Content marketing and how to harness it for your business

Content marketing is a necessity in today’s digital marketing field. It is also an effective tool, especially for small entrepreneurs, to reach new customers, build trust and increase site traffic. The key to success is planning content marketing that can answer three questions:

  • What are your customers’ need and desires?
  • Can you provide your customers with something value?
  • Can you keep them wanting more?

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when building your own strategy:

Who are your customers?

The customer is the key factor in raising profitability. As a result, it should be considered as the centre of all activities and decisions of your company. When creating content, segmenting your customers is the first step as it helps to identify your target customers, understand their behaviors, habits, and preferences. Consequently, it provides useful information to create interesting and engaging contents and to refine your marketing approach.

Tips to find out the searching trends of customers after segmenting your customers:

  • Use analytics features on social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Google Analytics) to get an overview picture of customer behavior within the online environment.
  • Connect face to face to get some truly unique insights from customers.

Which content marketing formats have the most impact on your customers?

Choosing popular content formats is the second step to connect with customers. Online content format is not just text. It can be under different forms: images, videos, infographics, e-books, case studies, webinars, press releases, competitions, quiz, reviews or case studies… The format of the content should be compatible with the main goals of the content, which are to entertain, to inspire, to educate and to convince. For instance, if the purpose of the content is entertaining, the suitable formats could be quizzes or contests while if educating is your purpose, e-books, instructions will be the reasonable selection. Picking the proper content format helps the potential customers engage, share, learn, become loyal customers or even entice new customers.

How to write an attractive content for online customers?

Reading habit is different between online and offline content. The style, length or structure of the content in different channels has an enormous impact on attracting customers. For instance, reading a long article in a newspaper is much more breathable and enjoyable than in online format.

Tips to achieve successful content writing:

  • Stay inspire. Pick some engaging topics. You can refer to your competitors or using tools to query the keyword list as this way is good for creating content based on the demand of customers.
  • Start with a direct topic or opening sentence to entice customers’ attraction and satisfy what they are looking for.
  • Write the content under the customer’s position and focus on content purposes. Avoid adding too much sales messages in the content.
  • Be consistent in your writing style to make customers immediately link to your brand, to build a relationship with your customers and to differentiate from your competitors.

How to promote your content online?

Spending time to promote your content online is as important as to create content because it helps to reach a larger audience.

Before creating a content promotion plan, choosing suitable channels to manage is important. There are three types of channels which should be considering: Owned, Earned and Paid channels. Promoting content on owned channels such as websites, blogs or social media sites is a typical starting point as it is a flexible and low-cost option. Earned channels help boost the customer reach of content and also add credibility. Whereas paid channels allow you to target your goals to specific customers.

Once choosing which channels to promote your content, creating a content calendar is the next step. A content calendar will organize your content marketing activity and make your content process consistent and efficient.

Tips to reach the full potential of a content calendar:

  • Combine a variety of marketing channels to work together for marketing strategies.
  • Make the plan achievable by using realistic time frames or highlighting special days or holidays to offer seasonal content
  • Use online tools to save your time. It will help automate the content creation, distribute process and easy to keep track of the plan
  • Stick to customers at each stage of calendar

 

3 easy ways to make online customer experience better in tourism

As technology develops it is necessary for tourism businesses as well as businesses, in general, to think about how they can improve online customer experience. There is a lot of talk about if technology will replace human interaction, but actually in business purposes technology can help make customers happier. Although we have to remember that to do so, it has to be done correctly and enhance the customer experience rather than make things more complicated.

Our class was brainstorming to find out how technology can delight customers in tourism businesses. We discovered a lot of different ways, but there were three that stood out the most for all of us: easily accessible information, photos & videos, and helpful marketing.

Easily accessible information

When planning a holiday or booking activities, one of the biggest things is that the information is comprehensive and easily found. Tourism companies should focus more on the content of their website as it is the main source of information for customers. This means that the navigation should be clear and there should be information available about everything the company is offering. Especially for tourism companies, online booking is one thing that will make customers happier as well as the possibility to give feedback online. Easier the information search process is the happier the customer gets.

Photos & videos

We all know the saying “a picture tells more than a hundred words”. This should be kept in mind when marketing your products or services. Photos and videos can increase the trust as well as the satisfaction of customers when they match with reality. As an example, if a hotel has a gym, but they have no pictures of it, the hotel might seem a bit shady for the customers. But then again, you should not use pictures or videos that are much better than the reality, as the reality will then disappoint the customers. It’s also good to remember that high-quality photos and videos are also quite nice to watch, and they easily caught the eye in social media.

