Meetup Summary

What to do now and how to prepare for when things return to “normal”. Justin Harnish of Refreshing Mountain, a retreat and adventure center, will be sharing ideas on restructuring activities and offers for a “post-quarantine” market. Kris Bradley, a recognized expert in all things social, will be sharing strategies that that tourism businesses are using to deepen engagement with their target audiences during quarantine. Derek Lau, of Aidem Media, will be sharing how video is helping tourism businesses tell their story and even give their target audience a virtual “taste” of the unique experience they have to offer.

Guest Panel

Video Recording

Key Takeways

  • Take this time to review your business.
    • Things you can cut.
    • Reflect on your current business and the best strategies for it going forward.
    • Use the current downtime to promote your new offerings/activities/attractions.
    • Take advantage of current small business loans where it makes sense for you.
    • Did you survive a past crisis (ex. 2008-2009 financial crises)? What messaging helped you recover then? Plan for current and future messaging.
  • Use your marketing channels to provide helpful resources, activities, and news, and keep your brand in front of people at the same time.
    • Things to do at home
    • Free resources
    • Contests and giveaways.
    • Virtual tours and events
  • Anticipate the pandemic recovery period and what people will be thinking & feeling. Plan and adapt now.
    • Some will want to get out, but will be cautious
    • Re-connecting with family & friends
    • Some will not have a lot of money to spend, others may
  • Use social media ads for brand awareness, or to promote special sales, giveaways, etc.
  • Get involved in the community at large. Promote current relief efforts, other companies, fundraising efforts, etc.

Meetup Transcript

[Carl] We asked each of you when you registered what brought you here today so I don’t have time to share all the answers but if you’re looking at the screen here you can see just six kinda themes. People are looking for positive solutions for the future, looking for some optimism and enthusiasm, which is really good, you know, we wanna focus our session today on sharing ideas. Coming up with creative ideas to recover revenue, what can we learn from the challenges and even what kind of insights do we have for the post-recovery market.

I know a lot of us are spending time thinking about right now what’s happening in the moment but I’m trying to find ways to also think about what’s likely to happen later, like what can we expect to happen? And I’m really encouraged, you know most of you are marketing broadly to people that are traveling into your areas, but also marketing to consumers that are in your areas and I’m encouraged when I think about the fact that, when we get out of this lockdown period, a lot of us are gonna wanna get out of the house, we’re gonna wanna find things to do and each of us are probably gonna have to think of creative ways to give people things to do. Because I think we’re gonna be maybe a little more hesitant to do things in large groups like we used to. But certainly people are gonna want to go out to eat, they’re gonna wanna get entertainment, they’re gonna wanna find fun things to do. So that’s part of today, it’s really thinking about how can we creatively think about those.

Meetup Overview

So let me just tell you a little bit about Accelerate Tourism the meetup. Our whole goal is to help each other improve our businesses as we swap practical ideas and strategies through regular, virtual meetups. So yes I do represent a marketing company but I genuinely am just trying to facilitate this. Our hope is that you guys as tourism operators, that you’re the one sharing ideas with each other. We’ll share ideas too, we’re inviting people from other industries, not other industries but people that are helping you in different ways whether it’s through video, social media, print advertising. Whatever you guys wanna hear about we’ll help you find speakers to address topics that you guys wanna hear about. But ultimately I think this is gonna be much more powerful when each of you are sharing with each other, so that’s really our goal is to help facilitate that.

So again this is a virtual meetup for business leaders serving the tourism industry, we’re planning to hold these weekly, so every Friday at this time is the plan for right now during the “lockdown period” we likely are gonna move this to monthly once we get out of lockdown. Because I don’t know about you, but we’re gonna have lots of work to do, once we’re back in business, right? So we’ll probably move this to a monthly series. But just to be clear while the COVID-19 situation is kind of instigating this, we hope to create something, a community around this that can live on past that time. And again our focus is gonna be on sharing tourism marketing ideas, we’re gonna do that by inviting guest speakers in and having open dialogue amongst yourselves on the meetups.

