Four get-yourself-thinking tenets of marketing from travel pros

If there’s one thing we learned from Hacktoberfest, it’s that you really can’t go wrong with great product & brats.

A few special guests came by to leave their stamp on the creative process, and though the event has come to a close, here’s some of what’s stuck with us:


Jason Holic, VP of Digital Marketing at Experience Kissimmee

Understand your traveler’s intent

Jason got a firsthand look at the early stages of our creative process. A longtime destination marketer, he gave his take on the importance of understanding a traveler’s intent in order to connect with them.

“One of the challenges we have is recognizing what the intent of the visitor is on their customer journey.

Are they just looking for inspiration? Are they committed to the destination? Where do we fall on their journey? Do they already know they’re coming to Central Florida or are they in that in-between stage? Or do they just want to know what else there is to do or where to stay? That’s the challenge: figuring out where they are on that path.

As destination marketers, we really need to figure out their place in that journey and also what their level of intent is in order to serve up the content that is most likely going to resonate with them further down that path until they ultimately convert and visit us.”

 

Zach Stovall, Travel photographer, videographer & writer at Zach Stovall Photography

Tell a better brand story

Zach brought his 15+ years of experience in visual storytelling to the mix. On top of being unofficially awarded “Most Authentic Lederhosen,” he shared examples of compelling imagery that helps properties tell a better story.

“[Hotels] need to keep their own stories in mind so they can connect with the appropriate guest for them.

A good story is cohesive, has a solid start, weaves through the whole story process, keeps the reader or the viewer engaged, all the way to the end. It’s all about setting the scene and making it dramatic.

I think it’s important that resorts and hotels use that in all of their marketing.

When they use people to support their marketing, then they can speak more to their ideal guest and they can interact with your brand.”

 

Dr. Dan Spellman, Course Director – Digital Marketing & Personal Leadership at Full Sail University

Start with your “Why”

Dr. Dan shared a historical on how hospitality has changed digitally over the last two decades along with some real-world challenges hoteliers face—and tied all of it back to why. (It’s not his first rodeo here at Flip.to.)

“I was inspired by Simon Sinek’s book, “Start With Why.” I focused on this when talking to hoteliers about their business.

Why are you in the hospitality business? What drives you? What is your motivation when you come to work?

We also looked at our personal why. For me, it was digital media. Things are constantly changing and improving from a digital marketing standpoint.

We would discuss this approach with everyone from top level staff to services. We all wanted the same thing: to serve the guest. And the way each and every hotel does that is different.”

 

Christina Leake, Social Media Director at Westgate Resorts

Unveil experiences

Christina and the team chatted all things travel marketing, from guest storytelling to content marketing, and from the big picture down to the day-to-day application.

“When I first arrived, we were very real estate focused, using a lot of room and interior shots that weren’t resonating with the audience. Almost immediately, we decided to flip the switch to marketing around the experiential—what people are doing while they are on property, around the area, and in the city they are visiting.

By doing that, our audiences have grown exponentially. Our click through rate and revenue have increased as well. Being able to highlight the experiences helps us not only sell the place—it helps us sell the story.”

 


Behind really great product is a lot of collaboration, dynamic teamwork, and, of course, a bit of fun.

And this meeting of the minds was just the start. We’re excited to unveil more in the coming weeks, so be sure to follow us for the big reveal.

Fuel Webisodes_Blog_Banner

Best of the web: Our favorite headlines from September

We’re halfway through September, which means—besides the fact that we’re jamming to Earth, Wind and Fire more than usual—we’re at the tail end of peak season for those of our hospitality friends and customers with especially busy summers.

With everyone’s full schedules in mind, we combed through this summer’s marketing headlines to give you the tl;dr (too-long-didn’t-read) on everything from new regulations, to the ROI of social media.


Technology trends in the hotel industry: Spotlight on Jordan Hollander

From a thought leader on trailblazing hospitality tech: We love a good conversation with hospitality’s movers and shakers, and this chat with Hotel Tech Report’s Jordan Hollander is especially great. Hollander sat down with Digital Intent to talk industry challenges in their Disruptors podcast. He touched on why, at times, innovation can be difficult to navigate within hotel organizations. To help, he also shared some key examples of how to move quickly and overcome hurdles.

Plus, he made some nice mentions for a lot of the folks we call friends—like ALICE App, Highgate Hotels, Travel Tripper, and more.

TL;DR: Hollander identified some of hospitality’s challenges, like slowness to adapt and digitize. His team built Hotel Tech Report to help hotels to incorporate tech into their operation and help innovative vendors to gain market share.

