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Opportunity for Rural Alaska Tourism Businesses

Kristen Lindsey - Friday, September 19, 2008
Hi All. I wanted to pass on a message to anyone out there who is involved with an rural Alaska tourism business seeking assistance in launching or growing their business. Here is a note sent out by Dru Garson, Tourism Development Specialist with the State of Alaska:

++++++++++++++++

Greetings!
 
The Alaska Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development, Office of Economic Development is pleased to announce the call for applications for the second round of our tourism mentorship program.

The Tourism Mentorship Assistance Program (TMAP) is an 18 month tourism business development program funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and partners current successful business owners in Alaska’s visitor industry with potential business owners committed to furthering the development of the visitor industry in Alaska’s rural areas.

TMAP will provide potential entrepreneurs with an opportunity to work with experts in the visitor services industry and assist them in developing their marketing, advertising, management and other skills related to developing a tourism business.
 
Currently, we are recruiting entrepreneurs in rural Alaska (lodging/B&B’s & guiding operations are highly encouraged to apply) and successful tourism business owners throughout the state to serve as mentors. Included in this packet are the application materials and a brochure that includes additional information about the program.

If you know anyone interested in this opportunity, please feel free to forward this information to them. Applications are due October 15th, 2008 and can be submitted by mail, email or fax.  If you have any questions about the program or about our services, please feel free to contact us anytime.  And for more information, check out the TMAP website here.

Sincerely,


Dru Garson
Tourism Development Specialist, Office of Economic Development
(907) 465-2162
[email protected]

Odin Brudie
Tourism Planner, Office of Economic Development
(907) 465-5466
[email protected]




Score One for the Small Businesses: Brand and Social Media

Kristen Lindsey - Friday, September 12, 2008
I just attended an luncheon for my local marketing club, and the speaker was with a multi-national branding agency who talked about brand strategies for some huge, multi-national clients.

The talk was thought-provoking and on many counts had some really excellent points on developing a brand image that resonates with target customers. It also had loads of pretty pictures and logos and fonts to back up the brand that probably cost a gazillion dollars.

It was most interesting, though, to hear the answer to a question about how their branding process was impacted by the proliferation of social media and other Web 2.0 means for people to communicate. Her answer was that it is a place for brands to hear what customers have to say and respond quickly. That was it.

I followed up and asked if they felt that their process for developing a brand responded to consideration of all these new ways people were conversing about brands online, but the answer I got was that their client communication was the thing impacted by Web 2.0 tools, not target custoemr communication.

How can a huge company that helps organizations around the world with brand image not require that their process and thinking be proactively influenced by these new communication styles? How can an agency that is paid humongous gobs of money only be able to see Web 2.0 communication venues to be a place for reactive response for a brand?

I am still trying to grasp this, but my first thought is that this represents a real competitive advantage for smaller businesses who do not have astronomical budgets to afford branding agencies.

Can it not be argued that being brand focused AND proactively reaching out to online communities with a brand message can be more powerful than all the millions of dollars spent on branding and implementation by large companies? I am not saying it is easy, but to me it seems that smaller businesses have the agility and scale to do it more successfully and consistently.

What are your thoughts?


Thinking About TripIt.com

Kristen Lindsey - Thursday, September 11, 2008

I have a lot of travel clients, and some have been asking how they can engage their customers using Web 2.0 tools like social networks, rating systems, bookmark tools, tagging, etc.


A really interesting site that may do some of this is TripIt.com. It is a site that allows you to build travel itineraries online. You can share or print the itinerary and access it anywhere online.



One of the cool things about it is that all you have to do is email your itineraries from airlines, hotels, care rental companies to the site and they load up in the system.



And a new feature they just released allows you to have a travel profile where people can view your itineraries, etc.

A couple of ways this can be useful to travel companies:
  1. It is a convenient tool for your customers if you allow your itineraries to be loaded.
  2. It is a nice place to promote to customers who are planning group travel; you get the credit of passing it on.


I am hoping that down the line that TripIt.com offers some sort of API where travel organizations can allow their customers access to tripit.com itineraries right on their own site. This would allow for some grea Web 2.0 functionality, full crediit and branding right on site, and it would build TripIt.com usage significanlty. A win for everyone.



Check it out if you haven't. What do you think about this tool as a consumer? As a business  person? Do you see other applications out there? Comment here and let me know!



Twitter Debate: Advanced Communication or Latest Fad?

Kristen Lindsey - Thursday, September 11, 2008
There has been a lot of buzz about Twitter recently as a communications and marketing tool, and explosive growth has left the company struggling to keep up capacity.

That being said, some are not so enamoured.

If you're wondering what it is all about, Twitter is a tool that allows people to post short messages via their computer or cell phone to a group of people who have decided to "follow" them. Some call it "micro-blogging" because you are limited to 140 characters.

Business Week recently posted an article with two people arguing the pros and cons of Twitter as a business tool. I thought I'd put in my own two cents:

  1. Twitter may be good and bad. It depends on what someone's business goals are. I am willing to say that there are businesses that may find Twitter to  not be an effective tool for their goals. On the other hand, there are a lot of organizations out there finding creative ways to harness Twitter effectively.
  2. It may be a little early to tell. There was an exact argument about the web and blogs early on in their evolution. When the web seemed like an endless series of poorly designed personal web pages and search engines had not developed fully, it seemed hard to some to justify a web presence. Today, not that effective use of the web for business evolved enough to reveal it as a killer tool, a web presence is fait accompli.
Before you dismiss Twitter as a loudspeaker for personal rants or else dive in with two feet and have all employees Twittering without a strategy, I suggest you keep an open mind. Participate in the Twitter community and make your own conclusions, but don't do it quickly. I see a lot of "noise" out there for sure, but I see a new creative use for Twitter every day.