Just some ground rules. We’ll do our best and we ask you too to stay on topic, this is not a place for political ideas, government ideas, non-marketing ideas, this is a tourism marketing meetup. But even though we’re gonna be discussing marketing I wanna be clear this is a promise from us and hopefully a promise that each of you can adhere to as well, this is not for promoting to each other or giving sales pitches to each other. And just a reminder be kind and courteous and respect each other’s privacy.

Topic Introduction

All right, let’s introduce today’s topic and why you all joined today. So today’s topic, when we kinda pulled our customers and the people that we work with in the tourism industry and said, you know, what’s really on your mind right now? Everyone said in slightly different ways, I’m looking for ways to recover the revenue that we’re losing right now. So we titled this Creative Ways to Recover Lost Revenue what to do now, and how to prepare for when things return to whatever the new normal is gonna look like. So that’s our topic for today. Guest speakers, we’ve got Justin Harnish from Refreshing Mountain we’ve got Kris Bradley from a local social media firm called NameSpark who works with a lot of a lot of companies in the tourism space including some of you that are on the phone today and Derek Lau from Aidem Media who’s also a local video production company who works with a lot of tourism companies in the area as well. So Sam if you haven’t already, if you could unmute Justin, Kris and Derek, and what I’m gonna do is actually introduce Justin Harnish first, Justin, say hello to everyone. Do we have Justin there Sam?

Justin Harnish, Refreshing Mountain

[Justin] There we go morning everybody.

[Carl] Hey Justin.

[Justin] Hey.

[Carl] So Justin if you could, just introduce yourself, and the key question we’re hoping for you to answer is how you guys at Refreshing Mountain thinking about what you’re gonna do differently, either now or in the future?

[Justin] Yeah, well so, we’re thinking, I think for this phone call this morning I’m gonna focus on our adventure components of what we offer zip lining and our new wildlife experience stuff like that, so uh. We’re. I theorize like what you said that when the he, when things are lifted here, people are gonna wanna get out and do things. But I do think they’ll be tentative about group activities and so we’re putting our thoughts together on how we can either keep group sizes a little smaller than normal or offer a private booking option for the outdoor experience side of things. Depending on how the payroll loans work out. Which I’m sure a lot of people in this call are familiar with, we’re seeing that as an opportunity really kind of edge some of our expenses on the activities we offer and I’m not sure where that’s gonna go with activity discounts, but that’s an idea that we’re looking at. You know ’cause I do think there’s another component to ask how much people are gonna have to spend on these types of things too. So those are the angles that we are looking at. And right now we’re just trying to stay in front of people’s awareness. They don’t forget about us, people are stuck at home but they’re still reading the email and still on social media and all those spaces. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting more than enough generic emails about, hey we’re concerned about COVID-19, here’s what we’re doing, and those, you know, and I even think that our spam folders are starting to pick up on that ’cause I’ve seen more spam emails in my inbox stuff that in the past. That’s kind of something I’m taking to heart, as we’re doing email marketing. You know but just case in point, on Wednesday we sent one out, just of, some coloring pages for kids to use while they’re inside, you know, for people that have kids at home and do some coloring pages for our wildlife center, some of the exhibits we had and close to, I think it was a 36% open rate on that email which was much higher than typical. And so just kinda trying to provide a resource for people while they’re in right now and you know, indirectly keeping our name in front of them and then, preparing our messaging from when it’s, when the ban is lifted. So those are a couple things that we’re doing. I do think there’s gonna be an opportunity for, you know, really promoting around the messaging of family reunion type of, you know, even if it’s short trips. People are gonna wanna reconnect with friends, with family, with you know people they haven’t seen in forever that are special to them so. I think that’s all I have here.

[Carl] Justin quick question for you. I know you guys offer typically the groups that are doing your activities are a little larger or even if they’re individuals, they’re joining in with a larger group. Are you guys thinking differently at all about how to accommodate groups post-lockdown?