Harvard Business Review's What You Need to Know about California's New Data Privacy Law

On data, privacy & relationship-building: This spring, marketers around the world focused a lot of energy on compliance for the European Union’s GDPR, elevating the urgency of protecting customer data and relationship-focused marketing.

Now, all eyes are on California’s new data protection law that brings this topic to the US. Harvard Business Review passed along the need-to-know details on the law and what it means for marketers moving forward. (Bonus material: You can find a few more great takes on this topic here, here and here.)

TL;DR: As data protection laws arrive stateside, taking great care of guests’ data is even more critical. Marketing and communication that’s focused on building relationships with travelers and nurturing them along the way isn’t just a best practice—it’s where marketing is ultimately headed.

The ROI of Social Media Infographic from HospitalityNet

On social by the numbers: Social media is, of course, one of the most powerful tools for marketers when harnessed correctly, but measuring impact can be challenging at times—so HospitalityNet stepped up to give us the essential stats on tracking ROI. According to CMO’s, they’re spending 12% of their budgets on social, with that number expected to rise to 20% in the next 5 years. That’s a large chunk of hard-earned marketing dollars, so understanding the value, and how social ties back to a business impact is critical.

At Flip.to, we’ve found that using these channels to let travelers introduce properties and destinations to new audiences is one of the most authentic ways to use social (and we work hard to make sure those interactions are super trackable as well).

TL;DR: Many marketers look at social engagement (likes and comments), but find it challenging to track the sales impact. Only 20% of CMOs say they’ve quantified the business impact (with marketing agencies reporting similarly). So if you’re scratching your head to put numbers to those conversions, you’re not alone.

Destination Think! Sparking genuine word-of-mouth is always a best practice

On marketing your destination by word-of-mouth: Destination Think! not only delved into the importance of truly organic word-of-mouth in marketing, but also strategies for sparking it. They also noted the importance of tourism advocacy, as well as using stories and community to forge lasting relationships with travelers.

The bottom line? The importance of authentically reaching audiences on social can’t be overstated—building trust instead of simply trying to shout over an already noisy conversation. (We’ve said it before, and we’ll said it again!) Letting your travelers spread the word about your destination organically on a massive scale is the best way to reach new audiences.

TL;DR: Letting your travelers be the storytellers for your destination powerfully sparks word-of-mouth marketing and relationships with new audiences. Community-building wins out over clickbait every time. Your marketing should have a CTA that is directly relevant and captivating to the reader.


What news caught your eye this summer, and what do you think is next on the horizon? Drop us a line, and we’ll feature it next time.

2018 Hospitality Technology Study, uniting hotelier and vendor technology perspectives, now available worldwide

Fuel Travel, StayNTouch and Flip.to examine technology trends to better align suppliers with industry wants and needs

ORLANDO, FL — July 19, 2018 — Fuel Travel, StayNTouch and Flip.to have partnered to launch a new study that examines perspectives from hoteliers and suppliers on industry technology. First debuted exclusively for attendees of the HITEC Hospitality Technology Show in June, the results are now being distributed globally.

The study surveyed hoteliers and suppliers to learn how the industry can improve from a technology perspective, with key takeaways for readers from both groups:

  • For hospitality decision-makers, the results provide guidance on the latest technology trends, as well as opportunities to invest valuable resources for growth.
  • For suppliers, the study informs ideas on the most pressing technology issues facing the hotel industry today.

With data surveyed from 358 respondents—all responsible for purchasing or selling technology in hospitality—the study is unique from other research in that it goes beyond standard reporting to identify similarities and differences in priorities for where the industry and travel technology should be headed.

Overall, the results showed many positive indicators that hoteliers and suppliers are closely aligned.

Take, for instance, considerations for a new PMS. The factors which were “most important” for respondents from both groups fell in sync, with ease of use and seamless integration topping the list. In fact, the need for improved integration between existing products garnered a strong consensus from respondents. Guest experience was also a top priority.

Frewoini Golla, Director of Marketing for StayNTouch noted why findings like this are so critical for industry growth. “Better understanding where priorities lie helps vendors stay in tune with the challenges our customers are responsible for, and how we can serve their needs while topping their goals.”

Other areas where the study reported similarities and differences include factors influencing marketing spend, perspectives on new and emerging technology, and the process for considering new technology purchases.

Stuart Butler, Chief Operating Officer of Fuel Travel said of the results, “As vendors of this space, our eyes are fixed on the trajectory of travel technology and marketing, so having a better understanding of the wants and needs of those in the front-lines of hospitality really helps us all get better together.”

