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In this high-tech age of point-and-shoot cameras, photo-clad cell phones, sophisticated off-the-shelf printers and real-time Internet access, can anyone really tell the difference between desktop digital and professional print?

“Of course,” you say. Well, prove it.

Show us the difference between a high-quality printed brochure, for example, and a laser-copied counterfeit. SWOT Team, this issue's dilemma is the debate over digital or print. Who's side are you on?

When an organization is trying to build a professional image, should it attempt to save money on professional printing by opting for lesser-quality color copies?

Let us know where you stand on the digital asset divide. Then, after you've leapt over the precipice to one side or the other, read below to see your peers' excellent advice on a less controversial subject: developing a Web content strategy. As always, thank you, for your excellent suggestions.

If you think digital is dead, or if you've never been caught on the Web, write to us and ask our SWOT Team about your dilemma. Tapping into our collective experience, strength and support works. You could win a free copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

SWOT Team, unite and make a difference!

• Give advice about this issue's dilemma.

• Read your peers' responses to the previous dilemma (below).

• Submit your own dilemma.

This Issue's Dilemma

SWOT Category: Internal Weakness

Should we save money on color copies or print high-quality materials?

Our director is opting to produce all our brochures on color copiers to save money instead of sending them out to be professionally printed on quality paper. How do I convince him that this is not professional and takes away from the image of the organization that I am working so hard to build up? How do you win the digital versus print argument?

—Anonymous

Previous Dilemma

SWOT Category: External Opportunity

How do you develop a coherent Web marketing strategy?

As President of a hospitality company, I am looking for ways to increase visibility and business online. For example, a small, 22-room, recently renovated historic hotel owned by a nonprofit needs midweek business. Located in a small non-gaming town 25 miles from Las Vegas and minutes from world-class golf, this hotel has the charm of a B&B and offers the privacy and amenities of a boutique hotel. Its new Web site accepts online bookings via a GDS supplier, but there is no coherent online strategy. The sales and marketing budget of $1,500 per month has not been allocated yet.

How do we get more people to the Web site, and once they are there, what ideas can you give me for selling more mid-week bookings? Ultimately, how do we go about developing an effective online marketing strategy?

—Larry Kimball, President, Historic Hospitality, LLC

Summary of Advice Received

Larry, a few themes emerged and overlapped in the helpful advice we received from your peers: research your local customers and prospects; come up with a promotion that will be entice Web visitors to book midweek business; and rely on business-to-business marketing, as well as business to consumer marketing, to advertise this promotion. All of these themes can ultimately support your Web strategy and help shape it to be a more effective means of promoting your hotel.

Within those themes, specific strategies and tactics arose, such as working with other businesses in the area to promote your offering and relying on search engines to drive more traffic to your Web site. We know you will find several valuable ideas you can use.

The SWOT Team's advice includes the following:

1. Build a database of existing customers and prospects.

2. Develop a package promotion.

3. Bring more traffic to your Web site.

1. Build a database of existing customers and prospects

One of the best resources for new business is your existing customer base. Build a database of these customers, get to know them, develop a relationship with them and then rely on referrals for new business. When you turn this database into a business-to-business approach for getting the word out to prospects, you will reach a larger audience.

Ted Silverman, Senior Consultant with Braun Consulting, offers this food for thought when it comes to defining your target audience and building your database of customers and prospects:

Regarding the specific issue of driving weekday visits, I think the big question is which types of customers are likely to come during the week? Are they primarily week-long visitors from out of town who want to stay from Saturday to Saturday? Or are they customers who are not working during the week (e.g., retirees)? Businesses looking for conferences probably aren't a great option for a B&B. Use any info available about existing customers who have stayed during the week. You can try giving a free Monday through Thursday night to certain customers, hoping that they'll actually stay longer, but the key is targeting your offer to prospects/customers who are likely to stay.

Along with reinforcing the database idea, Miki Dzugan, Chief Marketing Guru of Rapport Online Inc., adds ways to get your message out to your target audience:

Hm, mid-week business sounds like business meetings, retreats and that sort of thing. My approach would be a B2B push. Unfortunately, the economy is not the best for business travel, so your best prospects are probably closer to home.

Building an email database of both weekend and midweek clients seems like a no-brainer in your case. Consider online tactics, starting with the lowest cost per lead. The best place to start is with your current clients. I assume they are vacationers if your weekends tend to be filled. These folks probably have jobs and know others to whom your facility could be referred. Spend some time brainstorming about how that might be accomplished.

