To My Home, With Love: OHTO Launches Love Letter Campaign: July 2020

It’s been a long, hard spring, but now that the province has eased COVID-19 restrictions, we are looking forward to once again encouraging people to travel local and visit our shops, patios, and outdoor spaces. Now more than ever we need our local tourism community to come together and support one another and rediscover all the great experiences available right outside their doorstep.

Here at Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO), we are excited to launch a new hyper-local summer marketing campaign designed to instill local pride and give thanks to our communities, countryside, and hard-working tourism businesses that are always here for us. Our new campaign is aptly called a “Love Letter” campaign because we really want locals to show their love for their communities this summer!

This new project was developed alongside our six counties (Ottawa Valley, Lanark County, Frontenac County, Lennox & Addington, Hastings County and Haliburton Highlands) and is our way of saying thank you to everything our regions have given us over the past months and will continue to provide while COVID-19 looms in our lives.

Most importantly, we really want our tourism operators to be part of this campaign. You are all the backbone for our communities and deserve a little love.

What is the Love Letter Campaign?

There’s a lot to love in Ontario’s Highlands, and we want to showcase it all. COVID-19 has been a reminder of all the wonderful outdoor spaces and people we have in our communities, and how lucky we are to live in a region of wild rivers, vast forests, fantastic views, and friendly folks.

The Love Letter campaign is our way of expressing our gratitude for the people and landscapes that make our corner of the province unique.

A series of regional Love Letter videos driving traffic to content pieces on ComeWander.ca and highlighting a glimpse of what there is to be thankful for in our communities, will be launched through a digital marketing campaign targeting each of our six regions. The series of videos were created by local filmmakers Nomo Films, and will be distributed this summer along with regional sponsored content distributed through Post Media, as well as on our social media platforms to a local audience. The campaign will be accompanied by digital ads.

This is a hyper-local campaign, specifically targeting the people and communities in each region, or a local drive market, to staycation and experience everything their community has to offer.

How Can I be Part of It?

We’re so glad you asked! You can help us to share the word about this campaign and foster local pride in your own community at the same time.

Visit ComeWander.ca to read your community’s story and watch the video and then share through your own social media platforms. Feel free to highlight the areas in your community not mentioned in the story and share what you love so much about your region and the people there.

All summer and fall, the campaign along with a contest will encourage Ontarians to snap a shot and share a memory of their favourite area of Ontario’s Highlands on Instagram, using one of the county-specific hashtags:

#OVLoveLetter
#LanarkLoveLetter
#FrontenacLoveLetter
#LandALoveLetter
#HastingsLoveLetter
#HaliburtonLoveLetter

Those who share the love with any of the hashtags will have a chance to win a GoPro HERO8 camera or one of six local prize packs which include gift cards to neighbourhood restaurants, galleries, or shops, artisan treats, and branded swag to represent their home.

You can find all the details here.

Read your community story here and remember what’s so amazing about your own community. Remember, we’re all in this together!

With Love, to the Ottawa Valley 

With Love, to Lanark County 

With Love, to Frontenac County 

With Love, to Lennox & Addington 

With Love, to Hastings County 

With Love, to Haliburton Highlands 

Happy Wandering!

Julie Mulligan
OHTO’s Marketing Manager

Communicating Health and Safety Protocols to Your Customers: June 2020

During these unfamiliar times of COVID-19, vigilant consumers are seeking out businesses who go the extra mile to ensure the safety of their customers and staff. Since some of the steps such as increased cleaning, taken to ensure safety is behind the scenes, it’s important to communicate to your customers what steps you are taking in a variety of ways.

Help foster peace of mind by publicly sharing both the steps you are taking, and those you ask your visitors to take. This includes additional cleaning and sterilization you are undertaking, like disinfecting tables and chairs between use. It can also include reductions in capacity or restrictions on the amount of people allowed into a store at one time. If you require or encourage the use of masks or hand sanitizer upon arrival, let your customers know ahead of time and their visit will become that much smoother.

As Ontario makes its way into phase 2 of re-opening on a regionalized approach, it is becoming increasingly evident that the travel market will be entirely localized. Staying local, whether that be in your own town or neighbouring areas, will be promoted by the provincial government  in the upcoming months to help restart the heavily hit tourism sector. When people look to Ontario’s Highlands for a getaway, let’s do what we can to reassure them that their health and comfort is top of mind. In an increasingly competitive market, this is a good way to stand out from the crowd and show how important your customers are to you.