Richard Dunbar, Director of Partnerships at Flip.to echoed this sentiment. “It’s really important that we focus on helping our customers and all of the industry move the needle. The results of this survey have opened up a really compelling dialogue to grow the industry, today.”

To get your free copy of 2018 Hospitality Technology Study, download it here.

 

Meet Matt: team player and pun champion

At Flip.to, we’ve made our careers in hospitality. Now, we’re certified in advocology. (Our science-y approach to turning advocacy into revenue.)

On this team, we aim to hire amazing people, which is why we’d like to introduce Matt—dedicated Account Manager and “punny” guy who settles for nothing less than huge wins for every customer.

 

Want to dig in? Say hello to Matt, or peek at the rest of our advocologists at work here.

Behind the screen: finding our voice in video

A few months back, we shamelessly shared our first blooper reel after an excited foray into video production. It’s been one heck of an experience and we’ve learned an awful lot along the way.

At Flip.to we’re all about authenticity and the connections between individuals. So when we first committed to making video there was unanimous agreement that whatever it is we’re talking about in our videos, it should be us talking about it.

OurVoiceInVideo_9.2
Setting up the mic and testing audio before getting started.

I was asked to be the voice of our videos. One never to turn down an opportunity (or a challenge), I was happy to take up the mantle. (To be honest I was more excited about recording impersonations, so I convinced myself this was a step in that direction.)

As fun as it’s been, we’ve been focused on continuous improvement. If you’re thinking of integrating video into your content marketing strategy (and you should), here are some major lessons to help you get started.

1. Spend time on a script…

Going into this, I was working under the assumption that we’d need some manner of script but, for the most part, we’d be winging it. It only took a single video to realize how wrong I was. We were using a script from the beginning. While we did adlib a bit, it was immediately apparent how important the script was.

This may seem like an obvious thing, but when you spend the better part of your day talking about a product, you feel confident enough you can do the same with a microphone in front of your face.

Don’t bet on it–having a polished script ensures you’re covering the important points.

2. …but don’t be afraid to deviate

As critical as the script is, if you want the video to feel authentic and convey real emotion, you’ll need to make changes on the fly. We’ll record each section of the video multiple times to make sure it feels and sounds authentic and natural. The script isn’t gospel. Instead, it’s a guide to tie together the scenes and concepts in the video.

3. Record, record, and record again

OurVoiceInVideo_8
Getting a bit of feedback from Hunter on the recording.

Getting a scene right on the first try is akin to keeping a wet dog in the bathtub. Try as you might, there will be slip ups.

Or, it just may not feel right. No matter how you feel after recording a scene, the playback may change your mind. In the beginning, we recorded a scene, played it back, and recorded it again—then repeated. We wisened up and now we record each scene a few times back-to-back and then listen in succession. Doing it this way lets you compare each attempt to single out the best take. If none sound good, well… do it again!

4. Finding the right voice and tone takes time

I don’t mean to say you need to make a host of videos to find your voice and tone. Instead, I’m talking about finding the right tone for a specific video.

While recording our “Introduce your hotel to the people that matter most” video, we were about three-quarters of the way through the voice-over when we hit our stride. We wrapped up several scenes in quick succession and they felt incredible.

We went back and listened. It sounded noticeably different! The final 25% felt so right, that we took the time to re-record everything up to that point so that there was continuity. It was well worth the effort. Once we dialed it in we were able to record much more quickly too.

OurVoiceInVideo_7
Hunter gives the thumbs up on the new recording.

For future videos we recorded a reading of the entire script, sometimes multiple times, to get a feel for the tone. Ultimately this saved us time, produced a better quality video, and gave the video authenticity.

5. Have fun

It’s not all business. You will definitely need to take breaks. We deviate from the script (sometimes by A LOT) because a good laugh can go a long way.

And like I said at the start, doing impersonations was what I really wanted to do in the first place. So don’t hesitate to cut loose when the urge strikes and enjoy the moment. It’s not often you get an opportunity to professionally record yourself cutting up for, you know, posterity.

Oh, and don’t think we didn’t save some of the fun stuff—listen in for yourself below!

Jumping into your own recordings? Let me know! We’re always eager to share and learn more, and collaborate along the way.

We’re #HITECnola bound

It’s here! One of the biggest conferences of the year. We’re headed to New Orleans for the 2016 edition of HITEC. The days are full of innovation, insights, and a bit of fun. Here’s a cheat sheet of just a few of the places we’ll be. Say hello, or reach out and let’s get together.