At a higher cost per lead is search engine ranking. There are several related tactics for achieving good visibility in search engine results. You can achieve excellent results with business-to-business marketing through search engines. The caveat on search engines is that they do not as yet do the best job in geographic targeting, so whether you decide to primarily target your geographic area or not will affect the time and money you will want to allocate to search engine ranking.

Also consider free links negotiation, opt-in email, paid per click placement, affiliate/partnering programs, email/newsletter sponsorship, traditional media support and banner advertising; these tactics may have a higher cost per lead and need to be evaluated with your unique situation. Offline print or radio advertising may be more attractive in your case even if at a higher cost. And don't forget PR. A good PR stunt or story is worth ten times its weight in ad copy. Just ask Krispy Kreme.

2. Develop a package promotion

One way to target the midweek crowd (entice existing customers to spend more or new customers to take advantage of a special deal) is by creating a specific offer, which will encourage the type of sales that you desire. This offer may be targeted toward your existing client base but will also encourage a slightly different part of the population to take advantage of your products or services.

Gina Valentino, Business Development Manager for Trailmate Inc., gives these creative suggestions:

Try targeting those customers that would use midweek accommodations; by that I mean business travelers and retirees. Put together a package that combines your community amenities and your midweek rates, like a golf and accommodation package specifically for this audience.

Then partner with other businesses to market this package. Find out who comes to your town, who has contracts with other hotels, like sales reps, traveling managers, auditors, etc. Offer them an alternative to traditional, sterile accommodations. Then market your offering. Make sure you are visible in the major shopping portals and make sure your bed and breakfast is visible and linkable from all accommodation booking type Web sites. Using one goods supplier may not be enough, ask for their business plan and make sure you are part of it.

3. Bring more traffic to your Web site

Once you know who your target audience is, and you've designed an appropriate offer, the next step is to drive traffic to your Web site. You can do this in several ways.

Ted Silverman, Senior Consultant with Braun Consulting, shares several tips on making your Web site more visible, as well as adding advice on converting prospects into paying customers and asking for incremental business (whether it's the package you designed, or just an add-on to a plain and simple offering):

First of all, your Web marketing strategy should be consistent with your overall marketing strategy. Coordinate your on- and off-line marketing messages, offers, etc. Second, you should think about your general Web marketing strategy separately from your objective to drive weekday bookings. You Web strategy should fall into three buckets:

  1. Drive prospective customers to your site. I'd suggest you evaluate the major options (Web advertising, search engine optimization, pay-per-click search result programs, affiliate, email lists, etc.) to determine which are right for you, both short- and long-term. With such a small budget, you may be forced to test one or more programs on a limited basis, until you can prove each program's profitability. I'd guess that buying pay-per-click placement on some of the major search sites would work best for your situation, but you need to research the prevalence of search terms that are most relevant for the B&B (e.g. “Las Vegas B&B,” for example. SEO (search engine optimization) can be done internally without paying external marketing fees, so it's an area you should definitely investigate. You also may want to consider any online directories or “yellow pages”-type sites that specifically focus on historic B&Bs.

  2. Convert prospects to paying customers. This step is all about your site and how you market the B&B on the site. Encourage prospects to bookmark the site—maybe even give them a link to click that does this automatically. Consider creating customized landing pages, based on the source of the prospect (i.e., did they come from Yahoo? A B&B directory site?). Also think about an email list that prospects can sign up for to get info about availability, special offers, etc. If your list stays small, you can probably manage it via ListServ or other basically “free” email software—though the email marketing arena could become a cost issue for you over time.

  3. Communicate to drive incremental business. When customers book a room online, ask them to opt in to an occasional email from you. Do the same if they call on the phone. You can send them a confirmation via email as well, which makes customers more willing to share their email address. When customers check in at the B&B, ask for their email address as well. Then, use email to remind customers about your B&B. Also, think about a referral program, where customers (or even prospects) can get a free night if they refer a customer who books three nights or more, etc. If costs aren't prohibitive, consider emailing customers after their stay to solicit feedback.

Nice Strategy, SWOT Team—Thanks Again!

We did our best to provide a thorough overview of your responses to this timely topic. All of the advice we received was insightful. Thanks for your participation. We appreciate it!

Continue reading "SWOT Team Debates Digital Versus Print" ... Read the full article

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.

Tamara is a writer at InternetVIZ and is available for freelance work.