[Justin] So, you know I think that’s going to depend on whether or not we are allowed to open up before the social distancing, you know, what the timeline is between social distancing and business operations open again. Obviously we’re going to have to think that part through with the larger group side of things. But no, we don’t have a game plan in mind just yet on that.

[Carl] Gotcha, gotcha. Great, well thank you for sharing Justin. Was there anything else you wanted to share as an idea?

[Justin] Uh, let’s see, oh yeah. One other ideas we’ve looked back at 08-09, you know, last time that there was a significant financial interruption to the market. Our experience in that time was the go local type of messaging really resonated with the local community. People are still wanting to do things and you know purchase entertainment. But maybe they’re not gonna plan an international trip or a trip out of state or things like that. So you know really focusing the marketing to people that are closer in the area already. But maybe don’t, wouldn’t have thought of, the local options more as a stay cation. That worked well for us in 08-09. You know I think the added component to that is gonna be the tentativeness about being in groups. So that’s gonna be a part that we wanna include in the messaging but I do, hum, you know, last time around, the go local component did work well for us.

[Carl] Yeah I’ve been reading a lot about what people are saying about the market and where it’s likely to go when things come back. And a consistent theme I’m hearing is, people are going to, are gonna kind of, move out if you will. They’re gonna start by looking for things to do in their immediate neighborhoods or areas and then maybe, you know, over time, venture out into other areas, and, you know, international travel will probably be the last thing to come back, so I think you’re right. There’s a really big opportunity to focus on the local market, that’s great, thank you.

[Justin] You know the other, one last thing there too would be, you know, just even from a perspective of a market that is gonna need some rest and some distraction if you will, the healthcare industry. You know, they’re working night and day right now and when things calm down, they’re gonna definitely be looking for opportunities to reconnect with their families, you know to disengage from work a little bit. And you know they haven’t been out of work so they’ll have some expendable income as well to work with.

[Carl] Yeah, great. Thanks for sharing Justin. There may be questions for Justin that the group might have, we’ll bring some of those up when we get to the question and answer time. Kris, thank you for joining us today.

Kris Bradley, NameSpark

[Kris] Yeah thank you. Thank you Carl, good morning everyone. So I’m just gonna jump right in. Like when we’re talking about social media and anything in general this is all new to everyone, it’s even new to me, so you know. I’m gonna be honest, I don’t have all the answers. But my goal today is to share some helpful social media ideas with you that will help deepen engagement with your target audience during this quarantine especially. My business, NameSpark, has been working on several strategies and ideas, for our traveling tourism clients. And some of those I will share with you today. There’s also a lot of great resources out there online that are providing timely social media advice regarding the crisis, I mean I can share some of the links that I’ve seen on the Facebook group, but if you just do a search, usually you can find some good stuff.

So one thing I’d like to say is. When we’re thinking about social media in general just stay positive, use empathy and use compassion in your voice and your tone. And also, and I talk a lot about this in the couple different presentations I’ve done in the last couple weeks is don’t be afraid to talk about what part your organization is doing to help presently and in the future. You know we’re all in the same boat, but those companies, those industries, those organizations that I see that are actually taking an extra effort to help are the ones that I’m gonna be more prone to go and spend money with when this is over. So don’t be afraid to talk about that. And then the reality is that most people right now are spending more time on their phone, their laptops, and their personal computers, and their activities include video games, they’re learning more about the virus, they’re watching YouTube videos, and of course they’re on social media. So what can we do to get their attention?

And so I always like to say now is the time to get creative. Give some serious thought on why your audience follows likes, and engages with your organization on social media? A few that come to mind, for me, are entertainment, it’s new experiences, making memories, it might be their yearly vacation destination, these can all be reasons why people follow, like and engage with your social media profiles. So think about that, and think about some ideas that you can come up with from that and some specific example I mean, working with American Music Theater, we started focusing on, we thought okay, what’s the number one thing we can focus on, and that’s entertainment. They’re an entertainment venue, so, we thought about maybe we can get some AMT performers to create some videos. Even have the audience ask them what they can do. Like maybe there’s a certain song or something, they want them to perform. Asking local musicians to submit videos, asking the public to submit entertaining videos. And also creating, create a ticket giveaway opportunities for when they are open again.

