In autumn 2013 I had been travelling a lot around Iceland, speaking and lecturing. As I wrote this, I was in the Westman Islands, north of the Icelandic mainland, unable to get to the mainland for an extra night because of a storm and some really really high waves.
As part of my travels, I have had to book accommodation, and as with so many of us, my first place to look is online. This search of mine has reminded me of some very important things when it comes to marketing. Both dos and don’ts. In particular, I was reminded of these three:
When I go onto a website showing me tens or hundreds of accommodation options that all look the same, how do I choose? Well, yes, I set a certain criteria (I want my own bathroom and I need wi-fi), that narrows it down somewhat, but there are still a lot of options left. Then what? Faced with a multitude of things that all look pretty much the same, what I start to look at is price. Unless any of them stand out in some way. Interest me or appeal to me more than the others. In my search for accommodation for four separate places, this happened to me only once. I had excluded some possibilities based on my criteria and their location, and there was this one place that was sooooo much more appealing than the others – and I was obviously not the only one that felt that way, as it was all booked up (a luxury in the Icelandic accommodation business at the end of November). What was it about that place? It was different… but not just that. Based on the info and photos, it had character. It was special, which makes it very appealing.
As I was scouring the internet for accommodation, one review I came across said “nothing to write home about”. If it’s nothing to write home about, I am not likely favour that place above some other. Be different, be interesting, be something that people want to be a part of. Something that people want to talk about and tell others about – this applies in every kind of business, whether it’s accommodation, restaurants, design products, book-keeping – whatever! Whatever you do, don’t just be like all the others. Be different!
A picture is worth a thousand words
Have you booked accommodation online recently? Whether it be booking.com, hotels.com, Tripadvisor or some other site, you will be faced with endless photos of buildings and empty rooms. They all just become one big blur and you can’t tell one from the other. Sure, you want to show the building and what the rooms look like, that gives people an idea of what they are buying, but you also have to find a way to stand out from the crowd and make people want to stay with you rather than the others.
Find a way to use other types of images to attract people, and then you can show them the building and the rooms – and make sure they are good pictures. This applies in most every business, whether it be restaurants, beauty salons, products or whatever. A picture can be the make or break factor in whether people chose you over the competition. Not just what is in the picture, but also how they are shot, and how they are processed and retouched. Whatever you are marketing, get a professional to do your photos, because they are sooo important!
Don’t be lost!
The value of referrals has long since been known to me, as I am sure they are to you. If someone recommends something, you are likelier to buy that than whatever else is on offer. This is however, not enough.
As I was looking for accommodation, I asked a friend if she could recommend something for me, which she did. When I then went to look for information about that place I found very very little online. Nothing on the local area page, nothing in directory listings, nothing on various booking pages. Finally I found a review on Lonely Planet, which was not bad. However, that had little information apart from the phone number and email (and the email was not on the business domain, but on a generic one such as hotmail., gmail and such – which never helps with credibility) and they do not seem to have a webpage or even a presence on Facebook. As my friend had recommended it, I decided to give this place a call – but they did not answer the phone. That was that. There was no way I was going to chase that down any more.
Be where people are looking for you. Find out where that is for your business and make sure that people find you, and find the information they need to make the decision to do business with you. Oh, and yes please answer the phone and respond to emails :)
Although marketing theory states it, and I knew it before, it is always interesting when reality drives a point home: In business you have to be different, have great photos and be easily found when people are looking for you.
Is your business different enough from others in your market? What are your photos like? If I look for you, will I find you? Check it out and let me know ;)