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The Thrive Hive

Tips on digital marketing you can apply today.

Summary: Panel on the Future of Marketing

Kristen Lindsey - Thursday, October 13, 2016

I had a great time today participating in a panel of experts sharing with Alaska marketers about the future of marketing. My fellow panelists were Nick Coltman from the Anchorage Press and Melissa Moody from Google. For those of you that were unable to make it or did not hear about it, I thought it might be useful to have a summary of the bigger topics we covered. 

1. What do you see as the next big disruption in marketing and communications?

There are going to be bigger, better ways for marketers to really hyper-target audiences. Nick described it as sniper-style targeting. As part of that, Melissa made the great point that internet access is already happening more on mobile devices than desktops and computers, and we all agreed that mobile is here to stay and that new disruptive technologies will be primarily happening in the mobile sphere. 

I chimed in that it is critical for marketers to really hone in on target audiences and their needs, pain points, and what else empowers and engages them, then apply the targeting tactics that resonate with each of those audiences. With so many new tools, there is a lot of bad content out there that is turning off consumers. If you can create an authentic, engaging experience with your customers, you are going to cut through the clutter. A great online resource that breaks this down is the Content Marketing Institute.

Nick also pointed out that with this targeting comes much more effective measurement and analytics. It is much easier to learn quickly what works and what doesn't and focus your budget in the right places.

2. As a small business without a marketing staff member, how do we make the most of a limited budget?

Melissa: Start with online local listings and reviews - free and impactful!

Nick: It depends! On the industry, target audience, etc. But if you have $300 to spend there are a lot more inexpensive options out there to take advantage of, from an ad in the Anchorage Press to Facebook ads. 

Kristen: We counsel small business owners to keep the fast-cheap-good triangle in mind when deciding on marketing spend - you can only have two! That is a quick check to prioritize quickly. Also, as the owner with many hats, it is also important to consider how your time is best spent - using that $300 for hiring marketing professionals when your time could have a bigger impact on the business success elsewhere is an analysis of the risk of lost opportunity.

3. How do you see virtual reality playing a role in future marketing tactics?

Melissa: Virtual reality will be a huge opportunity for industries with experiential products and services as it gets more mainstream. She pointed out the important difference between 360-degree photos and Virtual Reality. 360 photos are basically a 360-degree photograph taken with a special camera or else stitched together from a number of pictures. Virtual Reality is an immersive experience that requires some sort of headset. (Incidentally, Scott at our office picked up a Google Cardboard, which allows you to experience virtual reality with some simple app downloads. Check it out!)  

It is becoming easier and more affordable to create 360-degree images and load them up on your site of social networks. She mentioned the Android SprayScape app, which allows marketers to create them quickly with their mobile phone. her advice for small businesses is to start with the 360-degree photos, then more forward from there.

Kristen: I mistook augmented reality with Virtual reality and mentioned how quickly Pokemon went mainstream, but regardless there is a point in there somewhere that even as people grasp augmented reality, it makes it easier for our potential consumer markets to understand Virtual Reality, and that is when the technology is going to become useful to us as marketers. The other point I made was that regardless of what disruptive technology comes down the line, Virtual reality included, that we still need to execute the fundamental ,marketing task of identifying those micro-audiences and understand what content and experiences engage them, THEN apply the technology.

4. How can the big Alaska businesses find marketing opportunity in the current economic situation?

Melissa: there are definitely opportunities in other markets. I was at the Alaska Travel Industry Association convention last week, and hearing Governor Walker talk about the huge cuts in the state marketing budget was hard to hear. But that is completely the wrong way to go, because tourism is an Alaska industry of opportunity.

Kristen: Since we are all dependent on oil and gas to create the business economy here, all industries need to evaluate their opportunities. Just like the state is losing an opportunity by cutting back on the tourism marketing budget, individual businesses must continue to double down on knowing their customers and taking advantage of these new marketing trends. One important way for marketers to do this is to restructure their work process to be able to respond more quickly to consumers with the tactics available, learn what works and what doesn't on the fly, and more forward with what is successful.

Nick: Obviously, marketing is not going to help oil and gas. They need more production and volume. But all the rest of the businesses cannot hide in the sand - their competitors will take up that lost space.