So my answer to the question I posted in the title is: too soon to tell. What are your thoughts? Are you using Twitter as a business tool? Do you consider it a productive app or a waste of time?




Are You Missing Out on Pay-per-click Performance?

Kristen Lindsey - Tuesday, August 26, 2008
An often neglected aspect of pay-per-click programs, whether they are brand new or ongoing, is the ad copy. Like other advertising media, ad creative is a vital component of performance as much as media selection, keyword selection and placement.

David Szetela offers some great tips on optimizing your ad content in his ClickZ article today titled, "Killer PPC Ads: The Fundamentals."

Although writing pay-per-click ads sometimes feels a lot like writing haiku poems, by focusing on the fundamentals David outlines - promote benefits over features, create urgency, etc. will help bring a framework to the process and boost your ad effectiveness across the board.

Do you conduct pay-per-click advertising? Do you periodically review your ad copy? Chime in on your thoughts about these ad tips!


Social Media Etiquette = Etiquette

Kristen Lindsey - Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Chris Brogan wrote an interesting blog post on social media etiquette, featuring ideas for best behavior on email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and more.

He wrote as a "starting point," and many of the comments by readers were interesting as well. Some of my take-aways:

  1. Electronic communication allows for rapid dissemination of information, which can be great. But that doesn't mean all information should be distributed widely and quickly. Thinking about what makes sense to communicate electronically is the same as if we were going to say something in a large group of people, where we usually think hard before offering up a comment.
  2. Many people cited geting phone calls or IM or SMS messages asking someone if they got their email, which was generally considered rude. I agree. My other contribution to this thread are email responses that just say, "Thanks." Don't make people open another email - it is a waste of time! They know you are thankful.
  3. Things that are rude in the real world are rude online, too. It is amazing that many people forget that.
Have you had online communications that you thought were rude? On what media and in what way? Please share your experiences!


"The difficult choice" - Is It A Choice?

Kristen Lindsey - Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Seth Godin discusses today the importance of luck in his post, "The Difficult Choice." But his choice seems to be a false one in some ways.

You can look at luck as an all or nothing proposition- that if you have luck you don't have to try and vice versa.

But I wonder if there is a more nuanced look -- what if you make your own luck? That is the subtle yet powerful combination of hard work and attitude that puts a person in a position to take advantage of opportunities that come their way. It may seem like luck, but in reality it is just, as Seth notes, putting yourself in a position to make a single into a double.

If you don't run hard, then you cannot do that. But, equally as important, if you don't believe strongly that you can do it, you will almost never make that single into a double.

How have you been lucky in business? In life? Do you believe in luck?


What NBC Can Teach Us??

Kristen Lindsey - Wednesday, August 13, 2008
There is a great piece right now on NPR's "Day to Day" by Andrew Wallenstein about how the Internet and digital television have brought us variety and control over how we watch the Olympics.

I personally for years have been irritated and disappointed by the patronizing spoon feeding of Olympic programming by NBC. If previously you were not into track & field, for example, you were out of luck.

This year, you can catch events prime time on NBC, all day long on NBC Universal, and on demand on the Internet. This allows you to feed your obsession with, for example, badminton mixed doubles.

As you think about how dramatic a difference there is between previous Olympic programming and this year's programming, it might be useful to think about your customers and their experience with your products or services. Are you providing them spoon fed content and experiences? Or are you also adapting to new opportunities for consumers and providing, as Andrew Wallenstein just cited, more of a "buffet style" where consumers have control of their options?

Wow - there is something to learn from an againg national television network.

Share your Olympic viewing experiences or changing consumer offerings!


Viral Marketing Info Overload

Kristen Lindsey - Friday, August 08, 2008
I just attended a great Viral Marketing webinar by Jennifer Laycock of Search Engine Guide that featured practical tips for developing a viral marketing program. My head might explode. I brainstormed so many good ideas while listening to her, and the strategies that she laid out were very practical and actionable.

A few great ideas that I took away from her presentation:
  1. Expect many of your viral marketing campaigns to fail. It takes a lot of work and some trial and error, but the knowledge you gain about your customers will be valuable no matter what.
  2. Responding to negative comments about your business or product online is one of the BEST opportunities out there to build brand trust and a positive reputation. A humble, proactive, constructive response send a huge signal that a. You are listening, and b. You take your customers seriously.
  3. Don't think about "social marketing" in social networks - think about "joining the social media conversation."
Any of you out there plotting how to engage your customers online? Do any of these comments resonate with your experiences? Share them here!


Online Blending of the Professional and the Personal

Kristen Lindsey - Saturday, August 02, 2008
There has been a lot of buzz out there about Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and all sorts of other social networking applications out on the web. It is still unclear to many businesses how interactions on these sites may help the bottom line. The only way to know if it works for you, though, is to try some of these out. In order to help my clients and seek means to promote my own business, I am using more and more of these tools. One interesting finding for me is that how you project yourself professionally in many of these environments has become much more casual. Maybe it is because many of these tools are being used in people's personal lives first. Maybe it is intrinsically built in to the tools. I am finding myself searching for more casual profile photos and bios to represent my business - those used on my website no longer apply. What does this mean? A group of online marketers recently discussed inappropriate interactions in some of these networks and talked about varying concepts of online etiquette. Have you dipped your toe into social networks as a means to promote your business? Are you sometimes feeling you have to be more casual and personal? Disagree completely? Share your experiences!