Share your safety protocols with your customers through these easy steps.

Post on Social Media

There is a lot of buzz on social media lately surrounding the move into phase 2. Some Ontarians are already counting down the minutes until they can sip a drink on a patio, visit a museum, or take a mini getaway to de-stress. Whether these customers are local or travelling from another part of the province, a great way to reassure them is by posting your safety protocols on social media.

An excellent example from a retail business in the region comes from Carousel, a children’s store in Carleton Place. Ahead of re-opening, they posted a list of their protocol, like hand sanitizer use, Plexiglas installation, and a maximum occupancy, and pinned that post to the top of their Facebook page. Even as they continue to post, this pinned post will be the first thing their customers will see upon visiting their page.

Other prime examples we’ve come across include patio re-opening guides from Michael’s Table  in Perth and Heather Lodge in Haliburton.

Update Your Website

When a potential customer is researching where to visit, they’re very likely to visit your website. Share an update on your website that can easily be found, either right on the home page or on a new COVID-19 page which you can link to in your menu. Whichever way you choose just make sure it’s easy to find!

Haliburton Sculpture Forest has re-opened with new safety protocols designed to keep their visitors safe. Not only did they communicate this on their social media, they also included a website update clearly displayed on their home page.

The experience at overnight accommodations will be entirely different than it was before. How will your customer check-in? Are common areas like restaurants and beaches open? Will there be regular housekeeping? What kind of cleaning between customers will be in place? Perhaps this list is a bit long for social media, so your website is the perfect place to display it. Grail Springs in Bancroft show their new travel protocol ahead of their re-opening this July via a pop-up on their home page.

In-Person Updates

Not everyone who walks through your door has seen your website or social pages, especially in the retail or restaurant industries. It’s a good idea to post a concise list of protocol in your business, particularly those that your customers are expected to follow, like using hand sanitizer and following directional arrows. Post a simple print-out on your front door so visitors can quickly review it before entering. Accommodators may find value in a printed version on display at the front desk, which customers can read while checking in. We’ve seen this checklist which was created by the local health unit. You can create your own simplified version in Microsoft Word with your logo and it will do the trick!

For maximum coverage we recommend you take all of the above steps to informing your customers about the steps you’re taking to make their experience both pleasant and safe.

Happy Wandering,

Sara Dunbrook
Digital Communications Specialist

Pivot, Pivot, Pivot. Shifting to an Online World: April 2020

It’s been a crazy month and a half – so busy it may feel like you haven’t had a chance to sit down and take a breath. The world as we know it has evolved into a place where most of us are at home and adapting to an increasingly online world. For many business owners, this adaptation has become a matter of standing apart and continuing to meet the news of the consumer.

The transition to an online platform may be easy for some, but the truth is we can all amp up our digital game to better position ourselves in a virtual world. And if you are thinking to just hunker down and wait for the world to return to normal, don’t. First of all, no one knows how long this will continue, so it’s better to hedge your best. Second of all, digital sales are booming, so why not get your share?

In fact, there is a big incentive to consider making the pivot to online sales – according to this report, across all five sectors in Canada (furniture and home décor, food and restaurants, clothing, sporting goods, household appliances, electronics, building materials) there has been significant digital revenue growth between March 11-29 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

If you’re not sure how to make the transition to the online world, voices of the experts out there are plenty: Shopify’s list of Short Term Revenue Strategies for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers has tons of ideas for how to work around COVID19 restrictions. Even Facebook has gotten into the mix, with their plan for Helping Businesses Create an Online Presence During COVID-19.

The truth is, your customers are still out there, and they are looking for you, but the question is: Will they find you? Read on for five ways to make sure your business stays front of mind during COVID19.

  1. Update your Google profile

COVID19 or no, Google is still working to promote your business, but they can only do so much without your input. The folks at Google are like little elves, working away in the workshop while you’re sleeping. They want you to wake up to six pairs of brand new shoes, but they need your help. When was the last time you updated your Google profile? Added a photo? Take the time to make sure a Google search brings up your business   – if your customers don’t know you’re there, they can’t find you. Google also conveniently tracks how many people have viewed your profile, clicked on it, and found you online, so you can see direct gains from your efforts.