5. One word to sum up the future of marketing:

Nick: Targeting

Melissa: Mobile

Kristen: Agile






Alaska Tourism - How Can You Thrive With Minimal State Marketing

Kristen Lindsey - Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The state of Alaska's budget woes have reached the tourism industry. Despite near record visitor numbers and a thriving industry, critical state marketing support for the industry has dwindled from upwards of twenty million dollars to to a mere 1.5 million dollars.

Many of our clients are asking about how they can retool their own marketing programs in response to this situation. Here are some digital strategies to consider:

1.  Do you have the right business intelligence?

Of course, businesses look at overall revenues, profit margins, etc. but there are other important ways of tracking your marketing program. Evaluating which analytics you review to support your marketing objectives is an important first step. 

You need a fuel gauge in your car to know if you're running out of fuel, right? Just looking at miles traveled will not tell you if you are in danger. Are you looking at mere website traffic to determine your digital success? Rethink your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and find the ones that give you actionable information. Some examples of KPIs we use with some clients are engaged visitors (sessions of x page views or more), shopping cart abandonment rate, average order value and more.

2. How is your website conversion rate?

Is your site optimized to maximize bookings? An incremental increase in your conversion rate is one of the biggest ways you can improve your digital marketing performance. Analysis tools like heat maps, exit surveys or landing page optimization testing can help you find areas of opportunity. Google Analytics has multiple ways to measure conversion, and spending a little on development to get this information can pay big dividends.

3. Are you spending your digital advertising in the right places?

U.S. department store merchant John Wanamaker is credited with the quote, "I know half my advertising is working; I just don't know which half." With digital advertising & marketing, this is no longer the case. Conducting an ad cost analysis (i.e. cost per conversion by advertising medium) can prevent you from throwing money at a poor performing tactic and underspending on something really valuable. For example, when executed properly, paid search advertising can have the lowest cost per acquisition of almost any other type of advertising. If you have an effective paid search program but not maximizing your spending, you are losing cost effective conversions.

4. Is your site mobile optimized?

So many travelers are making decisions on where to eat, what to do and even where to stay once they have already arrived at their destination, and they are mostly using mobile devices to make these bookings. If your site is not optimized for mobile yet, it is time to bite the bullet and make the investment. Yes, it is a capital expense that may feel like a lot, but is the most important part of conversion optimization you can undertake.

5. It is time to professionalize your social media presence.

Playing around with social media and seeing if it can contribute to your marketing program is a thing of the past. The size of audiences on social media now easily rival audiences in other areas, such as search. Developing a coordinated social media strategy in alignment with the rest of your marketing as well as exploring paid social advertising options will enhance your overall program and increase its impact. As with all marketing, with digital, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Synergy and consistent message among all tactics - search, display, email, social - can have a disproportionate impact and huge bang for the buck.

So, if you are looking for ways to leverage your marketing program further to make up for State of Alaska marketing program support, here are some ideas to start with. Do these resonate with you? Any other comments on digital opportunities you see? Please share in the comments!




Three Take-aways from a Mobile Strategy White Paper

Kristen Lindsey - Thursday, June 09, 2011
I just read an interesting white paper on mobile strategy development. (Get it here) While it is targeted to enterprise level businesses, there are some things that smaller businesses should start thinking about now, and there are other trends that are good to watch as they trickle down and become more affordable and accessible.

1. Mobile Cycle Mimicking Web - Exploration, Acceleration, and Innovation.

Mobile markt development is matching web market development. On the web, Exploration was the time of personal web pages and corporate brochureware sites. The Acceleration phase added interactivity to the web experience, allowing users to do things like access their bank account balance or view a map online. Innovation is where we are now - taking something like mapping and incorporating it into dynamic tools, like a running route mapping tool or a map of nearby restaurants with reviews.

Mobile in the small business segment is still in the Exploration stage, but aggressive organizations who feel they can capitalize by being first to market are jumping into the Acceleration phase with their investment.

Take-away - Think about it now. When is the best time for your business to jump in? Exploration stage, Acceleration stage, or Innovation stage?

2. Platform Diversity Hampers Scalability, but This is Changing

If you want to develop a mobile app, it can be daunting today. It is possible to launch with one platform with a reasonable investment, and most select the iPhone platform first, but then adding platforms like Android and Blackberry means new development cycles and large budgets for a fraction of the immediate ROI of a website.

This is changing, as businesses are creating app-like experiences via the mobile web and others are creating development platforms that create apps that have high cross compatibility.

As this platform diversity problem is solved and the cost to do so goes down, be ready to see a lot of smaller businesses to jump into the fray.

Take-away - Keep a close watch on cross platform development trends, or your competitors may gain an advantage.

3. If You Invest Now - Prioritize Your Platforms

Developing and app for iPhones, Android phones, and Blackberries is still pretty expensive. If you decide to invest, prioritize. Most start with the iPhone unless they operate in a heavy enterprise environment where Blackberry is king. To decide on the next platform, determine who you want to target - for a large expansion of unit penetration, go for Android. To hit that enterprise market, consider Blackberry.

Take-away- Mobile strategy follows business strategy, not the "shiny new object" strategy.

My two cents. What are your thoughts? Do you feel an app strategy makes sense in the current market, or is a mobile site a better option? Or, do you feel it is best for your business to wait for the industry to shake out? let us know!

+1 Your Favorite Google Search Results

Lisa Gill - Tuesday, May 10, 2011

About a year has passed since Facebook “Like” button started appearing all over the web. Now Google is rivaling it with the +1 button – the latest feature of Google’s Social Search. +1 was released about a month ago for a small percentage of U.S. search users, but a wide release is coming soon.

How it works. The +1 button will appear next to all Google search results. You can click on the button to recommend the site. Google will display the aggregate +1’s a website has received as part of the search listing, and also show +1 recommendations from your friends and contacts. You just need a Google profile to participate.

Social Search has already personalized the Google experience in that results can vary from person to person and include content created or shared by people in your social network (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). +1 will take it a step further by calling out sites recommended by people you know if they are part of your Google Network (Google Talk friends, Gmail contacts, anyone you are following in Google Reader and Google Buzz).

It’s still too early to tell how this will catch on, but here are a few important things marketers should know about +1:

  • Although your personalized results may vary, it is not clear that +1 recommendations will impact rankings in general. That said, anything that increases click-through rate (CTR) seems like a prime candidate in this regard.
  • The +1 button will also appear next to Google PPC ads. Advertisers will not be charged for clicks on the +1 button, but stats will be available so you know which ads are getting the most +1s.
  • The Google +1 button will also be available to all sites, making it easy for your visitors to +1 your web pages.

To participate in the experiment and see the +1 button in action, go to http://www.google.com/experimental/index.html



The Debate About Accuracy of TripAdvisor

Kristen Lindsey - Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I was at a travel conference recently where the speaker disparaged TripAdvisor, saying that it was untrustworthy because of review manipulation. We also recently came across this article by Caitlin McDevitt that also echoes the trust issues with crowdsourcing sites.

What is a travel business to think? We hear of the impact of TripAdvisor all the time and client businesses see both the benefits of traffic from good reviews and the damage control necessary for bad reviews.

Are this article's or travel industry specialist's implications that a travel business doesn't need to worry about TripAdvisor because travel businesses are manipulating reviews correct?

We have counseled clients that TripAdvisor is a great opportunity, and we stick to this idea. Is there review manipulation and some outright fraud? Yes. Is TripAdvisor having problems effectively combating it? Yes. Do these things make TripAdvisor useless to consumers? No.

As some who commented on the article state, those who have used TripAdvisor state that yes, it is possible to manipulate, but it is also very easy to read through the garbage and make an educated decision.

I think it is important for travel businesses who are managing their reputation on TripAdvisor to speak to the educated consumer.

There are always going to be abuses on crowdsourcing sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp, but they are too effective on the whole and valuable to the consumer to go away, in my opinion.

Have you used TripAdvisor to plan travel? Did your resulting experience match the impressions you got on TripAdvisor? Share your experiences!

Post to Your Facebook Fan Page from iPhone

Kristen Lindsey - Friday, February 12, 2010
I ran across this unusually helpful post from Facebook outlining how to post to your fan page with your mobile phone. Enjoy!

Here are several easy options for publishing to your fans via your mobile phone:

1) Email

Click "Edit Page" under your Page’s profile picture. Go to the Mobile settings module, click “Edit” and you will see the email address for your Page. Tip: save this email address to your phone’s address book as your Page’s name.

To update your status, send an email with your status update as the email subject line. To upload a photo or video, email the photo or video and use the email subject line as the caption.

Anyone emailing this address will be able to post to your fans, so please only share this address with other Page admins.


2) iPhone Application

To find your Page, click "Friends," then "Pages" in the bottom right. You'll see the Pages you are an admin of under "My Pages."

We suggest you click on your Page, click the top-right arrow icon, and click "Add Favorite" so you can get easily navigate back to the Page.

To publish to your fans, simply use the publisher (the "What’s on your mind" field) or click the photo icon.


3) Mobile Browser

The easiest way to find your Page is to type in the URL for your Page. To obtain a personalized Facebook URL for your Page, visit facebook.com/username.

If you are using a touch phone, you can also navigate by touching "Friends," then "Pages" on the top right.

Use the composer (the "Write something…" field) to update your fans.


4) Text Message (SMS)

Click "Edit Page" under your Page’s profile picture. Go to the Mobile settings module, click “Edit” you will see the link for “Sign up for Facebook Text Messages to post status updates to your Page”

You can associate multiple phone numbers for a single Page. However, you can only associate one Page or profile to each mobile number. If you associate a mobile number to your Page, that number cannot be associated to your profile or another Page.

Please note that if your carrier is not listed in the drop-down menu, they are not currently supported for Facebook Text Message. Please contact your mobile operator for more information.

Mobile Blogging from here.


TripAdvisor Offers Review Request Form

Kristen Lindsey - Wednesday, November 11, 2009
If you are a tourism business, then it is likely that you pay a lot of attention to what people write about you on TripAdvisor. Reviews can have a tremendous impact on a business, both good and bad.

I heard from TripAdvisor today a nifty tip -  they have a new tool for businesses to share with customers - basically, you can download a flyer that urges your customers to review you.

You can easily grab this on your owner's page,  print it out, and distribute to guests at whatever point you feel it is appropriate. Or, grab it here.

Have you used this flyer to help promote review for your business? Let us know!







Cool New App for Twitter - Live Webcasting

Kristen Lindsey - Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I just came across a cool new application for Twitter - TwitCam provides a simple means to distribute a videocast on your Twitter feed.

TwitPic, another interactive tool for Twitter, allows you to post pictures into your feed, and many people can view it right within your Twitter feed.

These tools allow you to add significant interactivity to your Twitter conversation, and it is a nice distribution method if photo and video are already a part of your web content strategy.

Do you use Twitter? Have you found TwitPic to be a valuable tool? How do you see TwitCam applying to your web business? Please share!





Start Thinking about QR Codes and Mobile Devices

Kristen Lindsey - Wednesday, May 06, 2009
A colleague shared a great article recently about QR Codes. I know some of you are wondering what the heck these are. Well, these are two dimensional bar code that are starting to sprout up in interesting places.

These bar codes are designed to be photographed by mobile devices and, as the technology evolves, passed to a variety of systems that can process the information contained in the bar code.

Note - for those of you who are not sure what a bar code does, traditional ones contain a variety of information than can be processed when scanned. A most typical example of these are the product SKU data, price, etc. contained in bar code on grocery items.

QR codes are not scanned, but when sent by a mobile device to a computer system these codes can be processed just as if they were scanned.

Why should you care? Well, consider the following examples of use, which at this point are not far off:

  1. (Not quite there yet but potentially possible) QR Codes as as typical Bar Codes - Use your mobile phone and QR codes to purchase something at a store.
  2. Used as a means for a consumer to redeem a coupon instantly
  3. (In the linked article above) Used as a link to a YouTube video providing expanded info on a piece of art
  4. A walking tour in your community with audio descriptions of highlighted locations around town. (Guide by Cell)
  5. Develop promotional items with QR codes on them with your company's info in the QR code.
  6. Automated event registration.
Needless to say, if this system can be incorporated into automated e-commerce capability, there are some amazing things that can start happening spontaneously and immediately using a mobile phone with a camera and web access. The technology to capture these is still a fringe technology and not built into mobile devices, but keep an eye out.

Have you heard of QR codes before? Used them? Share your comments and stories!