bottom line, it just might not be as clear of like, they saw this post, they booked this room, like Jamie said. Or, they saw this post, that means they bought this thing that I’m selling. But we definitely don’t wanna underplay how important that brand awareness is, ’cause you never know who’s sharing things. It’s funny, there’s a new- You’re gonna get to know some of my quirks. There’s a new LEGO store that just opened downtown Lancaster that I am beyond excited about. But anyway, so I was just helping them just for fun, to start up their social media ’cause I was like, literally no one has any idea you’re here. You just opened during a pandemic. So I helped them. Now they’re getting a lot of visitors from social, because people are seeing, but even just that brand awareness, that, okay, people are finding them now, and people might see, and people are tagging their friends in it and to check it out. It’s just, that is so valuable too. Like, Jamie, you mentioned too with followers and engagement, if you can track trends, and even some of those platforms like Hootsuite or Sprout Social, there’s some free platforms, free versions, and help you track some trends if you wanted to say, hey, you know, good, we grew X amount of followers this week. There’s some tactical things you can track. But if you feel like, oh my gosh, we’re getting a lot of engagement but there’s still not something happening yet, still keep pushing with that engagement, ’cause it’s so important from a brand perspective. That is helpful. I’m with it’s harder because you’re trying to track something that’s not like a conversion sometimes.

[Jamie] Yeah, and there’s obviously ways to track those conversions, but sometimes that’s not a good enough answer. Like, you can tell when your website- You know, you click something and you can tell, your Google Analytics is going crazy, but did they just wanna click on it? Was it just something funny? Or did it actually drive their thing? So there’s obvious ways that you can tell. And getting more followers is always a good thing. Like, if you’re paid to just getting more followers, you’re doing something right. In my opinion, that’s kinda how you know that you’re doing a good thing.

[Sam] Yeah, I think you both summed it up in a pretty accurate way. It is not a perfect science. It doesn’t have the same trackability of some of the tools that we have, or some of the capabilities we have with tracking website visitors and things like that, or email opens. I think the one practical thing that people can do, if they want to, but this requires more time, is to encode their links so they appear more literal in things like Google Analytics. But even then, what is the effort for the pay back? Like, I’m not sure if it always justifies that level of effort. But you both touched on something too, that is really important. That paid ads really is another way to engage with social. And I’ll use this to plug our next meetup, actually. Because in our agency, when we utilize social media, specifically Facebook and Insta, we are running paid ads. And that is purely for the fact that we can better control and better reach people that we have not reached before. And we can better track that. Because organic posting and just creating content and putting it out there, yes, you can evaluate likes, you can evaluate the comments, engagements, some of those metrics that Facebook, is specifically on Facebook includes, but it’s just- You could almost drive yourself crazy by trying to use the information that they provide and make intelligent decisions. So it is hard. And measuring the success of Facebook, or any social posting, the way I think about it is, you really have to take it with a spoonful of salt. You need to keep doing it and you need to keep engaging. And you can kind of I think of those likes conversations, and you know, that type of engagement is really kinda what you’re going for. Almost like these kind of these micro conversions. Like, usually those kind of term that people throw around their words, not actual purchases or things like that. But the other practical thing too is just traffic from your social to your website, I think is probably one of the easiest things. I think that, when I’m evaluating the online presence of one of our customers, that’s what we’re looking at.

What’s the most important thing you would tell someone that is currently struggling with their social media marketing?

[Sam] So, we’re kind of up against the clock here, and I wanna get to some questions, but in the spirit of the 80/20 rule, Jamie and Tony, I’d like to ask, is there one important thing that you wanna tell somebody who’s struggling with doing their social media, that would just be encouraging? So if you can both answer that, we’ll jump into some Q&A and go from there. So Tony, why don’t you go ahead and kick it off?

[Tony] Sure, I would say I think two things. I think, one, is just really know your audience. I think that would really help minimize the clutter in your brain about what platform should I use? What I should be saying? It just helps you funnel what you’re doing. And then secondly, and I’ve said this I think probably 10 times in this thing, don’t overthink it, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be laid back, it can be flexible, it can be personable and authentic. And to have fun with it. It’s a way brands can have fun in a way that, I think historically, like print advertising, or different kinds of marketing and PR, couldn’t be as much. But I would say the number one thing is, is figure out your audience. And that would really just help you funnel some of the content and things that you are doing.

[Sam] Great, great. Jamie, what about you?

[Jmaie] I would say probably, ask for help. In my experience, I’m young, I jumped into social media because nobody else in my business knew what social media was, and we weren’t using it. So for me, who doesn’t have lots of technical experience, I usually just literally ask for help. Like I’ll ask my older employees, how does this sound? And I’ll ask my younger employees, how does this sound? To kind of help me figure out what to do next. So some mornings, I’m just stumped, and I don’t know what to do, and I’ll ask for help. So don’t think that you’re alone.

[Sam] That’s great, Jamie, thank you. Cool, I like that. Keep it simple and laid back and just don’t feel like you have to do this in a bubble. I think those are great ways that we can just make this work a little bit better.

Open Q&A from Participants

[Sam] So, before we get into talking about the next meetup here, Scott, what questions do we have? I know there’s a couple in the Q&A.

Is it “legal” to share other other peoples photos or to post pictures you’ve taken of other people?

[Scott] We do, we’ve got a few good ones here. So I know a lot of people own retreat facilities or they have some tour groups that they manage. One of the questions is, they don’t get permission from their guests for photography or post photos for their marketing. And this goes back, I guess, to sharing posts that people have done previously on their own channels. Are they able to do that legally if they’ve post it on their social media channels? Are they able to legally repost those on their own social channels?

[Tony] So I know, so we went through all this at Ten Thousand Villages, to try to figure out how to, you know, the legality of certain things. The best thing that we came across, and Jamie, you might speak more into this than I can, but we created a brand hashtag, and I don’t wanna go all the way down that road, but we had some sort of hashtag that visitors could use in their posts. So it was Live Life Fair for Ten Thousand Villages, and they could use that in their posts, and then we would find those posts and we had some verbiage around if you use this, our company hashtag, you’re allowing us to repost this. But it doesn’t hurt to reach out to them in a direct message and just say, oh my gosh, we love your photo. It’s great. Can we repost it? Can we use it at our social platforms? A lot of people really, I’m not gonna say everyone, but a lot of users really like that. I know I’ve done that before. I’d take, you know, I’m totally one of those people who’d take an artsy photo of my coffee, like square one. If they were like, can I repost it? I’m like, yes, that’s awesome. So there are people who are willing. So even if you see a photo, and you’re like, wow, this is gorgeous, this is great, we love your reposting, give you credit, it wouldn’t hurt to reach out to them and just ask.

[Jamie] Yeah, I never post something always ask. And if you can’t ask, then just don’t use it. It’s way worse for somebody to be like, you stole my picture, or, I don’t wanna be on your page, than the hundred of likes that you’re gonna get. So always ask for permission, and if you can’t, then just find new ones that you can.

Does posting regularly on YouTube work?

[Scott] Great! All right, thoughts on YouTube. What do you post? Do you find it valuable? Sneak peeks, does it work?

[Tony] So I think video content is really really useful. YouTube, I think, depends on your comp. Like, if you do a sneak peek, or if you do a tour of your facility, I tend to think, and Jamie, you might think otherwise, I tend to think uploading that video directly to your social media platform, is a great way to get that video content out there. I think you can have a YouTube channel, and it feels like, and maybe this is just my experience coming through, it feels like that’s another fairly large thing to take on, ’cause you want it to be relevant content and continually uploading videos and things like that. When we have videos, we’ve uploaded directly to Instagram or Facebook, just because that it’s directly there. That’s just kind of how we utilized this. So, I don’t know if that was really helpful. I think if you’re evaluating platforms to use, that is a time-intensive one. Jamie, I don’t know if you have any other thoughts on that or otherwise.

[Jamie] Yeah, I agree. Now that Instagram lets you post longer videos, I would use Instagram, Facebook. You can upload for as long as you want. Even if you already did post your video on YouTube, when you literally put the link on your Facebook, that’s another link. And for me, I’m the laziest social media person, which is bad, because I literally run social media. If there’s a link I have to click, and then it opens up a different app, I’m done. Like, I don’t even care what it was, I don’t wanna do it. So making it easy is one of the biggest ones that I always go for. So using YouTube is like the most time consuming thing ever. I personally hate doing it, I don’t ever do it. I feel like it needs to be beautiful content, and I just don’t have time for that. So I’m always just posting my videos on Facebook and Instagram. But if you want to do YouTube, there are far better resources than probably Tony and I on the internet.

[Sam] Oh I’ll add to that just to say that it is a platform that is pretty monstrous. You can just passively post videos to it. There’s not gonna be anything wrong with that. If you’re gonna do it that way though, it’s probably not worth the effort, because there is a whole- You could ask our SEO Director at our agency, that there’s a whole strategy behind what is essentially a video search engine. And yes, it can be picked up by Google bots, yes, they can even kind of understand some of the content of the video, without you actually having any text. But it requires a ton of work. It requires a lot of, I think, some technical knowledge as well. And if we’re talking about being efficient with our time and our money, it’s probably not going to pay off, if you’re just passively posting videos. Or you shouldn’t expect it to pay off, in the forms of any traffic to your site and things like that.

[Tony] And I love, honestly, I just wanna say, I love what Jamie said about eliminating the barrier, that extra click. I mean, people are scrolling through their feeds, if it doesn’t start automatically playing, you lose them. And so I’m glad you mentioned that, ’cause I think that’s so true.

[Jamie] I hate myself sometimes though. Like, this person probably worked so hard but I’m just not gonna click on that link, sorry.

Wrap Up and Preview for the Next Meetup Topic: Social Media Ads

[Sam] We’ve all been there. So thank you folks very very much. And you, Tony especially you, set up this little plug for next week so nicely, talking about paid ads, and how they’re a little bit more trackable. It is a totally different animal when you go from creating and posting organically, or just posting using the post feature, and doing that well. There is a different way of doing paid ads well. We’re definitely gonna get into some very specific things. Maybe even show you some account setup information if we can figure out how to do that. It is very valuable, there is a way you can make it work specifically for the tourism industry. We’ve actually had success with that. But it does require a different mindset, a different strategy. So we wanna get into paid social ads next month, August 21st, we’re gonna be doing that again. We’ll have some more details for you as the month goes on. So, last thing here, just make sure that you’re a part of our Facebook group. Especially if we get to sharing some resources, sharing some other things about what we talked about today, that’s where we’re gonna be posting it. We’re gonna be posting it in this Facebook group. So I do invite you to follow that link. Or I believe, we have the link in the emails that we sent. So just click through to the Facebook group and ask to join. We’ll ask you a few questions, just to kinda get to know you. Just nothing crazy. And yeah, you can network and work with some other tour operators who are joining us, just trying to make digital marketing work so we can better our businesses. So thank you all very much for coming, and we hope to see you next time.

Get Free Traffic From Your Google My Business Profile

Did you know that Google Maps business listings with more than 100 images get 520% more calls than the average business or that 91% of questions posted to Google Maps listings have not been answered? Maps and Questions are both features of Google’s business tool, Google My Business (GMB)

Some experts in the digital marketing space have even said that Google is the new homepage for business. How can you take advantage of Google’s free tool that populates Google Maps, store client reviews, and so much? The answer is through an optimized and up-to-date GMB profile

COVID-19 is the perfect time to create or claim your GMB profile and get more bookings when lockdowns are lifted. This post shares the basics of GMB, where you should invest your energy, and how to get started today. 

What Is Google My Business? 

GMB is the portal you log into to manage your business listing on Google. Business profiles show up in branded searches on the right-hand sidebar of the Google search results. This means that when users are searching for your business name, keywords in your brand name, or for local services you offer, your GMB profile will appear… if it’s optimized and set up correctly. 

Your listing also shows up in Google Maps, showcases user-generated reviews, and offers quick contact options to reach your business. By keeping your profile optimized, you can not only impact your Google ranking, but you can also drastically increase your conversions through your listing. 

Features of GMB

If you’re on the fence about creating a GMB page, the features and advantages will speak for themselves. One of the best aspects of GMB? It’s completely free to set up and use. Be sure to take advantage of your features, including:

  1. Questions and Answers: When your customers and clients ask questions online, you can answer them through this feature. Not only does it provide answers for those asking, but these Q&As are indexed for future users to view. 
  2. Google Posts: Much like social media, GMB allows you to create posts each week promoting your business, services, products, and other things happening that are of interest to your audience. 
  3. Review Management: Also known as Google Reviews. With a strategic and well thought out review strategy, this can be a feature that separates you from your competitors. 

There are many other features included in GMB that we encourage you to research and look into. Like other platforms, these features and capabilities change frequently, so be sure to stay up to date on the latest tools to help grow your business bookings. 

Optimizing Your Profile 

Not only can GMB profiles provide valuable information to your customers, but they can also become an SEO tool for your digital brand. If your GMB profile is optimized and kept up to date, the booking potential when things open back up is endless. 

When optimizing your GMB profile, you’ll want to address these key areas first. 

  1. Primary Category: Find the number one thing that your business offers and select it as your primary category. 
  2. Secondary Categories: Add in any other categories that match what your business offers. Keep in mind, categories that aren’t related to your business can actually hurt your business ranking. 
  3. Reviews: Collecting Google reviews can have a positive impact on your rankings. Be sure to have a review strategy in place and continue investing time in this area. 
  4. Business Name Field: If you have keywords in your official business name, this can help with your business ranking. Stuffing keywords into your business name is not always best, but this may be an area to explore. 
  5. Additional Fields: If there is a feature or a field you can fill out, do it. Keep everything optimized and up to date. 
  6. Product Features: Although this isn’t available for all businesses, some profiles will have product features. This allows you to add in services or products as featured items on your profile and add in images and text to draw in users. 

GMB and COVID-19 

In light of recent months, Google My Business has added some new features to make temporary hours, alerts, and other information your customers may need to know very easy to update and share. While these features won’t always be available, explore what options your business profile has and update any relevant information. 

The Takeaways 

If your business doesn’t already have a GMB, the first step is to set up or claim your business. From there, optimizing your profile and creating a review strategy is vital. As you continue to update your information, add posts, and share new information, Google will index the content on your GMB and better match your business to users’ searches. 

The big takeaway? This underutilized tool is one you can benefit from almost immediately. If you have other questions or need any help with GMB, feel free to reach out to the team at Improve & Grow

Original article “Get Free Traffic From Your Google My Business Profile” published by Improve & Grow, LLC

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Travel & Tourism’s “New Normal”: What to Expect and How to Market (Infographic)

These are exciting times in the travel and tourism industry, with most businesses open or preparing to reopen soon. These are also uncertain times as no one is quite sure what the “new normal” will look like. 

While there is no textbook or roadmap available to provide a clear path on what to expect and how to respond to business challenges, it can help to band together and learn from one another. For DMOs and TPAs who plan to reopen and aim to increase bookings in the coming months but are not sure what that will look like, you are not alone. 

The team at Improve & Grow sent out a survey via email and on social media to businesses in the destination marketing and tourism industries. The survey asked questions about the topics of reopening, booking volume, and marketing budgets and tactics. 

If you’re unsure about reopening and how your business stacks up to others in your market, we’ve compiled the survey results to shed some light on these areas. You can also find survey results from CMI Media Group and Trip Advisor. 

The Current Climate of Business 

Across the board, bookings have been down significantly for most businesses, but all are starting to see a pickup. While many businesses are still closed or are just beginning to open back up, most companies are adapting their operations to accommodate social distancing guidelines.

In our survey, we found that 56% of businesses are currently closed to the public. If you’re still not open and are not sure when you will be, don’t feel discouraged. 26% of our respondents are still unsure if they will be opening in the foreseeable future. 

Study of tourism businesses planning to re-open

Reopening Plans 

As businesses do begin to reopen, new safety measures and business operations are a guarantee. Of our respondents, 47% of open businesses just reopened to the public in the last few weeks. While they continue to figure out what this “new normal” looks like, you can see how other businesses’ messaging plans to change this year. 

In a CTM Media Group survey, messaging around social distancing, cleaning efforts, limited capacities, and more will all be significant focuses in marketing and promotions.

Study of Tourism industry changing marketing messaging

Booking Volume

Booking volume and revenue are a large subject of concern. Although income depends on bookings, reduced numbers of reservations are not only affecting you. In our survey, 87% of open businesses report 50% ore more decline in bookings. Though this may seem scary right now, many tourists are rescheduling their travels rather than simply canceling trips and outings altogether. 

Since many people were forced to change their vacation and travel plans this spring and into the summer due to quarantine restrictions, customer mindsets trend towards positive outlooks. According to The Road to Recovery for the Global Travel and Hospitality Industry Survey done by TripAdvisor, 34% of consumers surveyed in late March reported rescheduling a trip due to COVID-19 rather than canceling it. 

Two in five of those surveyed reported making changes to their travel plans due to travel restrictions in place or because their chosen destination was closed for visitors. This shows that their decision to postpone was not necessarily by choice.

Key Takeaways from 2020 Tourism Marketing Study

Marketing Budgets and Tactics 

As the travel climate continues to change, we find that many businesses are pulling back in marketing. Less competition may represent an opportunity for others to grab market share. 

In our survey, we found that 53% of open businesses are spending less on marketing. Most businesses are also shifting those budgets to primarily digital marketing tactics. Email marketing and social media marketing are the dominant tactics we see emerging. While this isn’t a huge surprise, we found that many business owners are doing more of their marketing in-house to reduce costs. 

Some business owners are even trying some new things. Some businesses in complementary spaces are exploring co-marketing with other companies. Video marketing, including Facebook lives, are also catching wind. 

In addition to general increases in social media marketing, donating tours, online gift certificates, and other digital ways to support businesses are being utilized by many marketers.

So Where Do We Go From Here? 

If you’re interested in our full survey report, you can download a copy of the results. For businesses in Lancaster, you can also find resources for funding, personal protective equipment, and more at Recovery Lancaster

As the country continues efforts towards reopening and a new sense of normal presents itself, banding together with others in your industry and local economy to support one another is essential.

Although things are uncertain at the moment, trends show that as consumer confidence returns, domestic travel will be the first to rebound. We are hopeful to see where that takes us all.

If you need help developing your reopening plans, check out our free resources to help you along the way.

Tourism Marketing Reopening Infographic

Re-Opening Experiences: What to Expect and How to Market

Meetup Description

These are exciting times with most businesses open or preparing to re-open soon. These are also uncertain times as no one is quite sure what the “new normal” looks like. Watch this meetup to hear the results of our “Re-Opening Experiences” survey. You’ll also hear from our guest panel of tourism business leaders that will share their re-opening experiences including insights on current and future booking volume, changes they made to their marketing, and how they are adapting their experiences to accommodate social distancing guidelines.