  1. Showcase Your Business, Virtually

Remember all those tools that Facebook and Instagram have been promoting for the past several years? Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, panoramic 360 degree views? This is when you need to experiment with these tools to support your business. There are so many ways you can use video and imagery to keep your business front of mind and keep your customers engaged. All that’s required is creativity and for you to check your inhibitions at the door. Some ideas are to try doing a Facebook Live video demonstration, or do a 360 degree panoramic shot of the interior of your business, giving your customers get a peek inside. No, there are no direct sales involved in this, but anything that keeps your business in someone’s mind can mean you’re that much closer to a future sale.

  1. Start Selling Online

This is probably one of the hardest hurdles to surmount for many businesses. Thankfully, this is Canada, so we’re all here to help each other out. In fact, the Canadian online shopping mogul, Shopify, has you covered. They’ve offered a three-month free trial  for you to get started with online sales. If you’re intimidated with the Shopify platform, don’t be. It’s easy to navigate and use, and the friendly folks over at Shopify are also happy to help you out.

  1. Keep Your Chin Up

This isn’t going to happen overnight. Pivoting is a hard word, and even harder to put into practice. The important thing is DON’T GIVE UP. Your customers, and your business, are depending on you to keep plugging away, even if you feel like you may not be making any progress.

Happy wandering!

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

 

OHTO’s Next Steps for Marketing: April 2020

To say times are tough is an understatement, but we are confident the strength of our communities and our people will allow us to persevere together during these difficult times. Soon enough, we will be inviting visitors to once again Come Wander Ontario’s Highlands and discover the stories, people, and hidden gems that make this region great.

In the meantime, our marketing activities will shift towards developing content our audiences can look to for hope and inspiration while reminding them of the experiences they can look forward to once this crisis is over. Our messaging will be delivered through our social channels and website rather than advertising campaigns for the near term to give us an opportunity to experiment with our tone and timing.

With this, we intend to:

  1. Bring the destination experience into people’s homes, showcasing our beautiful natural environment and highlighting what people have to look forward to;
  2. Engage our audience in the experiences of Ontario’s Highlands through virtual tours and ‘how-to’ tutorials.
  3. Connect our audiences with the spirit our communities through stories of people helping people.

How can you Participate?

Think about ways you can highlight your business through a virtual experience, and share it with us! And what exactly is a ‘virtual experience’? Here is a list to help spark your ideas:

  • A short video or virtual tour of your business that ignites the viewer’s senses. For example, boiling maple syrup, taking a walk on a nature trail around your property, paddling down a river, or a behind-the-scenes video of your property, kitchen, etc.
  • There is a surge in interest for online learning and now is the time to share your knowledge through video. Think about the things your visitors were interested in when they interacted with you. Here are some popular examples:
      • Restaurant sector – How to put together the perfect charcuterie board, how to make popular desserts or meals
      • Accommodators – Interesting stories about your community
      • Artists – online art classes
      • Musicians – live performances in your home
  • Look out for those ‘People Helping People’ stories in your community and share them with us. We want to highlight the strength of our communities.

We will be distributing your content in a variety of ways:

  1. Share with the visitor on our social platforms
  2. Share with our tourism partners, such as Destination Ontario and county partners, to distribute through their marketing channels
  3. Populating on our website to build a broader story of the solidarity and strength of our region.

Examples of Virtual Experiences in Ontario’s Highlands

There are already some amazing example of Ontario’s Highlands entrepreneurs being creative when it comes to finding ways to bring their business into the homes of their customers. In Lanark County, Sivarulrasa Gallery has created an online gallery, while C’est Tout Bakery is sweetening their online ordering by hosting a live cupcake decorating session. Tune in to the Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve Facebook page on April 2 at 3:00 pm for a live wolf feeding. We’re so inspired by these stories of ingenuity at its best!

