Is your message what customers want to hear?

Beach, ballroom or barn – whatever space you’re selling, is your message what the potential client wants – and needs – to hear?

Is your website working for or against you?

A website is a living ad for your business. It needs to show the benefit to the customer AND it must be accurate.

Too many hotel, off-site venues and convention centre websites are failing their employer by failing the customer. They’re inaccurate, generic and deliver a corporate sales message built on what a sales team wants to say without thought to what the reader wants to know. And, often without thought to how to make it easy for the planner customer to find that information.

For hotels, the meetings and incentive sector can account for 40 percent of revenue. For convention centres the sector is your sole reason to be. And for off-site venues meetings and incentive are the golden goose which subsidizes your other activities and work.

Are you 100% confident that your website is working for you? Have you wondered why a piece of business didn’t come your way? It could be as simple as your web content. For $300 Destination Doctor can do a web audit of your digital presence to ensure it really is a working asset and not a drag on your business. We have three decades of experience working with the meetings industry. We know the client complaints and we know what your competition is doing.

Our audits focus on content and accuracy. They are not a re-design. It’s a nimble, affordable process.

If you are a web designer or webmaster, we can work with you to hone your client content.

Can you afford the status quo?

To book your audit, email: scribble@ns.sympatico.ca

 

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Does your website drive away business?

How much business is your website costing you?

Seriously, from a meetings perspective industry websites are a mess.

* They are inaccurate.

* They lack essential information.

* They are hard to navigate.

* They lack prominence.

* They overlook benefits which could help spur interest in the property or place.

Meetings account for 30 to 40 percent of a hotel’s business, yet the information planners and incentive houses need is dismissively handled on websites. It is little more than an afterthought. Convention centers and off-site venues are equally bad. Collateral print and digital materials don’t compliment websites.

I have recently researched back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back destination pieces for meeting magazines and the shoddy detail, missing detail and lack of direction is almost an industry standard. The oversights and errors may be becoming codified by the consolidation in property ownership, which spreads a mistake made at one property across the brand and to all flags within the chain. Today a VP destination sales told me that in his nine years on the job I was the first person to point out the glaring error in their website. It’s bad enough that the organization didn’t realize this, but how many planners have been misinformed and moved on to a competitor destination which they thought better fit their needs?

Instead of being the property or venue’s 24/7 workhorse, websites are frustrating and turning off potential clients. The attitude towards the information is about 15 years behind customer needs and work habits.

The fix isn’t expensive. It’s about knowing what planners and incentive houses require and look for, and understanding their frustrations at what essential information consistently ignored by increasingly generic websites. So far web audits take less than a day to complete, and probably less than an hour for the client’s webmaster to implement.

I could be more detailed in what needs to be done, but web audits are a service I sell. My audits are based on 27 years covering the meetings and incentive sector for magazines in Canada and the United States. It’s an inexpensive way to be relevant to key buyers.

You invest in a website because you believe it’s important for your business, so why wouldn’t you audit it to ensure it accurately represents your property and service?

I audit your websites

 

A number of people at the PCMA Canadian Innovation Conference in Victoria asked what Destination Doctor does. Quite simply I help hotels, off-site venues, convention centres and destinations hone their messaging to the meetings and incentive sector.

Often sales messages or how places position themselves don’t change over the decades. Sales reps are restricted to repeating certain selling points because these are considered standards. But these ideas can become stale, static or generic without a new twist or update to make them relevant to a new planner and younger attendee.

It’s worth revisiting the messaging because if a group previously passed on doing business with you, there’s no reason for them to reconsider you.

A second part of the messaging is accuracy in details. There’s a staggering amount of inconsistency in destination and property facts.

For example, in October I did a site inspection at a major meetings resort. The sales director told me they had 725,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space. However, the press kit fact sheet says they have “600,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting convention, exhibit and pre-function space”. The property fact sheets adds there is “263,772 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibition space”. That same fact sheet lists 17 restaurants and lounges on-site.

A glossy resort guide in the press kit lists 13 restaurants and lounges on one page, and 19 restaurants and lounges on another page. Another listing suggests the resort has 15 F&B outlets.