Guest Panel

Meetup Video

Key Takeaways

Re-Opening Survey Results

  • 56% of businesses surveyed are currently closed to the public
  • 32% plan to open in the next few weeks, 42% in the next few months
  • 47% of open businesses just opened to the public in the last few weeks
  • 87% of open businesses report 50% ore more decline in bookings
  • 53% of open businesses are spending less on marketing
  • Most businesses are shifting to primarily digital marketing tactics
  • Email and social media marketing are the dominant tactics

Guest Panel Discussion

  • Bookings have been down significantly for most businesses, but all are starting to see a pickup
  • Many businesses are pulling back in marketing, which may represent an opportunity for others to grab market share
  • Business owners are doing more of their own marketing right now to reduce costs
  • Some business owners are trying new things:
    • co-marketing with other businesses
    • using videos or Facebook live, etc.
    • donating tours, gift certificates, etc. to support other businesses
  • Most businesses have had to adapt their operations in some way to accommodate social distancing guidelines
    • offering lodging guests masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes
    • limiting tours to small group sizes
    • replacing buffets with at table dining and/or in-room dining
    • offering outside dining options
    • using online bookings and digital waivers to limit or prevent walk-ins
    • offering contact-less check-ins
    • offering sales of gift store products online
    • transitioning to online food sales with curbside pickup or local delivery
  • Many businesses see a lot of future opportunities
    • bookings are picking up, some expect to capitalize on pent-up demand
    • opportunity to increase market share if other businesses are pulling back
    • opportunity to consolidate and restructure debt with lower interest rates
    • new revenue streams from online sales, curbside pickup, food delivery, etc.

Resource Links

Meetup Transcript

[Carl] Welcome everyone, this is Carl Lefever from the team at Accelerate Tourism. This is our June 12th meetup. This is gonna be the 9th I think in our series of weekly meetups here during the lockdown period. So welcome to each of you. If this is your first time on the meetup, just want to quickly introduce ourselves. I actually own Improve and Grow which is a digital marketing firm, we help a lot of different clients but we concentrate in the tourism industry. And when all this started happening we were looking for ways to help both our clients and other peers in the industry and so we decided to start this weekly meetup virtually since a lot of us are working from home and observing good social distancing guidelines. And the whole goal is to serve each of you as business leaders in the tourism industry. We’re specifically focusing on tourism marketing ideas and we certainly don’t have all the answers so we’re inviting people in from the industry to share their ideas. What’s working, what’s not, and also opening it up for discussion on each of these calls. And we’ve been doing these weekly. Now that a lot of you are moving out of the lockdown and reopening your businesses to the public, you’re going to have better things to do than jumping on Zoom calls every week. So we are going to be moving these to monthly moving forward. I’ll probably talk about that at the end of the call today but just as a reminder, after this call we’ll be moving to a monthly cadence on the meetups. So with that, we’ll introduce today’s topic. As a reminder, if you’ve got questions for the panelists, or for us, please submit them through the Q&A feature. There’s a screen shot here just to show you where you should see that in your panel. Feel free to ask questions throughout. If we don’t address your question during the presentation we will have about 15 minutes at the end of the call for open Q&A, and Sam, our moderator, will bring those up then.

Re-Opening Experiences Survey Results

[Carl] All right, so we’re doing something a little different with our call today. Before we get to the guest panel, we had sent out a survey to all of the past meetup participants. We also opened that up to a list we have of people that we’ve been inviting to participate in the survey. We also posted it on some tourism industry forums on social media to try to get just as broad a perspective as we could. So I just want to go through some of the results of that.

So, first question was, are you currently closed. What’s your business status? Are you currently closed, fully open or open on a limited basis? I personally have been, you know, in our county, businesses have been opening for the last few weeks. I was a little surprised to see that still as much as close to 60% of businesses are currently closed. So I would guess that holds true for a lot of you on the phone as well. But another 27% are open on a limited basis and another close to 18% are fully open to the public. So we broke down the questions in the survey between whether you were open and closed. For the people that are not, are currently closed but planning to open, we wanted to get a sense of timing. Are they opening next week, are they opening in the next few months. And you can see here from the breakdown, 32% plan to open in the next few weeks, 42% in the next few months. And there’s another 26% that are still not sure. So, if you’re feeling a little uncertain right now, you’re not alone. There’s a lot of people that aren’t quite sure when they’re gonna open right now.

We also asked you to predict what your booking volume’s gonna look like. Just the overwhelming green section there on the pie is 79% of you are expecting your bookings to be down by 50% or more. There’s a small percentage that feel that they might be about the same as last year. Bigger percentage down 25 to 50%, and a very small percentage are expecting maybe bookings to be up. I want you to keep some of those stats, keep those specific things in mind when we look at the businesses that are open because there’s some pretty big differences there. In terms of marketing budgets, there’s a pretty big diversity here which you would expect. 32% are planning to spend less on their marketing, 32% are planning to spend about the same, and then there are some people that are still not sure how they’re planning to handle their marketing budget which makes sense. A lot of the verbal feedback from that group was you know, we’re gonna see how things go, and adjust our marketing spend up or down based on results. And then there’s a small slice of people that just aren’t sure right now. And for those of you, hopefully you’ll get some insights from today’s call on maybe how to handle that.

In terms of marketing tactics, for those of you that are planning to open and are thinking about your marketing strategy, there’s a pretty wide diversity as you would expect with the different tactics you’re planning to use. But if you look at the bars that are the highest or the most commonly mentioned, they’re almost all digital marketing related. Which I don’t think should be a big surprise. I think tourism generally weights a little bit more towards digital advertising, but it does seem like a lot of us are shifting our marketing to a focus on digital which I think is a combination of both reducing costs and taking advantage of things that people can do on their own as well as intending to get in front of people where they are right now. With a lot of people at home, digital’s gonna be a much more effective way of getting to people.

So now let’s shift gears and talk about the respondents that are open. So our first question for them was how long have you been reopened? There was about 33% that never closed. My guess is a lot of those are, not my guess, from the data, it looks like a lot of those are in the lodging category. In many areas they did not have to shut down. 20% just opened in the last few weeks. And nearly 50% literally just opened within the last week or two.

So of those, this is that question I wanted you to remember from the previous group. For those that have been open, when we asked them about their booking volume, almost 90% are reporting that their bookings are down 50% or more from this same time last year. And then 13% are reporting they’re down between 25 to 50. There wasn’t anyone in the survey that said results were about the same or that they were up. So that’s very interesting. That’s obviously not great news but for those of you who are planning to open and maybe in those categories of looking at your bookings, hoping your bookings will be up or about the same, at least based on your peers’ experience, that’s probably not a realistic expectation.

In terms of how marketing budgets have shifted for those that have opened. About 20% are spending more than they previously planned, 27% are spending about the same but the majority are spending less. Which makes sense, right? Less revenue, less marketing spend. One thing to be thinking about there, and I realize this is easier said than done with cash flow, but you may need to think about spending more in order to get more bookings. Again I understand there’s a cashflow challenge there.

In terms of digital marketing tactics, this was another contrast between the two. Due to the size it was hard to put these both on the same slide. It might be easier to see that one way, but what I want to point out is the commonality between the two groups was an emphasis on digital marketing but the thing that really stood out to me is social media and email. Those bars are much larger for the groups that have opened. And I know for those that I have talked to personally, a lot of people are coming to the realization that they need to focus on the things that they can do themselves, and the things that they can do quickly and easily and cheaply, and social media and email definitely fall in those buckets. And I know for those that we’ve been working with or advising in those areas, they’ve been seeing some good results from that now. With people being at home, social media and email is a great way to get in touch. Particularly with the audiences you’ve already developed who for many of you are gonna be your most loyal fans and therefore maybe those that you have the easiest access to start gaining some bookings volume.

Guest Panel Introductions

[Carl] So those were some interesting things that we saw from the survey. I now want to turn to our guest panel. I want to introduce them and then lead us through some questions here. Marc Crusemire, Way Fine Marc, he’s the owner of Strasburg Scooters here in Lancaster County. Rebecca Gallagher owns the Smithton Inn. She’s also the Board Chair for Discover Lancaster. For those of you that were on our earlier calls or that are from the Lancaster area, you know of Discover Lancaster. And she reminded me that she also owns a wine-tasting bar. So good cross-section of business purview there. Ben Ream, we were planning on Ben joining. He had a last-minute conflict, so he may join here mid-stream, but he’s the Sales Director at Navitat Canopy Tours. Michael Rivkin, say hi Michael. Michael’s the owner at Dolon House Bed and Breakfast in Jim Thorpe. And then Phil True, who’s been on our calls in the past, Fun Scheduler at Refreshing Mountain which does overnight retreats. They do cabin rentals and they run outdoor activities. So, welcome Marc, Rebecca, Michael and Phil. Thank you for joining us today. Go ahead and unmute yourself if you haven’t already. Or we can help with that. And let’s get into the questions. So, the first question is, what has your booking volume been like since you reopened? Rebecca, would you mind speaking to that?

Re-Opening Booking Trends

[Rebecca] Yeah, so it’s picking up, which is lovely. It’s interesting though too, normally we would have guests all week long, and what I’m seeing is guests just coming for the weekends. So we’re nearly full this weekend. That’ll be our busiest since kind of gearing back up. And we’re kind of in between, I was looking at the responses you had. We never truly closed, but we were so, we were only open for essential workers. We had a doctor who stayed with us a couple of times, so we were kind of practically closed. So for the last three weekends, we’ve had three of our seven guest rooms booked. This weekend we have five of our seven guest rooms booked. And we’re starting to see reservations coming in for July, August, September, so that’s, I mean that’s phenomenal for cashflow. Starting to get those deposits in is a big help.

[Carl] Yeah, thank you, that was going to be my follow-up question for you, is are you seeing people booking, starting to book ahead again, so it sounds like yes. Marc, how about you guys?

[Marc] We never really closed. While we weren’t doing tours, we just weren’t having people booking. But since we’ve I guess technically reopened at the beginning of June, our revenue’s up about 32% over last year, for June, for the first 11 days of June.

[Carl] Wow.

[Marc] So, I’m feeling very optimistic. Our phone is ringing, actually it’s ringing right now. So you’re costing me money, Carl. But just seeing the revenue up over last year, which was our best year, I’m feeling very optimistic. We’re still down almost 60% for the year. But, you know, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel I think.

[Carl] That’s awesome. Michael, how about you? I know you’re in a very different, or different market, maybe not a very different market, but a different market. How are things in Jim Thorpe?

[Michael] So Jim Thorpe is very heavily tourism-driven. There’s some county seat business activity, but not for the bed and breakfast. They would tend to be either at the Inn at Jim Thorpe or some of the other regional hotels. But let me mention if I may that we have a group of bed and breakfasts and the Inn at Jim Thorpe that work together all year. And in the middle of March as the shutdowns began, we of course are considered essential businesses, so of course we were not required to shut down. But we all agreed because we’re tourism-driven, we would indeed close with the exception of military, healthcare and other essential activity. With the exception of one B&B, none of us had that call and so none of us have had bookings until, excuse me, none of us have had guests until we reopened last week which was everybody’s decision just to sort of wait until the beginning of June. We actually are picking up rooms as Rebecca is doing. Our phone is ringing, our bookings are coming in. The summer and into the fall are nowhere near where they usually are. So to put it in relation, ordinarily by this time, Carl, most of our weekends, most of our weekends would be full through October, it would be very difficult to book here. And our midweek is typically a later pickup. And that tends to be older couples that will call Friday and say hey, we want to come Monday for three nights. That call is not being made right now. We are picking up some midweek, I’m very happy to say, contrary to Rebecca, but again, not the volume that we would have. But I think that has a lot to do with the fact that tends to be an older traveler.

[Rebecca] Right.

[Michael] So essentially, anything that we’re picking up right now is really last minute. We picked up four bookings in the past 24 hours; one for tonight, one for tomorrow, one for next weekend, and one for September. So again, it’s all good, we’re happy to have the bookings. But the trends aren’t there. I might also add I think importantly, we close our OTA availability for weekends. Our weekends are never open on Expedia, booking.com and so on and so forth unless it’s last minute, we’re finding ourselves on a Thursday with some open rooms. But typically we don’t need to have, frankly, that expense. Right now our OTAs, every booking channel we have is being utilized, they’re wide open 100% all year. And that of course will have a further effect on bottom line.

[Carl] Right, right. Michael, you mentioned you also have some involvement with the Chamber in your area. Any broader perspective of trends outside of lodging?

[Michael] Absolutely. So food and beverage is doing terrific. Some of our restaurants that opened with takeout, frankly are doing better than they did under pre-COVID 19 conditions. They’ve essentially reinvented themselves. So the food and beverage, and we have some pretty cool shops and restaurants here. So the restaurants and pubs have been open for takeout as available. One of the better pubs in town, good friends of ours, opted not to do takeout. That model did not work for their physical plant. However, they have patio, so of course they were permitted to open under yellow. So they opened for outdoor dining, I’m gonna say actually last week. And they’ll progress to 50% indoor which is minimal for them, it’s a very small indoor space. But we have another good restaurant in town that’s just not ready to open yet because for them that 50% that comes into effect today for our region, that 50% model will not work for them because they’re too small and so to staff, stock, and reopen does not work for a restaurant of that size. Now, having said that, so while the restaurants are reinventing themselves and touch wood , doing good, retail is not. Retail has not come back. And our shops are, again, it’s a wonderful unique tourist town, and so the shops offer unique handmade items, homemade products, and essentially what we might all call dispensable income items. You don’t come to Jim Thorpe because you need wallpaper. Those shops are really slow to come back. And that’s a two-stage factor we think. Again, we just met on this last evening. One, many of our shops are in very small historic structures so that really challenges the social distancing. Two, folks are very weary about wear, well, let me rephrase that, the general public is hesitant to wear masks, and some of the shops actually have had confrontations with visitors when requested that sorry, it’s a tiny shop, it’s a state law, you have to wear a mask. And some of the visitors have gotten a little bit angry and departed without doing it. Having said that, our borough council is trying to make every accommodation possible to help some of those small shops. May I give you two examples?

[Carl] Sure.

[Michael] Okay, so October we typically do a fall festival, very large extensive, busy fall festival here in Jim Thorpe. That fall festival was greatly scaled down this year. Two of the items that we typically have at that fall festival at our county park right at the foot of the historic district here would be approximately 30 to 35 artisans, craftsmen and food trucks. They are not invited this year. We are not having that. With the specific goal of focusing that business back to our members, back to our historic district. Now, part and parcel of that, our borough council approved last night that for one of our streets that has no sidewalks to speak of, and therefore cannot put shops, expand their shops in front of their business, there’s a small park, borough park on their street. The borough granted permission last night for those shops on that street at no charge, no peddlers permits, no paperwork, no nothing, go ahead and set up tables during fall to try to expand that business. So again it’s a matter of trying to reinvent yourself and trying to take advantage of every opportunity. But is retail is struggling.

[Carl] Phil, how are things going at Refreshing Mountain?

[Phil] Yeah, so we’re kind of unique in that we have three separate areas that we can have business come through. So we have overnight retreats, we have day outdoor activities such as zip lining, we opened our pool recently, and then we also have overnight cabin rentals and hotel rooms now that we’re opening up for individuals or families to book into. So our overnight retreats is pretty much a complete loss at this point. Ever since March, people have pulled out, rightfully so in many ways, because we can’t necessarily host larger groups. We have a few still coming this summer, church groups, but as far as our bookings for outdoor activities, the phones have been steady and we’ve been filling up tours. However, we’ve been limiting those tours based on private tours instead of public or open tours where you might be paired with people that you don’t know. So we’ve made some of those accommodations So really our revenue is down, our bookings are there but the revenue is down because we’re having less people. And then for our overnight stays such as our cabins and our hotel rooms, we recently opened up our hotel rooms to families, which we usually just reserve for our overnight retreats but since we don’t have them, we’ve opened them up and we’ve been getting steady calls on those. And so we’re starting to really try to ramp that up a little bit more here to try to get people to stay longer and it seems like people are booking in fairly frequently. Which it’s hard to say compared to last year because we typically would have a lot of that space filled with overnight retreats. So it’s really hard to say where we’re at in the whole scheme of things. But overall I can pretty confidently say we’re down from last year.

Changes to Marketing Strategy

[Carl] All right, thank you. So, next question, what kind of changes have you had to make in the way you market your experiences? Anybody want to jump in on that one?

[Rebecca] All right, I can start.

[Carl] Sure.

[Rebecca] Essentially again, very much mirrors what you had in your survey where probably the biggest change is taking over a lot of the functions myself. Had to, I had gotten to a stage where I was able to hire a marketing company to do things like write blogs and send out email blasts, regular posts on our social media, search engine optimization, and I’ve pulled all of that in-house. So, and I’ll hopefully as business ramps back up again, start sending some of that back out again, but yeah, in this realm of having no cashflow coming in, that was one of the easier things to be able to cut. I can’t turn off my electric. But I could turn off the marketing and take that on. I also started doing some things that are maybe a little bit outside of my comfort zone and pushing myself to do it. Probably the biggest one is doing a couple of little videos. I participated in that Amish Farm and House video that they set up for bed and breakfasts to promote ourselves on their website. And even though I’m perfectly comfortable being interviewed by a TV reporter, I am not comfortable doing like personal videos, walking around, holding my camera up.

[Carl] I’m with ya.

[Rebecca] But you have to try stuff. So every opportunity that presents itself I’m giving it a go, I’m trying to be a gamer. But again, it’s all on low cost type of opportunities. I’m not thinking about print advertising, certainly not TV or radio. Even for the wine bar, it’s all been social media. Facebook, Instagram, primarily.

[Carl] How about the rest of you? Any changes of note other than what Rebecca mentioned with your marketing?

[Marc] We’re focusing on social media. As you know we pulled back from our Google, but the social media that we’ve been doing, rather than focusing on our business and our tours, is we’ve really been focusing on our community. So we’ve gotten involved with a little country store and miniature horse farm to help them out where we’ve provided tours for them to give away to people who sponsored some of their animals. Because they were having a hard time feeding some of the animals. So we used social media for that and just promoting the businesses that are around us. Now once we get through June, I’m kind of using June as a catch-up month where we’re catching up on those bills that we didn’t get a chance to pay, and then we’re looking at July to really starting things back up and ramping up. And we’ll probably take a look at spending more than we did last year. And I see it as an opportunity. If there’s others out there who are pulling back on their spending, it’s an opportunity for me to grow. So it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

[Carl] Yeah. Michael, any big changes to your marketing approach?

[Michael] Not so much to be honest, Carl. We focus on our Facebook page, and Google, TripAdvisor and those OTAs. The TripAdvisor for us is key. And we had one unique challenge this year and that is that we moved the business and changed the name in January. So, fortunately we were able to keep the TripAdvisor, the TripAdvisor reviews, which were super, super important to us. But the Facebook is key, and I’ll tell you why. Because we have a historic landmark home here in town that we’ve been renovating bit by bit. And we post those renovations, updates, decorating as we do them. And that keeps the previous guests and new, completely engaged. And so because it’s a unique property, we have a lot of repeat support. That’s worked really well for us. But in terms of investing any additional, not so much. And to Marc’s point, we absolutely, positively have not stopped with the support we give to the local community, whether it be a financial donation for, to sponsor a music event for example, or we tend to give a lot of gift certificates out. And we have absolutely not stopped that. That’s good for word-of-mouth, and I think it would be really bad for word-of-mouth if you didn’t.

[Carl] Yeah. Phil, how about you guys?