Virtual Wanderer Series

If you’re stepping up your virtual game, we’d like to help get the word out. Do you have an idea for a live video, or are you planning on posting something pre-recorded? Fill out the Monthly Guiding Question and let us know the details of what you’ve got planned in the next couple weeks and when you’re going to share it with your followers. We’ll consolidate a schedule of what we’re calling the ‘Virtual Wanderer’ series, create a graphic we can all share, and work together to promote everyone’s efforts. Let us know about it here.

If you plan to go the route of posting a pre-recorded video on Facebook, you can also publish it as a premiere, which gives you some of the functions that live videos have. Start by drumming up interest with a post ahead of time – which we will also help with – including the time and date you will premiere your video. When your video publishes on the premiere date, your audience will be able to watch and engage with it in real-time. If you’d like, you can be available to answer questions in the comments. After the premiere, your video will still be available for viewing as a regular video post.

Are you confident in your internet connection but need help navigating Facebook Live? Have a look here at this step-by-step guide, as well as this one that has some great tips on making it a success. Does your video need some editing to combine clips? Try out these tutorials for built-in video editors on Windows and Mac, or check out a list of apps you can use on your phone.

More Ways to Keep in Touch

Even if you aren’t able to do a video, there are other ways to stay in touch!

  1. Fill out the Monthly Guiding Question. You may notice that the theme of the questions have changed, but these remain a valuable tool for the OHTO team to gather information.
  2. Tag us in your social media posts with @onhighlands and #ComeWander. This allows us to see any stories that are happening around the region.
  3. Send us an email! Good ol’ email still remains a great way to get in touch with us! Here is a link to the team’s contact information.
  4. Give us a call at 1-855-629-6486 ext 202

A Message from Nicole Whiting

The pace of change we have experienced in our daily lives over the past two weeks and the impact those changes will have on our future is staggering. Our hearts especially go out to those who have been directly affected by COVID-19 and all of the amazing front line health care professionals who are risking their lives on a daily basis to care for those in need.

This crisis is unprecedented. The playbook is being written and revised in real-time against an elusive moving target. Our desire for predictability to chart a path forward is challenged as the time frame for our new reality seems to extend on a daily basis. The hardship facing so many cannot be underestimated and our tourism sector, along with the communities in our region who rely on the visitor economy, are going to face extremely difficult times ahead.

However, in these uncertain times, we can take great comfort in the certainty that together, we will rise to the occasion. All levels of government are taking swift and unified action to mitigate the impact of this crisis and technology is facilitating essential social connections allowing families, friends and co-workers to share experiences of both fear and hope. By now, everyone has a story of someone they know who has used creativity and compassion to help others in need in their community.

Collaboration has always been the ethos of our organization and we are humbled by the level of engagement from our six County partners who have made themselves available to contribute their insights and ideas. As one of the largest regions in the province, their connections to operators at the local level are important linkages to the realities on the ground.

Our immediate concern going forward is two-fold:

1. To ensure our tourism community is linked in with the resources and information that will support their ability to make informed immediate, mid- and long-term planning decisions.

How?

  • We update the industry page of our website on a regular basis to capture all of the latest local, provincial, and federal support measures available to businesses.
  • We send out a weekly round up of news and resources through email.
  • We post time sensitive updates on our Twitter account @ohtoinsider
  • Our team is available to field questions and direct inquires to appropriate resources.

2. To work with our tourism community to shift storytelling with our audiences towards more useful and sensitive content during this time of crisis. We are a region that can provide messages of hope and anticipation for welcoming them back when the time comes.

How?

Our audiences are hungry for good news and inspiring content. We will be developing opportunities for our operators to engage with them as well as exploring innovative and respectful ways to generate sales. Stay connected to our communication channels to learn more!

We are honoured to be working with our incredible tourism community to get through these difficult times together. The sheer grit and determination that underpins the character of our communities will no doubt position us well to overcome this incredible public health and financial crisis, and we can look forward to welcoming guests back to our unforgettable region in the future.

Stay healthy, stay determined and stay connected.

Yours in tourism,

Nicole Whiting
Executive Director
Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization

Maximizing Destination Ontario: March 2020

If you feel like you’re a long lifeboat bobbing along on the ocean of the tourism world, trying to keep afloat in a turbulent sea, you should know you don’t need to go it alone. There are tourism organizations floating nearby, ready to help support you and your business, and those organizations include Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) and (drum roll, please…) Destination Ontario.

