Printing press

Should Ski Resorts be Publishers?

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I found a recent article in AdAge by Ben Elowitz titled, “Brands Should Stop Trying to be Publishers” an interesting concept that could readily apply to most ski resorts. Many ski resorts barely have enough staff to get through their daily work of creating ads/collateral, put on events, host media and create a few videos and post photos of fresh powder and other exciting events. To try to create a consistent stream of blog posts and extra content on some semblance of an editorial calendar will and probably does break the back of a department (or individual) that is already stretched thin.

Printing press

There are examples around of ski resorts creating successful content publishing sections, but these blogs, photo and video series do take a lot of commitment, cash and resources to support them and only the larger and more well-financed resorts can even think about going do this path.

What’s the solution? According to Elowitz it’s to look to curate the content that’s already being created about your brand (resort). Perhaps this is a good idea for the one person marketing teams around, but I would argue that it’s more about blending content created by your resort along with the content that your customers are creating as well…not a new concept (UGM), but one that will certainly allow a resort to “use a chorus to back up your own voice” and assure that everyone is reading from the same page. Save your money, buy a smaller “press” and spend a bit of that time that you otherwise spend on content creation instead on content curation.

Photo courtesy Flickr user oldandsolo
Countdown clock

The Countdown

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Countdown clockAs I type this the clock is ticking down the weeks, days and minutes until the lifts start to spin for the 2013-14 winter season. For ski resorts, like many seasonal businesses, the five months of the winter season make up the majority of their revenues for the entire season so it’s crucial to do the best job possible getting as many people as possible onto the slopes.

For most resorts, ski season begins sometime between mid and late November and runs through mid-April. This doesn’t sound too crazy until you step back and note that the busiest, and most lucrative, time of the winter comes within a month of the season starting – the Christmas/New Years week. This doesn’t sound like too big of a deal, but many resorts will gradually open terrain, lifts and revenue centers like restaurants and shops in the weeks between their opening and the busy holiday week (due to conditions and business levels). This means that they are just getting into full operating mode just as they enter their peak time frame.

So once the opening day countdown reaches zero, in many ways it’s just then starting the countdown to the holiday time, and while a resort can afford to push back its opening day due to conditions, it certainly can’t afford to push back on its holiday business.

Photo credit: Flickr user amagill

 

Impossible CAPTCHA

Tired of CAPTCHA? I Thought So, Me Too.

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Because I’ve seen the carnage that can result by not CAPTCHA (if you have no idea what this actually mean – well here you go) protecting forms on websites. Here’s a classic I just pulled up:

Impossible CAPTCHA

 

Do you know what these words are? I sure don’t.

In fact, even though I’ve had what I consider good protection on this site, using a variety of tools like Askimet and CloudFlare, I still have 49,793 spam comments that Askimet alone has “protected” this site from. Boy, that’s a ton of spam as well as some wasted time on my part to clean all of that crap out. This makes it tempting to use CAPTCHA to protect my comment form, but I do hate putting up any barriers to people who do want to leave a comment on my blog without having to login via social login.

What are our options aside from CAPTCHA? Not a lot, there are some simple forms with math problems and such, but I like this “Are You a Human” option which, aside from the fact that it’s supported by advertising in the free version, is actually quite clever in that it asks the user to play a quick game to show that they’re not a bot. Think that sounds interesting? Try playing with it below:

Crickets

Crickets

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I have a confession to make, there are a bunch of crickets in this blog. It’s definitely my fault, but work, family, friends, vacation and riding my bike in the beautiful mountains around Park City have really made it tough for me to spend much quality writing time on this blog.

Crickets

Stay tuned, it will come, but in the meantime, please mind the crickets!

Photo credit: Flickr user Kristine Paulus
Travel Infographic

Travel Shifting Across the Screens

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I’ve found a lot of great research that’s been published in the past few months (I’ll be posting my favorites in the coming weeks), and one of my favorites is this piece from thinktravel with Google. I am fascinated by the multi-screen usage by day part chart (if you haven’t made serious effort to ensure your web presence accommodates various screens besides desktop, just stop reading now). In addition the major increase in mobile usage by leisure travellers certainly should be of interest to resort marketers as well. One of the big question this presents is just how fast the adoption for booking on mobile will be and also how the 60-70% of mobile (OTA) bookings being same day certainly shows the potential for ski resorts to sell via mobile as well.

Enjoy!

Travel InfographicGraphic from: thinktravel with Google

 

130505-back

Back in the Game

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It’s time to get the ball rolling again with The Resort Marketing Blog.

It was another super busy winter and with my work responsibilities, family responsibilities and side projects something had to take priority and this side project was not anywhere near the top of the list. But, things have mellowed (a bit) and I am definitely looking to pick this back up.

So, here’s a list of topics that I want to touch on in the near future:

  • What is the current state of digital marketing for resorts.
  • What is the future.
  • What has changed.
  • What has stayed the same.
  • What is going on outside the resort industry that we all must be aware of.
  • What winter resorts can do to grow business.
  • New and unique topics that come across my different feeds.

It was nice to get a little “me time” but it’s time to kick this back up – cheers!

