While the fundamentals of marketing never change – you know, the four “P’s” of Product, Placement, Pricing and Promotion – the Internet has brought about a sea change to every aspect. There are not only new tools rapidly emerging (remember the quick demise of MySpace?), the chatter is almost insurmountable. It’s really hard to be heard above the din.
But the best kept secrets to marketing in 2018 are the same as they were in 1918. While you are using new methods and media to reach prospects, they are still people. Your messaging still follows the strictures of the human psyche. Not much has changed since the days of Dale Carnegie, and he would probably have agreed with the following suggestions:
- Social proof. This is the herd mentality; let your prospects know ‘everyone’s doing it.’
- For ions society has taught children to reciprocate. Everything has a ‘price.’ So, if your customer receives something of value, such as an eBook, a list of today’s most popular vacation destinations or ‘five easy recipes,’ they will feel the urge to respond by providing their name, email and phone number.
- Commitment and consistency. Be like Geico: in their advertising, they make their point over and over using the same methodology.
- “No pressure here, but availability is limited!” Communicate grandeur whenever possible.
- Be likeable. People buy from those they know, like and trust.
- Create a sense of belonging. Make your customer feel they are part of the “in” crowd when they’re invited to a special owners-only event, for example.
- Your blogs, your collateral and your social media will be most effective when you tell a story featuring people. Storytelling is the most compelling promotional tool you have.
- Use rituals, symbols and events whenever possible. Ask your typical realtor. They will tell you that the words “Grand Opening” or “Super Sales Event” draws a crowd, even though the prices and offerings are the same on a non-event day.
- Being different is better than being better (unless you get weird).
- Focus on leads, not sales.
Marketing tactics for 2018 and beyond will depend almost strictly on digital tools: the website, social media sites, online advertising and email. Step one is to review your marketing budget and determine what your resources will be for the year. Step two might be to have a meeting with your team and plan the what, when and whom. From there you can create a calendar for when you will blog, post, email, direct mail (yes, DM is still a useful tool), buy pay-per-click (PPC) ads and make phone calls. (By the way, explore PPC. It is an important SEO optimizer.)
Above all, focus on your website and bear in mind: only great photography sells. Spend the money. The website is you! If your website and photos are sloppy, you are sloppy. Include money shots with people included. Also pay attention to your site’s layout. The most valuable real estate is the left-hand side. Get viewers to your call to action with a solid landing page. Hold in mind, viewers read websites in the shape of an “F.”
Everything You Need to Know about Marketing Online
Blog! Blogging elevates your position on Google, which is the most relevant search engine. While this isn’t actually “everything you need to know about marketing online,” it’s still a major point. Analysts who track Google’s algorithm processes are preaching the value of blogging, complemented by a mélange of social media interaction, with every facet driving traffic to the website.
They say there’s a lot of science involved in getting to the top-third of a Google search result page, but it’s not only for those with deep pockets. There are several rules that will help you get to the top, at least in 2018. (Who knows what surprises and challenges are likely to occur by 2019?)
Number one is to pay careful attention to writing attention-grabbing headlines in your blog and social media posts. The best headlines create surprise, ask a question or create curiosity. But with so many marketers relying on formulas for their headlines like “5 ways to leave your spouse” and other rote techniques, it’s getting harder and harder to differentiate your clever headline. So, beware…we marketers will have to keep reinventing the wheel.
And now a little about your content: Try to use your keywords in headlines and the text whenever possible. Use pictures everywhere. Pictures and videos with people telling their own stories, your story…any story…are what’s hot these days. This helps you leverage the human instinct to congregate and engage in community to gain buy-in (see #1 above, Social Proof). Most people are reluctant to become early adopters. They want to know that others have bought in and are happy with their decision. To urge prospects to take action, they will need to be able to see themselves as part of your world, a member of your tribe. Look for opportunities to give your group an identity, an element of exclusivity. Keep your materials and collateral consistent with being part of ‘The [insert your logo here] Club.’
Are you or whoever is in charge of your marketing a perfectionist? (I blush to admit sharing this fault, myself.) Experts say, get over it (at least when it comes to creating content)! It’s more important to be different, to tell a different story or use a different angle to your photos and artwork. If there’s any exception to this, it’s your website. If your website isn’t amazing, you’re losing money. So, here you can be a little bit more of a perfectionist. If you’re going to spend money, spend it here.
All of your online efforts are intended to drive traffic to your website. Your social media posts will cross-link to the blog, which will promote visitors to your website and will, in turn, keep your site more relevant to Google.
Every page of your site should have a landing page (pardon the redundancy). In some cases, you may be able to offer a product like an eBook or discount coupon in exchange for contact information. People are accustomed to being asked to give something to get something. But provide a landing page as an option for viewers to fill out, whether it’s gated or open.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch….
If you’re not using marketing automation to capture these leads and to respond, shame! Consumers expect an immediate response. They’re not going to be surprised or dismayed if you follow up. Quite the contrary; they expect it. And you should have a system in place to repeatedly touch base with those who have made contact with you.
When you do communicate, remember that you are the authority. Your messages convey the fact that there is a uniqueness, value and scarcity to what you are offering. Yes, they don’t want to be first to join your community; but, yes! They still want that feeling of exclusivity.
While we’re on the subject of operations, let’s discuss how you can best manage your digital enterprise. There are a number of software systems to help schedule, manage and track posts. My Google search found several attractive systems, including buffer.com, zoho.com, hootsuite.com and postplanner.com.
You can find free guidance for social media best practices non-stop online from sites such as salesforce.com, mashable.com and guykawasaki.com. At least for 2018, you’ll need a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and perhaps to LinkedIn and Google+.
As far as the content you post is concerned, there are a few solid rules. Among them are: 1) use names and faces whenever possible, 2) include hashtags everywhere, 3) watermark all photos and 4) keep your design and content consistent with your brand. Not all social media posts need to be design heavy, but they do need to reflect your specific brand.
All in all, remember that SEO is a lifestyle change, not a diet. You’re going to need to give it a front seat in your marketing operation, if it isn’t first and foremost, already.
Once you’ve created the basics, you might expand your options by adding an online chat room – a great way to engage and build value with your visitors. At the very least, you will need to plan the work and work the plan when it comes to capturing and responding to online leads. Nurture every lead with VIP recognition. This is when you will begin to recognize and appreciate the ROI of your digital marketing enterprise. May 2018 be your best year, yet!
Sharon Scott Wilson is publisher of Resort Trades magazine and the digital publication, Resort Trades Weekly. She is CEO of PR/marketing firm SharonINK. Wilson is a registered resort professional (RRP) and Chairman’s League member of the American Resort Development Association (ARDA).