You may think that Destination Ontario is too BIG for your business, too focused on the big experiences in Ontario, like the CN Tower or Niagara Falls, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These days, it’s the authentic hard-to-find spots that the average visitor is looking for, like the cozy café tucked away in a cute small town, the out of the way hiking trail with the epic view, or the rural retreat that offers that special something you just can’t find in an urban environment.

Yes, Destination Ontario works with the big guys, but when it comes right down to it, they are here for you. In fact, according to their website, Destination Ontario was created specifically to partner with Ontario tourism operators to showcase the province as a four-season must-see travel destination.

The key part of that sentence is “created to partner with Ontario tourism operators” – that’s you!

Working with operators is the biggest part of the Destination Ontario mandate, without you they don’t have anything to promote. The question is – are you doing everything you can to maximize their support?

When you work in collaboration with Destination Ontario you can achieve greater return on your investment by accessing their assets, expertise, and partnership opportunities to help you extend your marketing and sales reach, and stretch your marketing dollars. Each year OHTO works closely with Destination Ontario to promote the region; please let us know how we can assist with ensuring you are maximizing their support.

Whether it’s through free business listings or paid marketing campaigns, Destination Ontario is invested in helping you make your tourism business a success. Read on to find out how you can leverage their support.

Tell Them What You’ve Got

Each year, Destination Ontario coordinates extensive marketing campaigns that include digital, print, social media, and more. With such robust marketing, they are constantly looking for content, events, and tourism assets to capitalize through their campaigns.

How do you take advantage of this? Easy: When we at OHTO reach out to you looking for information about your tourism offerings and activities, spend a few minutes to answer our questions and send us what you’ve got. We then pass on that info to Destination Ontario to include in their own content development.

If you are looking to partner on a paid advertising campaign, there are opportunities for that, too. Together, your marketing dollars can go even further! Reach out to the friendly folks at Destination Ontario and start the conversation to explore your options.

Promote Your Business and Experiences

Destination Ontario’s consumer website, ontariotravel.net, is a go-to resource for visitors looking for experiences and destinations in your region. On this site, visitors can browse festivals and events, business listings, and packaged experiences, all right here in Ontario. But did you know that you can take advantage of any of these listings for FREE?

Do you have an experience a visitor might like to know about? Think about creating an experiential package, a one-page advertisement for an experience that has a start and end date. Your package can be featured on the Ontario Travel website, which will drive leads straight to your business. If you need photos to use for your own campaigns, you can access them through their online image database – again, for FREE.

Leverage the Ontario Tourism Brand

Did you know the Ontario Travel Facebook page has more than 320,000 followers, and their Instagram page has 298,000 followers (wow!)? Instead of going it along, partner with an established brand with Destination Ontario.  Use the hashtag #discoveron on your social channels and you never know if one of your posts or photos will get reposted to (much) wider audience. While you’re at it, use the hashtag #ComeWander so we can help you out, too! We’re all in this together, after all.

Get Marketing Advice

Consult with Destination Ontario’s experienced staff to make sure you’re on the right path to success. Ask them how you can leverage their support and how you can work together.

Happy Wandering,

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

 

Shifting Perspective: Getting Ready for the 2020 Tourism Season: February 2020

It may not feel like it, but tourism season 2020 is right around the corner, and headed this way fast. As a tourism business or operator, are you and your staff ready for the fun, excitement (and yes, sometimes chaos) that is coming your way?

Getting ready for the season is about more than just making sure your business is clean and tidy (although that’s important, too). It’s also about making sure you and your staff are prepared to deliver excellent customer service, a goal that becomes more challenging the busier you get. Often, we aren’t aware of the ways in which we may be falling short in reaching this goal.

Why Do We Need Good Customer Service?

It goes without saying that the best referral is one that comes from another customer. The grass roots review site, Tripadvisor, is a good example of exactly how big an impact referrals can have. A negative review can be challenging, while a positive review tells your potential customers that your business is one worth visiting.

But that brings to mind the question: What is good customer service? The answer will differ from business to business, but in essence it means going above and beyond the basics in order to keep the customer happy, and that customer satisfaction remains a top priority for you and your staff. In return, this will create happy and loyal customers who will return again and again, and gladly refer you to their friends and family.