[Phil] Yeah, so I mean right off the bat, I think this Accelerate Tourism meetup has been extremely helpful in the process of trying to figure out hey, how can we do better. So we’ve taken a lot of key things away from that plus we have an awesome marketing agency that’s been supportive of us throughout the time, giving us some good advice. And even though we’ve cut that out of our budget at this point, that is our marketing agency, we’ve like Rebecca mentioned, we’ve gone into social media a lot heavier, a lot more heavier and also really just connecting with local businesses. So we’ve been partnering with some B&B’s to do some outdoor adventure packages where we’re giving them some deals for their customers, they’re creating packages for that. We’ve just been really trying to connect more with our local businesses to kind of help support each other, so that’s been great. And we’ve been in the middle of a website refresh which I think has also kind of helped as far as the navigation for people to make those call-to-actions and really kind of drive some of that there. So, we’ve been doing a few things across the board but yeah, definitely, like Rebecca, we’ve been doing some social media stuff that I’ve been uncomfortable with if you will, with doing videos and other stuff. But we’ve seen, we’ve done some ad boosts on there, some post boosts that is, on Instagram and Facebook, and we’ve seen some pretty good engagement with that. And so with some of the promotions we were doing, we were actually pulling some people in and then they were finding other things about us and not even booking for things that they saw the promotion for. So that’s been helpful, those little things have been really helpful all along the way.

Changes to Operating Procedures to Accommodate Social Distancing Rules

[Carl] Good. Good, as we go to the next question, just a reminder for the audience to, if you’ve got questions for the panelists, these are all people that are in business right now, that have been going through what you’re about to go through if you’re thinking about reopening here soon. So if you’ve got questions that we haven’t addressed yet, throw them in Q&A and we’ll get those, we’ll get to those after we get through the next few minutes here. So, a big question I think a lot of people have. I saw these when people registered, there were several people that asked questions along these lines. What kind of, I’m interested to hear you guys elaborate a little bit on what kind of changes, if any, have you had to make to accommodate clients’ fears about safety and to comply with government regulations on social distancing? Anybody want to jump in on that? Phil I know you guys have made some changes at Refreshing Mountain.

[Phil] Yeah, so we’ve had to pivot a lot of what we do. So like I said before, we’ve done private, public tours usually where people are coming and jumping in on zip line with other groups. We’ve made those completely private. So, all of our guides wear face masks or some kind of face protection barrier between the customer and them. The nice part is actually the state has given us the opportunity to decide whether or not we want customers to, whether they’re required to wear face masks or not. So we’ve left that up to the decision of the customers. And we found that that’s been really beneficial because some of them just don’t feel comfortable zip lining in hot weather with a face mask on. Or climbing a climbing tower. Or, for example, going to our pool. It’s actually a safety hazard, wading in water with a face mask on, it can be detrimental to your health actually. So that’s been some unique ones. We’ve also moved away from the term social distancing and actually looked at repurposing that to say responsible spacing. We felt that the social distancing term was creating a connotation of hey, we don’t want you to interact with us or anybody else. And so we’ve moved away from that and really have started to push, even on social media, like we want you to be present with us and with each other while you’re here. So, that’s been a perspective-shift that we’ve also done in that realm to try, because I think throughout all this, honestly, is we’re fighting perception, right? There’s, it’s all about what people perceive. And so, and there are warranted levels of that. So trying to meet people where they’re at, whether that’s, they want to come right away and do everything, they’re a little hesitant, but kind of tipping, putting their toes in the water. Or they’re just absolutely not. I do not want to go out, I don’t want to do anything. So we want to be sensitive to all of those. But help that perception and show them that we have a safer environment for them to be here. So we really, really have been pushing that and just kind of trying to move that perception as much as possible and we’ve seen as other people open up, our hope is that people will see that they can get out, they can start to do things outdoors, they can maybe take a trip to a B&B or somewhere outside of their realm, that they can do those things and do it safely in a good way. So, it’s good we’re doing the changes.

[Carl] I have felt this whole time that it’s just, you know, it’s gonna take the people that are those that want to get out right away, like if they can be seen doing that in a safe way and a fun way, that’s just going to build, you know, other people are going to be encouraged by that, and it should snowball again hopefully in a safe way. Anyone else want to share any of the changes that they’ve made?

[Marc] So, one of the things that we’re doing is we haven’t opened up our office. We still have the building except for the bathrooms, we still have closed to the public. So when they check in, we’ll meet them outside. We’re checking people in rather than a desktop, we’re checking people in on our phones. Our waivers, we’ve been trying to get away from paper waivers and this is actually been great because we do have digital waivers available. We have kiosks set up in the office but we are encouraging our guests to fill them out prior to arriving, and we’re having about a 90% success rate on that. So those are probably the biggest changes other than the fact that right now we’re not accepting walk-in guests. So all of our tours are done by reservation. But we’ve been spraying out our helmets and sanitizing them after each use before it became trendy. So we’re good there.

[Phil] Yeah, with ya on that.

[Rebecca] Yeah, for us, the biggest difference, the three main areas are check-in, breakfast and check-out. And so like Marc, we’ve kind of gone toward digital, or we’re just taking reservations, no walk-ins, rather than having a personal face-to-face interaction for check-ins, we have an express check-in system where guests will find a letter on our desk, letter tells them everything that we would tell them anyway. In some ways I think guests like it even better. They don’t need some innkeeper telling them where the light switch is. I think they can figure that out. Breakfast is probably the biggest difference. And there we’re kind of following the lead of our guests. We’re wearing a mask or a face shield throughout. Any sort of buffet-type things have gone away so I had to stock up on like thermos coffee pots so everyone gets one at their own table. They get their sugar and creamer and butter and there is no walking up to a buffet anymore. And there’s no sharing tables. We have three individual tables that people can sit at. Normally you might have another couple join you, but we’re not doing that anymore unless it’s a group that came together. And we are giving guests the option to have breakfast in their rooms. So we invested in trays and stands and all those sorts of things to make that possible for our guests. What I’m seeing though is the people who are traveling now, those early get-out-again people, they’re just, they think this is all ridiculous. And they don’t even, you know, they’re much less cautious. I think we’re gonna start to see those other cautious folks but I think, you know, everybody’s touched on it. It’s that perception, one of those other, like out-of-my-comfort-zone things that is, I made a video of all of these processes, the cleaning procedures, the, Phil I love your responsible distancing, whatever, that was a great phrase, I’m using that. But all those things that are gonna make them feel comfortable coming in. They know that you’ve taken steps and that the other guests that are at your property are gonna be taking similar steps. I think that just makes people feel better, and then when they get here they’re like, ah, fine. So, we’re gonna see how that plays out. But yeah, I think we’ve gotten some really good advice from organizations like PABBI, the Pennsylvania Association of Bed and Breakfasts. I’m a member of a group called Select Registry. They have phenomenal guidance, and they’ve taken into account CDC, so I think there’s a lot of organizations out there. PLRA, different attraction organizations that we can really get some good advice and protocols that, and you know it’s not just about keeping our guests safe. We have to keep ourselves safe. You know, if Phil gets sick, Refreshing Mountain’s in trouble. If our bed and breakfast, if I get sick, that’s, my only source of revenue goes away. So I think it’s not just for their safety, they need to recognize that we’re trying to keep ourselves safe too.

[Carl] Great points.

[Michael] So if I may, one of our greatest concerns in reopening was I would say that a lot of the, for lack of a better word, the mojo that we generate here with our guests, is the socialization at the breakfast table. Breakfast here is three courses, it can be 90 minutes. It’s a pretty big deal. And our fear was, and that’s where guests get to interact and whatnot. Our trouble under normal times is to get them out of the table so we can get them checked out and get the room refreshed for the next guest. Well, what we wanted to do was ensure that we didn’t lose that mojo. And by spreading out the tables, and utilizing our veranda where we have a lot more room, we can put people outdoors. Rebecca, everybody’s really 100% more comfortable outdoors for dining. And so we have them responsibly distanced apart but they can still converse, and so what we’ve found just after a week, is that that energy is still there, that very positive energy is still there. We still do a check-in but in terms of a check-in. For previous guests, they know our routines, they get a door code, they know where to park, they know where to eat. We have maps and whatnot. But folks want a house tour, we don’t offer that to the public right now. The house is closed to the public unless you’re a registered guest. And the guests do still want that interaction. But we are masked, we are sanitizing, we have no…homemade biscotti in a jar have been replaced with packaged, store-bought biscotti for example. The community coffee lounges are replaced with individual coffee service in each room. So, and of course we have sanitizer stations and all the protocol that we should have. And to be honest, when the guests sees you at 8:30 in the morning walking around with a mask, gloves, and sanitizing railings and doorknobs, they’re more comfortable. So the greatest challenge right now I think we’re gonna have is making sure that our guests are not too complacent. And right now, because our county and Jim Thorpe have historically been low in the COVID counts, during the whole crisis, folks are perhaps a bit cavalier. When you wander our town, as I mentioned earlier, you’re not seeing face masks use and you’re actually seeing refusal to wear coming into shops, and that cavalier attitude is fearful to me because I don’t want to bring it in to Rebecca’s point to our house. And so while not portraying being a hospital, and taking all the personality out of the experience, we have to find that balance between conversing, sitting down, going over what to do, where to go, and maintaining some sort of distancing and safety.

Opportunities for the Future

[Carl] Great. Thank you all, that was really good feedback. We’re about to transition into taking questions from the group, so if you have a question, you haven’t had a chance to submit it yet, please go ahead and do that. And Sam, be ready to start bringing up those questions. But I do want to give our panelists one last question. We’ve heard a lot about the challenges with booking, some of the changes you’ve had to make, but we’ve also heard some encouraging things with bookings being up in some cases, with guests, you know, bookings starting to pick up. And with getting good response from the community. So as you look kind of towards the future, what would you guys say, I want to hear from each of you, what would you say is the biggest opportunity you see for the future. Rebecca, why don’t you go first?

[Rebecca] Yeah, so I think, you know, necessity is the mother of invention, and we’ve all had to look at new and different ways, to Michael’s point, to provide a customer experience. And even just to generate revenue. So while this whole shutdown was occurring, you know, I had possible revenue could be from the wine bar, but the wine bar was shut. So we started doing pick up and delivery. And we had to create an online store which we had never had before. So now people can order our wines online, they can order slushies online and go and drink it out in our grounds. And so those things were an opportunity for doing something different that was socially distanced. We’ve had a gift shop in the bed and breakfast for years. But I never did online ordering for it. And I’ve done a couple thousand dollars in revenue from our online gift shop. Same thing, I took it, and made an online store. So I think those opportunities are, I wouldn’t have done those things if I wasn’t forced to do those things and so I think I have to, the key is to keep on looking for opportunities like that. I like Marc’s idea in a world where other people might be hunkering down or scaling back or afraid to reopen, there’s opportunities for maybe picking up a little bit of market share. Picking up market share from maybe big hotels that people don’t want, they figure a smaller property, they have less of a chance of interacting with other people. So yeah, those opportunities are out there. And then, I really like the idea of partnering. Phil, I will be calling you about a package for Refreshing Mountain in our bed and breakfast. I think looking for opportunities to co-market each other is just a win-win for everybody.

[Carl] Cool. Michael, how about you, what do you guys see as big opportunity for the future?

[Michael] Carl, very briefly, so, pent-up demand. There’s no question. Everybody wants to get the heck out of Dodge. And so what we did was we took what the industry was doing after the shutdowns began in early March. Everybody put their cap-ex projects on hold, they stopped buying anything, they stopped doing maintenance, repairs, renovations, and on the reopening, you’ll see that many of the large hotel companies, most of the commercial lodging establishments, have cut their services. We did the opposite . We accelerated our renovation and investment program and now we’re ahead of where we thought we’d be now which is perfect for the reopening. And we’ve tried to up our game with guests amenities. So we did the opposite, we took the opportunity where other people were sort of backing away from life, and we spent three months getting ready for reopening.

[Carl] That’s great. Phil, how about you guys, what do you guys see as the biggest future opportunity?

[Phil] Yeah, so in short, say yes to everything.

[Rebecca] I like that.

[Phil] We, honestly, when we were founded by Marlin and Sharon Harnish, a couple that came together 35-plus years ago. They literally would get a call from a retreat saying hey, we’ve got 30-something people, we want to come this weekend, and Marlin would say, okay. And they only had 12 beds, and they had you know, another group coming in. You know, so they said, okay, now how are we gonna make this work? And so anything that comes through we’re actively engaging in it. And we’re planning ahead so we’re thinking about what if we go back to yellow, or if we’re green here soon, what if we go back to yellow, what if we go back to red? What does that look like? And so a school district called us the other day and said hey, can you guys host students if we’re in yellow? They can’t all be at our school. You would have to provide supervisory roles and social distancing, all that, so we’re not throwing it out the window, we’re entertaining it. So stuff like that I think we just are keeping our ear to the ground and saying “yes” to everything.

[Carl] Okay. Marc, how about you guys?

[Marc] I guess my answer would be similar to some of the answers we’ve already heard. But one of the things we’re actually looking at is consolidating debt. Money is cheap right now. And my wife and I bought out my ex-partner back in 2015 and since that time we’ve grown our business about 400%. In doing so that required us to take on some debt that we didn’t want to take on but it helped to grow the business. We’re looking at this right now as an opportunity to create more cashflow because we’re able to consolidate that debt with the, with cheaper interest rates. So that’s, for us, that’s probably the biggest opportunity. We’re gonna continue to do what we’ve done. We’re gonna continue to come up with new and exciting tours and you know, give the best, the guests the best tour that we possibly can. That’s not gonna change. But it’s that cashflow, it’s that behind-the-scenes stuff that people don’t see that helps to run the everyday business.

Open Q&A

[Carl] That’s a very great point and probably very relevant for many of the people on the call. Thank you. What kind of questions do we have from the group?

[Sam] Yeah, so one we have here is, are bookings you’re getting being dominated by local guests rather than travelers from further away.

[Rebecca] Yeah, for us, it’s been like not necessarily local in Ephrata, but local like short drives, definitely. Hershey, Harrisburg, York, Lebanon, places that aren’t normally our big, our biggest groups of customers are more coming from like New Jersey, Maryland, D.C., Delaware, and so yeah, we definitely have seen a move to closer drives. And I haven’t had a single person since we reopened that’s flown here.

[Michael] Right. And I would say it’s the same for us. Our traditional draw for our visitors to Jim Thorpe is the Lehigh Valley, greatly the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia region, upper New Jersey, northern New Jersey and New York. And that’s exactly what it is. And everything essentially is a two-hour drive or under. But definitely driving.

[Marc] Ditto.

[Phil] Same here. I think people are, I’m even looking to go places, right? And like we’re looking to go to Maine but Maine’s, you have to quarantine for 14 days currently to go there, so I think people are really searching and saying hey what are the state laws right now in regards to this whole thing. And for us in Pennsylvania, what are the county-by-county, where are they at? And what can be done. And so again, kind of going back to our website and other information out there for what are we doing, we’re trying to keep up with making it aware and making people aware of where we’re at for that so that they can say, oh yeah, they’re in Lancaster County, okay, like they can host people, this is what we can do, and we’re putting links even to government websites saying yeah, this is where you can be. And this is how you can do it safely.

[Carl] That’s great. I was going, you kind of took the words out of my mouth, I was gonna follow up to that to say to everyone on the call like you may have to, normally you’d probably think it’s outside the scope to talk about what the county safety guidelines are, what’s going on in the state, but you’ve got people looking at your website thinking about coming to your property that might be making stuff up about what they can or can’t do. So going out of your way to create a simple statement and then link to government agencies with the details is a great step. Awesome. Questions, other questions, Sam?

[Sam] Yeah, I don’t recall hearing much about this as you all were answering the questions. But have people, have customers been asking about discounts, you know, and if so, what does that look like? How are you answering that, what kind of things are they asking you for?

[Rebecca] I’ve heard, one of my favorite, there’s a woman who owns the Old Square Inn in Mount Joy, and she was on a video call the other day, and the question about discounts came up and she quickly was like, we are not charging a penny more to implement all of these safety protocols that we have put in place for you. So, she like took that and flipped it. And said, we are going above and beyond, extra cleaning, I mean, the amount of supplies that we’ve had to buy in terms of room service-type things and sanitizing sprays and masks, we provide two masks per guest. We provide them individual sanitizers, we provide wipes in their room in case they want to wipe down surfaces themselves, if they don’t really trust us. And we aren’t going to charge you any more for any of that.

[Carl] That’s great.

[Phil] Love that.

[Michael] We’ve had no requests for rate reduction. None. And we did knock our rates down a little bit for June but I can tell you effective after the July 4th holiday which is typically the heart of our season here in Jim Thorpe, the rates are as published late last year. There’s no change. Our traditional policy is the rate is the rate, no matter what platform you look on, you’re gonna see the same rate for our rooms. The reality is again, our normal policy is if it’s a Friday morning and there’s a room open, yeah, we may work with you a little bit on it, but in terms of a phone call that starts off with what discounts do you have, it’s probably not one I’m going to convert to a booking.

[Carl] Yeah.

[Rebecca] Now that said, so we aren’t necessarily doing discounts, but the average daily rate in Lancaster County has dropped significantly and a lot of that has to do with just a crazy amount of new inventory that’s online. You know, we’ve got a true hotel up the street that’s charging less than $80 a night. And it’s lovely, brand-new hotel. And so there’s a lot of other properties that are driving our price down, not necessarily the coronavirus.

[Carl] Gotcha.

[Phil] Yeah, we’re running tons of discounts . I think, and again, we’re unique in that we have different, we have overnight stays and we also have outdoor activities, but I think for especially our outdoor activities, we’re running discounts, and I think it’s more so pulling people in to see hey, it’s kind of a conduit, if you will, for that, but yeah, we would love to get away from that. But, Rebecca, to your point, I think, and Michael, I think you both have made a good case of, I think people are looking more for a personal experience in that way. They’re not gonna be looking for these chain hotels. Because they can see the value in being a space that is not highly populated or they know that you guys are caring for your place and support small businesses too, so I think that’s really key too.

[Carl] Cool, well, unfortunately I think that needs to be our last question. I do have a couple more things I want to cover here, but just want to thank you Rebecca, Michael, Phil and Marc for joining us today. This went even better than I planned, meaning in terms of just the quality of your responses and the positivity behind that each of you show around, yeah, there’s some challenges but here’s how we’re working through it. And there’s some big future opportunities that’s just really encouraging.

[Marc] Can I put in a plug real quick for a local business?

[Carl] Sure.

[Marc] I spoke with the owner of Good N’ Plenty yesterday and they are opening today for indoor dining.

[Rebecca] Oh!

[Marc] Yes, so if you’ve got any guests or you’re local, Good N’ Plenty will be open today and tomorrow for indoor dining. GoodnPlenty.com.

[Carl] Thanks Marc. Since it came from you we won’t get in trouble. That technically violated one of our meetup principles but okay. I said it was all right, it’s fine.

[Marc]I’m a rebel, Carl, I’m a rebel.

[Carl] You are, that’s good, that’s one of the reasons we love you, Marc. Awesome.

