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Don’t be Afraid to Fail

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“Don’t be afraid to fail” is a common refrain in business. It’s one which is easier to say than to do. This is why it’s so interesting to see how one of the most powerful companies in the world, Google, really does act out this mantra.

As a recent example, here’s a recent Google+ post in which it was announced that Google search results will no longer display authorship results:


Google has used authorship as a ranking factor in their search results dating back to about 2011, but they have been phasing it out over the past year or so. There’s a great read on the history of authorship for search in Search Engine Land if you want to know more about how this project came about and then wound down.

 

To see how many projects have been “retired”, I do hesitate to call them “failures”, see the list of products from Google on Wikipedia and see the “Discontinued Products and Services Section.” It is quite impressive and quite telling in that many of the products have made re-appearances or been incorporated into other successful projects.

A company with the resources and size of a Google can afford to have many of their efforts not fully succeed because they have so many that do succeed and several that wind up being home runs or even moon shots. But, every company should remember that they cannot succeed until they have tried and not being afraid to fail is the first step in this process.

Powder Photo

Dare to be Different

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Powder PhotoThis is something that always gets me in ski resort marketing.

  • The powder shot
  • The happy family
  • The carved turn on a groom groomer
  • The rail slide
  • The big hit in the park
  • The refreshing aprés ski beverage

Do all the ads you see for resorts feature the same looking people doing these things? I thought so. Seth Godin recently wrote a post on this topic about the ads he saw in an issue of Vanity Fair in which out of 108 ads, 84 featured models were all Skinny, Sad and Pale. Sound similar? What to do? Find a new way to market based upon analytics that move the business forward. Each resort has features that sets it apart from others as well as things that drive revenues above and beyond others – find those points and use them to build unique and new marketing pieces.

Photo Credit: Eric Hoffman
Dashlane Dashboard

Passwords, yeah, passwords.

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Passwords are the necessary pain in the backside that we know are very important, but that also cause us all to waste a lot of time trying to remember our passwords, and trying to make sure we change them when prompted, yet keep from wasting large chunks of time when we have to “recover” a password that we forgot. And yes, when passwords are used by someone who shouldn’t have them, it can certain wreck a lot of havoc – yikes!

As someone who is online nearly constantly during my work day, and quite a bit outside the office as well, I have to admit that my personal password management has not been great until the past few months. When the Heartbleed Bug surfaced back in April, I looked at how I managed my personal passwords and realized that I was following all the traps that I should have avoided:

  • Using the same password on multiple sites
  • Not using strong passwords on some sites
  • Having some passwords on note applications or other non-secured placements
  • I have used 2-step verification on the sites which provided it and continue to do so wherever possible

I quickly realized that I needed to buck up and get a password manager above and beyond those basic ones built into Chrome and Safari. I did a good amount of research and decided for my cross-OS needs (Mac/Android) that I would try Dashlane. It isn’t perfect, but it generates strong passwords, has a great dashboard to show me where I need to improve my passwords and has helpful plugins for Chrome and Safari browsers (the 2 that I most typically use, there is a Firefox extension as well). Now that I’m several months into using a password manager, I have a great way to make sure my wife can get access to critical passwords as well as peace of mind that my very important internet logins are a lot safer than they used to be – even though, as you can see in the screen shot, I still have a number of passwords to change out as I had used the same password on a number of site, and I still have to make several passwords a bit more secure, but I don’t have any compromised passwords and I have the somewhat comforting words of “Kind of Safe” for my

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Drones and Ski Resorts

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Drones, particularly those that can film video or still photos, present a huge opportunity for ski resorts. With that opportunity come many challenges as well.

It wasn’t many years ago that the only way to get quality aerial images and video was to head up in a plane (tough to get video and not easy for photos either) or a helicopter (better for photos, but need a special mount to get usable video). We even tried a small tethered blimp which could lift a decent digital camera, but it didn’t work out for usable images.

Fast forward a few years and technology has advanced tremendously and a drone that can lift a GoPro (another impressive technological improvement), which can shoot HD video at impressive quality levels, is within the price range of most resorts and people that patronize the resorts. We are now seeing more and more amazing videos and photos of ski resorts that we never have seen before which has made for some great resort and user-generated content.

The part that gives me pause, is that these drones, while they work well, are not infallible, and many people seem to think that because they have flown their drone a few times in a field, or neighborhood park, that they are now ok to fly their drones wherever they choose, over crowds of people, operating machinery (like chair lifts) and roads with moving traffic and the like. This might not sound too bad, but there have already been multiple incidents of drones crashing in relatively controlled circumstances, take a look at this couple on their wedding day:

And when you go to watch a “Great Bull Run”, you would think you might be more concerned with bulls than with a drone:

And for those who choose to fly more powerful models, there can be even more severe consequences, read this article about a New York man who was flying a larger RC helicopter and was killed when it crashed into him, “and the top of his head was sliced off.”

If that hasn’t scared you off, be sure to practice (a lot) with your drone before taking it anywhere near a ski resort, fly where people aren’t and then, follow the directions of the map below to be sure you are flying your drone somewhere that isn’t prohibited:

Featured Image Courtesy of Flickr user Don McCullough
POV Helmet Cam

A Solution to Impossible to Watch POV Video?

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POV Helmet CamI’m not a big fan of point of view (POV) video, as I find almost all POV videos next to impossible to watch more than a few seconds. POV videos have a lot of sudden pans and tilts and are often very bumpy as they follow the head movements of the shooter, or the handlebar or pole that the cam is mounted on and no matter how smooth a shooter tries to be, things inevitably get bumpy.

There’s a new algorithm being worked on that should help solve these issues. Check out First-Person Hyperlapse and let me know if that doesn’t look like a very elegant solution to the problem I described above?

