Tourist season is coming – Are you ready?

Before you know it, the long winter will be a forgotten memory – except for the powder days. As it finally warms up for good (whatever that means this year), school will be out and tourists will be inbound for another summer.

It’s almost tourist season. Are you ready?

Is your facility ready? I’m sure you have a checklist for that, so I won’t go there.

Instead, let’s discuss some steps to help you make tourist season better than expected:

  • Do you have an easy way to prompt your visitors to leave a review? Will they be encouraged by your facility to take pictures at your place and post them to social media? Is there an easy way for them to suggest that their friends should visit?
  • Can they find your place on Google Local, Google+ Local and Google+ Business?
  • Are they on your email list?

Encouraging reviews and photos

Most people like sending an occasional “Having fun, wish you were here” photo to friends, family and co-workers, if nothing else, just to rub it in a little.

You can make this easier with suggestions for the best places to take photos to send their friends, family and co-workers, but also by asking to take their picture. This gets everyone in their group into the photo and gets your staff engaged as well.

Ask your visitors to text their photos to you so you can print a copy for them. With their permission, post the photos in your facility and on your website to provide social proof of the great time your visitors have. Print postcards from the photos for a special touch they can send to friends and family.

Don’t be invisible to tourists

If your business doesn’t have at least a minimal profile (name, address, phone, hours, photos), you’ll be invisible to smartphone maps and the tourists who use them (lots).  That’s the last place you want to be invisible.

Be sure you’ve updated (or added) your profile on the major profile sites, such as Google Local, Google+ Local, Google+ for Business. Restaurants should do the same with Yelp and UrbanSpoon. If you have more time, take the same steps with Bing, your local chamber of commerce and local directory sites. Don’t forget a Facebook fan page.

These days, “Google, local, social” is the smartphone equivalent of “location, location, location”.

Create a special email list

If they’ll be staying with you (ie: you run a campground, RV park, hotel, motel, hostel, cabins, resort, etc), consider building a special email list for your visitors.

To make it most effective, it should be timed to their visit. An email series that gives them a countdown to their visit would be useful, particularly if it prepares them at the right time in advance of their visit. All of this can be automated to make it easy for you while making it super useful for your visitors.

For example, an email might let them know about popular events during certain days, or that a special dinner location requires reservations three weeks in advance during prime season.  If they receive the latter email three to six weeks in advance, they can take advantage of it. If they don’t find out until they get there….too late.

Road problems? Let them know. Don’t expect that they have had time to find your area’s road conditions page – or that it is up to date. Let them know so that your guests are prepared for anything.

Don’t let this list end with the before visit email sequence. Keep in touch during their visit about how you can help with things they’ve forgotten and with local advice. Quality advice will be appreciated if it’s pertinent to their time with you.

Finally, keep a notebook and a camera handy at the front desk for notes and photos when the opportunity presents itself. A casual photo of your guests included in an email – or better, a postcard waiting for them when they return home, is a great personal touch to remind them to return and refer their friends, family and co-workers.

Don’t have their email address? Try a text message sequence. As with email, be sure you get permission first.

Take advantage of the time remaining before tourist season to turn a good visit into a memorable experience that has them ready to return – and talk about you in the meantime.

Google India knows that Business is Personal

Brilliant.

What stories are you telling about your customers that can illustrate the power of the value you deliver?

No matter what you do, I’ll bet you have stories to tell. When will you start sharing them?

Wanted: Smoking hot hotel room in Kansas City Kansas

Google-Fiber-Rabbit

Of course, I mean a “smokin’ hot internet connection”.

Late last week, I was heading north through western Missouri, I planned to make an overnight stay in the Kansas City area.

Knowing full well (though with a little jealousy) that Kansas City, Kansas was the first winner of the Google Fiber lotto, I thought it would be nice to stay at a hotel in KC hotel that offered Google Fiber.

So I searched for “hotel kansas city kansas google fiber

While there are plenty of search hits about Google Fiber, most were stories about Google Fiber’s choice of KCK and deployment in the area. The only thing that even comes close to a hotel room in the search responses is a story about a “Home4Hackers“, an AirBnB property that offers Google Fiber.

Either there are no hotels in the Kansas City Kansas area that have Google Fiber (a distinct possibility), or the ones that do offer it need to work on their search engine positioning. A simple Google Local entry would have been first in my search, if it existed. Simple. Five minutes work.

What are people searching for when they look for you and don’t find you? Have you asked them when you meet or speak with them?

Finally – be sure you’ve taken care of your local listing on Google and Bing.