Monday, June 20


Entrepreneur 20x

Morial Convention Center—Rivergate Room, 1–4 PM

Join our own president, Ed St.Onge, as he sits on the judges panel for the second year in a row at Entrepreneur 20x. You’ll hear pitches from innovative start-ups in hotel tech at this competition. Ed’s joining a host of hospitality veterans on the judges panel, from CIO’s and angel investors, to serial entrepreneurs and industry insiders.

Join in


HITEC Opening Reception — “A Night in ‘Nola”
Generations Hall – A Night in Nola , 6:30–9 PM

New Orleans Jazz, and classic Nola food and drinks? Say no more—we’ll be stopping by.

Say hi

Tuesday, June 21

HITEC Exhibits, Booth #1615
Tuesday, 10 AM–4 PM / Wednesday, 10 AM–3 PM / Thursday, 10 AM–2 PM

 

The booth! We’ve got a ton of amazing things to share this year for Flip.to. To start, we’re unveiling our newest product update—Vision AI.

This powerful new feature uses machine-based insights to let hotels better understand and effortlessly curate their ever-growing library of guest-created content. This innovative use of artificial intelligence is the first of its kind in hotel tech. With Vision AI, hotels can now amplify their brand by delivering incredibly authentic, personal content to different segments of travelers and better convert them into future guests.

Stop by Booth #1615 to see this and other product updates, check out our brand new tour, and take a photo or two with the team. Just be sure to say hello! (We’ve even brought back the comfy couch.)

Schedule timeorTake a tour


Tech Talks: Engagement Vs. Communications: What Are the Best Solutions?
Morial Convention Center, 11–11:15 AM

Industry veteran, friend-of-Flip.to, and all-around hotel tech expert Alan Young of Puzzle Partner will be sharing a bit of his knowledge in his tech talk on better hotel & guest engagement. Short but sweet, this is one you don’t want to miss.

Say hi to Alan


Travel Trends that Matter with Google, GCommerce, & Flip.to
La Louisiane, 725 Iberville Street, 4–6 PM

If you registered early, you’re one of the lucky attendees! This sought-after event features insightful discussion on hospitality and travel marketing trends as told by Google, GCommerce and Flip.to. It’s not too late to join the waitlist! We’ll keep in touch if any spots open up.

Join the waitlist


Break the Ice with Flip.to, Lanyon, NAVIS and Social Tables
Bourbon Vieux, 503 Bourbon Street, 8–11 PM

Break the ice and snap a photo with a new friend while you mix & mingle with the industry’s best. Be ready to take part in our photo contest after the event—you could end with some sweet prizes. This event is by invitation—get in touch to request yours!

Get on the list

Wednesday, June 22

HSMAI’s ROC Conference

Morial Convention Center—Great Hall, 7 AM–6:30 PM

Our very own Ed St. Onge and Danielle Fierman will be onsite for the 2016 Revenue Optimization Conference. Be sure to stop by our sponsor in the Great Hall. Drop us line if you’d like to set up time to chat, or even just have coffee.

Schedule time

Thursday, June 23

Super Session: M&A in the Hospitality Tech Sector: Who is Next? What Does it Mean?
Morial Convention Center, 9–10:30 AM

Our own Ed St.Onge takes the stage once again as part of Thursday’s Super Session: M&A in the Hospitality Tech Sector: Who is Next? What Does it Mean? Sit in as the industry’s best explore the world of Mergers & Acquisitions in hotel tech.

Ed joins a pane of other well-known names in hospitality: Larry Hall, managing director with Trillium Services Group, Alex Alt, president of Sabre Hospitality Solutions, Chris Hemmeter, managing director with Thayer Ventures, and Bob Post, CEO and president with thing5.

Stop in

Watch now: jumping into video

It’s been 4 months since we released our first video, Introducing: Photo Explorer. We’ve come a long way. We’re continuing to improve our production process, crafting our content and meticulously editing our scripts.

All this incredibly careful planning has led to some really good stuff, and even better bad stuff. So without further ado, let’s start with the bad stuff. (Thanks NAVIS for being such good sports.)

 

We’ve got a lot planned going forward, including a look at our team and culture, video resources for customers, event recaps, partner spotlights and more. Check back soon for even good-er video.

Advocates vs. avocados

Advocates vs. avocados: it’s more than a case of po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe. Hoteliers are seemingly becoming disillusioned by avocados after seeing the power of advocacy (you should see the emails we get.)

Our advocologists did minutes of research and surveyed nearly half a dozen people to figure out why this debate keeps popping up, and of course to declare the ultimate champion.

(No advocates were mashed in the making of this study.)


round1

Avocados offer up a rich, buttery taste with a creamy texture that brings guac to life. The results came back inconclusive for the advocates. First matchup goes to the fruit (yup, avocados are actually in the berry family).