Closing Summary

[Carl] Well, I’m gonna repeat what I said at the beginning of the call. This is our last weekly meetup. We’re gonna move to a monthly meetup. We still want to be here to serve you guys. We want to help you guys but we also recognize you need to be much more focused on your businesses right now than attending Zoom calls. And frankly, we do to. So, we are going to be moving to monthly. And I would like each of you, if you could, before you leave today, I’m launching a poll right now here on Zoom. We’ve got a list of 10 topics or so that are on our list of topics that we haven’t covered yet or haven’t covered as deeply as we could. If any of those topics are of interest to you, please click on them and let us know. We want to make sure we’re serving up topics that are relevant to you, not just relevant to us. So before you log off today, if you could vote on that poll. That’ll help us queue up the right kind of content as we move forward. Thank you very much.

And for those of you that are new and don’t know about this yet, we do have a Facebook group just for the Accelerate Tourism meetup. This is for people from the meetup to be able to interact, share, collaborate. We’ve had people, you know, Rebecca talked about co-marketing, we’ve had people join together and create deals on our group. We’ve had people post their websites or post an email or post a social media post and feedback. It’s a great forum for that. We don’t post too much on there, but we, if I find good stats or metrics or good stories of things that are going on that are relevant to the group we post them there. Yeah, so I just encourage you to join up with the group and use it as a forum to bounce feedback off of your peers. It’s a private group so it’s safe. You can be honest, you can ask for feedback and not worry that it’s gonna be out there in the public.

Again, thank you everyone, really excited to see businesses opening, really excited personally to hear some of the stories we heard today. It’s very encouraging and hopefully those of you that listened in feel the same way. I wish y’all a great weekend and a good summer.

How to Leverage Local DMOs and TPAs to Get More Bookings

For businesses in any tourism industry, finding new ways to market their destination and bring awareness to their offerings is a main goal. Many of these businesses rely on Destination Marketing Organization (DMOs) and Tourism Promotion Agencies (TPAs) to help them do just that. If your business is not already familiar with DMOs or TPAs, we’ve created this guide to help you get started.

First Things First, What Are DMOs and TPAs?

DMOs and TPAs are organizations that promote destinations, encourage travelers to visit a geographic area, and overall aim for a positive economic impact on the local economy. They also provide a platform for local businesses to share their offerings and gain visibility.

While DMOs and TPAs have similar goals, they do differ in funding. DMOs are privately owned agencies, while TPAs are government-funded. Both organizations allow smaller businesses to gain valuable exposure that they may not be able to do through their own in-house efforts.

How Do I Know Which Organization is Right for My Business?

While you’re deciding which DMO or TPA to work with, knowing what to look for in a partnership is very helpful. When you are evaluating which is the best fit for you, consider these items.

  1. Evaluate your DMO like you would any other financial investment.
  2. Research each DMOs’ website, membership cost, audience reach, and external marketing efforts.
  3. Does the DMO offer any partnership benefits beyond their services?
  4. What services are included in each membership package, and what is an additional cost?
  5. Evaluate the time and financial investment required with any DMO to get a positive return on investment (RIO).

How Can I Best Leverage Their Services?

Many of these destination marketing companies have similar ways of operating even though they’re all unique. Contact your local DMOs, and get to know the people you may be working with. You will also want to keep these items in mind when working with your DMO.

  1. Treat your DMO as an extension of your website with up to date, accurate information.
  2. Ask questions! Learn about what is free, what are paid services, and how you can use them.
  3. Share new and old blog and social media content with your DMO.

Once you choose to work with a DMO, you will want to evaluate your investment return and ask for access to your analytics and tracking. If you are unfamiliar with marketing analytics and how to evaluate them, try these steps to help get you started.

  1. Set up Google Analytics on your website to measure analytics and see where traffic is coming from.
  2. Communicate with your DMO for guidance on analytics and assessing website traffic.
  3. Review your analytics each month to see what pages of your website see the most traffic.
  4. Consider tools to help you track conversion, like Google Analytics and CallRail
  5. If you want to run ads, ask your DMO for traffic data for the pages you are considering using. They can help you decide which pages may be best for your ads.
  6. Track your financial investment and ROI to see if the partnership is worth it.

“It’s not just should I be on this DMO’s website or not, but which page and even which placement or which type of ad makes sense.”

Carl Lefever, Improve & Grow

If I Don’t Have the Budget, Can I Still Benefit from DMOs?

For organizations that have little or no budget, DMOs and TPAs can still be an asset to their marketing efforts. Although each DMO is different, many offer free areas of promotion like community calendars and social media that don’t require membership to use. If your budget is limited, try leveraging your DMO through these areas.

  1. Call your DMO and ask what is available free to the community.
  2. Leverage networking opportunities by attending free events offered by the DMO.
  3. Utilize free event calendars and tailor your event descriptions for each outlet’s audience.
  4. Tag the DMO on social media and use local hashtags in posts they may want to reshare.

There are many benefits to working with DMOs and TPAs. Whatever your goals, be vocal about them when you’re comparing which organizations to work with. Remember to ask the right questions and closely track if your investment makes sense for your business.

If you’re still unsure where to start, here is a list of US-based DMAP-certified DMOs and a list of International Tourism Organizations. We also invite you to book a discovery call, and join the Accelerate Tourism Facebook Group, where we cover all things tourism and marketing.

3 Principles for Building a Booking Growth Funnel

Meetup Summary

Do you have a proven marketing strategy that gets results or would your marketing strategy be best described as “random acts of marketing”? Our guest speaker has personally helped nearly 100 companies with their marketing strategy and has found three key principles, that when applied, consistently lead to increased bookings. Watch this meetup to learn how to get more bookings from people already visiting your website, attract more people seeking out the experience you offer, and nurture interested visitors until they are ready to book.

Speaker

Carl Lefever, Founder of Accelerate Tourism and Digital Marketing Strategist at Improve & Grow

Video Recording

Key Takeaways

  1. Dangers of “random acts of marketing”
    • There are many good marketing tactics, but not all are good for your business
    • Need to consider your target audience, marketing objectives and budget
    • It’s good to test, but with that, must also evaluate and cut or change what doesn’t work
    • Whatever you do, your marketing should be intentional and aligned with the buyer’s journey
  2. Thinking of the Buyer’s Journey as a Sales Funnel
    • The buyer’s journey is often not linear
    • But it does move thru stages
    • It is a marketer’s job to align their marketing with the buying cycle
    • Doing so will improve your marketing effectiveness dramatically
  3. Principle #1: Get more bookings from people already on your website
    • Improving your ability to convert interested buyers to paying customers is the key to return on investment
    • You can dramatically improve your bookings with the audience you already have by focusing on this
    • See last weeks’ meetup for ideas on how to improve your website
  4. Principle #2: Attract people seeking the experience you offer
    • Broad campaign to cold audiences are not nearly as effective as focusing on people already seeking what you offer
    • 4 of 5 consumers use search engines to inform their purchase decisions
    • Search marketing for tourism companies can be tough as the first few pages of Google are usually taken by third party websites such as directories, social media platforms and media sites
    • Finding ways to partner with these sites will result in increased visibility and highly qualified traffic
    • While third-party sites often require some form of investment, the return on investment can be very good
  5. Principle #3: Re-engage interested people until they are ready to book
    • Most users dont’ make a purchase on their first exposure to a new brand
    • You’ve already invested in acquiring your audience, so you need to find ways to re-engage them until they buy
    • There are many forms of re-engagement; re-targeting ads and email marketing are typically the most effective
    • Retargeting ads are usually very cost effective and greatly increase chances of conversion
    • Email marketing is still the highest converting medium, so make use of your list with highly targeted emails

Resource Links

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Meetup Transcript

Topic Introduction

[Sam] Well, good morning. So we’re gonna, we’ve covered a lot of topics over the last couple weeks. Everything from social media to video marketing to paid advertising to search marketing, search engine optimization, even blogging and content marketing. And we realized that in reality, that all just kinda scratches the surface of what is all contained within digital marketing or marketing in general. But with all of these tactics that are available, even beyond the ones I mentioned, things like TV, radio, billboards, the OTAs, the digital marketing, the destination marketing organizations, the running Google ads, running Facebook ads, Instagram ads, SEO, email marketing, it just, there’s so many options of things you could choose to spend your time and money on. But the problem becomes that if you don’t have a, if you’re not thinking about it strategically, you could end up just sort of landing in a place that we like to call random acts of marketing, where you’re just kind of cherry picking some things that maybe you’re a little bit more familiar with so you decide that you’re gonna go down that route, or whatever the situation may be. But we just, we’ve begun referring to these things as random acts of marketing just because they just feel random sometimes. And especially they can feel random when you’re not getting the results that you want. So that’s what we’re gonna start with today is, Carl is, Carl Lefever is with us. He’s obviously our host typically. We’ve sort of switched roles here. He’s the owner of Improve and Grow, founder of Accelerate Tourism here. And Carl, the first thing we want to talk about is why are these random acts of marketing so dangerous, beyond some of the things that I mentioned?

The Dangers of Random Acts of Marketing

[Carl] Yeah, thanks, Sam. So like you said, there’s a lotta different marketing tactics. And many of them are effective in the right place, at the right time. So the reality is the opposite of that means that not every one of these tactics is a good fit for your business. It’s important that you go into your marketing with intentionality. You’ve gotta consider your target audience, you’ve gotta consider the objective that you’re trying to reach, and you’ve got to consider your budget. Just as an example, if you’re trying to really reach Millennials who don’t already know about your product, social media is probably a really good platform for that. Particularly maybe Instagram with the age demographic that’s typically on that platform. Whereas running a lot of traditional TV or radio spots probably isn’t gonna do very well because that age segment is watching streaming TV and using online radio and might not even be on traditional radio or TV very much. So that’s just one example.

And as a business, it can be tough to know which strategies are going to work, what’s gonna be the best combination. So the temptation is to test a bunch of strategies. And I’m a big fan of testing. I don’t necessarily know exactly which strategies are gonna work either. We’re gonna share some things later that we’ve learned that we think tend to work and tend to form kind of a recipe for tourism focused businesses. But we don’t claim to have cornered the market on that. So I’m a big fan of testing new platforms. But when you commit to testing new things, you’ve also got to commit to evaluating and testing them and being willing to abandon the ones that aren’t working, keep the ones that are, and even when they are working, continually looking at them and tweaking them. So where I think people end up in this, what I call random acts of marketing, is where it’s not connected. They’re doing some Facebook. They’re doing some Google Ads. They’ve got their website. They’re doing some print advertising. But there’s really no connection between them other than maybe some commonality with branding.

And obviously this session is about kind of the antithesis of that, which is going into it with intentionality, having a plan, coordinating things together. So in an ideal world, whether online or offline, all of your marketing is coordinated, you’re aligning your marketing with where people are with the right messages at the right time. And just, it’s important no matter where you are in your marketing journey to evaluate this. I’ve worked with some very established businesses that had built up a lot of different marketing strategies over time. And this is an extreme example, but I worked with one business where literally 80% of their marketing spent was completely being wasted. They actually had a pretty successful marketing program, but when we dug down, they were only measuring the overall results. When we dug down into campaign by campaign and tactic by tactic, what we discovered was that less than 20% of what they were spending their money on was driving nearly 100% of the results, whereas all that other stuff they were doing which was 80% of their budget could be completely set to the side. So if you think about that, they were able to save 80% of their marketing spent while retaining the same results. So that’s another big benefit, is it really comes down to money. Using your money wisely.

[Sam] So if random acts of marketing is obviously what we want to move away from, how do we move away from that? What are we moving towards?

Think of Your Buyers Journey as a Sales Funnel

[Carl] Yeah, good question. So it’s, I want to introduce the concept of buyers journey. It’s interesting. I don’t think anyone would maybe consciously admit this but I’ve often run into two kind of big myths as it relates to the best way to market. And it reveals that we kinda have some misconceptions about the way people buy. The myth number one is that if I just run an ad campaign, I’m gonna get more bookings. And the myth that’s there is an assumption that, let’s talk about search ads, if someone’s searching and I’m running an ad for those keywords, the general experience is gonna be they search, they click on your ad, and then they buy your product or service or they book your experience. And the reality is it’s usually not that simple.

Which leads to the other myth, which is, the other myth I run into a lot is hey, I don’t understand how any of this works. So I’m gonna use the spray and pray method. I’m just going to try a bunch of different things and if it seems to be working, great, I’m gonna keep doing those things. If it’s not working, I’m just gonna throw it all out because I don’t understand how this all fits together.

The reality is a lot more messy, as you’d imagine. The reality is that the buyers journey is a long winding path. It’s got many stops along the way. And that can sound discouraging, but it’s also important to remember, there is a process. There are phases that buyers move through. There are decisions they run through. And it is, to a degree, predictable. It’s just not as predictable as this linear search, click, buy type scenario that we often distill things down to.

So when we think about the buyers journey, we think about it as a funnel. And there’s lots of different ways to characterize the stages of the buyers journey, but the most common is to break it down into three main steps. There’s the awareness step, there’s the consideration step, and there’s the decision step. And the reason that we refer to this as a funnel is because not everybody that starts at the top, not everybody who visits your website or who sees your ad or who’s in your target audience is going to become a paying customer. So the reality is at each points of this stage, people are gonna fall out of your funnel and into someone else’s, or maybe fall out of the market altogether.

So just to use an example, my wife and I are thinking about a getaway, and we don’t necessarily have a destination in mind yet. But we’re thinking it’s about time we have a little getaway. So we’re in the awareness stage. But there’s a couple of places that we’ve been thinking about going, and there’s one in particular where we’re really thinking about visiting, particularly now that businesses are starting to reopen. So we’re kinda moving into that consideration phase. So in that awareness stage, we might just be having discussions. We might not even be doing anything where we’re gonna even put ourselves in a position to see advertising or things like that. We’re certainly not doing any searches. But as we move into that consideration stage, now we might start doing searches like, what’s there to do in Philly this weekend, as an example. Whereas when we get into the decision stage, well now we’ve made a decision on a destination. Maybe we’ve even made a decision on some things that we want to do while we’re there. And now we’re doing searches for, where can I buy tickets for this tour, or, where can I see a show in Philadelphia this weekend, that kind of stuff. So just wanted to use that as a simple example as you think about each of your experiences and your destinations, and that buyers process or the specific questions they’d be asking and the platforms they’d be using as they move through those decisions are different.

But again, this is where I say, even though it is a long and winding path, it moves through these predictable phases. And as marketers, we have to realize that it’s our job to align with that. The reality is, that buying process exists whether you align your marketing with it or not. And so this is, again, where the funnel is helpful because if your marketing is not aligned, you’re gonna have a leaky funnel, where you might get lots of people at the top of it if you’ve got ad campaigns running, but you’re getting very little out of the bottom of it because your marketing’s not aligned. Versus if you have very targeted marketing that’s hitting people at the right time and the right place, you can have a very wide funnel where you’ve got a lot of people coming through it.

[Sam] It’s kinda, that was a lot. And it sounds like it’s, obviously, like most things, easier said than done type of situation. But let’s just get into it. So how do we get started?

Principle #1: Get more bookings from people already on your website

[Carl] Yeah, great question. So I agree with you, it is easier said than done. I mean, I think I mentioned, where we mentioned in the description for the show that we personally, in our organization, we’ve worked with nearly 100 different companies, and we’ve tried lots of different things. Some have worked, some have not worked so well. Some are working fine but could be better. And the benefit that we’ve had with working with so many different companies is that we’ve started to be able to distill down some commonalities. Particularly in the tourism industry. Again, I want to reiterate that the successful recipe could be very different for a product-focused company or an e-commerce company or a health-focused company. So a lot of these principles have been specifically refined or tested primarily for the tourism industry. But for those of you that maybe bleed out into other industries or have other companies, many of these principles hold true for other industries as well. So what we’ve got for you today are kinda the three core principles. We’ll unpack them and we’ve got some examples.

But the first one is, and this I want to stress, is the most important. And as I start to talk about this, it’s probably gonna remind people of last week’s session, for those that were on it because principle number one is get more bookings for people that are already on your website. If we think about this funnel, this whole topic or this concept is very squarely focused on the people that are already aware of your brand, they’re already visiting your website or visiting your store or checking you out in a brochure. These are people that are deep down in the funnel. They’re in the decision stage. So these are people that are ready to buy.

So you might wonder, why do we start with this as the principle? Those are the people who are already ready to buy. They’re either gonna buy or they’re not gonna buy. Why should I focus on them? The reality is, if we just use your website as an example, some websites, like we talked about last week, are difficult to navigate and make it hard to book. Other websites are really easy to understand, easy to find what you’re looking for, and have a really fluid and easy to use booking experience. So it stands to reason that even when you have someone that’s ready to buy, if you make it difficult to buy, if you make your product or service hard to understand, if you make it hard to get questions answered, if you make it hard to make a booking, there are going to be people who give up. There are going to be people who move onto something else.

I’m a statistics kinda guy, so I like to look at the math. Let’s say your website’s getting 10,000 visits. Depending on the size of your business, 10,000 might be relevant for your annual website traffic. For other businesses I know on the call today, 10,000 visits a month might be relevant. And there might even be a few where you get 10,000 visits a week. So whatever timeframe we’re looking at, what I want to talk about here is your conversion rate. So last week, we talked about principles or best practices for improving your website. We didn’t talk about the statistical side of that. So when we talk about a conversion, we’re talking about someone who takes a desired action on the website. This is someone who fills out a form. If you’re a non-profit, they’re donating to you. This is someone who places a call to make a booking or someone who directly makes a booking online. When we talk about a conversion rate, we’re talking about the number of people who visit your website. How many of those actually take that desired action? And this might be shocking to some of you, but a good conversion rate is 5%. 5% or better is considered good. So that means that five out of every 100 people that visit your website are taking one of those desired actions. That would be considered a good conversion rate. So what’s average? Average is two to 3%. Now, what we know about an average is that 50% fall below, 50% fall above. So the reality is a lot of websites are actually below that 2% mark, and it’s been very common with people that I’ve worked with that haven’t done a lot of intentional improvement on their websites or intentional digital marketing, for them to have conversion rates that are 1% or less.

So if we just kinda look at that scenario, if you’ve got 10,000 website visits, whether it’s week, month, or year, just using a kinda rounded number, if your conversion rate today is 1%, that means you’re getting about 100 bookings over whatever period of time that 10,000 visits is coming through. And that might actually be pretty good for your business. I don’t know. But if you think about that, if you were able to get your conversion rate to just the industry average of 3%, you’d triple your bookings. And I don’t know about you, but it’s not my goal to be average. If I’m investing in marketing, I don’t want to be getting an average return. I want to be getting a good return on that. So if you could get your conversion rate to 5%, now you’re talking about 500 bookings. And what’s really powerful about that is that’s on the same traffic. So this is without investing anything additional in driving more people to your website, running more ads. This is just investing in your website. And many of the things we talked about last week you could do on your own or with a little bit of investment. So I know each of you, your experience is varied. Some of you have experiences that are 20, $30 ahead. Some of you have experiences that are three, $400 ahead or maybe even more. But if we just assume in this scenario that the average booking’s 200 bucks, that’s a difference of $80,000. So same level of marketing investment, ongoing marketing investment, $80,000 more in revenue because of improving your website. So that’s why this is principle number one.