Will you lose your prized sources of business info today?

goodbyegooglereader

One last warning – Google Reader disappears tomorrow – July 1.

If you don’t want to miss out on what’s going on here, much less in the rest of your feeds, I suggest you migrate your Google Reader feed list to http://cloud.feedly.com, to http://digg.com/reader or other Google Reader replacements. Both Feedly and Digg have made the migration one-click simple.

Of course, you can also get email notices or a full email feed…but please do something to protect the info sources you’ve carefully gathered over the years.

To make sure you don’t miss anything from me, you can subscribe in the box on the right or paste http://www.rescuemarketing.com/feed/ into your new feed reader.

You can also get new post links on my Twitter and Facebook feeds. The Twitter feed tends to include discussions about business / startups and (occasionally) other topics as well as links of interest to business owners. The Facebook feed sticks to business with less chatter and more links to good business and startup reads. Try them on and see which fits.

Thanks, Google Reader.

Taking yourself out of context

Google recently released a video demonstrating how speedy the new build of their Chrome browser runs.

You *still* get the idea that Chrome is fast, but you are far from bored to tears as they demonstrate that.

If they showed a spreadsheet or graph documenting the speed of Chrome as compared to Internet Explorer, Firefox or Opera, you’d surely click on and move to something else.

Instead, they got creative and made something that’s both marketing and interesting/fun to watch.

Now it’s your turn.

Are you thinking about 5 years from now? Really?

What about in other markets that affect yours?

Ever want to know at least a little bit of what Google might be thinking?

This 5 minute excerpt is the meaty part of a 45 minute long discussion about the future with Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Listen to what Schmidt says about the inevitable intersection of TV, radio, video, internet – ie: of media in general.

Sure, it’s obvious. And it’s just one aspect of what he’s speaking of.

But are you considering it in your marketing? In your product delivery? In what your products and services look like? In who you have on your staff, the skills you’re looking for in new hires and the training you’re offering to existing staff?

You don’t have to be in the tech business for this to have a profound impact on you. Has the iPod has affected businesses other than those who make cassette players? Surely.

What often separates the big dogs from everyone else is that they think ahead, they look ahead and they position themselves to be at cruising speed when that next big thing gets traction and hits cruise control.

Focusing merely on survival is not only a great way to never make it to top speed, but to find yourself on the wrong highway altogether.

If your business uses PPC ads, your world just changed. Again.

Google is starting to offer the ability to advertise inside YouTube. Rather than repeat the YouTube / AdWords connection story here, I suggest you take a look at Website Magazine’s coverage of the YouTube advertising story.

If you are already using pay-per-click advertising in your business, the time to get your strategy figured out for this new search/ad opportunity is now, not a year from now. The lead dog has a better view.

Your marketing message: Stay on context

It sure isn’t in this case. As you can see below, I recently installed a trial for Google SketchUp Pro.

Here’s the final “I’ve successfully installed it” screen.

Notice how it’s asking me if I want to change the default search engine in Internet Explorer?

Totally out of context.

  • this application has nothing to do with search
  • this application has nothing to do with browsing or Internet Explorer
  • this application has nothing to do with the internet.

Yet they felt it was in-context to ask to change the default search engine in Internet Explorer.

The dumbest thing of all: The default search engine in my Internet Explorer is *already* set to Google.

Why is this even worth discussing here? Because I’m afraid that some of you are sending messages as out of context as this one.

Maybe the mistake a more subtle than this, but it still causes confusion and makes your customer wonder what planet you are on.

More extreme examples:

  • When someone orders a meatless meal at a local restaurant, do they ask them if they want a meatball on the side?
  • When you contact an attorney to get a divorce worked out, do they ask you if you want to buy a pre-nup too?

Make sure that the message you send matches the context of the time of delivery, whether you create software or canoe paddles.

MobileMe becomes ImmobileMe

Call me old fashioned, but when someone says they’re gonna host all of my email somewhere else and Im just supposed to trust them and not keep a copy here where I can protect it, I think I’ll pass.

Doesn’t matter to me if it’s Google, Apple’s MobileMe, Amazon S3 or whoever. All of them have had email downtimes or lost data.

As have I. At least if I lose it under those circumstances, it’s my fault and I have control over the backup processes.

Are you trusting your critical business email to (immobile) MobileMe?

Think hard about what happens to your business if you lose access to MobileMe, Gmail or Amazon S3 data for an hour.

Or…

  • A day.
  • A week.
  • A month.
  • Permanently (as occurred last week for some MobileMe users).

Does your stomach hurt yet? It should.

And if you’re using MobileMe or any of these services without a local backup of your critical business data, it’s no one’s fault but your own when you have to shut the doors.