Helpful marketing

No one likes when a business is by force trying to sell their products or services, at least not Finnish people. Tourism companies should use more helpful marketing, which means that you introduce the strengths and benefits of our products or services rather than use a phrase such as “buy now”. In helpful marketing, you create content that is helpful for customers and that creates value for your customers. In the end, it will also lead to better sales. Make the customer feel special and be interactive on social media channels.

Focus on online customer experience!

As said in the beginning, there can be multiple ways to make customers happier by utilizing technology. Get started with the three ways introduced here, but remember that you can always develop ways that suit your company and customers better. In the end it all comes down to understanding the online customer experience!

How to successfully master website design for your tourism business?

An effective website is important for your tourism business as it is one of the first touchpoints in online marketing. We developed a framework of the most important core factors in website design. Instead of digging deeper into each of them, we look at the whole picture.

Website Marketing_Different Devices

STRUCTURE AND DESIGN

First, let’s start with the basics. Design the website in an easy, clear and simple structure. Be visual! Hence, make customers remember your website. Furthermore, include a navigation panel. You want to make sure that your customers find exactly what they’re looking. And pay attention: less is sometimes more. An over-designed website is not only daunting for the visitor but also impacts the page speed. Trust me, the goal is to attract more customers, not to lose them.

ACCESSIBILITY

Ensure quick-loading pages by choosing the right technology, smaller compressed images and a simple website design. Pay attention to the general accessibility on different platforms, devices and browsers. Don’t despair! You can even make a test run and check the page speed on different devices before you publish it.

ENGAGING CONTENT

There is no need for an attractive and clear structured website if your visitors are getting bored to death. Hence, create engaging content by integrating your personal story and stating your missions, vision and goals clearly. Show your customers that you care and include their testimonials and reviews as well as your values by adding sustainability certificates or Corporate Social Responsibility awards.

Picture_Metaphor for Storytelling

STORYTELLING

Most importantly, think about your customers and their values and implement them in your story. Don’t forget to add a beginning and an end and build up excitement. Captivate the customers with a powerful message.

Include interactive elements like videos or photos of your products or links to your social media channels. Then, think a step further and use chatbots to guarantee a round-the-clock personal customer care. Furthermore, retarget customers with discounts or feedback sections.

All in all, the possibilities online are endless. Just remember: taking your customers’ needs and your own values into account is the goal to succeed in digital marketing. Use Website Analytics and Search Engine Optimisation and dedicate a website manager to ensure constant updates, trouble-shooting and optimisation.

Follow this framework and you’re all set to go! What are you waiting for?

Nostalgia in marketing – a great way to drown your business

It is pretty easy to say that marketing a business today is made pretty affordable and easy – if you are not stuck in the nostalgia in marketing and trust that a basic “block ad” on a magazine is an effective way on advertising.

Events are my cup of tea. As an event manager, you are DEPENDENT on that the products are visible on Google and social media channels. The homepage should be active with links to other pages for Google to find it interesting, Adwords should rise up your event every time you are searched and ads can be targeted to customers who have visited the site. With the basic effort, you can do all this by yourself and can gain a lot of new customers. Without these things, you are same as dead to your customers.

Why?

Most of the customers, who’s from you are interested (read: have money and interest towards your hip-product), especially in technology orientated country like Finland, use smartphones – or at least search your business via computer. So why bother on spending lots of money on ads on e.g. newspapers? To compare online marketing to classic marketing on print – here’s just a plain and simplified example:

Marketing on local newspaper:  One marketing ad on leading local newspaper (outside southern Fi) Size approx. a6 format. Shown during one specific day. Cost approx. 800 €

  • You’ll need  (or at least it is highly preferred) to buy visuals from a professional (60-70 e / h)
  • The ad is shown one time on today’s magazine with other ads on the third last page.
  • Circulation of the magazine approx. 100 000 people in one province with broad age cohort.
  • No reliable ways to measuring the effects of the ad.

Marketing on Facebook/IG: for the same money (900 €) possibilities:

  • Do ads by yourself (of course the expertise and counseling of a professional- like yours truly – is always recommended) 😉
  • Choose the most relevant target groups from e.g. Helsinki and your hometown with specified age cohort and interests to visit the homepage or buy the tickets straight away.
  • Set the ads to be visible e.g. for week or two.
  • See how many times your ad is clicked, measure and optimize the ad also afterwards.
  • Gain more followers to your site, where you can advertise the event more specifically and share the love with your likers.
  • Add FB Pixel and google tracking to your homepage andthe engage same people who may have visited your site but not yet bought the tickets by encouraging them to buy tickets afterwards via cookies set on their devices.
So. Which one would you choose as an advertiser?

