Monday, December 9, 2019

Your ad agency has one? Do you?



Your ad agency has one. 


Your web design firm has one.

Your PR firm might even have one.

Do you have a creative director?

Hold on, you might be asking what do I need a creative director for? Good question.

With a good answer. Unless the idea is to somehow blend in with your competitors, it’s a good idea to deliver your Brand position at as many touchpoints as you can. And if you do it with some creativity, that’s even better.

Remember, every guest is a potential return guest – and if they found the experience more engaging at your hotel than Some Other Place, it’s more likely they’ll come back. And not just when you have a special offer that appeals to them, either.

And, if you’ve ever read anything we’ve written about hotel marketing, that pretyy much fits right in with our belief that competing mostly on price is no way to run a railroad.

So, circling back to our initial premise, there’s a good argument to be made for someone thinking about the on-site experience. Is everything about your hotel or resort expected? Look at things like the Do Not Disturb door hanger, the card keys, the names of drinks in the bar, what you call your specials and offers, holiday decorations in the lobby, signage, wi-fi sign-on, in-room cards . . . all of it.

It’s unlikely you’re going to hire a property creative director. And you may or may not feel you can cover the responsibility in-house. That’s cool. Lean on one of your outside agencies for some creativity and spread it around. If they are any use at all they’ll be happy to do it. Eager, in fact.

The point is, creativity is a practical tool for delivering your Brand in a point-of-sale kind of way. It shouldn’t be confined to your ads and your website.

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Monday, November 25, 2019

Has SEO overrun your website?



Has SEO overrun over your website?


It’s pretty simple, really.

Branded searches are far and away the most effective searches. That means if you deliver your Brand in external communications, people are likely to come looking for you, not just people who look like you.

Which is kind of the idea.

It’s not that you should ignore the potential of SEO. It’s just that maybe it’s not a good idea to let SEO-driven web copy overrun your website. The point, after all, is to communicate. And using 12 words when five will do, makes communicating more difficult. Especially, for example, if you're using some of them over and over in an attempt to manipulate search engines. Keyword stuffing is a big mistake and can actually hurt your SEO performance. So pace yourself.


There's this from an article in Search Engine Watch last year (emphasis added):

"Search engines are in the business of connecting an audience with the content that will satisfy their search intentions, which means they use algorithms that do their very best to favor high-quality, informative content. When content isn’t written for a human audience, but is instead structured to game an algorithm, the result is usually a spammy and artificial read that doesn’t serve a site visitor’s needs and (in almost all cases) doesn’t deserve their attention.

"Consequently, keyword stuffing is rightfully considered a black hat technique that goes against SEO best practices."


Say you’re a South Florida hotel. Don't load up on "South Florida" ticklers, like mentioning that you’re in South Florida and the weather in South Florida is pretty terrific and there are great restaurants in South Florida and the whole family is gonna love it in South Florida and South Florida is easy to get to and those South Florida beaches  . . .  hoo boy!

Never mind the problems keyword stuffing presents, is that sort of thing going to draw people to your property? 

And then there are the sites full of references to “downtown” or “center city” when the property, well . . . isn’t. That’s not even honest.

There’s real value in SEO, just don’t count on it for everything and don’t turn your website into a word-heavy SEO repository. B
ecause your primary target ought to be people, not algorithms. 

And you reach people with advertising, PR and social media.

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Is your website ADA compliant?



Is your website ADA compliant? It better be.


This may or may not be something you’ve paid a lot of attention to, but the Americans With Disabilities Act now includes regulations for websites.

Colors, font sizes – that sort of thing. According to an article in Forbes earlier this year "Your website, of course, isn't discriminating based on not having an elevator or ramp, but it may not be using appropriate colors, fonts and file types. Hard-to-see colors and fonts can discriminate against people with visual impairments, as can certain file types that don't allow computers to read text out loud for those who need such an accommodation." 

Read the whole thing here. It’s worth the time. Here’s another good read. Obviously, there is plenty more out there.

Your web firm is probably on top of this, but just in case, it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with it . . . 

. . . if for no other reason than to avoid the expense of fighting a lawsuit. There are legitimate suits being filed, but these days, nuisance suits (the kind where the plaintiff knows it will cost you less to settle than to pay the legal fees involved with fighting it) are a fact of life. In any event, don't think you'll be able to simply point to your web design firm if the government or somebody's lawyer comes calling.

If you Google something along the lines of “is my website ADA compliant,” you’re going to find a lot of sites where you can enter your web address and get a free test. Obviously, almost all of these free checks are sponsored by companies who want to sell you solutions. But you can run the test, sometimes without even giving up your email address. Some of them will offer a detailed summary of any problems they have identified and others will just tell you how close you are to being in compliance and leave it at that.

Again, these people want to sell you something, but if you run your site through two or three and get similar answers, you’re going to get a pretty good idea as to whether you ought to be concerned or not. 

Here are two of those we’ve tried to get you started. Surely you can find more.

AudioEye Marketplace

Web Accessibility by Level Access

There are good reasons for ensuring that your site is ADA compliant. Obviously, you don’t want to run afoul of the government. Or risk a lawsuit. But if you want to be crassly commercial about it, you wouldn’t want to lose any business because someone can’t navigate your website, either.

However pure or commercial your motivation, it can’t hurt to take a few minutes and see what's what with your website.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Size matters. Just maybe not what you were thinking.



Size matters. Just maybe not what you were thinking.