[Sam] So just to kinda pause here. And I don’t want to go back and rehash what we talked about last week but can we look at some examples maybe of how to improve that conversion rate? I feel like that would be helpful at this time.

[Carl] Yeah, sure. So I do want to say that last week, Sue asked for some examples, and Sam did a really good job of putting together, I think, almost a 20 minute video walking through each of the seven points and giving, I think, five or six different websites as examples. So we’ll put a link for that video at the end of this, and we’ll send it out with the recap. So I’m not gonna go as deep as that video did ’cause we’ve got that resource there and we’ve got other points we want to cover today. But I do just want to give you a couple examples. And Nicole from Twin Pine, if you’re on the call today, just want to give a shout out to you. I hope you don’t mind us using your website as an example.

One of the principles we talked about last week is just make your offering clear. Or the way I worded it here is make a good first impression. So having consistent branding, having compelling messaging, having engaging images. I look at this, just the homepage of this site here, and I can tell this is a professional company. They’ve got good branding. A luxury Lancaster County bed and breakfast. More than your ordinary B&B getaway. That kind of grabs my attention. And then every image that’s on their website, but this one here is an example, just kinda draws me in and shows me what kind of experience we’re gonna have.

Same screenshot, but a couple of different points I want to emphasize is making it easy for users to take an action. So we talked about last week, using strong calls to action, making those calls to action consistent in terms of color and phrasing, and making them easy to find. So what you see on this website, I know the screenshot’s a little small but the phone number is very prominent. The Book Now button’s very prominent. The color we used for the Book Now button is very consistent. And then there’s also prominent calls to action in the content. So wherever the user is on a page on this website, when they’re ready to book, it’s gonna be very clear what to do. And there isn’t any page you can go on this website where the user’s not being called to take that action. And for someone who prefers to call by phone, it’s super easy. And in fact, on a mobile device, that phone number is clickable, so they can click on that and call without even having to dial the number. So those are a couple examples.

The other one I want to emphasize is social proof. So building testimonials into your pages. Pulling in testimonials from Google, from Facebook, from TripAdvisor, and promoting those not just on a single page of your website or not on your social media profiles, but directly on the pages of your website homepage, and if you’re a bed and breakfast, the lodging pages. If you’re an attraction, your booking pages. Wherever the user could be, that’s a great place to weave in some testimonials. So again, there’s a lot more, lot more best practices to follow for improving your conversion rate. I’d encourage you guys to check out that video or the recording from last week’s session to get more detail on that.

[Sam] My question then is, and it all sounds good. I’m sure there’s gonna be some people who felt a little overwhelmed about that. That’s why we send out the recording. And you can obviously re-watch it as many times that you need to. But going back a little bit, so you said about the traffic, and you used an example of 10,000 visitors at a 1% conversion rate ends up being 100 bookings. But if my website is only getting 100 visitors a week or a month or whatever it is, the point is, it’s a lot less traffic. Let’s just use the 100 visitors a week. Even with what we are saying is an outstanding conversion rate or a better than average conversion rate at 5%, that means I’m still only getting five bookings from those visitors.

Principle #2: Attract people seeking the experience you offer

[Carl] Yeah, exactly. So that’s a great question, Sam, because that really pinpoints that there’s two core problems for a business. One is not having enough of an audience or not having enough people. The other is not getting a high enough booking rate. So principle number one is really focused on that booking rate part. And it assumes that you’ve got a certain audience that you’re working with and that you could improve your booking rate with that audience. And I think that’s generally true for most people on the call. But even if that’s generally true, improving from 1% or 3% to 5%, those are some pretty significant changes. But to your point, if you have a low volume website, you may still be leaving potential bookings on the table because what about that audience that you could develop. And so that’s a good segue to principle number two. And so principle number two is all about driving more traffic to your website. But it’s not just about driving any traffic. So the specific principle is you want to attract people who are already seeking the experience that you offer. And that may sound too good to be true. Yeah, find me those people. Find me the people that already want to book with me. Don’t take me too literally there, but do take me somewhat literally.

It is possible to position your marketing in a way where you ensure that you’re getting in front of people that are already pre-dispositioned to buy, and specifically, the kind of experience that you offer. So it’s important to understand that not all traffic is good traffic. And again, this presentation is pretty focused on the digital marketing side of things, but I do want to reiterate that this same concept of a sales funnel, this same concept of a buyers journey, and all of these principles that we’re talking about, are just as applicable in the offline world. So the point here is not everybody visiting your destination is a good candidate for your experience. Not everybody visiting your website or everybody online is a potential customer for your business. They might be a potential customer, but let’s say they’re not a highly, not everyone is a highly qualified customer. So the key is is we want to figure out how to focus on attracting people that are already seeking the experience you offer because with more qualified traffic, you’re gonna get more bookings with a higher ROI. And another day, another time, we can talk about the concept of building demand, which is building your own audience, increasing your reach, and developing an audience within your overall target audience or population. But most of the experiences you offer, there’s already an audience for that. Every day, there are people looking for something to do, places to stay, places to eat, in or around your destination. And so principle number two is all about getting in front of those people that are already there, already searching and positioning yourself in front of them.

So one of the big places we focus on as it relates to this principle is search engines. And the reason is the fact that’s here. Four in five consumers use search engines to find local information. Source for that is Think with Google. I know it sounds funny to build research off of Google when we’re talking about what happens on Google, but I promise you, this is reputable research. It’s compelling, the percentage of people that are using search engines. Even people who are making their bookings by walking into a store or picking up the phone and calling, they’re still doing their research online. Even people who are seeing billboards or a TV commercial or a radio spot, they ultimately go on the website to check it out before they make a decision and make a booking. So when we look at this, so search engines and being present on search engines, I should say, should be a number one priority for anyone on this call. And I don’t think it would be too much of an argument for it to be a number one priority. The rub comes into, yeah, but it’s hard. And this particular example on the screen is actually a good one.

So I did a search this morning for things to do near me. And what pops up on that screen is roughly 20 listings, and we’ve got ads. So people are paying to be at the top of that page. And then we’ve got organic listings. But every single one of the organic listings on that first page are not a attractions website. So the next four listings on this page are all directories. So one of those is TripAdvisor, actually, one of those is Yelp, two of them are TripAdvisor actually, one of them is a local DMO. It’s actually Discover Lancaster. Sarah was on one of our earlier calls. The next one is Lancaster PA, which I don’t know if Gordie or Jen are on today but they manage that site. And then almost everything else is a combination of coupon sites, blog articles, and what we call resource pages. So a resource page would be a local business that has a page on their website that says, here’s some other places you should check out, or, here’s some places that are in the area. So what’s really astonishing about this particular search result is this would be the prime keyword for a local attraction. Get in front of people who are looking for things to do in your destination. And every single listing on this page is not an individual business.

So the reality is to compete in search as an individual business, you’re gonna have to do one of two things, and we would typically recommend a combination, and that is advertise using by targeting specific keywords that you want to be in front of, and partner with some of these other websites that have already invested the money, time and resources to rank on these pages. So that would mean getting yourself listed in online directories, whether that’s national directories like Yellow Pages, Google My Business, we had a session on that, Yelp, TripAdvisor, those kinds of directories. That would also include local directories, like your DMO or tourism promotion agency, like local community websites, those kinds of things. And we’ll put this resource later, but I see a lot of businesses that don’t really understand how critical it is to be listed in those business directories or how important it is for those listings to be complete and accurate. One of the free tools I’ve mentioned here on this slide, we’ll put it in the resources at the end. Moz.com is a website with some free resources, and one of those is a tool you can use to check your business’ presence in some of the top online directories. I’d encourage you guys to check that out. You’ll get a report that looks something like this with a lot more detail on it that actually shows how you’re being represented in the business directories or whether you’re not there, and gives you some actionable things that you can work on. And with an hour or two worth of work, you can greatly improve your presence on those directories.

Another key source would be what we call referral traffic. So we had a whole session on DMOs and TPAs, which are typically a key source of referrals for travel and tourism businesses. But I would broaden that to the OTAs, local resource pages, industry association websites, community event calendars, industry blogs, local blogs, news media sites. These are all the kinda sites that typically show up on the first or second page for queries like things to do in the area, places to stay, those kinds of things. And they’re powerful because they already rank on the first page of Google. They can help you establish your brand presence. I think when we talked about SEO in one of our past sessions, we talked about how links from other websites can really help your website rank better. So these websites that are already ranking on the first page of Google, when you list on them and they link back to your website, they help your own website show up better in Google. Plus they help drive referral traffic to your website. And that’s really the point I want to emphasize here. I should’ve made that bold. Because when you’re getting traffic from your local DMO website or you’re getting traffic from TripAdvisor or you’re getting traffic from Yelp, the reality is that user has already, they’ve gone to that website, they’ve gone to that website’s category page where you were found, they saw you among a list of other people, and then they chose to click through on your website. That click or that visit is worth gold because those people have already gone through two or three gauntlets, if you will, and they’ve chosen to visit your website. I would argue that those are some of your most qualified buyers or visitors because they’ve already kind of gone through those stages and now have chosen to visit your website. In fact, I’ve seen conversion rates with referral channels be closer to the seven to eight to nine or even 10% conversion rate, and it’s because those people are already very highly qualified.

[Sam] So I mean, just to kind of recap that. It sounds like the opportunity there is to have a presence with local visitors centers and things like that. Local or even industry related magazines. Obviously investing in search marketing and partnering with OTAs like TripAdvisor. I’m not even, obviously, I’m not even a tourism operator. I’m on the marketing side. So I know this just as much as a business owner here. Those things end up being more on the expensive side to, to get a listing or whatever it is. They cost a lot of money though. I mean how, is there still opportunity there? How should we react to the fact that it’s gonna be a bigger out of cost expense?

[Carl] Yep. So it’s a great point. Most of these platforms, you can have a free listing on TripAdvisor, but if you really want to get attention or be featured on TripAdvisor, you’re gonna have to join in with TripAdvisor Experiences, which means you’re paying a commission or if you can submit, like Sarah and Louise, when we had the DMO and TPA call, they talked about how you can use their free community event calendar, and that can be a great free way of getting exposure, but the majority of the traffic on their websites are coming from those category pages where businesses are listed. And even when you’re listed on those pages, it really takes featured ad spots to get higher up on the page and get prominent. So yeah, those things become costly.

I want to just kind of go back to the point I made earlier about the quality of that traffic. So there’s a reason that those platforms can charge money. It’s because they’re getting a ton of traffic and it’s highly qualified traffic. So it’s not a slam dunk. I’m not saying, hey, just throw your money away for all these places and don’t ever check it, don’t worry about it, it’s all good. Not every one of these platforms are created equal and not every one of them are just as effective for every single business that advertises with them. So I’ll go back to the point I made at the very beginning which is test these things, but check them as well and make sure they’re working. So yeah, just to come back around to maybe a more concise answer to your question, Sam, yes they are usually have a cost and they usually are on the more expensive side, but that’s looking at it from just purely what is the cost of this advertising mechanism. Where it becomes much, I would actually argue they’re usually more cost effective because if you look at the cost to get a booking, with the higher conversion rate that you get from these sources, the cost per booking or what you’re paying to get that booking is usually actually a lot less than most other advertising mechanisms.

[Sam] Okay. Okay, yeah, that makes sense. So just to kinda tie this a little bit together. Obviously, we’re looking at improving our website and specifically the conversion rate of our website. And then focusing on driving more quality traffic. But as I was thinking about this, the adage I think of in marketing is that a person needs to engage with the brand multiple times. It’s like five, six or seven times before they are actually convinced that they want to buy from you. I think we have a way to talk about that and what we need to do there. So what are some ways that we can make those multiple touchpoints with a potential buyer?

[Carl] Yeah, absolutely. And Sam, if you don’t mind, I’m gonna back track just for a second ’cause I realized I didn’t hit Next soon enough. I don’t want to forget about social media. We had a session on social media at the very beginning. Social media can be a very effective platform and very cost effective for most of you, and can be a very targeted way of reaching specific segments. I eluded to earlier that Instagram, for instance, is a great resource for the younger crowd. Facebook has become a place where you can reach that crowd, but more dominantly, more the middle-aged crowd. And it also gets down into behaviors and things like that. So getting too detailed into which platforms and what audiences and what’s most effective for each platform is a little bit out of the scope for today. But the point I want to make is don’t forget about social media in this whole mix of getting in front of people that would be good for your target audience.

Principle #3: Re-engage interested people until they are ready to book

[Carl] So to get back to your question, Sam, yeah, I agree. In fact, I quote that statistic here in a subsequent slide. This goes back to the first myth that we talked about where most buying transactions don’t happen on the first visit. It’s not search, click, buy. It’s search, click, search, click, check out another website, search, click again, maybe sign up for emails but don’t make a purchase yet, and eventually, you’re gonna come back and make that purchase hopefully. So principle number three is built on this whole idea that not everybody, even if they’re interested, not everybody is gonna buy right away.

So you need to have as part of your marketing strategy a way to re-engage interested people until they’re ready to book. So this is all really, another word for this is nurturing. So some of you who have seen other webinars or read books on marketing or gone to school on marketing or just kind of done your own research, you may have heard of the idea of lead nurturing. And that’s really what this concept is about. So again, to reiterate, most people don’t make a purchase on their first click. I mean, think about the last time you went to a new destination or you were searching out something new to do. Even when you found something you were interested in, did you actually make the purchase on that first search, or did you talk to your spouse about it? Did you make plans with a friend? Did you check out some other things and then maybe come back to it later? So Sam had already quoted this, but research shows that it can take seven plus interactions to get to a purchase. So you as a marketer, you’ve paid the money or you’ve paid the sweat and tears to build that audience, to get them to your website. If you don’t have a strategy for re-engaging them and keeping in touch with them until they’re ready to make a purchase, the reality is you’re leaving it up to chance. Now you’re back to random acts of marketing. You’re leaving it up to chance for them to maybe come back and think about you. Or maybe when they’re really serious about taking the trip, they start a new search and now they end up on someone else’s website. They end up visiting your destination but not through your experience. So what this principle is all about is finding strategic ways as a business to re-engage those people that you’ve already worked hard to build an audience with.

There’s lots of different strategies for doing this, by the way. And when I say lots, there’s a small handful. But there’s two particularly that I’m gonna focus on here. Again, because this presentation is a little more weighted towards the digital marketing side, but also because these strategies are very much under your control. They’re very cost effective and they are not as cost intensive or labor intensive as some of those other re-engagement metrics. Just to throw out an example. You could cold call everybody. You could call everybody in your target audience and keep calling them. But that’s gonna be very labor intensive, it’s gonna be very costly, and frankly, it’s gonna be pretty annoying. So the two strategies we’re gonna talk about today are email marketing and retargeting. And again, the whole concept of this is if you can create a strategy for re-engaging these people, you’re gonna capture bookings that you would’ve missed. So just to, again, I’m a math guy, so let’s talk about why we emphasize retargeting and email as the best re-engagement strategies.

Benefits of Regargeting Ads

Click-through rates on retargeting is usually 10 times or better than that of a normal banner ad or display ad. We tend to stray away from general banner advertising or display advertising because they’re generally good for awareness, but in terms of click-through rates and conversions, they’re typically pretty low. But not so with retargeting ads. Retargeting ads, which is anybody who has gone to a website and then later saw an advertisement for that brand in their social media feed, you now have been re-targeted. So that’s what we’re talking about with retargeting, if you’re not familiar with that. So what we’re saying is the normal click-through rate on a display ad is .2%. Sometimes even as low as .1%. But the typical click-through rate on a retargeting ad is often 1% or better. So they get tremendous click-through rates because they’re much more targeted. And website visitors who are re-targeted with display ads are 70% more likely to convert. And that’s not a statistic I just made up. There’s research to back that up.

Benefits of Email Retargeting

And let’s talk about the email side. I would actually tell you, you’ve seen things like email is dead, nobody opens emails anymore. Hands down, email is still the most effective from a conversion rate perspective digital marketing strategy there is. Or I’d even argue marketing strategy in general. The challenge with email is if you don’t have a big email list, it’s not gonna do anything. And the other challenge with email is if you don’t have a good strategy of segmenting and targeting your emails, you’re not gonna get good responses from your emails. So whether we’re talking about retargeting or email, they can be super effective. I mean, just look at some of these statistics here. Automated email workflows have 309% higher open rates, 455% better click-through rates. Email sequences, like when someone signs up or when someone takes an action and you have multiple emails that are spread out over a period of time, 63% more sales capture. So there’s some pretty compelling statistics there.

Retargeting Ad Types

So let’s talk about retargeting. There’s, what I’ll call it three types of retargeting. General retargeting is simply serving a display ad, like a branding ad, to someone who’s already visited your website. So it’s relatively simple to set up. You create an ad, you set a target audience for people who visited your website using Google Analytics or a retargeting pixel if you’re talking about Facebook or LinkedIn, and then anybody who’s been on your website now sees your branding ad. So that can be a great way of reminding them that you’re there, reminding them to come back and visit your website.

An even more sophisticated strategy would be what I call segmented retargeting. So this is now, we’re not just showing them an ad to someone who has visited our website before, but we’re showing them an ad that’s specific to the page of the website that we visited. So let’s say you have multiple experiences you offer. Like maybe you offer trips to different areas of the country or different types of tours. So if Person A visits Tour Page A and Person B visits Tour Page B, with segmented retargeting, you can actually show Person A an ad that’s specific to Tour A, and Person B an ad that’s specific to Tour B.

And then the next step would be what I would call retargeting sequences, where this is recognizing that people are in different stages of the funnel. So someone who visited Tour A’s page and then left the website is maybe still in that awareness consideration stage, whereas someone who visited Tour A and then went to your booking page or your pricing page or your FAQ page, that signifies that they’re further down in that decision making stage of the funnel. So you can actually tailor what messages you’re sending through retargeting. That person who’s maybe still kinda kicking tires or just browsing, you can kind of create some intrigue or create some interest with your ad campaigns. That person who’s already been on the pricing page or maybe they’ve even started the checkout process and then abandoned, you can be a little bit more aggressive and more direct with those people and say, hey, come back to the website. Complete your booking. Those people who are further down in the sales cycle are also more likely to respond to an offer. So with retargeting sequences, you can be much more specific with your ads. And the more specific you are, and this will be true about email too, the more specific you are, the better results you’re gonna get.

Email Retargeting Examples

So let’s talk about email marketing a little bit. Many of the same concepts that we talked about with retargeting would apply with email. The key difference here is you can’t send someone an email if you don’t have their email address. And if you want to comply with rules and things like that, which you should, you can’t send them emails if they haven’t agreed to receive your emails. So you can go out and buy lists, but it’s pretty spammy to just send emails to people that haven’t asked to participate. So the challenge with or the key difference is with retargeting, you can re-target anyone who visited your website. It’s anonymous. And that’s why I emphasize that one first because you can start retargeting people that you don’t yet know. But once you know them, once you have a known contact, email is hands down a more effective way of retargeting. And again, it’s another thing where I wouldn’t say one or the other. I’d say combine the two. Do retargeting and do email marketing.