Are printed ads about to die? No. There is a place for it as well. E.g. in the form of advertorials in the specific periodicals or example big posters are really good way of getting attention – they have more possibility to reach your target groups. Books are read still, and I for one will always prefer to read from the paper than from the tablet or such. But it is hard to see a long-headed future for classic “box-ads” in the newspaper or such as an efficient way of reaching your customers now or especially in the future. Do not let nostalgia in marketing make decisions for you!

Do Not Read This!

Content Marketing?

Yep, I thought you wouldn’t listen. Luckily there is no harm in reading this, quite the opposite. I just wanted to prove a point: In content marketing, you are competing of customers enjoying an overflow of information and suffering lack of time. Therefore, your content marketing needs to be intriguing and catch the attention. Like hopefully this headline did. So, in case you are interested in content marketing, you should stick around and read rest of the post!

Let’s start with discussing the term. It can be mixed up with social media marketing. Creating an ad in Facebook is still not content marketing, just marketing happening in social media. The idea of content marketing is to create different types of content, like blogs, video material and online discussion with customers. The content is shareable and creates interest towards your business, increases your appearance in search engine results and should affect your sales.

How to start

So, let us say that you just established a hotel in Lapland. Should you now open accounts to every other social media outlet and fill them with room pictures and other posts? No, first comes the content marketing plan. For that you need to know your potential customers and their preferences. With bench-marking rival companies, you can learn what content they share and what social medias they use. Referencing the competition is a good start, but also personal goals need to be established. What does your company achieve with all the content you share? Who sees it and what do they do with it? When you can answer these questions, you can proceed with the plan.

Some No No’s

Next, lets dodge some common landmines of content marketing. First, the content can’t be all about the company. Do not always sell something, the customers are not always buying something. The key idea is to be on mind of the customers and when they want to make a purchase that you can provide, they will remember you.

Television was a one-way media, but social media is not. By forgetting this, you miss out on the potential of content marketing and might even do damage. Be attentive to the customers, answer the complaints and discuss the questions.

Do not do too much. If your customers discuss your services in Facebook and like your pictures in Instagram, but Twitter is not working, concentrate on the former. That way your company can be consistent and reliable online, which creates trust also in general.

Do not forget to track the impact of your content marketing: It is essential for you to know how it works and what should be developed or altered.

Entertain, Inspire, Educate and Convince

Content should be useful to both existing and potential customers. In general, you should follow these four guidelines:

  1. Entertain the customer with top quality content to spend time in your media and get them to know you.
  2. Inspire them and help them to create new ideas and new dreams.
  3. Educate the customer on the issues related to your business and create a feeling of trust.
  4. Finally, convince the customer to use your services to retain the best possible solution to his or her problem.

Know your customers to know the preferred social medias and content. Track the impact and you know what to develop. By being consistent and attentive, you are reliable and on people’s mind.

Self-employed Business Owner: Why Learning Basics of Digital Marketing Saves you Money while Growing your Business?                                                                                                 

Are you preparing cottage rooms for next guests? Driving dog sledge through low-lying arctic hills? Preparing dinner for a group of visitors? If you’d take less than 10 minutes of your time to read through this blog post, I can promise you’ll be even busier after few months’ time.

So, do you have time to talk about getting better return to your hard-earned money that you put to marketing? Especially if the marketing and digital marketing frustrates you at the moment. I know – I’ve been there. And now I’m writing this blog post to You.

Most of the small tourism companies do have web pages and they are in the Facebook, but it doesn’t automatically mean that your customers will find you. You can be like the wall paper that is in the store but cannot be found. Or even like a pretty nice looking wall paper put on display but still don’t get customers’ attention. In order to break through from “the lost wall paper corner of internet” and get the awareness you deserve from potential customers, I recommend to consider the following three things:

  • What are the key words that your webpage is optimised for?

    Key words are crucial “tags” to help search engines like Google to find your web page when your potential customers are searching for services that also your company offers. Key words help your web page appear in the first page of Google search results. Also having links to other relevant web pages serve the same purpose.

  • Content is the King! 

    …in all channels. I understand that you don’t have time to be in Facebook or in other channels every day and figure out what you should post or write. You have real customers to serve. To make this easier to yourself make a list or even a calendar. Just listing what you’ll update and when keeping it simple and realistic. You don’t have to go from no activity to ten activities during a week at once. Good content frequently is ok. The content can be e.g. photos, happy customers (with their permission), positive customer feedbacks (testimonials) or even something cleaver about the weather. And of course, customers want to get to know you. Tell your story – in the extent that you feel comfortable with.