The Wolf Sanctuary is another one I worked with, the virtual tours is what we’re thinking about. So starting by creating some virtual tours with video, giving them away for free in the month of April and then maybe setting up a private YouTube channel, in exchange for access for donations. So this is something that people just absolutely love the Wolf Sanctuary do feel pretty confident this would be a great way. But also to create some revenue and donations for them. US Hot Air Balloon Team, basically once they’re back up and running, we’re thinking about leveraging Facebook Live to provide some Q and As and the big one is, do a virtual Facebook Live Balloon Ride and let people from their living rooms sit back and be able to watch the balloon ride take part. Again, these, for them, we’re kind of thinking more towards after things are starting, after they’re open again and they’re providing rides.

But these are some things like, well I’ll talk about Facebook Live in a minute. Ask your audience to share their memories of when they visited the location. With you and their friends. You know they can do that in the comments, they can send videos, they could share photos. Maybe you do a hashtag, where they share photos from when they visited your location and you know, and then you can take those and re-share them on Instagram. Another one’s virtual events. This can include like Q and As on Facebook Live, virtual tours of the facility American Music Theaters go and they pull back the curtains right now on Facebook Live. You can do online fundraisers to raise funds for healthcare workers or those that are in most need right now. You can even do meet our tour guides as part of virtual events.

And that kinda Segway perfectly into the Facebook Live because they’re kinda one and the same. If you’re doing a virtual event, you can obviously do that through Facebook Live or Video but like some Facebook Live ideas is maybe updates from the leaders in your organization sharing updates on how you’re helping the community. Maybe share some ways that your audience can help through Facebook Live, what about providing a history of your organization, that could be something you could do very easily from a Facebook Live broadcast. And also access to areas that they may not normally see. I mentioned American Music Theaters doing a pull back the curtain. I don’t know if Sights and Sounds on the call but I can see like an awesome behind the scenes there as well pulling back the curtains and giving access to something at Sights and Sounds that we don’t normally see.

Instagram Stories, I could probably go on for an hour about Instagram Stories, but I would say, if you’re not using ’em right now, look into how to use it for your organization learn as much as you can about it if you have somebody internally who can help with Instagram Stories, they’re a great way to start to create some engagement as well.

And then lastly social media advertising. It’s a little iffy right now, you wanna be careful with your ads. But one thing that you could think about is brand awareness ads, you know, keeping top of mind, but in those ads, don’t be afraid to address the current situation the ad copy, you know, talk about how you’re hoping everybody’s healthy and staying well over here at X organization we’re doing this or don’t forget about us when things get back to normal type thing. You can also do gift card sales. That’s always an easy one to get out there in ad space. You can boost posts that give details about what you’re doing in the community. So if you do a Facebook Live or you’re talking about how your organization’s helping the community don’t be afraid to boost that. Also provide discounts for future events. Or maybe even run a contest or a giveaway and do that through the ads platform. Keep in mind right now with ads platform, I do a lot of Facebook ads, and the inventory’s low because a lot of businesses have cut their ad budget so it’s a good time to be on there advertising, just be very mindful of your ads. And you don’t wanna be selling, selling, selling, ’cause it could be a negative. And then in closing, and Derek’s gonna love this, ’cause it’s the perfect Segway for him, using video, video, video, video. As much as you can use video right now, the better. People are eating up video. If I can watch a video, or if you give me a video or you give me you know a 300 page article, I’m gonna watch the video every time. So video is so important right now and it’s something to be really thinking about. Now you can leverage video for social media.