Here are a few ways to make sure you’re ready for tourism season 2020.

A is for Attitude

You may treat your customers like gold, and feel good about the standard of service you provide. You are friendly, fast, efficient, and welcoming to your customer base and they appreciate that. If so, keep up the good work! Often, a friendly attitude and atmosphere comes from the top, and staff pick up on a business owner’s attitude, and perpetuate it.

On the other hand, you can’t always be aware of how staff are treating your customers in your absence. Are your staff knowledgeable about your business? Are they knowledgeable about the region? Are they in the know about initiatives and promotions relating to your business?

If you’re not sure about the answer to any of these questions some staff training may be a good idea before your customers start beating down your door. During the busy season, weekly or bi-weekly staff meetings can go far in making sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to expectations for customer service and delivery, as well as business knowledge.

Take a Closer Look

Take a good look around and try and view your business from an outsider’s perspective. How clean are the facilities? When was the last time you did a deep cleaning that got into all the nooks and crannies?

The slower off season is a good time to do this type of cleaning. This is the time to check those things that may not be obvious to you, but will be to customers, like behind doors, along floorboards, the tops of ceilings fans, windows etc.

Also check to make sure your business is accessible for those with physical challenges. How is the traffic flow through your business? Could someone with a walker easily navigate?

Also take the time to review the signage to your business – will your customers be able to find you easily? Does your signage need a refresh? If they can’t find you, they can’t visit.

The Great Circle of Tourism Life

We’re a community of tourism operators, and when we support one another our region as a whole benefits. When a customer stays at an accommodation they will inevitably need to eat, shop, or take part in other tourism activities. It’s a symbiotic relationship – the great circle of tourism life.

Take the time to engage with your customers, and encourage your staff to do the same. No one knows your region better than you, so why not invite your customers to enjoy your region more fully by pointing out other experiences they may enjoy? Keep brochures from other businesses available to hand out to customers. Remember, a major tourism goal is to encourage our customers to stay longer – that’s a win for everyone.

Happy Wandering!

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Managing Social Feedback: January 2020

Tips to handling negative and the positive feedback on social media and TripAdvisor.

Remember the days when customers would come to you directly with any concerns or complaints? It was a chance to air their grievances and for you to respond face to face to defuse the situation, and find a solution that works.

While this may still happen, the digital world we now live in has Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TripAdvisor, and Yelp (among others), giving consumers ample opportunities to leave reviews, whether they are good or bad, about their experience at a place of business.  And sometimes, these are much more difficult to navigate than a customer standing right in front of you.

When handled properly, feedback left on social channels can be one of the most positive marketing tools in your back pocket.  A positive review and star rating will show future visitors what they can expect.  And when they happen, negative feedback and how it is properly handled, can show current and future visitors how much you value their concerns and the steps you are able to take to mitigate the issue and make all parties involved satisfied with the outcome.

So what do you do when someone posts a negative review or comment about your business, products, or staff? How do you respond in a way that puts your business and how you handle concerns in a positive light, and won’t deter future customers?

Whether you’re dealing with TripAdvisor or social media, managing negative feedback can be tricky, and how you approach the situation could have an impact on your future business. But honestly – this is an opportunity to allow your business to shine!  How you respond to feedback is an opportunity to turn consumers into raving fans.

Here are some key things you can do to effectively manage feedback in the world of social media.

  1. Always respond

Whether the review is positive or negative – always respond. No exceptions. Don’t just expect negative comments to drift away in the wind and go unnoticed. These days people are more apt to read a TripAdvisor, Google or social media reviews than a website, and often closely review comments when researching destinations to visit. When a business doesn’t respond to negative comments, the impression is given that they are not invested in maintaining good customer service.

  1. Be courteous and professional

No matter how bad the review, don’t take this personally. You are a professional providing a product or service and should respond as such. Always maintain that professional demeanor. This alone can often go far in defusing a situation, and plus, anyone reading the interchange later will see that you responded appropriately. If you aren’t sure if you are being appropriately professional, ask a colleague to read your response first.

  1. Be concerned

Don’t dismiss negative comments, but instead look at whether there is any validity to the comment, and express your concern in your response. This is your chance to get information about what you and/or your staff can do better to meet the expectations of your customers. If you tell your customer that you will be taking an action, DO IT. This is not the place for lip service.