    While you are posting photos in Facebook you can do that as well in Instagram. You can open an Instagram page for your business here: https://www.instagram.com/accounts/login/. In Instagram use those hashtags (#) with the words you want your business to be connected with.

By to way, all those likes, shares and comments in your social media pages are worth money. This is not online marketing basics anymore, but if you are interested in deepen your knowledge you can listen more about this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im26jZT-eQw. I promise, this is useful.

  • Get to know the magical place of Google Analytics

Measuring outcomes of our actions is as relevant in digital marketing as it is in other areas of the business. Addition to the fact that it shows you how well did you succeed, that you don’t end up buying possibly too expensive marketing actions which don’t deliver what you hoped them to. Useful tool to follow up your online marketing actions is Google Analytics. See easy first steps to take to get started here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZf3YYkIg8w.

Optimising your web page so that customers find it is the first step. But as a second step you can make advertisements online to boost your visibility. Just remember to have proper web page before you advertise it: updated, relevant information to customers and possibility to buy your services, if the online selling is relevant for your business model. There are free tools to test the quality of your web page like this one: https://www.seoptimer.com/. They also give recommendations to improve your site.

 

If you got at least a little bit interested in, please Google your business – not with the name of the business, but with some other words that you’d use as a customer looking for the kind of services your business offers. If you find your business web page from the first page and your competitors are below you in Google search results, you have done something right. Congratulations! If you, on the other hand, find yourself from the second or the third page in Google search results, you’ve been able to hide your business to the place where no one looks – to the lost wall paper corner of internet. But don’t worry, you can break out from there by getting started with the steps described in this article. If you find this difficult or you just don’t have time for it, you can buy this as a service. And now you have better understanding what you are paying for.

SMEs should use web analytics for competitive advantage

A first semester studying Tourism Marketing and Management at UEF showed that most of the tourism companies in Finland are small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).  These companies are trying to market their offerings to consumers, by directing them to the company’s webpage to increase traffic, and hopefully future profits. In many cases, this is where the focus on the customer journey stops. Nowadays, it’s not enough for the SMEs to direct traffic to their webpage. The companies have to know what potential customers are doing there.

For various reasons, many SMEs have not considered web analytics as something that would be beneficial for future success. Everyone is online nowadays and many make most of their purchase decisions using at least some kind of online materials. For SMEs it is especially important to think long and hard, where and how to spend the marketing budget. Without the use of web analytics, it is next to impossible for them to properly analyse the results of their marketing campaigns.

The traditional view of web analytics is that it is only for giant companies, SMEs should steer away from this kind of thinking. The presumption is entirely misleading. All companies can and should use web analytics tools! Without web analytics tools, it is difficult to see the results of marketing campaigns. Analytics give SMEs insight into what they’re doing right and what could be improved.

There are many different web analytics tool out there. Understandably, it might be confusing for entrepreneurs to get started. For tracking traffic and conversions companies could start using Google Analytics. From Google Analytics, SMEs can get a huge amount of data. This tool is highly beneficial for tracking the success of various marketing campaigns. Web analytics can also be used to track the performance in social media. Many customers nowadays use social media to form an overview of the company that they are buying from. Many social media platforms offer the tools to track the company’s performance. There are no reasons for SMEs not to use these tools.

The use of web analytics tools helps SMEs to understand their customers and this way develop competitive advantage! You can do digital marketing without analytics, but the only way to get the best bang for your buck is to connect your digital marketing efforts to digital analytics.

The Most Common Problem in Destination Marketing in the World

World’s Most Common Problem in Destination Marketing

What is the difference between successful and non-successful destinations from the destination marketing perspective? In this post, I want to understand the details behind successful destination marketing. What is the one key thing to gain competitive advantage in destination marketing?

When we start to think about the exact reasons for the success, I suppose that most of the people will answer that: “It is all about the strategy”, or “The budget walks hand-in-hand with the success”. Third largely heard opinion is: “There are right people behind it”.

These are all right answers while looking at them from the micro perspective. Anyway, by turning the whole point of view into a larger scale, we can find one rallying point for all of them. That is the collaboration. Collaboration ties all of them together and separates the destinations into a successful and non-successful.

d’Angella & Go (2007) and Fyall, Garrod & Wang (2012) have created an excellent researches about the connection between collaboration and marketing. Main results were that, in tourism destinations collectivism is needed for individual success. In such a win–win situation cooperation brings higher competitiveness for the actors involved. The collaboration allows destinations to expand their reach and tap into wider market opportunities. Collaboration is also natural response to the marketing and management challenges of destinations.

