You just gotta love a company that calls itself A Couple of Chicks E-Marketing, with Alicia Whalen as CEO: Chick Executive Officer. Together with co-founder Patricia Brusha, A Couple of Chicks have been carving out a niche for themselves in the sharp-shooting world of Internet marketing.
Their signature event, Online Revealed Canada, has had a very successful three-year run, and looking hard at the American markets, Alicia and Patricia aimed for the Caribbean as a hot market for e-marketing development. They chose Puerto Rico as the hub for their event. And through the oft-mentioned Kevin Shockey, they got to meet Me.
Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the late first-day session, where Alicia, MC Don Dees (of Dondequiera fame) and I were the blogger panel. If the after-panel comments are an indication--and they usually are--We hit a home run. Both Alicia and Don Dees have "commercial" blogs, blogs aimed at building their businesses, while I have...well, The Jenius. In essence, We were trying to convey the importance a blog can have to creating a conversation with your customers and prospects, especially in the realm of travel and tourism.
There was one dissident voice, someone who almost willfully refuses to "get it," but the fact is, neither he nor anyone else has to be a fan of blogs. What he does to need to acknowledge, though, is that focusing on ROI only on the "traditional" marketing actions means he's entirely missing the true measurement of ROI that Internet marketing (including blogs) can give.
An aside: If he continues to use the "Threaten you with a horrible review unless you give the person a free night's stay" example, I'm going to call him a spineless worm, for he's using the "extreme" example as if it were "common." Here's My less-rancorous answer to that: Suggest and make arrangements for a stay in another hotel more in tune with person's tastes and send the asshole over there.
One question, by Alex, a travel industry consultant, elicited the basis for an e-book I outlined today: How do you manage the logistics of starting a business blog?
My answer--crafted at the moment to answer his question--was a four-step process:
1) Gather sources: From other blogs to websites to suppliers to allied businesses to competitors and don't forget to include customers. Anything that can help you generate content ideas is a source.
2) Make choices: As I pointed out during the panel, some experts say "focus" or "develop a voice," but it all boils down to making choices. What do you want to say? Who are you saying it to? How will you say it? The problem with "focus" or "voice" is that they are not "instant" characteristics: They develop over time. By making choices you simplify the development to the point where you can actually create a blog, rather than just plan one.
3) Be consistent: Not just in time (blogging once a week or every Tuesday/Friday, etc.) or length of post or type of material: In all of it. A corollary is to also Be Flexible (I didn't mention that during the panel.) Consistency means you work a blog like a tool, honing it over time. The flexibility means you adapt it over time to be as responsive as possible.
4) Follow-up: A blog, or a website, does not exist in a vacuum. They don't do all the work by themselves, just by virtue of existing. You have to follow-up, connect, explore, pay attention to, adapt and grow...and when you do that with consistency, you will have sharpened effort into focus and presentation into voice.
How do you choose a blogger for your business? Like any other job position. But I did suggest to those present that they could (in the case of a small hotel, for example) put their newest employee in charge of the blog. S/He learns about the hotel faster, their potential role in its growth (or failure) and is more likely to be familiar with the technology and mores of the Web than anyone else on the staff.
And for those who want to start a business-enhancing blog, but especially those in the travel industry, I suggested they search for stories. Stories are the traditional way We have connected since the first campfires. Stories engage, enthrall, connect and convince, all values that marketing has tried time and again to elicit, but has found harder going in this attention-deficit age We live in.
Here's a website I found just after returning from the event: StoryMaps. It allows bloggers to map their posts within Google Maps. I'll let you determine how valuable (and serendipitous) this new service is. And for anyone who mentioned or thought of The Cluetrain Manifesto as part of the blogger panel's discussion, here's an expanded take on what it means now.
I still have some follow-up to do: Joseph Clote of Missouri Meeting & Events magazine asked Me a question I had no answer for (gasp!) about the local Tourism Company's advertising budget; Melinda E. Van Patter, of MarketWire, will receive My e-mail to find out more about integrated press releases; I owe a web stroll through Five Star Alliance, where Cal, Courtney and Jennifer hang out (to work) (apologies if I misspelled a name); and another to AdCision, where Emily and Cal (again!) hang out to work; and last, but not least in any way, I'll call Karla Medina of Caribbean Trading Company to drop in on her store near the foothills of El Yunque rain forest.
Just before I left the event, I suggested We create a blog or wiki to track the development of the 70 attendees to Online Revealed Caribbean and build connections to next year's events. I fully expect We'll do so and I'm very glad We will.
The Jenius Has Spoken.