  1. Take the conversation offline

On social media, a lengthy conversation can turn on you quickly. You can easily shut down a potentially ugly situation by asking them to message you privately so you can address their concerns. This approach makes sense from the customer’s and your perspectives – your customer may not realize that airing their negativity on social media is the same as standing in your business and yelling at you. Sometimes it makes them look bad more than it impacts you.

  1. Recognize positive feedback

This is one that’s often forgotten about! So often business owners only respond to the negative reviews, and miss the positive and good news stories that mean a lot to other potential customers who read them. Thank your positive reviewers and respond just as professionally and promptly as you would with a negative review. These people are taking it upon themselves to spread the word about how fantastic you are and should be recognized. Word of mouth marketing is one of the powerful tools you can have!

 

Try incorporating some of these sample responses into your repertoire:

Thank you for your feedback…

You are telling your customer that you take all reviews seriously and genuinely appreciate the information gleaned from them.

I’m sorry to hear…

Empathizing with someone who genuinely feels wronged validates their feelings and helps to defuse anger.

I understand that this is what took place…

You have already recognized that you are sorry they are upset, and now you are going to clear up any misunderstandings. Briefly, in as few words as possible, reiterate events and how you understand them, but DON’T make excuses. If there is room for improvement on your end, acknowledge it.

I want to assure you this isn’t…

This is where you stress your business and professional ethics for the customer and any others reading the review.

I will be looking into…

You are telling your customer that you will be taking ACTION. This is critical and often lacking in responses. It’s good for customers to know that you appreciate their feedback, and empathize with them, but they also want to know what you are actually doing to correct the situation.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any other issues or concerns or to discuss further…

You are telling your customer that your response doesn’t end with the public review, you’re there for them to communicate with (yes, they should have done that in person from the beginning, but it is what it is).

Sincerely, [insert name and title]

Make sure you put a name to the response. That indicates you are taking ownership of the issue and gives someone a name to refer to.

Hope this helps!

 

Happy wandering!

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

Getting Started with Google Analytics: December 2019

Remember when print media was king and businesses were relegated to the level of serfdom, throwing money at marketing with no clear indication of who was seeing their ads and what those dollars were actually achieving?

Thankfully those days are a thing of the past and it’s a brave new world in the world of marketing. Today, we can easily track exactly what is happening with our most important marketing tool, our website.

If you’re not using Google Analytics, you need to be. Analytics’ easy to use format gives it a sleek and efficient user experience, and is relatively easy to figure out, even if you aren’t a tech whiz.

Unlike website stats, Analytics offers a deeper look at what is happening on your website beyond simply counting page visits.

Analytics can tell you how many people have visited your site, which pages they visited, and what actions they took. Analytics can help manage SEO campaigns, provide you with a big picture view of how people are interacting with your social channels, and what is working and not working when it comes to your marketing efforts.

Looking for page visits? Look at Behaviour Flow. Wondering how your visitors are reaching your page? Check Acquisitions. Wanting to know where your audience is from? Look to Audience. And if you’re stumped about how to do something on Analytics, chances are good the answer is available online (thank-you, Google). Read on to learn more about why adding Analytics to your marketing should be your Christmas present to yourself (and your business).

  1. It’s free and easy to use

Such a powerful marketing tool must cost a fortune, right? Wrong! Analytics is free to use, and is easy to set up. Even for novices, Analytics can be set up with just a few simple steps  and you can start gleaning data almost immediately.

  1. Tells you where your market is

Analytics can provide detailed reports of where visitors are geographically when they access your site. This can be of use in targeting online advertising campaigns and particularly social media campaigns.

  1. Tracks advertising campaigns

Analytics will tell you exactly how an advertising campaign has performed, by providing stats for website visits from referrers, social media campaigns, email campaigns, and more. You no longer need to throw money away and tell yourself your investment has been worthwhile, now you can know all the dirty details.

  1. Generates reports

You will probably become addicted to the reporting function on Analytics. Your reports can be as complex or as simple as you would like to see, and will help make sure you are on track with your marketing goals (yes, you can report on your goals, too!). Using reports, you can compare time periods to see how your stats differ by seasons or by year, or in response to the launch of advertising campaigns. Basically if there’s something you would like to know about your website, there is a report that will inform you.