Round1_Comparison

Round1_Winner


round2

Now, our advocates are fresh—they travel in style. (Don’t believe us? See for yourself.) But a perfectly ripe avocado is tough to beat. This one was too close to call.

Round2_Comparison

Round2_Winner


round3

After documenting aging characteristics, advocates showed “low to no signs of aging.” Avocados, on the other hand, succumb to time and were transformed into unfortunate brown globs. The winner was conclusive.

round3

Round3_Winner


round4

With the list of health benefits from avocados, the final round was a tough match. However, nothing compares to the impact of advocates.

Round4_Image

round4


The results are in. Advocates were the clear winner of this competition!

The Champ


We published our findings in the Journal of Research in Advocology. The critics quickly chimed in:

“Guacamole is delicious, but it does jack $&*! for your hotel.”
— Dr. Jack Travelfianakis

“Whatever.”
— Haas Avocado Commission

We see the impact advocates have on a hotel’s bottom line everyday. And even though avocados have a ridiculously narrow window of ripe goodness, we believe hoteliers should keep them around as well.

Stay tuned for more on the impact of advocacy, (plus a few ripe-innings of avocados here and there) as our team of advocologists work day and night to bring you the best advocology research in the industry.


ornament2

Holiday science brought to you by the Department of Advocology

The President’s seal of approval at the Expedia Hackathon

Judges panel via @Expedia
The judges panel via @Expedia

Expedia Hackathon took place this week in Las Vegas, and I was happy to be able to sit in on the judging panel. Joined by Toni Portmann (DHISCO), Simon Lenoir (Rezdy), and Sara Hill (The Mill), it was an incredible experience.

Techies from around the world presented projects that utilize Expedia’s APIs, which can be used to book hotels, flights, and cars as well as communicate travel trends and things to do in a specific area. In the end, judging was based on the following criteria:

  • Implementation completeness
  • Creativity (innovation/originality)
  • Useful application of the content (business value add)
  • Application to travel industry

I was blown away by the entries that we reviewed—many from the best-of-the-best in the hospitality tech industry. It was neck-and-neck, but the top two entries to prevail came out of SmartHOTEL and Sabre Hospitality.

1st Place–SmartHOTEL

The team from SmartHOTEL took first place with SmartTRIP, an application to help guests create a multi-step package—including hotels, flights, and activities—all through one portal that offers the user multiple packages to select.

SmartTRIP tapped into the creation of the ultimate guest experience—helping travelers create customized packages based completely on their preferences. It’s a great idea that lets the guest realize everything they want in a trip, up front.

At Flip.to, we see every day that experiences inspire travel for guests. They’re a huge component when it comes time to book, and this aspirational model is what continues to drive us to innovate for hotels.

2nd Place–Sabre Hospitality

The team from Sabre Hospitality took second with EVA (Expedia Voice Assistant). An application that runs on Amazon Echo, EVA offers hotel Managers a quick, unobtrusive way to get updates on the health, and promotions of their hotel by simply asking the question out loud. The team showed how revenue managers could get live updates on inventory, market share, fair share, and missed opportunities in an instant. Managers could even create simple promos based on the insight they gathered from a quick chat with EVA.

The judges loved the out-of-the-box thinking that the Sabre team brought with the Amazon Echo integration—it was really innovative and fun to see in action.


Look for a full wrap-up of the Expedia Partner Conference coming soon from the team as we return. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter for the latest updates coming out of Las Vegas!

Passing of the gong

David Bruce and Crystal Ellington
David Bruce, Account Manager and Crystal Ellington, Business Development Representative

At Flip.to, we’re constantly striving to innovate for our hotel partners, aspiring to find new and creative ways to help hotels earn new guests. As we continue to grow, so too does our team. In fact, this constant growth is what helps us serve our hotels even better! That’s why it makes me extremely proud to see two of our members moving up among the Flip.to ranks in the Marketing department.

Thanks to stellar performance and “gong-banging” ability, the one and only David Bruce is being promoted to the Account Management team. Stepping up to fill in for Mr. Bruce is our very own Crystal Ellington, moving from her research role up to the big stage as our new Business Development Representative.

So, what’s all this talk about a gong anyway? Think of it as a badge of honor, a celebration of the little victories along the way, heard loud and clear through the halls of Flip.to. It’s our little reminder of why we’re here—success through collaboration and innovation. As David passes the gong to Crystal for new pastures in the Accounts team, we’re all more inspired and motivated to achieve more. Congratulations to David and Crystal!

(P.S. Flip.to all-stars making moves means that there are more shoes to fill! Check out our openings here.)