So just some quick examples that I think probably most of the people on this call are doing something like a monthly newsletter or sending out promotional emails. And those are good things to do, but what I’d suggest to you is think about being more targeted, think about sending emails to more segmented lists, and think about sending them based on time-based triggers or action-based triggers. So just some examples. Send an email to a user that abandoned a cart during your booking process. Depending on the booking platform you use, they might have a built-in way to do that. Someone who was in the booking process and then abandoned, they might have just forgotten their credit card. They might have gotten interrupted. They might have realized they need to confer with their spouse. But they were already in the booking process. So a simple email saying, hey, we saw that you were making a booking. Did you run into a problem? Click this link to return to your booking and complete it. Those can be very effective emails. Very high click-through rates and very high conversion rates. Send an email when a known contact returns to the website. So if someone who’s on your list and hasn’t purchased for awhile is back on your website, that’s a great time to send them an email. Now you might say, how would I know they’re onto my website? Well, depending on the email marketing system you use, some email marketing systems integrate with your website so that you can actually see when someone who’s on your contact list visits a particular page of your website.

Other examples. Send an email the month before the anniversary of their last stay at your property. So a lot of you have establishments where people come back year after year after year. But the reality is people have choices. I mean, my wife and I, for instance, we take a lot of, not a lot of trips, but we take a few trips a year. We don’t always go back to the same destination. We might forget how good of a time we had at one destination. But it’s pretty common for people to take trips around the same time as they did before. So back that up a month or two, send them an email and say, hey, we really enjoyed last time you were here. Maybe it’s time you come back again. Send people an email on their birthdate. If you collect their birthdate as part of your booking process because you’re trying to verify age or something like that, use that as a way to send them a birthday offer.

[Sam] Yeah, I mean, it is one of those things where we all have so much spam in our email that we wonder, why does anybody bother? But I think when we all actually, if we start browsing or being more aware of when we’re browsing our email, we’ll see that we open specific emails for certain things. And it’s a huge opportunity that’s out there and you have to do it well. And I think those are some really, especially some of those automated ways are really effective ’cause they essentially, it’s a one time setup. You might have to look at it every now and then but you can kind of automate it in a lot of senses. I think we’re kinda getting to the end of our session here. We obviously want to leave some time for Q&A. If anybody has any questions, please, I think we’ve got a couple questions that have come in, please post them to the Q&A. And Carl, while people are doing that, do you have some examples that you could share quickly with what we’re talking about?

Case Studies

[Carl] Yeah, I won’t dig into them too deeply, but just to show you that this process works for multiple types of companies. We work with a local theater who is using these types of approaches, and they’ve seen tremendous growth. So it’s a live theater. They offer live theater productions. And they’ve seen 150% growth in their tickets sales. Now this, I do want to reiterate, all these case studies are pre-COVID. Every company we’re working with right now has been affected to a great degree by COVID. But we are starting to see some resurgence and some of these marketing mechanisms are working really well even right now during and after lockdown. So yeah, this company focused a lot on improving their website and they’re using a very clear retargeting strategy with their ad campaigns that’s driving these sales. And this company was one that we actually really learned the power of using the retargeting sequences because when we first started with them, we were helping them drive what I’ll call one step ads. So basically just pumping an ad out to a cold audience that met their target audience profiles. And we were getting ticket sales, but they were basically just enough to cover the cost of the ad. So not really a very productive ad campaign. Introducing those multiple steps and retargeting to people and kinda pulling them or nurturing them through the process is what really drove the growth that you see here.

Another example would be an outdoor adventure center we work with. We’ve worked with them for a number of years and they’ve seen tremendous year on year growth. You can see here it’s not always perfect. One year they did have a bit of a dip. But every year, typically every year, they’re seeing incremental growth. And it’s through the full adoption of this kind of approach.

And the last one I’ll share is an overnight retreat center. I know there’s a lot of people here that are from bed and breakfasts and those kinds of things. So these same kinda principles work for overnight lodging as well. This particular organization has just seen a ton of tremendous growth all through driving with an emphasis on search engine marketing to get in front of people that are searching for a retreat center, and then retargeting those people until they’re ready to make an inquiry, and then using a lot of email targeting to pull them through the sales process to helping them promote their retreats and increase their group participation to help bump up how many people are actually attending each of those events.

Open Q&A

[Sam] Great. Yeah. Perfect. So Carl, we do have a few questions here. The first one is going back a little bit, well, to where we were talking about websites. And I will say, in the video that I put together for the examples from last time, we do talk about this, but I do want to answer the question now. The question is, why do people say that website load speed is important?

[Carl] Yeah. So I’m gonna date myself a little bit, but the example I like to use is the transition in photo processing phones and Internet speed. If you think about, for those of you who remember the past days, the amount of change that has happened. It used to be cool just to be able to pull up a webpage, and now if I have to wait more than a second, I can’t stand it. So page load time, I mean, there’s been pretty significant studies that show for every second a page takes to load, you’re losing somewhere around 30% of your audience. Don’t quote me on that one. I’ll have to look up that statistic to get the exact stat. But every second your page takes to load, you are losing people. There are people who are on slower Internet connections or who are just impatient, and they’re just gonna hit the Back button and move on to another page.

[Sam] Yeah, it’s one of those things where it is a more of a technical issue. And requires some of that knowledge. So if you have somebody who’s a web developer or somebody that works in that industry, if you don’t feel like you can sort through some of that stuff, reach out to somebody who’s in that space to help try to work through some of those issues, if you think you’re having them. Secondly, we have a question here. This is talking about ad spend and what is a price point we should be hitting for ad spend? And what is a decent price point to have if you’re trying to engage in an agency doing all this? So it’s, how much should we be spending, how much should we be expecting to be charged by an agency.

[Carl] Yeah, good question. Good question. So I think that’s coming from Matt. So Matt, I’ll address this to you, but it’s for the whole group here. So the way I like to think about what you should spend on advertising is a little, might feel a little bit backwards. So I don’t think you should start with what should I pay for an ad or what should I pay an agency. What you want to do is work your way backwards. What is the growth you’re looking to achieve? So let’s say I’m a small tour and I have annual revenue bookings of $100,000 and I’m setting on my sights on growing to 200 or $300,000. Let’s just use the 300,000. So I’d like to triple or double my sales over the next couple of years. I’m trying to generate $200,000 of incremental revenue above and beyond what I do now. I think it’s pretty obvious I don’t want to spend 200 to get 200, ’cause the reality is, there’s a cost to that. So then we’ve got to think about our profitability. So let’s say your overall gross margin on that is, I don’t know, let’s say 50%. So I’ve got $100,000 of profit. Now I don’t want to spend 100,000 to get 100,000 of profit because then I’m just spending money to make money and it’s all going, it’s awash. So my general rule of thumb is any investment I make, whether we’re talking about marketing or otherwise, I want to be able to get, well particularly with marketing, you should be able to get a two to three time return on your investment. So if that 200,000 revenue growth is about 100,000 of profit you shouldn’t spend more than, let’s say, 20 to 30,000 on marketing. I think that that would be a good investment. So then the question is, what’s the right mediums to spend that money on? Advertising can usually be really good. The specific price point is gonna vary on the market you’re in, the specific experience, and how much competition there is. You can figure out some of those things. You can get close to that using keyword research if you’re looking at search marketing. You can do that using audience research if you’re looking at doing display marketing. There are benchmarks online for some categories and types of advertising, although they rarely get as specific as your experience. So keyword research is a great way. I would say as a general rule of thumb, average cost per click in the tourism market is somewhere around one to $2. And so we find you can generally get a good return if your average ticket price or average transaction is $100 or more. So if your average transaction price is $100 or more, you should be able to be really effective with targeted ads. If your price point is lower than that, it doesn’t mean advertising can’t work for you. It does mean you’re gonna have to pay a lot more attention to the performance of those ads and to what you’re paying on a cost per click basis. In terms of agency, I mean, agency management fees vary. Specifically for advertising, I’ve seen them range anywhere from 15% of ad spend to 30% of ad spend. What I would say, Matt, and to the rest of the group, is what you want to focus on is not so much the price point of the agency but, although that’s important, but can they get the results. I mean, I’ve seen some agencies that are super cheap but are a complete waste of money. I’ve seen expensive agencies that are expensive and a waste of money. I’ve seen agencies that are moderately priced and do a really good job. So price is definitely important. But just as important is do they know what they’re doing, do they have demonstrated success, and do they pay attention to the numbers. ‘Cause I don’t know about you, but if I’m investing in a partner, I want to invest in a partner who I don’t have to keep my eye on every day.

[Sam] And I would say, if you’re engaging an agency to spend, I don’t care if it’s $5, if they’re saying, here’s the plan, and you don’t feel that they’re backing it up with, and backing it up with actual statistics to the best of their ability and you just ask the questions of, okay, how did you get to this information. Just don’t be afraid to ask an agency, if they present you with something that they think is some sort of model or whatever, just ask them, okay, can you show me your work? How did you actually get to this spot? That’s where people can show you as many numbers as they want, but don’t be afraid, and I actually recommend, and Carl, I think you would say this too, is ask them to dig into some of those numbers to further explain how they got there. It’ll be educational for you to be able to learn more about how, as somebody who is paying for digital marketing, it’s worth knowing somewhat about how to justify it. So definitely recommend asking those questions. Carl, do we have time for one or two more questions, do you think?

[Carl] Sure.

[Sam] And maybe I’ll just answer this one. Should I focus on desktop users or mobile users? Yes.

[Carl] I agree. You want to focus on both. I see this question from Marta. So how long should it take for an ad campaign set up by your new marketing agency to start getting results? So I would say, it does somewhat depend on what the advertising platform is, but as a general rule of thumb, once the campaign is set up and running, you ought to be able to tell if it’s getting any kind of results. Like if it’s driving traffic or attention within a few weeks. I would say within no more than three months, it ought to be performing. So that might not be the answer everyone wants to hear, but the reality is, it takes time to dial in a campaign. It takes time to refine the audience, to refine the ad copy, to refine the targeting. It should not take any longer than two to three months. Some other marketing strategies like SEO can take six to 12 months to really be proven effective. It takes time to warm up the search engine. It takes time to build content. It takes time to build links. With advertising, specifically digital marketing ads, I would say no more than three months. And you ought to actually be able to see signs of success within at least a month.

[Sam] Yeah. Great.

Closing Summary

[Carl] So great. Well, for those of you who are still hanging on, I know some people have had to drop off ’cause we’ve hit the hour. Just, we will be sending this out by email. The recording will have the list of resources. But just want to call your attention to the video that has examples of ways to improve your website. Again, I would say these principles are both in the order that you should follow them. They’re also in what I would call the order of priority. If all you did was principle number one, you will be better off. If you add in principle number two, you will be better off. And you add in principle three, you will be kinda running on all cylinders, if you will. Also want to point out, we didn’t make a big deal out of this but we actually launched a website for Accelerate Tourism. We’re putting all of the meetups, the past meetups up there, we have the videos, the transcripts, the list of resources, we’ve got some other resources on there as well. And then I’ll also point out that tool to check your presence on local directories. Again, we’ll put that link in there.

Next Meetup

So let’s talk before we close about next week’s meetup. So next week is June 12th. Most of you are either already open, you’re opening this weekend, or you’re gonna be opening in the next couple of weeks. So next week is gonna be the last of our weekly meetups. We’re gonna move to monthly, like we promised, once everybody’s started to get closer or had opened, ’cause we know you’re not gonna have a lot of time for weekly Zoom calls, like people may have had over this lockdown time. But next week is gonna be a really important one, I think, for a lot of you. We’re calling it Re-Opening Experiences: What to Expect and How to Market. And so the whole goal of this session is we’re gonna invite tourism business leaders who have already had their businesses open to help speak to us about what’s been happening. So what does booking volume look like? What kind of interactions have they been having with customers? What changes have they had to make to their experiences? What effect has that had on their operation? How have they changed their marketing strategy in light of reopening? And just what does it look like? Is it nothing to something right away? Is it taking time to build up? Is anybody getting business? Some of you already know the answers to those questions ’cause you’re in the thick of it. Some of you are wondering the answers to those exact same questions. My goal is to kinda crowdsource this amongst our meetup, all the people who have attended our meetup, just to get some input.

So I want to ask a favor of each of you. And that is you’re gonna see an email come from me and you might see some reminders from me throughout next week as well. But you’re gonna see an email come from me later today asking you to participate in a survey. And I want to ask each of you to take five minutes to respond to that survey because what we want to do is basically share the experiences that each of you have had, or for those of you who aren’t open yet, what you’re planning to do, so that we can summarize that information and share it with the meetup so that people can be sharing their experiences and learning from each other on what the typical experiences have been. And as I mentioned, we’re gonna be inviting some people that are open or that have been open for at least the last few weeks on the call to help provide some ground floor perspective on what’s been happening in the market. So I think it’s gonna be a really good session for each of you. It’s gonna be a little different. It’s not gonna be teaching. It’s not gonna be as much marketing strategy. Those kinds of things. This is gonna be more feedback from your peers on how things are going, perspectives on how things are going, ideas on what they’re thinking, how they’re pivoting. And it’ll also be a great time to ask questions. For those of you who aren’t open yet, it’ll be a great time to ask questions of those who are and just to trade ideas. So again, two requests. One is please respond to that survey. The more information from more people that we can get, the better the results of that are gonna be for everybody. And then number two is please come to the meetup. We want to get as much participation as we can next week.

Thanks, everyone. I hope you have a great weekend and I know a lot of you are opening up today. So just wish you the best and pray for a blessed weekend for you.

7 Ways To Improve Your Website To Get More Bookings

Meetup Summary

Your website should clearly describe what you offer, establish trust with your target audience, and make it easy for visitors to make a booking. When you make improvements to these aspects of your website, you’ll get more bookings. Join our next meetup to learn the top improvements that you can make to start getting more bookings from your website.

Guest Panel

Meetup Recording

Key Takeaways

  1. Add credibility triggers across the website
    • Reviews and testimonials
    • Trust symbols such as security seals, membership badges, etc.
  2. Make it easy to buy/book
    • Highly visible booking buttons
    • Easy-to-use booking process
    • Answer key questions/objections
  3. Create high quality content
    • Eliminate jargon, write for easy reading
    • Your content reflects on your brand, so represent your brand well
  4. Consider content flow
    • Organize your content in a logical flow
    • Use headlines to provide a summary info
    • Break down longer content into sections
  5. Provide a consistent user experience
    • Be consistent in use of colors, layouts, fonts, buttons, etc.
    • Be consistent in the tone and messaging
    • Provide consistent experience on mobile and desktop
  6. Utilize analytics to test and improve
    • Use an analytics package such as Google Analytics (free)
    • Look at the data to understand opportunities
    • Review data after changes to confirm results
  7. Take the time to sharpen your tools
    • Ask someone unfamiliar with your brand to review your website and give feedback
    • Don’t leave people confused. Be consistent between your website, Google My Business page, and social media sites.
    • Making changes to your website may feel overwhelming. Don’t get bogged down. Identify small chunks of things you can do, and complete them one at a time. Lots of free training resources online, including YouTube videos.

Bonus Video – Examples of the 7 Tips in Practice

Resource Links

Free In-depth Website Audit

Discover Problems with Your Website and How to Solve Them

Register for the Next Meetup

Get marketing tips and resources from peers and partners in the tourism insudtry

Meetup Transcript

[Carl] All right. It looks like we’ve got most everyone in. So let’s go ahead and get started. Again, this is Carl Lefever from the Accelerate Tourism Team. Welcome to this week’s meetup. For those of you who are new to the meetup, for those of you who are new to the meetup this is a virtual meetup for business leaders serving the tourism industry. We started this about eight weeks ago. Our focus is on sharing tourism, marketing ideas through guest speakers and open discussion. We’ve been holding these weekly and pretty soon I know most of the areas that each of you are from are either already or soon to be opening up. So we’ll be shifting these to more of a monthly frequency here soon. But yeah, our whole goal is to help you guys that are running towards them focus businesses, think through marketing strategies, give you practical ideas and things that you can do to help grow your bookings.

Topic Introduction

[Carl] So today’s topic I’m super excited about. Our title is 7 Ways To Improve Your Website To Get More Bookings. And if you’re counting, you’ll probably get more than seven ways today. But the whole purpose of this session is the realization that your website is really your most important marketing asset. I originally wrote that as digital marketing asset, but I would actually argue your website really is your most important asset. Think of it as a sales person that you have working for you 24/7. So your website should make it easy to understand what to offer, make it easy to book and small changes can make a big difference. And so we’ve invited three panelists today. Adam Grim, owner, co-owner at Sparrow Websites, Eric Clark, a Digital Director at the Infantree and Sam Shoemaker, who some of you know from past sessions, the Creative Director at Improve & Grow. I’ve invited each of these guys because they are, we consider them to be subject matter experts in how to make high performing websites, not just websites that look good, but websites that perform well and by perform well, we mean get you bookings, get good conversions from your website, get good results from your website. So really excited to have you guys on. And we had a meeting yesterday just to prepare for this session and solidified their list of seven ideas. So we’re gonna approach this one a little bit from, or not a little bit, but more from the perspective of touching on each of these seven points. Each of the panelists are gonna kind of take the lead on some of these, but contribute to the others as well. And then just like our past sessions, we will open it up for Q&A as well. So for those of you in the audience if you’ve got kind of burning questions on ways to make your website work better, or as you’re hearing Eric, Adam and Sam share, if that inspires some questions or follow up questions on your part, I encourage you to throw those in Q&A, Scott will be monitoring Q&A, and when we get to the Q&A session, we’ll put those questions to the panel. All right. So with that, let’s get started.

#1 Add Credibility Triggers Across the Website

[Carl] So item number one, love this one. Add credibility triggers across the website. Eric, would you tell us a little bit more about that?

[Eric] Yeah, sure thanks. So credibility triggers across the websites are referring to things that make your company appear more credible to your customers. So this could include something as simple as a certification or a membership, you’re part of regional or national or local perhaps even recognition or mentions and articles. There’ve been a lot of articles recently about how great Lancaster is, and there’s lots of other areas that have similar articles. So if your company was mentioned in one of those it would be great to add that to your site, or even just the article as a whole, even if your organization, your company wasn’t mentioned, it’s still great to get people aware of how great the area is. So once they’re there, they have other things to do. A big one is reviews. They are all over the place. Pretty much every site, every directory search engines have been built right in. So making sure you have reviews available it’s kind of a given. Adding them to your site is also a really nice thing to do. A lot of the directories such as TripAdvisor, and they actually have a widgets page that allows you to find your business. And it tells you which widgets you can embed on your website. A lot of these companies also have plugins or other tools that allow you to do that pretty easily. But it’s also, it’s important just to make sure you have them at all, because whether they’re on your website or not, people are gonna come across them. And they’re largely used to compare your attraction to another one. So trying to get more is always a better thing. There’s not really a magic. It’s all relative to the size of your business or the type of industry you’re in. But more is certainly not a bad thing. One way you can do that is to encourage your either existing or prior customers to leave reviews, whether that’s on, I don’t know if it’s a receipt or a thank you for booking something along those lines. Encouraging them to leave a review and a rating is be a really positive thing to do, especially if you already have a mailing list or a newsletter or something that goes out to keep people up to date. And along those lines as testimonials if people leave reviews, it’s often not just a star rating, leave a comment or two. So adding that to your website and the testimonial section about a certain type of offering you have, can be really nice. People want to know that what they’re booking and what they’re going to experience actually is what you say it is. So having some messaging that comes from actual ratings is really nice. And I think that’s one thing that rings really nice for, as opposed to just a testimonial, you see texts on someone’s website. And sometimes you’re not really sure if that was kind of cherry picked from, did they give someone a free room in order for them to leave a nice thing. But you can look at all the reviews on Google or TripAdvisor and kind of get a better picture of what’s out there. And one more thing that can relate to a bit more credibility is writing some blog posts on a relevant topic. So if you’re in an area that’s interesting and you want people to know more about what they can do when they arrive, perhaps writing an article on, I don’t know, some historical thing in the area, or perhaps if you run a tour company. I don’t know why I’m thinking of like tubing down a river is your company. Maybe you’re writing an article on what to wear when doing some water sports, how to keep yourself warm and be prepared for in the water. Something that will get people just more prepared, more interested, perhaps it’ll drive some search traffic that went when people weren’t necessarily looking for your company, but they might end up coming across it. That’s what comes to mind right now.