[Carl] Yeah, thank you Kris, something that, kind of one of my big takeaways from what you shared kinda matching that up with what I’ve been observing and even engaging with myself is, the companies that are finding ways to promote other companies, promote other causes. Like I’m really just blown away by the people that are getting behind restaurants and promoting restaurants that are offering takeout. And people that are doing more takeout than maybe they would’ve used to or from places that they wouldn’t have. I saw a tourist organization who had to lay off a lot of their staff they actually created, or created a GoFundMe to help boost, you know help raise awareness to their guides and try to get some money in their pockets and just different ways to support causes or organizations the one you mentioned about the healthcare workers. I think anything we can do to both inspire people bring a positive message and engage them where they are with what they’re focused on right now is probably, stands a much greater chance of working versus focusing on like specifically marketing messages. So that’s a great takeaway, thank you for that. Just a reminded for the group, if you’ve got questions or responses to the things that Kris shared, go ahead and throw ’em up in chat, that way we’ve got some questions and ideas ready to talk about when we get to the discussion point. Thanks again Kris.

[Kris] No problem.

Derek Lau, Aidem Media

[Carl] Derek Lau from Aidem Media, share with us some ideas or things that you guys are going.

[Derek] Hey Carl, yeah thanks, first of all for, you know, setting this up and organizing everything. And I’m glad there’s a lot of people showing up and interested in learning and how to improve their business and stuff like that. Just to kind of piggy back off what you can Kris just said some of the things that we’ve been doing to adapt or some of the things that we’ve been doing to try and keep everything positive and keep our spirits high is a contest. We did a contest two Fridays ago. We utilized Facebook Live and we gave away 20 gift cards for local restaurants. And things like having a contest online and we used the Facebook Live aspect of it and then people had to go onto our webpage and we were posting the restaurants on there and whoever commented first in the comment section of the Facebook Live won that gift certificate. The restaurants loved it, it was well received and as far as just for the community and things like that it was very uplifting and people were getting sick and tired hearing bad news so it was something to get people’s minds off of uh, you know, problems and things they were dealing with. So definitely running some sort of contest, running some sort of promotion, some sort of giveaways, where you’re giving away gift cards or something like that or even, not to sound selfish, but if you wanna run something for your own business to try and generate some revenue, maybe try and sell gift cards to help with cashflow now so that people can come use those gift cards later on down the road. The other thing, obviously, just to be a brother’s keeper and to help other people out is to write reviews online. I know it’s not gonna help you with cashflow or revenue or anything at this point, but you know everybody’s been so busy, and you know, it seems like some people have a little more down time now so take that time to go write some Google reviews, go write some TripAdvisor reviews for fellow businesses that you’re partners with or friends with or that you know run a good business that you’re proud to write a review for. The other thing that we’re also doing here for our own company that you might wanna look at it on your own is, internal content. You know if you’re a company that works a lot with other people and you’re always promoting other people’s businesses, maybe it’s time to, do something about your own company that you could shoot it on cellphones, you could figure out ways to shoot it remotely, that’s one thing we’re working on now, it’s an internal video. And one of the challenges is, we obviously can’t all get together to shoot the video so we’re trying to figure out some creative ways to shoot it at different locations and stuff like that, get the footage to each other to edit it. Also just take the time, not just internal content but maybe just take the time to review your business, like Justin, from Refreshing Mountain said he looked back at 2008 and figured out what was working then. But you know it’s just a good time to reflect on your business and figure out what’s working what you could cut and what your best strategies would be moving forward.

[Carl] Derek you mentioned something to me the other day that I thought was pretty intriguing which was the idea of repurposing content that you might already have. I know, if you guys are like me, you’re seeing all these people on social media talking about having time on their hands, I’m not sure that many of us on the call feel like we have a lot of time on our hands. We’re doing a lot of stuff, plugging holes in dykes and thinking and plotting strategies and all that kind of stuff. So I don’t know if anyone would say they’re slow. But this is a great time for either you or your staff to be looking at the content you have, evaluating what you’re doing and you might, while you personally may not have a lot of empty time on your hands right now, the staff that you have on hand might and could also appreciate having some new things to work on, you know, instead of worrying about what’s going on or what might happen, this is a great time to launch new initiatives.