  1. Evaluates your content

Wondering what’s happening with your blog posts and if it’s worth the time to write them? With Analytics you can track how visitors reached your post, and what action they took from there. You can also see which posts received the most traffic, which can provide insight into what content your customer base is engaging with the most, so you can create more of that content.

Convinced you need Google Analytics? Eager to get started? Read this article from Google for easy to understand, step by step instructions on setting up Analytics on your website.

 

Happy wandering!

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

If you build it they will come: 5 steps to developing killer content – November 2019

You hear it everywhere.  Content marketing.  It’s a term that’s used a lot these days, particularly in the tourism world, and definitely within our organization. Done right, content marketing can be highly effective, but done wrong, your wheels might be spinning and you don’t know what to do next!

So how do you do make sure you are doing it right? The answer to this question is surprisingly less obvious than you might think. We can all recognize amazing content marketing campaigns, but can sometimes forget to note the elements that make them stand out.

Briefly defined (according to Dictionary.com), content marketing is:

“A type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.”

Read this sentence closely, because the answer to the question above lies in the first few words. Content marketing is the “…creation and sharing of online material…” (emphasis added).

Do you see which comes first? This chicken or the egg question is an element that is easy to miss in the rush to dive into the content marketing world. The first step in amazing content marketing is physically creating compelling content.

This means developing the written words that tug at something in your soul, the photos that make you long for the experience, or the video that takes your breath away.

At OHTO, partnership opportunities exist to help tourism stakeholders to develop killer content, specifically because we understand that the quote “if you build it, they will come” is 100 per cent true. First you need killer content that tells your compelling story. Once that part is in place, everything else naturally follows.

At this year’s OH! Tourism Summit in Pembroke, developing strong partnerships was the focus of the event, but the content marketing theme was nevertheless interwoven through every presentation. There was a lot of discussion about how to partner to extend your reach and elevate awareness of your brand, but beneath it all were the casual mentions of the challenges in creating that content in the first place.

If you’ve been looking for a way to strengthen your content, read on for more information about the challenges of creating content, and how to circumvent them.

  1. Identify your strongest assets and their message

If you just thought “well, duh” when you read the heading above, don’t be surprised if this is harder than you might think. Identifying your assets is about more than just writing down the name of a park or museum, it’s taking the time to sit and find a way to spin those assets in a way that delivers your curated message to the reader. One excellent example of this is the video created by OHTO in partnership with Hastings County that went beyond identifying Eagle’s Nest Lookout as an asset, it identified the message to relay to the visitor, loosely translated as simply: “Find serenity in Hastings County.”

  1. Plan ahead – waaaay ahead

Don’t expect to begin developing content to use in two months from now. Understand that there is often a long lead time between when you create your content and when it actually reaches the consumer, sometimes a year or more will pass while you sit squirming on amazing content you can’t wait to get out into the world, but you are waiting for the right opportunity. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint!

  1. Find good talent and communicate your goals clearly

Finding good talent means taking the time to source photographers, videographers and writers who understand what you are trying to create and have the experience and skills necessary to bring it to fruition. Ensuring that your goals for the project are well communicated will go far in avoiding disappointment later on in the game. Oh, and talent doesn’t refer only to your contractors – believe it or not, models are also considered talent, and they are just as crucial to creating inspiring content as those taking the photos or video.

  1. Coordinate the heck out of it (also known as pray for good weather)

Creating content is a logistical nightmare that can have you waking up in the middle of the night in a sweat, worried you will forget something. You need to coordinate schedules for the models, your contractors, and yourself, along with any businesses or operators who may be included in the content creation. And don’t forget about the weather! Mother Nature can be less than accommodating when you need sun for your shoot, so be prepared for inclement weather conditions.

  1. Don’t underestimate your audience

If you see your photos or video or written content and aren’t blown away by how awesome they are, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t do well in the marketing world. Be brutal in rejecting anything less than your vision. After all, if you aren’t moved by your content, how will your audience be? So if you aren’t sneaking back to your computer to replay your video or flip through your photos, think about why not and how you can improve your content development for next time.

Happy wandering,

 

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager