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The Thrive Hive

Tips on digital marketing you can apply today.

Summary: Panel on the Future of Marketing

Kristen Fowler 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 Fowler 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!

The Debate About Accuracy of TripAdvisor

Kristen Fowler 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!

TripAdvisor Offers Review Request Form

Kristen Fowler 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!

Anchorage Daily News Gives Update on Alaska Tourism Season

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Monday, July 13, 2009
The Anchorage Daily News published an article yesterday with interviews on the Alaska tourism season, but for anyone in Anchorage who has been downtown in the past few months, the report is no surprise: there are fewer tourists in Anchorage and Alaska this year. Some areticle highlights:

  • Visitors who are in Alaska are spending less.
  • 11% fewer visitors arrived via Ted Stevens International Airport in May.
  • Bookings on the Alaska Railroad are down 10 to 15 percent, year to date, according to the railroad.
  • About 25 percent fewer people visited Anchorage's five visitor information centers, which are run by the bureau.
Anecdotal reports also speak to the tourism industry's initial fears becoming a reality:

  • A local restaurant is contacting loyal local customers to tell them they don't have to avoid downtown this summer - it is not crowded.
  • A recent visitor to Fairbanks described it as "very quiet."

What can businesses do to prevent the year from being a loss? Apokrisis has been counseling the following strategies since the economic downturn began:


  1. Keep marketing. If you cut back on your marketing budget too dramatically, you lose any chance of reaching those visitors that do plan on coming.
  2. But make sure that marketing is targeted and focused. Gather as much information as you can on what is working and what isn't.
  3. Review your target audiences - which of your customer types are likely to continue to travel? Who may back off? Focus on those you think will come.
  4. Your strategy needs to focus on gaining more share. A higher share of visitors could keep you close to previous levels of business. It is a reality when fewer people are visiting.

All indications are that the economic climate will continue at least into 2010. Start planning for next year now.

Do you have any stories about your observations on tourism in Alaska? Your own community? Please share!