When I check the resort’s website it shows 19 restaurants and lounges. However, the website says they have 757,478 sq. ft. of meeting space vs the 600,000 on the printed fact sheet. Clicking another link on the site visitors are told “our hotel features more than 700,000 square feet of flexible meeting space”. It then says the exhibit hall offers over 260,000 sq. ft. of space. The mention of “over 260,000 sq. ft.” of space is confusing. Is it part of the 757,478 sq. ft. of meeting and event space or is it in addition to that figure? Could they have over a million sq. ft. of space?

CVent’s cover page says the resort’s largest meeting room is 150,746 sq. ft., but the meeting space totals “>100,000 sq. ft.” Clicking on the CVent resort link takes us to a page which says the property has 10,219 sq. m. which translates to 109,996 sq. ft.

So many numbers, so much inconsistency.

This confuses and frustrates planners. After my appearance on a Hot Topics panel at PCMA a planner told me she can’t consider a property that doesn’t have 200,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and she doesn’t have time to call every property to see if they qualify.

This inconsistency costs properties, venues and destinations money. Destination Doctor reviews your collateral material, websites and presentations to get you back on track so that you show your relevancy and potential to the industry.

 

By allanlynch

Does your website work?

Everyone, every business and every place needs a website.

Whatever your digital marketing strategy, a website is the foundation for it. It’s the destination your messaging drives the public to and the place for web tire kickers to check you out.

It’s unfortunate that the majority of website owners are so bad at their messaging and content management. An extraordinary number companies, events and destinations throw a site on the web and think they’re done. At least that’s how they act.

According to Tekeye.uk there are 1.8 billion websites in existence. That’s one site for every four people on earth. And new sites are added, on average, of one every two seconds. That’s almost the birth rate.

Of all the websites in the world, only 172 million are considered active. Meaning they have regular updates and additions to content. This is down from 177 million active sites in 2015. So less than 10 percent of websites are active and have fresh content. And even then, less than one million sites account for 50 percent of all web traffic.

Interestingly,  among the top websites are The New York Times(29thplace), BBC (42nd), The Guardian(48th), CNN (50th), Huffington Post(51st), Forbes(65th), Washington Post(89th), The Telegraph(87th), Daily Mail(94th) and Reuters (95th). The leaders in on-line information and visitors are legacy media. These people have shown their ability to drive eyes to their information pool. Not only have they a large pool of information, what they post is accurate. Can that be said for your website?

Accuracy is not a universal trait in websites. The bulk of websites get no traffic beyond their owner clicking in, and even then, a lot of web owners don’t seem to check the value or accuracy of their content. For example, three years ago research lead me to the website for a large (470+ room), well-known ski resort. Among room amenities it lists in-room bathrooms! Is this a joke by the webmaster which was never caught or content provided by wildly inexperienced staff? However it made it to the website, in-room bathrooms is still listed as a guestroom amenity! How has no one in management caught this? Obviously, the property doesn’t/hasn’t read their site. So as a potential guest or corporate client, would anyone trust the information on the rest of the site?

Another issue for hotels and resorts is the inability to book accommodation. Again, a well-known U.S. ski resort’s website has the ability to book ski passes, but not a room. That property is building their competitors’ businesses.

These examples should lead website owners to a simple question: Is your site working for or against you? Is it accurate, does it tell your story and is it useful to existing and potential clients?

How many website owners have conducted an independent audit of their sites as part of a plan to maximize their investment in digital marketing? Destination Doctor performs such audits for independent hotels, chain properties and destination marketing organizations.

By allanlynch

Eggplant president urges web audits

It’s important for businesses to identify and remove “single points of failure” (SPOFs) from websites. That’s the message from Alex Painter, president of a website speed and performance testing company, Eggplant, to travel aggregator TravelMole.

In listing the issues which impact a website’s performance Painter addressed links and content that slow down connectivity and download speeds. He advised ensuring “static assets have long cache lifetimes” and getting “rid of non-essential content”.

Painter said, “If there is anything on your site that is redundant, get rid of it. It’s the excess baggage to your customers’ serene and speedy journey. Newer features are added more often than older features are removed, building up the number of unused scripts and styles. A full audit of your website or even just your key pages may not be possible at short notice, yet a brief check of the source code will most likely reveal some content that is not needed and could be removed.”

His bottom line is that spot checks and audits will make your site perform better and optimize conversion from clickers to customers. That applies to individual travelers as well as the corporate market. Is your web presence resonating for you or costing you business because of dated and/or irrelevant content? When was the last time your content was updated, fact-checked and read to see if it is on message?