[Carl] So just to kind of recap that you’re saying Eric, if you already have good reviews, put them on your website, if you don’t get collect reviews I like your suggestion of doing those through third parties, because it adds credibility to it and then publish them prominently on your website. Adam, Sam, anything to add to that one?

[Sam] Yeah, I think it is one of those, I know one term that we use the credibility triggers term here, but another term I think is social proof. I see that being used a lot today. And really that’s what this, kind of taking all those things that we really need to have on your website. This isn’t really an option, like the way people buy today, they especially online, they do the research first. So having those reviews, having those trust symbols accredited organizations or credible organizations, having those testimonials from real people, not just on your website, but all across the different platforms where people find you, it’s not an option. Because your competition is doing it and if you’re not doing that better than your competition. Even down to something as really meaningless as the number of reviews, like we would like to think that the number of reviews doesn’t matter, but just the number itself leverages and has weight to what that means. So just you can’t put enough reviews and testimonials on your website and leveraging that audience, the audience that you have to fill that gap is gonna be pretty critical if you’re not doing this.

#2 Make It Easy to Buy or Book on Your Website

[Carl] Yeah, good point. So number two. Make it easy to buy/book on your website. Sam tell us a little bit more about that one.

[Sam] Yeah, sure. I mean, this one’s a big one. so Adam and Eric, please jump in at any point. Cause there’s a lot of ground we could cover here, cause this is really, this is where the rubber hits the road to add a cliche. But if people can’t figure out how to book your website, your business is essentially pointless. Because nobody’s gonna know what to do, even if they want your product, if they can’t figure out what button to click or a what page to visit or even what steps they have to take that isn’t necessarily on your website. If that stuff isn’t clear and it’s not easy to access and easy to understand, shut your business down right now. Because you’re just gonna be trading water. So there’s a lot of different things we can do here. The easiest one is, just making the buttons that lead to a purchase the most important, the most visible objects on your website. If you, and this is a pretty simple one and there are a lot of good examples of this on, if you go start searching websites, but the website convention today is up in the top right hand corner which you can find statistics why the top right hand corner is kind of the natural way where we kind of read across the page and our eyes land on this corner here. Having a phone number, having access to or a way to get to a contact form or a booking form and most practically having that book button or that buy button or that schedule button super prominent right there in that top right hand corner. And then additionally, on that, like the term that has been used is above the fold, that comes from the old newspaper where, if you had an ad above the fold, it was literally a fold on the paper. That’s kind of the term that has been used on in regards to websites for that first content that you actually see when you load a page. That’s not as relevant today because people are used to scrolling, but having at least one, having that top right hand corner full of contact information and actionable buttons calls to action, and then even having a second one somewhere on the page, just to train your users that, okay, this is the button that I need to be looking for to take an action to book, to call, to whatever it is, and then repeat that button and repeat maybe a message that goes along with your call to action, that thing that inspires people to take that next step to buying or whatever it is. Repeating that over and over again, on your pages throughout your site and doing it consistently. Guys, is there anything else you want to add? This is a super important one. Cause this is the all powerful buy button. Anything you want to add to that?

[Adam] Yeah, one thing I’d say is be mindful of like questions that might come up in your buying process. If you are renting a B&B, it might be a little more straight forward, but even there, there might be questions, what should I bring? It might be your first time in B&B. So there shared spaces. What are the communal spaces, those kinds of things. Just be thinking through, I think it’s often helpful to even just have someone, a friend or family member to go through it with you and just think of some things that might raise questions there. If it’s something that’s a little risky, I mean, if you’re doing, skydiving adventures or horseback riding ventures or something like that, just maybe, speak to the safety of it, those types of things. But just be cognizant of the things that might cause some concern or fear in there. And just anything kind of helpful information you can put along the way, right beside your forms, your details, those kinds of things. We’ve seen that really help people kind of grease the wheels into the buying process.

[Carl] Just a bit. One thing you said there, that was just, you just kind of said it, but I think it’s super important. And that’s ask your friend or a neighbor or a relative to look at the website. Like we get so close to our website and the way that we talk about our product, we’re talking to customers about it every day that we kind of forget what it’s like to talk to somebody who has no idea what we do or what we offer. And we try to advise people like, write your website, copy to the person who knows nothing about you and has never been on your website or interacted with you before. Because I often see people fall in the trap of writing their website to the people that they have been working with for the last few years. And that’s not your target audience. Those people don’t mind working a little harder. They already know where they want to go. It’s the new people that have no idea what you offer that stumbled on your website that you really need to convince. That’s good. Eric, any other thoughts on how to make it easy to buy/book on your website?

[Eric] Not at the moment. I think there’s other stuff relevant to this, but I think we’ll cover it in some other sections.

[Carl] Okay, cool. So just to recap, before we move onto the next one. Just as a general guideline, make it easy to understand what you offer, make it easy to book it. And general best practices put a nice big booking button up right up in the right hand corner. I even tell people, put it in the footer so that whether you’re at the top or bottom of the website, you can see it. And Sam, you mentioned putting it throughout the pages as well. And something, I think maybe implied, I don’t know if you’ve said it or not. But it’s using a contrast in color that kind of sticks out. And then I know one best practice we try to follow is make that thing, make that color consistent. Like don’t use five different colors for your booking button use. If the color you’re using on your website is green, make the booking color always green on any page. So you’d kind of psychologically trained the user to know where to go to take action.

[Carl] And one more… No go ahead and Adam.

[Adam] Yeah, one more, just really quick thing. If you have an especially long process where you might have some waivers or a lot of information you need to collect, it can be boring and try, and we just, we know that. So anything you can do to surprise your audience or delight your audience in that process it can be like some really simple graphics. It can be just a little bit humor that you interject in the process. Little things like that can really make it easier. And especially for those of us that don’t have like a three click, sign on process where there might be a lot of things to sign and do. Try to think of maybe is there something kind of fun, or something we can surprise our audience with that would just put a little bit of joy in this process and make it a little less challenging to fill out.

[Carl] That’s good.

[Sam] And I think I just not to labor this too long, but if you are wondering, if you’re sitting here like wondering about like, well, is it easy for somebody to buy on their way? Just ask the people who have already bought from you. Chances are that you actually, you know people, you have customers who have been with you for a long time. I know we have a lot of bed and breakfast owners on the call. I think this is pretty relevant for you where you have regular customers. But I think it’s, for anybody, most of us have access to our past customer emails and just ask people like and you can even sweeten the pot a little bit. If you want to say, take our survey and get a 10% off your next booking, 5% off. It doesn’t even have to be much. But just ask the people who have already used your website and ask them specific questions. Like, when you tried to book with us last time, were you frustrated at any point? And if you were, can you tell us what that was? We’re trying to improve the way we do things and we want your feedback. We want, we need your input in order to make it a better experience for you and the other people who come and hopefully enjoy our, their experience with us. So and that will lead to some of those things where you’re like, “Well, I don’t even know what it means to make my super long waiver form that much fun. But just ask people. And they’ll, people tend to like to tell you about the negative experiences they have which is why back to Eric’s first topic is super important to reach out to the people who had a great time, because they’re the people who are actually less likely to leave the reviews and testimonials. So, but just reach out to those people and use that audience that you’ve already had to figure out what you want to do. You can also use things to talk to an audience that hasn’t booked from you, but that’s in that cycle. This isn’t really something that we’ll talk about a whole lot, but using something like chat or some way that somebody can making it easy for somebody to, if they can’t get the answers on the website. We were talking about buying and booking, but if there’s something else that’s keeping them from buying or booking like Adam said, you want to be able to answer that question specifically. So even if it’s just call for, if you have questions, making that super accessible, if they’re not ready to book, at least we can have them take the next action that would get them closer to that booking. So having a chat feature that would allow somebody to just go online and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, is great. There’s a lot of good options out there, but it can also just be as simple as you know, you’re stuck? You’re not sure? You have questions. Call us

#3 Create High Quality Content

[Carl] Cool. Number three, create high quality content. Sam, why is that so important?

[Sam] So, I think there’s a lot of this kind of harps back a little bit to an earlier meetup that we had that we talked about messaging and ads and things like that. And if you’re interested, I recommend going back and watching that one Katlyn Kincaid, who’s a, she’s a StoryBrand Guide, which is a a content framework led by Donald Miller and his team. She has a lot of experience in the tourism realm. I recommend going back and checking that out for some specific information related to that. But as far as your content on your website goes, we want to build authority. We want to build trust with an audience, and that doesn’t always come easy. Cause we tend to talk about ourselves a lot. So a high quality content and high quality content is really something that will resonate with the emotional problem that somebody’s having at the time they’re trying to solve a problem, or they’re trying to gain a solution for their problem. So using, evaluating your content to really resonate with somebody that, it’s kind of silly when we talk about, you’re trying to book a bed and breakfast and somebody is actually having a problem. But the problem is they just want to get away. And they just have, right now they’d been pent up for two or three months and they just want to get outside and have a live experience something that might resemble, what used to be normal. And, right now is a very important time to be evaluating the quality of your content because there needs to be some timeliness due to the situation that we’re in. So just evaluating your content to save is it really speaking to, am I just saying about all the things that our bed and breakfast has? Our zip line has, our tour has. Like, is it the stats? Is it the features? Or is it something that’s like, you can come to us because we’ll take care of you and pamper you a little bit when you just need to get away. And we’re gonna do all of that because, and then you list your features and things like that. So, and that’s gonna build trust with people that’s gonna build, there’ll be some authority built there, there’ll be empathy built there. And people will begin to see that, okay, you really get it. You really understand that something like zip lines or like something that’s a little bit more threatening, quote unquote, talk about that, okay. You understand, we remember the first time that we went zip lining and we were, not so sure about how safe it was or what I needed to bring or what I was gonna experience or what the whole situation would be like. But really talking about those things, talking about those objections and it all being super clear and being concise. Somebody, our prep call yesterday said something like, before you write something cute, make sure you write something that’s clear. And I think that’s a super nice little thing to remember instead of being cute, be clear, or before you be cute, make sure you’re clear. So I would say that those, that kind of quality content is what we really want to. Trust, authority, empathy. Those are the things you want to evaluate your content for and rewrite it to nail that stuff down.

[Carl] Cool, I think it’s important to remember that when your website ends up becoming, because that’s the first way a lot of people become exposed to you. What I’m hearing you say is, the reason the content is so important is because it basically becomes a reflection or it’s the impression that someone forms of your business. So the words you use, the images you use, the user experience, like how easy or hard it is, whether consciously or unconsciously, that’s gonna create an impression of what your business is like and what you’re like-

[Sam] A hundred percent.

[Carl] So if you have an awesome, I mean, we worked with one business that just had a straight awesome experience, but their website did not tell the story of that experience at all. The website was hard to use. There were grainy pictures, the words were very poorly written. And so just making the website represent the quality of the experience you offer. If you kind of think about it that way, it’s just gonna go a long way towards telling the story of what it’s gonna be like when people are on your property. Awesome.

[Sam] Yeah. And that is that not that judgment is really important to consider. I’m glad you mentioned that. Cause that, that is really it’s, we think of a website as a house or like in a physical business building and if your building is decrepit and run down, people are gonna, whether or not we like to admit it. People are gonna make those judgment calls the same goes for your website.

#4 Consider Content Flow

[Carl] So, and that’s kind of a good segue to item number four, which is content flow. Adam, I know you had some thoughts on that, tell us a little bit more about what you mean by that.

[Adam] Yeah, I mean, so we’ve got this great content it might be a great messaging strategy in place where we’ve seen some pages break down though, is that there, isn’t a nice flow of step one, two, three on the site, or even on the certain page. I say this, so I’ve talked about this in presentations and then we fell prey to it to. We had this landing page outline of it’s kind of designed by committee, like four or five of us working on it because we’ve got all the things you have to say, we put it out there and we tracked it. And we actually talked to some of our clients, went through it and people were just massively confused because what we lacked was a linear progression. So what I mean by that is on each page, you should really take your user by the hand or take that brand new person by the hand and walk them through step one, two, three, four of your journey. So I’m a complete stranger. And were so happy to have you here. Let’s tell you a little bit about the experience. After telling you about the experience, you might have some questions, so here’s some answers to your questions. And at this point you might want to get in touch with us and register. You can go here for that. So when you’re writing your outline for your page, at the very beginning, I recommend starting with an outline before we just start putting elements out there. So a really simple one, two, three outline, just make sure that it’s not this random list of bullet points, but it actually has a step one, two, three, it’s something that’s really logical for the users. And like we’ve said so many times, if you’re a bit confused about this, it is the kind of thing that you can talk to somebody else to make sure it actually holds up to the test and they understand that progression. But that’s the first one, just make sure that you don’t have this as random bits of information all over the place, which is easy to do. Like I said, we’ve fallen prey to ourselves, but that you’ve kind of taken them through a really nice journey or process. Alongside of that, once you’ve got that in place, then you want to talk a little bit about what you’re gonna put on those pages. So, Sam talked about the quality of content. The other component to that is, once you’ve got this high quality content, put it in a really easy to read, easy to navigate flow on your website. So there’s something that in the web design world we called chunking, and that’s just rather than having like an essay of text when a page break each paragraph into its own heading. And I think we’ve all done this, we land on a site. Some of us are just gonna skim down the headings and read the headings. Then we’ll go back and read that in depth copy, hopefully that’s on the page. But our first step is often just a skim down heading. So it’s really important that you take each big idea, put a key heading, by heading, explain some big texts people can read and then get into the paragraph for the deeper dive. And then you can kind of intersperse it with graphics and images and those kinds of things from there. But that’s the other element. So get that narrative in there. And then when you actually, when it lives on the page, make sure you can read those steps one, two, three is big bold headings and then fit your texts in around it. So it’s a really easy to scan, easy to read page. They’re really basic things that you can do with just about any website editor. But unfortunately you see a lot of people that miss those two steps and people just get confused and leave a page when there is actually really good content already on that page.

[Carl] Well, Eric or Sam, anything to add to that? No? Okay.

[Sam] I think we touched on it a little bit, but making sure that the supporting medium for the text is relevant and is the right medium and sort of in a way vice versa. So and what I mean by that is obviously we know that you, we want to be using images, especially with something that’s so visual, as the experience of, conveying the experience of staying in a bed and breakfast, going zip lining, going on some sort of tour. It’s a very visual experience and we want to use high quality images to reinforce the texts that we’re saying. But in some ways too, you can flip that in where if you have an image, if you have a video you could add some context by giving a little bit of a sneak peek of what’s going to be in that video. Videos are very convincing, is a very convincing medium. But people have to actually click the video typically to actually experience that video. So use text, use those headlines to, and use calls to action to get people to engage with that video and for like images and things like that. Also using, as goofy as it sounds, captions end up being one of those things that people tend to engage with pretty highly and we’ve kind of built that into our process. So we can add custom captions to images, to give a little bit more context. And even in some ways kind of hide some really important information in those not, maybe not have it be the only place that information is, but have some pretty convincing information in those captions for those people who really want to feel like they’re doing all the research before they make a decision that emotion of that in insurance that okay, they’re making the right decision to lay down two or $300 depending on how expensive a tour is that will putting some of that, those little hidden gems and things like captions is actually a pretty neat little strategy for those people who want to feel super assured that, they’re gonna get the bang for their buck.

#5 Provide a Consistent User Experience

[Carl] Number five is, provide a consistent user experience. Eric, what are your thoughts on that?

[Eric] I actually, two questions ago and Sam was talking about content. Somebody said something along the lines of, trying to make the website, the content on the website, representing the quality of the experience. And I think that’s a really, really good point, not just when it comes to content, but when it comes to everything that you put out to talk about what your company does. The experience itself should be good. The website needs to hold that, but really every in every way that somebody interacts with your company, every piece of marketing material or information should explain what the experience is. So thinking about all the interactions people have, whether it’s through social media, your website, I think it’s really important to think about what those interactions look like to your customers and the types of impressions for making on your customers. And kind of in a nutshell, that idea is branding, thinking about what your brand looks like, how you present yourself to the world. And I think it’s a really important concept to think about creating, writing, designing everything in a consistent manner. So that includes things like just clearly stating who you are and what you do. What does your company provide? What people can expect when they show up, when they book. Things like your headlines and some of your messaging, and even your overall tone when talking about what you offer that even includes things like consistent photography, not every single picture is going to be professionally taken necessarily. Maybe it’s curated through iPhone shots and even user submitted shots, but having a nice, consistent look is always beneficial. Especially when we’re talking about your website itself. And consistency also goes through, that appears on your website in terms of visual design things like your, consistent layouts, fonts, and colors page to page, even sections across the site. I believe Carl was the one that mentioned just having a consistent call to action color for that booking button. That type of consistency can not only be good for that visual cue, but if you can also kind of tie that into your brand, use that color across a lot of different calls to action on your website, perhaps social media graphics, some sort of consistency there can be really nice. Another big part of this is, going back to booking and your website is a good mobile experience. I found a couple of statistics that even as far back as 2015, 42% of people worldwide are using their smartphones to plan and book trips. And that was five years ago. Like it’s only going up and up. People are on the go more than ever, and they’re planning things on their mobile devices. And I’d like to think that it’s not as big of a problem now, as it was 10 years ago, mobile friendly websites, but that’s a big box to chat. You need to make sure that people are able to read the content and your site and book their web or book their travel or their stay on a phone. That’s oftentimes a lot easier said than done. A lot of that can be out of your control. Especially when we’re talking about booking. A big part of that is the form. We talked about the form earlier, but I think when we’re talking about a mobile experience it’s critical. Another part of this quality going back to the form, I think it’s also, when we’re talking specifically about the user experience and Adam touched on this too, but I got a couple more things to add on top of that is just again, just reducing frustration, getting some real feedback on what did and didn’t work. But we also acknowledge that that’s not always within your control. Third-Party booking tools are really convenient to use. There’s a lot of them out there. And sometimes they’re just not working for you. It might be due to a specific thing, piece of information you might need from people. It could be for a lot of different reasons, but don’t feel like you’re locked into that tool. There might be another service out there that provides a better experience for your users. If you’re able to switch to another tool, it might feel like a really big thing to go through, but in the end, if it’s gonna lead to better conversion rates, more people signing up through the website, that could be a really nice thing to, a really nice change to make. If you’re not really trying to go that far, just yet, even something as simple as logging on to your account on the company’s website and submitting a support ticket, telling them what the problem is and seeing if the development team’s able to hear you out and make a change. I’ve, when working for clients, I’ve done that, and I’ve received updates to the entire plugin or the entire service based upon the thing that I was trying to do for my client. So whether it’s something that you feel like you can log in and do, or if it’s something that your development team or website company is able to handle, that’s not out of the realm of possibility. Don’t feel like you have to settle for a subpar service.