We can pointedly say that to succeed with marketing objectives, it is necessity to re-orientate with organisational level toward the achievement of ‘‘collaborative advantage’’ rather than ‘‘competitive advantage’’. The future norm for successful destination marketing and management will be more collaboration and less isolationism. Good example about the destination marketing with “collaborative advantage” is Iceland.

How DMO can strengthen up the level of collaboration?

There are usually many different aspects affecting for the willingness to do collaboration. In many cases, behind the non-collaborative destination you will find following similarities: trust, fear of change and preposterous expectations toward DMO. These all fits in under the following statement: lack of knowledge. There are tons of small micro companies (SME’s) in tourism industry, which does not have the knowledge about nowadays needs. Many of them do not even know the basics about the current issues in marketing scene.

We have almost reached the 2020’s and the marketing is focusing more and more on different digital channels. To be successful, one must be able to develop itself to answer for nowadays needs. Unfortunately, the fact is that SME’s knowledge toward digital marketing is still limited. These small entrepreneurs are still playing by the rules settled in the 90’s. Posters, brochures, newspapers and letters via postal mail. There are too many whose only digital channel is Facebook without any idea how to use it effectively.

To be successful in destination marketing your every component needs to be at a certain level. In situation where the SME’s do not even know how to be visible in online you don’t meet with this goal. As a DMO, encourage the entrepreneurs to improve their skills in digital marketing. That is the modernity, and it is the necessity. SME’s don’t need to be professionals but if they even know how to be visible in online, how to create content, how to use SEO and how to use social media effectively, you are already one step ahead.

How to learn digital marketing together as a destination?

Content creating is now easier than ever. You do not need to be an engineer to create content anymore. Everyone has a possibility for that in the internet. Social media (SM) and content management system’s (CMS) such as WordPress have unlimited options to share content effectively and more importantly, easily.

Educating people inside the destination is not even time-consuming process for DMO anymore. Most of the programs are available in digital format.  Even better, there are great variety of free courses where to participate in. Encourage the SME’s to attend for these free courses and learn how to use these different online tools. Check out these top free online courses to upgrade your destinations digital marketing skills in to next level:

1. Google Digital Garage: https://learndigital.withgoogle.com/digitalgarage/

One of the most versatile courses is offered by Google. These completely free online courses will guide the participator through everything from search engines, to social media and beyond. There is totally 26 different topics and 106 lessons. You will learn to use SEO, create content, to be visible in online, launch different kind of marketing campaigns and use analytic tools more effectively. This is probably the best place to start learning the basics of digital marketing and E-Business.

2. Alison Diploma in E-Business: https://alison.com/course/Diploma-in-E-Business

Alison is a massive online learning community of more than six million registered users. They offer both, free and paid courses. Now you can take the free digital marketing course, Diploma in E-Business. Taking part for the course you develop your skills in search optimization, Google Analytics and AdWords, campaign tracking and integration, revenue metrics analysis, digital measurement, and much more. Extremely useful and recommend course to upgrade your current knowledge.

3. HubSpot Academy: https://www.udemy.com/inbound-marketing-course/

HubSpot Academy offers an incredibly comprehensive digital marketing courses. They are also offering free and paid courses. Recommend free course is: Inbound Marketing Course. This course has currently more than 35K participators. This inbound marketing course offers over 4.5 hours of instruction with totally 38 lectures, and all of them are completely free. You will learn how SEO, blogging, landing pages, lead nurturing, conversion analysis and reporting come together to form a modern inbound marketing strategy.

Benefits of collaboration

At the beginning, it is enough if you can encourage even couple of companies to take a part for these courses. As a DMO, think about the benefits of educating the people inside your destination.

1. You will get available working hours and other resources for your destination marketing. That does not involve even money transfers. The more people we have creating content about the destination, the easier all of this provides advantage through synergy. Little by little the visibility and awareness of whole destination will start to increase.

2. Togetherness creates strength. It is always better to have more people doing right things at the same time. Professionals are important, but one or two gurus cannot do everything by themselves.

3. You can start to build a common marketing strategy in more detailed level. Exploit the different digital channels as together and create a controlled content network between the individuals inside the destinations.

Once you have reached that, you are ready to take a step for the next level: collaboration between destinations and organisations.