Destination Doctor does affordable web audits for properties, destinations and venues.

 

 

 

Buyer consolidation is the travel disruptor

The head of Accor Hotels recently spoke about travel industry disruptors. He noted that these new global brands started with a blank sheet of paper and built on new technology that is better than had been used in that industry by people who decided they were going to conquer the world.

He observed that all the ‘old economy’ companies were burdened by standards and habits driven by legacy operations. Ninety percent did not invest in technology when they should have.

We are obsessed by numbers and “scale” or scaling up. It’s more, more, more. Two staggering numbers are 35,000 and 42. One study found that the typical North American adult makes 35,000 decisions a day! No wonder we’re exhausted by the end of it. Obviously, not all of these decisions are significant, but their volume has contributed to the concept of “decision fatigue”. Anyone who has had to research travel on the web knows that feeling.

Another study found that the typical U.S. traveler will visit 42 websites before booking a holiday.

These numbers suggest that decisions are based on significant volume of information which is sourced very briefly. If you notice on-line commercials, you’ll see that traditional 30- and 60-second commercials have been replaced by 4-, 5- and 15-second video messages.

This is disruptive information gathering and decision-making. And that puts pressure on corporate messaging.

Hand-in-hand with this disruption is the change in the booking chain. Thanks to mergers, acquisitions and collaborations, buyers are getting bigger.

Just in April 2018:

  • Bed Banks’ getabed and roomsXML merged;
  • Apple Leisure Group and The Mark Travel Corporation joined their dozen brands, which include Apple Leisure’s AMResorts, Apple Vacations, Travel Impressions, Unlimited Vacation Club, Funjet Vacations, Southwest Vacations, United Vacations and Trisept Solutions;
  • And Booking.com reached their five millionth listing of homes, apartments and other alternatives accommodation. Bookings.com make an average million bookings a day!

This disruptor growth, plus the volume of travel-related websites, blogs and posts puts pressure on travel sellers to sharpen their messages to withstand volume bullies and fleeting eyeballs.

There’s no point in having the latest technology if your message is tired, inaccurate and incomplete. Hotels, venues and destination management organizations can’t throw information on the web and expect it to work year-after-year without change, updating and refinement. Destination Doctor audits sites to ensure they work for the corporate market. We also consider the appeal and effectiveness for the F.I.T. market.

We focus on site content and organization. Our goal is to work within the existing site structure and design, so that content changes are quick, affordable and practical. You update, refresh and refurbish your properties, why not your messaging? Contact us.

 

 

 

Even the big guys get it wrong

Companies spend a lot of money for marketing. That doesn’t mean they always get it right.

A case in point is Scotiabank / Bank of Nova Scotia.

The Bank of Nova Scotia is the third largest bank in Canada. It employs over 89,000 people and has asset base in excess of $896 billion. As the name suggests it started out in the Province of Nova Scotia. While the executive offices are in Toronto, it maintains their original art deco headquarters building in downtown Halifax, directly across the street from the provincial Legislature.

Halifax is the capital of the Province of Nova Scotia. You would expect a company like The Bank of Nova Scotia to know that. Apparently not. The bank has run this ad:

 

in the provincial newspaper of record on June 28, July 5th, 12th and 19th.

The copy states: “… the Bank of Nova Scotia has changed the location of the designated office for the province of Halifax for purposes of …”

There is no “province of Halifax”.

You would expect that someone at the bank, in their marketing department, in their provincial management teams and the newspaper would read their own announcements and notice such an error. Instead, they repeat it.

People who are talented with technology don’t always appreciate what is important to a customer. So I launched a service to help hotels, convention centres, off-site venues, destination management companies and suppliers hone their messaging for the meetings, incentive and business events sector.

Much of the property and venue messaging has become mind-numbingly generic because one tech team copies what another team has put on the sites they built. As a consequence of this repetition messages gets weaker and weaker and less relevant to planners, who then hire third parties to send out automated RFPs as a way to save time in trying to wade through a pile of weak, inconsistent or irrelevant information.

If a company like Scotiabank fails to catch their mistake and repeats it over a prolonged period, what is happening with your messaging? Does your marketing serve your potential customer or add to their frustration?

My message audits work to clarify the main selling points, clear up confusion, fill in information holes and bolster your message to your market.