[Carl] That’s a great point.

[Eric] And one more quick thing is page load speed. That that’s part of the experience. I think people sometimes don’t think of as the experience, think about your website itself, but people also have to get to it. And if it takes too long to load people leave. That is a frustrating thing to have to deal with sometimes because a lot of that might be out of your control, but I think a good first step is just understanding if your site is, or is not slow and what things could be improved in order to increase page speed. Google has a really nice tool called Google Lighthouse. It gives you a, just runs a quick audit of a page on your site, and it will tell you, and it’ll give you a score. Of course a nice high score out of 100, is really nice, but that’s not getting a score of 100% isn’t necessarily the only way to go about this. But I think more importantly, it gives you some perspective on where you stand. And it also gives a nice report on things you can fix. Some of them are pretty technical things that perhaps you’ll have to go to someone who is familiar with website development. Certainly any of us here would be willing to help out with that. But there are also a lot of things that are very easier for most content managers and content editors to change directly within the content editor on their website. A big one is images, something as simple as reducing the image size to a reasonable size, as opposed to uploading the five megabyte JPEG that the photographer gave you. If you’re able to install a plugin or just have someone that’s familiar with the photo editing tool, reduce it down to a reasonable size, whatever that might be, that can save seconds off your load time. So there’s a lot of other tips there and it really depends what kind of site you’re running and what content is on it, but there’s a good mix of pretty simple improvements and some more technical ones as well. And the page speed does of course affect your rank in search engines. So it’s more than just that experience when someone’s loading, but it’s how people, how likely people are to find your site. It’s pretty all encompassing. That’s a whole other meetup in itself, but I think it’s important to at least understand where you stand.

[Carl] Thank you. Something important that I think you said as we transitioned to the next one here is you talked about the booking experience. Like I’ve seen a lot of really good websites that have good, great content. And then when you hit that book button, you end up on some third party site that is not optimized for mobile, or doesn’t reflect the brand colors, or you’re not even quite sure if you’re on the brand’s website anymore, because you’ve gone to some other weird looking experience with a different URL. So again, you mentioned not everybody has control over that, but considering the booking engine that you’re using as part of your user experience, making a decision about looking what booking engine to use, taking advantage of whatever features they offer to allow you to customize that to your brand and making sure that that’s a consistent, easy to use process. And if not, consider switching to another one because you’re losing bookings if you’re making a bad experience. So that’s good. So as we get closer to Q&A here, I know we’ve got one more point and then kind of an open ended one.

#6 Utilize Analytics to Test and Improve

[Carl] Adam, could you talk a little bit about how important analytics are and how that factors into improving your website?

[Adam] Yeah, I’ll make this quick. Nobody likes to be labor the math part of these presentations. I mean, I would say so. Any website you get these days, you can add a free tool called Google Analytics and wager most of you actually probably have it installed. And you can talk to your web designer about that. What we find is most clients, they’ll never check it or they might check it once a year. So I just like to offer a friendly reminder. There are analytics on your probably when your website now Google Analytics is free, it’s the most popular one if you don’t have it. And you can just peek in there. We try to remind every client to set aside some time every month just to take 15 minutes and peek in there. And in your analytics tool, when I can do a full training, you can certainly talk to your web designer about that. But in your analytics tool, you can see some really credible information that will basically back up everything we talked about in this session. So as you’re making changes to your website, first of all, go in there today and try to get a good baseline of how people are using your website, which pages they’re looking at. There’s something called a bounce rate, which is not a perfect metric. The bounce rate is essentially saying of the people that went to that page, how many people left without doing another action? So if you have a really critical page and your bounce rate is very high, that just means you are bouncing from the page, you’re not taking action there. And then if you’re working with certain teams they can actually help you customize that even further to understand the different events that happened to your website. But for those of you that are kind of running your own show there, I just like to remind you, take some time today, get a baseline of how people are using your pages and then if you are able to implement some of the ideas we had today, track it over time to see what improvements they make. Do people spend a little more time on that page? Do they, get to your conversion forms a little more easily? You see more visits on your thank you page after they arrive at, after they fill out a form or do a booking. Those are some really easy things that don’t take a lot of customization you see to help right away. And that’s all falls in the realm of and not get too nerdy, but qualitative measures are quantitative metrics. So the number side of things, there is an aspect of your website that’s called qualitative and that’s just really understanding deeply how people use your website. So there are some tools out there. A Hotjar is one, I believe it’s only a paid tool. They might have a free trial. There’s another tool called FullStory. They sent the link up there, they have a completely free version that will just track people’s mouse across the page. Now to go back to Eric’s point about page speed, when you’re running these tools specifically these like tracker tools, they will probably slow down your website. So you don’t wanna let them run forever. But if you’ve made a couple key improvements to your page or you really want to get deep dive or deep understanding of your page, so let these tools run for a couple of weeks or a month or so, to literally watch how people are using your page, where their mouse is going, where they’re spending time can be invaluable. Every time we’ve run all these tests, we’ve always walked away with a lot of really key insights. Because you can see, the mouse goes there, but then they really stalled there. There’s probably a confusing point or this really important thing we need them to see nobody’s mouse or nobody’s eye goes down to that important things. We need to make that stand out a little more. Things like that. So check out your Google Analytics. You can use a couple of free tools out there to do what’s called a qualitative understanding kind of watching people across the board, and we talked a lot about it in here, but qualitative analysis would also fall. Just like you said so many times, ask some of your customers and get some surveys out there and get some of that type of data in there. I think that’s, yeah, a quick run through the three big components we’d really recommend that people do when their analytics.

[Carl] Cool. Thank you, Adam. I think a Google Analytics has come up on almost every call that we’ve had. So for anyone out there that’s still not using it or not using it consistently, hopefully repetition will be the key to learning there on that one. Get in it today if you’re not there.

#7 Take the Time to Sharpen Your Tools

[Carl] Point number seven. I like this one cause it’s, it’s a good one to close on before we go to Q&A here, which is take the time to sharpen your tools. And I think the point for this one is, I don’t know if anybody would really identify saying they’re down right now are not very busy right now because everybody’s working on trying to change the way they offer their services, prepare to reopen. But it’s an important point to say, “Hey, take time now when things aren’t quite as busy “and build time in regularly to be looking at your website, “looking at what’s happening, “learning from other websites, “figuring out what to do.” So I kinda just go in order, Adam, Eric, Sam, can you give just like one more point on or encourage people in ways that things that they could be looking at outside of what we’ve already talked about.

[Adam] Yeah, what I was going to say for this, we’ve actually talked about a lot, but I’ll just use it cause I think it’s so important. I mean I would just literally today schedule some time with some people who are a little less familiar with your brand, a friend, an uncle or something like that. And sit down with them and literally just like, go through the website with them. You can send out surveys, these are fantastic. You can do a lot of things, but it’s really hard to beat the over the shoulder look you’d get. So I would really try to get some time today before we think it was too crazy to just sit down and have somebody who’s less familiar to go through your site and let them identify the points because we get this designer blindness or business owner blindness really easily. So that’s one of the most critical things I think we talked about today. If you could do that, I can almost guarantee you’re gonna see some real insights that lead to real business growth.

[Carl] Eric, how about you?

[Eric] Yeah, my last tip really has to do more with how your website, another way to keep your website consistent is to keep it consistent for all your social media presences. With the Coronavirus thing going on, a lot of businesses have to adapt to still stay open, but things aren’t quite the same as they used to be. And I can think about a lot of times that I’ve tried to find a menu or find if a company is doing curbside pickup or delivery and I go to their website and there’s just nothing on it. I have to go and search through their social media accounts to find which one is the right one to look at in order to know if they’re doing any service at all. So I think social media is a really easy thing for a lot of people to do and reaches a lot of people at once. It shows up on their feed. But this is one time where we don’t want to leave people confused. You want people to know that you are doing business, that you’re, maybe you’re not doing business but you’re, you want to give them updates. Everything’s not running the way it used to be. So keep them updated. Rules and guidelines across the state are changing weekly and it’s important to keep people in the know. It’s, again, the content is probably already out there, but keeping that consistent is really nice. You don’t want to have, you don’t want to force people to hunt it down or even worse not find that at all and just be really confused.

[Carl] Cool, Sam, how about you? A closing thought.

[Sam] Yeah, I mean, mine it’s pretty easy. It just don’t let it, doing work on your website could easily become overwhelming. Don’t let it overwhelm you. I’m sure you may have some critical issues on your website and you may spin your wheels on trying how, trying to find the answer to fix that. The internet and that has a lot of great resources. YouTube has a lot of great resources. You’ll probably, if you’re trying to figure out how to do something on your website, you might end up on something like stack overflow, has a lot of question and answers on how to do more technical things on your website. Just don’t get bogged down by it. Just do the things that you determine that you can actually do fairly quickly. Because if you can knock out a lot of the little things you’re gonna be moving the ball forward instead of just getting frustrated and then constantly putting it off. Anything that you can do, just go ahead and do it. If you get stuck, move on, try to find something else or if you’re able to engage with a developer or somebody who would be able to help you with that technical stuff, do that. But just don’t get overwhelmed by it. Just do the little things that you can do and make sure you’re checking your Google Analytics.

Open Q&A

[Carl] All right, Scott, what kind of questions do we have from the group for the panelists?

[Scott] Sure, so we had some come in during the credibility triggers part of this take a step back a little bit. The one question was where and how do I use them? So I would be guessing for like reviews and stuff for my blog posts, for badges and all those accreditations, would we use them site-wide? Would we have everything on the homepage? Do we have individual landing pages for these things? Where and how do I use these different credibility triggers?

[Carl] Yeah, that’s a great question.

[Adam] I would say real quick, if you can figure out in every site what are your key objectives or what are you trying to validate? So you’re trying to validate that this is the most exciting experience. Are you trying to validate this as a safe experience? I need to key point there to figure out we need to validate and figure out who’s the best third party source to validate that. So if you have, a bungee jumping experience, you think that we’re scared, maybe that’s the great place to put the safety seal and the other state certification, everything like that. If you’ve just said this is going to be the most mind blowing experience ever, that’s maybe a great point to put the testimonial that the person said, my family could stop talking about this for three weeks. So don’t, I wouldn’t cluster them too much. I’d really try to find the most important one, trying to figure the biggest objection and just match those two. So the third party, validates what you said.

[Carl] That’s great. So when I think I’m hearing you say there, Adam, is instead of just having a running list of all your testimonials that people have to wait through kind of handpicking testimonials and putting them in relevant places on the site, that’s a great tip.

[Sam] I think also- Go ahead Eric.

[Eric] Another thing that we run into with clients sometimes is trying, they want to decide which third party site they should focus on for reviews. Because there’s tons of them out there. There’s, Google has reviews set up for every business whether you want them or not. TripAdvisor it’s built, in AirB&B it’s built in. And they always try to, they try to get the right answer on which one they should focus their time on. And I don’t think there is necessarily a right answer. It really depends on, back to what Adam was saying, depending on what you’re trying to get at. And maybe TripAdvisor is better than Google, so you should point people towards one or the other. I think it’s important to take a look at what’s out there and see where people are leaving reviews. Maybe the reviews are better or more comprehensive on one site than another because of the nature of the site perhaps. So I think you can’t do great at all of them most likely unless you really do have the team power to focus on that. But I think it’s okay to focus on just one or two of them in the sites or areas that you think are most beneficial to the industry.

[Carl] Yeah, good point. Scott, what other questions do we have?

[Scott] Sure. I think Eric just actually answered the next question we had on what third party options should we use? Going to the content section. What are some best practices for how much info to include on the page? Or how do we not overwhelm somebody with our information?

[Sam] I’ll speak on that, but real quick, I think the third party question that might’ve been in there. I just want to offer another answer cause I understood the question a little bit differently. If you’re looking for a tool to actually help reach out to some of your customers to encourage them to leave reviews, there’s a bunch of different ones out there. I’ll just mention and there’s some that are geared kind of towards the traveling industry. But the one that we’ve had a lot of success with, I believe is called gather up. And that’s been pretty neat because essentially what you’re able to do is upload, create an email list and send it out to those people to have them leave reviews. And what you can do, is if you have a booking system where you know people booked and had a good experience, you can focus on getting reviews from those people. So it’s a little bit, I don’t want to say it’s dishonest but as we said before, it’s not dishonest. It’s just the fact that people aren’t as likely to leave a good review. So you kind of have to really sort of poke them to say, “Hey, leave a review. “Hey, you had a great time. “Leave a review.” And that’s exactly what this thing does. So gather up, I believe it’s called and we can even add that to the resources list. So to go back to the content question, there’s a lot of different opinions on whether or not a page should have a little bit of information that’s super concise or should have more long form information to increase the amount of content on the page that’s digestible by users and by search engines that are serving these pages out to people. I don’t wanna say, my answer is don’t worry about it. Just make sure that anything that you put on the page, it’s going to be super relevant. And it’s going to move that ball forward. It’s answering questions, it’s building authority, it’s concise. So as long as you have, and as Adam put it, these chunks of information that are concise and are relevant and will build authority, don’t worry about the number of words that are, the length of the copy that’s on the pages. Is that kind of a relevant answer to that question, is that what you’re looking for, Scott?

[Scott] Yeah, I think so.

[Adam] I mean, I would just chime in there. I mean in every case where somebody has said there’s a page that’s too long that I’ve seen, at least for small businesses. It has always been a page design, page layout problem and not an amount of content problem. Like it just looks bad because there’s massive amounts of text. where when you do you add some images, you have some videos, you have bullet points. You mean like you chunk it into content. That page usually performs way, way better and nobody says it’s too long. I mean, Amazon’s landing pages, you can scroll for like 10 minutes on some of those. Like let’s face it, they’re highly, highly tested pages. So usually it’s a design problem, not a content problem which people complain about a link basically too long.

[Carl] That’s good. And one more question. Anybody else? Were you gonna say something? Go ahead Scott.

[Scott] I guess one more question kind of to end on are there any types of elements that you see websites moving forward in the future? Like, what’s new in coming out that people can like look to adapt to?

[Adam] I mean, I know one thing that’s getting thrown around a lot in the marketing world, but just to maybe consider is, having more conversational elements in your websites. Chat features, things like that. Stuff like that is just something we can’t avoid. We were at a conference last year here in Lancaster where they were saying they could see a future where a chat experience once you replaced the forms that we all have that people book, because it actually goes back to before the internet where you would actually talk to a person, you can ask questions back and forth and that kind of thing. So I do see that probably continuing to take a bigger role in the website world.

[Eric] I know one thing that Google has changed recently, I don’t know if this is a direct answer, but it definitely applies to the mobile experience of, Google actually changed the way they look at content and search engines. They look at your mobile site, I think it’s only your mobile site. They don’t really take the desktop site into consideration at all anymore. Most modern websites, it shouldn’t be a problem. But that’s not always the case. I think it’s important to take a look at your mobile site and make sure that the content that you see on that mobile page is what you want search engines to see. Sometimes sections of content might’ve switched out entirely based on the size of a device. That’s not best practice anymore really. But it’s an important thing to check because that was a very recent change that Google made that you just want to make sure you’re taking into consideration.

[Sam] My, I will feel, I maybe a bit of a Luddite might be the term here, but I’m always super wary of trends. I’d rather focus on the things that are going that are kind of like proven to increase our revenue and things like that. That said, if you are, somebody who’s on the cutting edge and you have the team and the budget to really focus on that. The mobile experience kind of like what Eric was just talking about is really important and there’s some crazy things going on with that, with like augmented reality and even like for tour owners, especially people who are not able to run their tours. And this locked down situation. And it might be, hopefully it becomes a little bit more irrelevant, but I’ve actually had some pretty neat virtual experiences. So and it’s kind of, I think a little bit more of a dream scenario where we will start to blend some of this and we’ll build some of this new technology into websites and it’s gonna be our everyday experience. But the fact of the matter is, it’s actually technology that’s pretty accessible to anybody right now. And if you can figure out a neat way to use it, go ahead. If it’s going to become a distraction and kind of like this little thing that’s gonna keep you from doing things that are actually gonna make you more money, I’d say run the other way. If you’re a person who’s maybe prone to doing some of those things. But yeah, so that’s kind of my mixed answer. Like, yeah, there might be, there’s trends out there and we want to be aware of those trends. But if I’m a business owner, I want to be maximizing all the things that I know are going to work first before I start thinking about, “Oh, well there’s a shiny new opportunity out there. “Why don’t I just like spend all my time on that?” So that’s kinda my, that’s my thought and maybe a little bit of a warning that I’ve personally run into myself.

Wrap Up

[Carl] Thank you Sam. So I see it’s the top of the hour here. So we’re gonna wrap up here and sorry, I’m having trouble with my video and connection here so I’ve shut off the video, but this is Carl on audio. Just want to thank everyone for joining today. What you see on the slide here is just the key takeaways, which are really enforcing the seven main points that were made. Like always we’re gonna be sending out the link to the recording and the transcript. And some folks on the chat were asking about some examples from some of the points that were made as well as links to the resources. We’re gonna put all of that in the post when we post the video and the transcript on that. So look for that email come out, if not today, early Monday with information about the sessions so that you can re-watch the recording. As I mentioned, all the resources that we mentioned are here on the slide. We’ll put the links in the blog. And there were a few more that were mentioned by Adam, Eric and Sam, that aren’t on the list here. We’ll add those in as well. Encourage you to sign in. Next week we’re gonna be talking about 3 Principles for Building a Booking Growth Funnel. Essentially think of this session as kind of tying together all of the last seven or eight weeks or so of the topics. We’re gonna be talking about, how all of this kind of ties together and how you can really set up your marketing strategy for success by pulling in these principles at the right points in the right times with a focus on what’s going to help drive bookings for your business. And I encourage you to keep the conversation going. We’ve got the Facebook group if you’re not a member of Accelerate Tourism yet on Facebook, go ahead and look that up and join there. We’ll send a link out with the email with the meetup recording as well. A number of us are monitoring that group. Submit your questions. If you heard some things today that you’re not sure how to apply, put a link to your website in there and ask a question. We’ll help you out as much as we can. So thank you everyone for joining today. We hope you have a great weekend and look forward to seeing your businesses open and what happens with that here as we move forward. Thank you everyone. Have a great day. Thank you Adam, Eric and Sam for joining us today and sharing your wisdom.

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