[Derek] Yeah, exactly. And yeah thank you for the Tee up about the VCP. We’re talking about, we’re calling it a video content package. But repurposing and reediting video. Obviously we can’t go out and shoot video for non-essential businesses. We can’t just go out and just start filming things or being in front of the people so the production end of our business has come to pretty much a halt. We still have editing to do for the editors. But uh yeah, one thing that we’re gonna try to do you know to adapt is reach out to old customers or things like that and say hey, we can re-edit your old footage and repurpose that to make new content for your social platforms and things like that. The other thing we were thinking about offering is kinda like a done for you or a DFY editing type service where if we have clients that can still shoot content on their cellphones or shoot photos on their cellphones, trying to figure out a way to get their content through the cloud or something like that and still be able to create content with them. So that’s another thing we’re trying to do to adapt. I’ve had a couple people hitting me up about setting up their own in-home studios, like asking us about how to setup a green screen at their house, how to set up a green screen at their office. I’ve kinda just been giving people free consultation on that I don’t think that’s really anything that we can monetize or gain revenue from. But I think there’s gonna be a lot more people doing DIY video and doing video on their own. As Kris Bradley probably knows, in the algorithms, you know Facebook Live is favored in the Algorithms so if you’re comfortable enough to go Live and go on Facebook, I’d recommend doing that. There’s a lot of people that have kinda mastered that, locally my one friend’s a real-estate agent over in New York and he goes Live and gets 40, 50 people tuned in his Live videos and he goes almost everyday. So, so yeah those are some of the tips that we’re moving towards and thinking about. Yeah if anybody has any questions or anything, feel free to fire away in the chat and I’ll help you out.

[Carl] Thanks Derek. Yeah so we’re gonna move to the discussion portion of this, so many of you on the phone, you joined because you wanted to hear ideas, but I also, because I know some of you personally, I know you’re also working on your own ideas so, we’d love to hear from you right now in chat. If you’ve got a question you wanna raise to the group, either to us as the group that, you know the panel that’s kinda sharing today or just to the group at large, throw that in the chat. If you’ve got an idea, something that you’re willing to share that you guy are doing that might be different than some of the things that were heard or might be complimentary to the things that we heard, throw that up in chat. Sam’s gonna be monitoring chat and as questions come up or as ideas come up, he’ll call on you to share that then.

Open Q and A

[Sam] Hey, I’d like to start off, there’s some back and forth right now in the chat about reviews. Are reviews because of layoffs even in these bigger businesses like Google, Facebook, et cetera, there’s some speculation that, or some discussion that some of the reviews that are being left at this time are unavailable due to limited moderation and things like that, I don’t know. Who would like to talk about that, but just wanna, it’s going back and forth quite a bit here, and I feel like it’s something that we–

[Carl] Yeah I can address that Sam. So Google particularly has officially announced that they’re not publishing reviews right now. They are still encouraging people to ask for and leave reviews but they’re gonna be delayed in terms of being published. I’m not aware of any other platforms communicating that they’re delaying or stopping publishing reviews so you can respond to that in kinda two ways. One is, focus on some of the other platforms, like TripAdvisor, Facebook, et cetera to ask for reviews and another option is, you know, it’s still okay to ask for reviews on Google just know that they’re not gonna get published right away. And there’s really just, if anybody’s curious, there’s two main reasons Google’s doing that. One is they’re short staffed right now with everything that’s going on so there’s some moderation limits but two, they’re cognizant of the fact that right now, people are feeling really down and really frustrated by the situations that are going on and they wanna make sure that businesses don’t get unfairly slammed with a lot of negative reviews because of everything that’s going on. So for those two reasons, they’ve put reviews on hold but, just to be clear, people can still leave them, they’re just not gonna get published right away.

[Sam] Another question back sort of a comment slash question from Lynn, Lynn back in the beginning you asked about will people have money after, on the other side of this thing, do you wanna ask a little more or clarify on that question? And I can go ahead and unmute you here, hold on one second. Lynn are you there?