Outlook (or your email program of choice) may be annoying as crud compared to that cool web interface, but I control how many backups I have and where they are, and I can get to them ASAP without having to drive to Cupertino (or wherever) to beg for a restore disk cuz I once golfed with Kevin Bacon and he knows someone who is only 7 levels of separation from Steve Jobs.

Heck, I could probably find Kevin on LinkedIn 🙂

Seriously though, where is your critical path data?

Think about what happens to your data, and thus, your business, if the internet goes down for a few days – or at least, your access to the net.

Think about what happens to your data, and thus, your business, if you can’t access invoices, contact info, and so on.

Think about covering your backside a little better.

And make sure you have a few candles in the closet.

Sticking a fork in restaurant websites

Though I haven’t mentioned it here in a while, my series of columns in the Flathead Beacon about local websites has continued over the last couple weeks. It’s on topic here as well, so let’s elaborate on it a bit further than I have space for in the Beacon.

Next week’s column takes a look at local restaurant websites in my area.

One thing stands out here, and thatâ??s the chains. Most all of the franchise restaurant chains have corporate-managed websites that are well done. But weâ??re not here to help them â?? they have plenty of help already.

What you can do is look to them to see what to consider when putting your web site together. Things like menus, a map to your location (pleaseâ?¦), whether or not you do catering, what meals you serve (ie: do you serve breakfast and lunch only?)

One example was a restaurant between Columbia Falls and Kalispell that I happen to like. Their site is simple, isnâ??t much eye candy-wise, but it touched on the essentials for a 3 or 4 page restaurant website.

It talked about their location (included a graphical map), their phone number, their address, their catering info (could have been more complete), their hours, which credit cards they take and the facilities they offered. This site could easily be completed in an afternoon. No, itâ??s not as fancy or as complete as it could be but it is what is absolutely necessary.

Slow cooked Angus sirloin, local asparagus, truffle butter sauce
photo credit: irrational_cat

They didn’t bother to go into great detail on the food, the special ingredients they fly in from coastal fisheries, their use of local game, organic local vegetables, custom processed meats and local seasonings, the romance of their massive fireplace area, the expertly trained staff, the menu, special occasion bookings, private dining rooms, banquet and special occasion services, their expert sommelier (not sure if they have one), the chef and his/her training and experience, and so on (those are all hints, if Iâ??m not being obvious enough).

No testimonials. No photos. No video. Cooking is an experiential thing. Video and photos are critical.

Butâ?¦their site achieved an important goal: to provide basic information needed to contact them and go there for a meal.

The unfortunate thing is that many local restaurants had no site at all, and that included those who also offer catering.

Iâ??ve gotten some good feedback from previous posts on this topic, including a great phone call from a reader in Kalispell whose input I will include in a later post on the subject.

Someone told me they felt that not all businesses need a website. Sorry, but I have to disagree.

Even if all you do is put up a one page site with your location, hours and a map, that is far better than nothing. You wouldnâ??t likely open a business and not have a phone. You wouldnâ??t skip on printing menus in your restaurant. If youâ??re a consultant, attorney, CPA or other service professional, you wouldnâ??t blow off printing business cards.

Not having even a one page website is equivalent to not having a phone or a business card.

Even if your business is busy and doesnâ??t need more work right now, you need a website. Everything has ups and downs. The time to dig the well is before youâ??re thirsty.

See all those kids running around with cell phones? They wouldnâ??t use the Yellow Pages unless you forced it on them. It wonâ??t be long before they are your 18-35 demographic group.

If you donâ??t have a website, to that group of people, you donâ??t exist.

Kids these days know that they can text â??59937 mexicanâ? to 466453 (ie: G-o-o-g-l-e on your phone’s dial pad) from their cell phone and get back a list of Mexican restaurants in Whitefish Montana with their phone numbers.

Le digo yo
photo credit: fluzo

Did you know about that? This feature isnâ??t limited to searching for restaurants. Where do you think that data comes from? A Google search, of course.

But it isnâ??t just the young adults who use the web these days.

One of the phone calls I received about websites was from a self-proclaimed â??older personâ?. She had some great feedback about what is important to make a site usable for people who arenâ??t 29 anymore. She doesnâ??t want to be ignored when she uses the web. Neither do the 18-35 or 25-55 groups.

What demographic can you afford to ignore? Most businesses canâ??t afford to ignore any of them, but there are exceptions. Not having a website is ignoring at least one, maybe more â?? especially tourists. They research what they plan to do using the internet.

Do you want to be on their radar, or not?