(Up front: We’re a smaller agency. On purpose. This blog post is about the value of small and mid-size companies like us and whether the big celebrity firms are really a good match for an independent hotel. So yeah, this is sort of a pitch on behalf of us and all our small and mid-sized brethren in the business.) 



Maybe smaller is better.

Which is why it doesn’t always work out when a single property or smaller management company signs on with an outside advertising, PR, digital or web firm that is simply too big for them. 

It’s an old story in the ad business. Some agencies will pursue almost any piece of business with a pulse whether it’s a size match or not. The big guns come in to pitch, the fabulous portfolio is presented, the client signs on and then . . .

 . . . they never or rarely see those big guns again and their budget doesn’t allow for the fabulous video or ad campaign that wowed them in the first place. And sometimes, a firm will outgrow some of its original clients.

If you’re Marriott, Choice or a large national management company with a few dozen properties in your portfolio, you’d better have big-time marketing communications support.  It just makes sense. And you’re paying enough in fees to that big firm that you can be sure of getting all the top-shelf stuff.

Then again, if you’re a single property with somewhere between 75 and 200 rooms it might not make sense to sign on with a big firm.  Here’s why:

An agency is a business with all the expenses that go with it. And the bigger it is, the bigger the monthly nut. The more profitable accounts are going to get the most attention and the best (and most highly paid) staff. It just makes sense. In order to make a smaller fee work, they logically have to either assign junior staff to the account, farm it out to freelancers, limit the hours applied to it or even put it on the back burner.

That’s why maybe that ad campaign seems kind of ordinary to you or those changes you need to your website seem to take forever to get done.  Or why your calls and emails don’t get answered very quickly.

In a very real sense, you’re competing for attention with other clients your agency, PR firm or web firm has. They simply cannot afford to give you the same grade of service their gorilla accounts merit.

There are a lot – a whole lot – of terrific small and mid-sized web firms, digital agencies, PR practitioners and ad agencies out there who can do great work for you.  And, as a mid-sized account, you’re more likely to have a team of experienced seniors on your account at a small or mid-sized agency than at a big one. It’s just the mathematics of the thing.

Don’t misunderstand. This is not a hit piece on big firms. We respect them and admire their work. But we wish they wouldn’t take on clients that are too small to merit their “A” material.

Think about this. Who is more likely to know your name, greet you, call you up if there’s a problem you need to know about or work with you to reach your financial goals – one of the local branches of a big national bank or a local community bank? At which one do you deal with a teller and at which one do you have a relationship with management? And which one is going to be more focused on the big corporation in your town than your small business?

Sure, it might be nice to tell people that you have the same agency that works for, say, Hospitality Megabrands Worldwide, but what does that actually do for you?


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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Can't buy me love


Can't buy me love.


Everything isn’t always all the time non-stop about making money. At least not directly. Sometimes, it pays to look at the bigger picture.

Here’s an example. We stayed at a Kimpton once that held a two-hour happy hour every night, free for guests. They rolled up a keg of beer and some wine, laid out a bunch of nuts and snacks and let it go at that. Easy-peezy. In a sea of free continental breakfasts, this was different.

Another hotel might not want to have such a reception because it won’t make money. Making money isn’t the point. The point is to deliver the Brand. A clear Brand can drive Brand preference, and Brand preference is what leads to more repeat business and higher rates.

So it’s about making money, just not directly.

Same thing with special promotions. Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Summer Solstice, Valentine’s Day – whatever. Every one of them is an opportunity to do something other than just offer discounted rates. Do something fun and engaging. Put a rose in every room on Valentine’s Day, dress the staff in green and have a green beer special in the bar for St. Patrick’s Day, bring out the ghosts and goblins for Halloween.

And be sure to tell people you’re doing it – in your email blasts, on your website and Facebook and Instagram pages and in your advertising.

Remember, it all boils down to two words: “Do good. Tell people.”

No, nobody is going to book your hotel instead of somewhere else strictly because you’re having a Halloween Party. After all, Halloween is only one night of the year. But they are probably going to be more aware of you and pay more attention to you because of the collection of events like Halloween parties and green beer specials you’re having.

That whole “penny-wise and pound foolish” thing probably applies here if you think about it.

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A hotel without a Brand is a commodity



A hotel without a Brand is a commodity.


And the primary driver for a commodity is price. You don't want to go there.

This is some of what we say about Brand on our website:

"Your Brand is not your logo, ad campaign or tag line. It's a supportable differentiation around which you deliver a unique value. And the moment you stop being just 'a hotel with this many rooms in this place' and start to tell the world that you're 'a hotel that is unique for these reasons,' you narrow your competitive set."

(By the way, anything with the word "luxury" in it is definitely not a unique value. Google "luxury hotel" and you will get 699 million hits. We know this for a fact because we did it.)

A Brand is what can keep you from competing on price. Without one, you may just be a commodity.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

You're getting ripped off with programmatic advertising



Clickbait. A low-down dirty shame, that's what it is.


If you want to know why some of us are so opposed to programmatic digital ad placement, all you really have to do is click here.

Bob Hoffman of the Ad Contrarian (http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/) calls it the "most eyeballs possible on the cheapest possible website." And it's a crime.

We've all clicked those sort of things now and again, but as a standard medium for advertising a reputable product or service? Please.

And yet, people do it all the time. And every one of those ads you see on one of these horrible sites counts as an ad placement. Somebody is paying for it.

Better? Place your own digital ads and don't let some heartless, non-thinking computer do it for you.

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