Bravo Microsoft, now please work on a version for those of us not using Windows, thanks!

Photo credit: Flickr user Stephan Ridgway

And we’re off!

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Snowmaking and final slope prep

Almost ready…

Ski resorts have been starting their lifts and opening their doors for the 2013-14 winter season and this past weekend, it was time to crank things up here in Park City. It was just a few lifts and a few runs, but it was great to stretch out the ski legs a bit, to take a few runs and to see everyone out and having a great time.

More than anything, opening day is the culmination of many months of planning and effort by many different groups at each resort. From the ops teams who make the resorts function to the sales/marketing teams that got people to show up for the start of the season. As part of a marketing team, I really enjoy watching people on the first few days of the season to see if they’re enjoying their first turns as much as I am and to double-check who they are. I know that the majority of visitors the first few weeks are locals/passholders, but there seem to be more and more vacationers who come out the first weeks of the season. To me, the destination visitors are the ones to concentrate on, to see if they’re from the geographic areas that we’ve messaged and to see what messages are resonating with them.

These first bits of informal feedback usually serve to remind me that ski resorts are not just for the hard-core skiers and riders, in fact it’s the opposite, they’re really for all of us who enjoy getting outside on a cold winter day and spending time with friends, family or simply on their own sliding down a mountain covered in snow…and I for one, am very thankful that we’ve only just begun the 2013-14 winter season.

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New Tools

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It’s amazing how many interesting and fun ideas there are available to experiment with on the web these days. Whether it’s an upcoming social network like Snapchat or new ways to interact with our mobile devices like Google Glass or Samsung Galaxy Gear (ok this one isn’t so exciting, at least to me, but it’s a start).

In the travel world, there have been lots of efforts to create something new and unique and while it’s not  groundbreaking, the new Google Tour Builder tool is easy to use and has lots of opportunity for those willing to experiment and spend a bit of time with it. Check out a tour that I put together in just a half an hour or so this past weekend. It should only take a minute or two to experience and I would love to know your thoughts about the tour as well as about other potential uses for this software, please let me know if the comments on this post.

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Yearly web traffic trends for five major websites

Ski Resort Website Traffic – Can the Peaks and Valleys be Smoothed Out?

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I’ve had this post, “leveling seasonal web traffic with content and SEO” marked in my Evernote blog post ideas swipe file, since it was published back in April of 2010 (seems like it was originally on a different blog then, but I digress). I like Mike’s ideas about trying to even out seasonal traffic to ski resort websites, but I do think it’s something that a ski resort can’t place too much emphasis upon as almost all websites see some sort of fluctuation in their traffic over the course of a year.

To show some examples of this, I pulled some traffic number from the site intelligence service Alexa:

NFL.com
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Notice how traffic plummets during the offseason, and then there’s one spike during the draft?

MLB.com

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Not a lot of surprise here either, aside from the fact that there’s no real bump in the offseason for baseball fans, don’t think the baseball draft will ever have the interest of the NFL draft.

Expedia.com

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This traffic graph shows a bit more complicated picture, but one can still make out a clear drop in traffic during the 2nd half of 2012 bumping up in the first part of 2013 and then looking up through the summer travel season.

Sixflags.com
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This example is probably closest to most ski resorts web traffic (although in opposite seasons) in that Six Flags does the majority of its business in the summer with some business still ongoing in winter, but only at a few of its properties. Most ski resort max out their traffic in the winter but do have some summer activities that drive traffic, just nowhere to the level of winter.

I think it’s great to try to even out the valleys, but if someone isn’t looking to come out in the offseason, or start planning their trip then, it’s futile to try to lead that horse to water, because they’re not going to drink. Instead, focus on creating content that you can seed and launch to best effect as your web traffic starts to build and search engines are looking for fresh, relevant and popular content.

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Email Marketing – Still as Valuable as Ever

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Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 8.42.19 PMThe Park City Chamber Bureau hosted their annual Fall Tourism Symposium this past week and one of the pieces of advice posited by the keynote speaker is one that I think has a lot of merit. She noted that email isn’t being used by travel companies very well. I subscribe to a lot of emails (mostly from Ski Resorts) and most don’t send consistent emails and many go months without communicating with me which really is a missed opportunity in that a person that has opted-in to an email list is someone who wants to hear from you. So if you haven’t already, pull together a content calendar and start sending your emails on a regular basis, not just when it snows big or you have a flash lodging sale.

It’s not just that people have opted-in for your emails, it’s that they now have constant access to their email inbox via their cell phone and tablets. This is one of several points made in, the article Why Email Is Still More Effective Than Social Media Marketing. I think the Social Media part was added in more to capture attention than anything else, but its main points about the effectiveness of email marketing are very salient.

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Positive Indicators?

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Sojern just released details about travel trends in the 2013 3rd quarter and they look positive for winter mountain destination as we head into the 2013-14 winter travel season.

First off, this was the first quarter all year in which women traveled more than men, which Sojern notes could be due to more family travel, which would bode well for ski resorts as the revenue potential from families is higher than from any other type of traveller.

Secondly, leisure travel continue to look strong, outpacing business travel at a 72 to 28 percent clip, not a lot of business travel to ski resorts.

Third, travelers are booking with greater lead times, 31 percent booked flight more than 30 days in advance versus 24 percent in the second quarter which is also a good sign for destination mountain resorts which look for visitors that stay longer who tend to book with longer lead times.

Finally, in the below infographic, note that “groups” (3 or more people) nearly doubled from quarter 2, again a simple but positive stat.

Download the full report or check out some other interesting tidbits below:

Blogroll image photo credit: Flickr user jonrawlinson
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