If we were looking at a relationship chart of all the parts and pieces involved in the marketing process, the webpage would be at the center… with all lines flowing from it. Starkly stated, the website is absolutely the most important component of a business’ relationship with customers, or potential customers, which can easily be created, maintained, and controlled by management. From the very first glimmer of an interest in possibly purchasing a product; to buying it, owning and using it; to the end of the relationship; the website is important.
Researching the direction and focus of information portrayed in this topic involved spending time looking at resort websites. It is shocking in the resort industry, with its total product consisting of recreational services offered to customers, how many projects have terrible websites or none at all! It is incredible in an industry spending huge amounts of time and money to research, debate, and study how to discern and hone their public image that many of the resorts make no effort to properly install and maintain possibly one of the key elements in creating trust with the customer. In an industry that suffers from problems producing quality tours and creating secondary sales of their product, it is astounding that so many pay little attention to the most important ingredient of even a diminutive attempt at creating an online marketing program.
In reviewing the current state of webpages in this industry it is obviously necessary to create a discussion about what actually constitutes a website, as well as why it is necessary to have one. The first and most elementary observation is that “being online or having a web presence is not the same as simply having a static website”. Being included in a business directory with a formatted description of your physical attributes is not a substitution for a dynamic site that tells people who you are, that you have a personality, are a fun place to vacation, and are different from your competition. Unfortunately, many in our industry leave their entire online presence to the various business directories and punt.
Is a true custom website that important, and if so, why?
The modern website is the 24/7 purveyor of Trust. In today’s information-saturated world the first place anyone will go to “check you out” is your website. In most cases, they will go via a Google search engine, which will also additionally tell them how much Google respects the business by their ranking on the search page. A bad search placement, or a horrible website that is not welcoming, which does not provide the information they expect, absolutely blows your credibility to nothing. Having no actual website at all is something that is inconceivable to most consumers today. Simply being another listing in a directory full of other resorts does not give any credibility to the resort.
The website is the first source of information modern shoppers consult when considering a purchase. This is not only intuitive, but is highly researched and quantified. It’s not even necessary to go get the definitive information as to whether 80 percent of people considering a decision first consult the web, or only 70 percent. The only necessary information is that it is a majority. Understand that anyone thinking about visiting and taking a tour of a resort is first going to check the website. Having a poor one, one that exists only in an exchange company directory, or a management company directory, or the brand franchise directory, is not going to cut it.
This failure affects everything and it all circles around credibility. Imagine a typical OPC program where you have paid a lot of money to have someone pitch a potential tour, and then they walk ten feet away from the booth and pull the resort up on a mobile phone. What do they see?
Active sales lines know this all too well. Today’s prospects will sit at the sales table while being pitched and pull their phone out and google the resort. What do you think they are looking for? What credibility and information are they seeking?
The same logic applies to marketing resales and rentals for a sold out property. They, too, will do a search. What are they looking for? You guessed it…. They need to know why they should spend time visiting your resort.
A quick Google search yields a lot of resale companies, when your sales success depends on your search results to be in the top third of search results. Nothing can be done about that. It also has the exchange company showing up, and the home page of a brand’s or management company’s directory of resorts. Nothing else! Nothing unique to this property; no highly ranked result showing a true home website with pictures and videos of how much fun the place is and that it really and truly is a great place to be. That’s what the website gives you: the first point of contact for information and the trust factor that nothing else you do can provide.
Consider how this affects your book-to-show percentages, your closing percentages, your cost per tour if your property is in active sales. For resorts which hope to promote HOA inventory and rentals, it’s an equally significant issue.
Steps to Take Immediately
Should your property be one of these without a unique website, run (do not walk) to your computer and start doing some research! You might begin by looking at examples of what other business-to-consumer businesses have done. Ask for advice from others. Take a look at hotel websites, for example. Notice how interactive many of them are and how enticing.
Here are some tips on “What to Look for When You Hire a Web Designer,” by Andrea Whitmer, on www.nutsandboltsmedia.com:
- Does the designer’s style match the way I’d like my site to look?
- Who will develop my website once I have the design? Is this included in the pricing?
- What kind of maintenance and upkeep will my site need? Can I do that myself or will I need to hire someone?
- What kind of design files will I receive?
- Is the designer available if I need revisions or changes? What are the costs?
Not the right questions? You may not need a designer!
If you’re reading this thinking, These questions don’t even apply to my project!, it’s possible you need both a designer and developer or an implementer. As I mentioned, those labels can overlap, so there’s no perfect way to tell you what you need. Knowing the scope of your project and what you’ll want in terms of looks and functionality are key in finding the professional who is best qualified to help you.
To read Andrea’s entire article, visit https://www.nutsandboltsmedia.com/hire-a-web-designer. The key here is to begin. Yes, many – maybe even most – of the resorts in our industry are light-years behind. But the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Or another favorite adage of mine is: “we start the war from here.” Good luck!