130505-backPhoto credit: Flickr user Crystl

 

Google Trends

Trends

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I’m a data geek and I always like to look at how data can help predict future trends. Google trends is a fairly basic tool to help sort through the big data of Google’s search history and by using the “predict” toggle you can view their prediction for a search term, or set of terms. I chose “Ski Resorts” and you can see the results:

This search is a bit better if you click-through to the Google Trends site, where you can even check a toggle to “Forecast” searches into the future. There’s also a regional map and related searches to help you drill further into the data. I have posted about Google trends and ski related searches and it’s a tool that everyone should take a look at every once in a while if not only to confirm things you already have good data about.

Google Trends

Click for full-size image

Multiple screens – a challenge for any marketer

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I’m writing this post on my laptop while watching a football game on my satellite served TV, with my tablet next to me on the coffee table and my smart phone charging in the kitchen. Once the football game is over I’ll probably grab my tablet to do some reading and when it’s time to head over to a friend’s house for a part, I’ll grab my phone on which I might Instagram a photo of the party, or at least keep in touch if there are any pressing emails.

I’m not at all unique in my constant switching from one media device to another. There is a wonderful report from Google about some of the marketing impacts of this, and the highlights are covered in this great infographic from Google/Ipsos/Sterling:

Click for full-size image

What are the implications for ski resort marketers? To me, there are many, ranging from how skiers and riders plan their trips, to how they use media while they are at the mountain to how they share their experiences once they’re done…and these things all flow from one screen to another to another. I’m not going to line out how I see this happening here, but I think it goes without saying that if your web presence isn’t optimized for all of these screens, you’re in trouble, and if your campaigns aren’t moving across all screens (uh, can we say Flash ads), then you’re probably not set well either…it’s a fast changing world out there and this is certainly a trend that resort marketers must pay close attention to – note the 43% of people planning trips cross over devices.

Are there any ski resorts out there doing a particularly good job of this?

Back at it – Instagram Filters

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It’s the only excuse I have for slacking off on my posting to the Resort Marketing blog – it’s been crazy busy! With a slew of deadlines at work, a 5 1/2 year-old in kindergarten, dance, enrichment and soon to be ski school and getting the house, and me, ready for winter, this blog has unfortunately slipped down in my priority list. But, I’m digging out and am back – at least for a bit!

One of the items that has recently caught my eye is a great guide to what each of those oddly named filters on Instagram really do. My go-to filters seem to usually be Lo-fi (or Hefe – a toned down version of Lo-fi) yep, I do like saturation:

I also agree with the filter article that Hudson is great for outdoor images (yes ski season is fast approaching):

But sometimes (all the time if you ask some people), a filter isn’t really needed at all:

Stay tuned for a run down of the best Instagram filters to use on the slopes in a few short months!

Ski Resort Standards All Wet?

Standards for Ski Resorts

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Ski Resort Standards All Wet?There hasn’t been a really geeky post on the Resort Marketing Blog for a while, so here we go. I imagine that most people will not have ever noticed that there is a lack of ski industry standards in terms of lift/run status, resort events, news and in particular snow reporting. For each of these items, each ski resort seems to have its own way to offer this information.

There is a recently formed group called Mtn.Xml which was founded by a few resorts, interactive web companies, and one of the two main snow report aggregation companies that intends to offer “The universal standard for ski reporting data.” This mission statement cuts to the heart of what the real issue is – each resort has its own priorities and own way of checking off those priorities. To attempt to enact standards that are flexible enough for each resort to do this is in reality like trying to herd cats – it simply is not efficient nor effective. That said, I believe this effort can work for many resorts and it will make it easier to develop apps and other web services for those resorts.

But, will it work for others?

No. So,I know that the lift statuses the resort I work for are different from the lift statuses from other resorts, even when we use similar terminology it still isn’t the same, what is “scheduled” or “on hold” for us, might be “expected” and “delayed” for another. These are sometimes marketing related, but often driven by operational needs that are specific to that resort. This fragmentation continues with run status reporting, because some resorts report snowmaking, some report when a run was groomed and some even groom during the day – how can this be made consistently reportable? Finally, with snow reporting, it seems that the needs of resorts vary the most. Some report daily, some only when it snows and some seem to report with every inch that comes down. Snow reporting has definitely become more accurate with the advent of social media and the ability for anyone to Facebook or Tweet an image and report of actual conditions, but resort do have very different requirements and therefore report in different ways. Whether that be time of report, frequency of report, or even reporting from a variety of locations, the possibilities are quite varied.

But, I would love to see simplification of the reports that are now filed with SnowCountry, OnTheSnow (has some nice XML documentation of their own) and potentially with other local organizations (in Utah we manually report to SkiUtah each morning). This duplication of labors could certainly be made easier and more accurate through MTN.XML, but will enough resorts and syndicators sign on to make it worthwhile – that remains to be seen and in an industry as regionalized and fragmented as the ski resort business is, I don’t know that this can or will happen, and if anything it may need to be an outside force, such as an Apple, Google or Amazon that comes in and redefines how the travel space communicates in general – iTravel anyone?

Photo credit: Flickr user Kalexanderson
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