By allanlynch

Sector discussion says don’t trust hotel charts

Representatives from nine Canadian incentive houses begin their Journey of the Senses tour of India’s Golden Triangle organized by Creative Travel. (Allan Lynch photo)

A LinkedIn discussion is headlined: Hotel capacity charts – don’t trust them

For years professional meeting planners have complained about the poor quality information hotels – and convention centres – provide about their property. Whether hoteliers know and ignore this or are deaf to the complaints, planners are not happy with the industry’s incomplete and inaccurate information. Room capacity, number of spaces, size and other physical amenities are static and should be easily verifiable and accurate. But they’re not.

Twenty-eight North American planners learning about the seaside opportunities and unique spaces in Halifax. (Allan Lynch Photo)

Hoteliers tell me that meetings represent 30 percent of their revenue. So, why are properties not paying more attention to the sector? In a recent interview with a planner, who has experience with MPI and PCMA, I said it seems as if hotels don’t listen to clients. The planner replied, “They don’t.”

The current LinkedIn discussion includes these comments:

From a planner: “Meeting space is priority #1 for my group. I’ve received some very strange proposals over the years, trying to squeeze me into the wrong space.”

A VP of a Texas-based management services company: “My rule of thumb is to take whatever the hotel

More meeting planners discover Canada’s birthplace, Charlottetown. (Allan Lynch Photo)

suggests as capacity and cut it by 25%. For some reasons, most hotels are completely incapable of measuring the dimensions of their rooms accurately.”

A Kansas planner: “…been in the business for 35+ years and it’s always been a challenge.”

Another planner: “ I recently looked at a hotel’s event space that was advertised as fitting 40 people….but they failed to mention that it is an L-shaped space, so nearly 1/3 of the attendees would be around the corner from the speaker & projector.”

The Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos relaunches after a devastating hurricane closed the property for a year. (Allan Lynch Photo)

A hotelier responded: “on the Hotel Sales side of things, our capacity charts are not intended for what you are looking for. They are not designed to be a stand alone tool. These charts that hotels produce are used as a point of reference but more importantly to have people engage in a conversation about the event.”

In response to the above an events manager wrote: “the hotel capacity charts are often used by meeting planners who are considering properties to send RFPs. If they are not inherently realistic, they are wasting time. We all respect the sales pressure to acquire new business, but ceiling height, low chandeliers, posts, cut-outs for air-wall storage and low hanging air wall soffits are real issues not properly disclosed in sales brochures or web sites.”

My response to the hotelier who says capacity charts are not intended for the way planners use

One of the meeting spaces in Halifax’s refurbished Lord Nelson Hotel. (Allan Lynch Photo)

them is to ask if there is any caveat on the capacity charts warning planners not to take these dimensions seriously? How does a planner know these aren’t accurate? And if they’re not to be used in the manner planners use them, why are they there?

The idea of capacity charts as a place from which to start a conversation is a passé concept illustrating the disconnect between seller and buyer. Planners today are really time-pressed. They’re often pulling together a client proposal from the road or in the evening or on a weekend. They don’t have time or the inclination to call a property. They specifically don’t want to engage in any conversation with anyone they can’t first qualify.

The Charlottetown Convention Centre’s main ballroom. (Allan Lynch Photo)

On the flip side, hoteliers are frustrated that the traditional sales channels have been interrupted by the use of automated third party RFPs. Hotel sales managers are frustrated that they can’t suggest a better date and don’t know the client. I suggest planners are being driven to these third parties by the volume of bad information produced by properties.

There could be a lot less wasted time if accurate and thoughtful information targeted to this 30 percent of business were produced by sellers.

Whether you’re an independent or chain flag, an off-site venue, convention centre or destination marketing organization, I can help. I have 25 years experience covering the world’s meeting and incentive sector. I have listened to planners speak about their frustrations with suppliers and about what they want and need to know. Contact me:  nscelt@hotmail.com

Demand growing for web audits

To date the web audit service has been used by 10 hotels and resorts in three provinces and the destination marketing agency for a city in a fourth province. No fee has been greater than $500.

Hoteliers and marketers see the value in this service. More specifics are available in the Anniversaries and Audits article and from the web audit tab above.

To have your website audited for how well it services the meetings and incentive market, contact: nscelt@hotmail.com. Put “web audit” in the subject line.

By allanlynch