[Lynn] Yeah, well my concern was, when folks finally get back to normal whatever state that’s gonna be, are they gonna, everybody’s gonna wanna get out but, you know, I’m looking at the majority of my guests and a lot of them are blue collar workers who aren’t gonna have the money to spend. So am I gonna have to start discounting to get people here, I guess I could look at it that some money coming in the door is better than no money.

[Carl] Yeah that’s an interesting question. I don’t know, anybody else in the group feel like they have a thought on that? I’d be just, while people are responding or in chat I would just offer an opinion, and that is, I do think you’re right. There is gonna be limits so I think it would be wise to kind of level set expectations. I don’t think July August or September are going to be normal in any way shape or form in terms of volume. I would hope that they could be but I think that’s on the outside stretches of reality. But I do think there’s gonna be lots of different situations so for as many people as may not have had the funds I think there will be people that do. The question about discounting, you know, I’d be interested to hear from other operators what they’re thinking on that. Not necessarily sharing specific discounts obviously but you know what are your thoughts on what you’re gonna have to do when things come back.

[Lynn] Not an operator obviously but I do wanna say. Carl, you touched on something I think the unemployment is, while it has affected a lot of people, I think there’s a lot of, we can sort of pinpoint who is still employed in some ways because of the labeling of essential, versus non-essential versus life-sustaining. So I think one of the opportunity that we’ll have is to be not necessarily, you can discount but specifically who do we wanna market to on the other side of this, knowing who may have more funds than somebody else to be able to spend on things. So I think there’s gonna be a lot of opportunities for targeted marketing and even targeted discounting. The one that comes off the top of my head right away is healthcare workers. I think that was Justin that said something like that so. Yeah just a thought.

[Carl] Yeah. Thank you for that Lynn. Other questions or ideas from the group? I think Ben was sharing an idea on the whole group size question that came up during the discussion.

[Sam] Yeah Ben if you want to, I can unmute you if you wanna elaborate on that a little bit. It was really about the advantage that outdoor activities have on adapting to some of this stuff so Ben, feel free to clarify.

[Ben] Hey everybody so, with that particular comment I was talking about the fact that we tailored our operations to fit the current paradigm so we happen to be an outdoor activity and we were able to adjust how we conducted our operations in order to fit the social distancing guidelines. So we were actually seeing success with that before Tennessee’s non-essential business closures came down. Obviously we’re well suited to this and so it’s not gonna apply across everybody else’s industry, but there are still things you can do to address whatever new normal that we have and making those things clear to people I think is important and making it clear that you’re addressing people’s concerns while trying to operate, I think is the main point I was trying to make there.

[Sam] Cool, thank you Ben. Any other questions from the group or ideas? What are some of the things that you guys are working on in your own businesses? And again I’m not asking you necessarily to share private information but just, what kinda paradigms or concepts are you working on that might be applicable to others on the call? Yeah Justin mentioned just awareness to the group. Google, Yelp and Facebook are all working on offering some form of ad credit. So for those of you that are running ads, if you’ve been running ads on Google, Google has announced some ad credits that they’re gonna be offering. The full details of that have not been release yet but anyone who’s been advertising for a while would be eligible for that. Facebook has announced that they’re gonna be offering some sort of grant program for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19 which would pretty much be everybody on the phone here. Again not something we have the details on yet, but at the end of the presentation I have some links for you one of those links is actually a link to signup for updates from Facebook. So as I understand it, their program is gonna be for any small business affected, whether they were already running ads or not. So there’s gonna be some opportunities there. And then for those of you who are specifically, have a restaurant or in the entertainment industry, Yelp is offering some ad grants for their platform. That’s one of the things I’m finding really encouraging is not just all the individuals helping each other but with this particular crisis, some of the larger companies that have tended to be silent in the past are really coming forward with some pretty significant programs. Obviously they’re thinking about their own bottom line as well but they’re structuring these things in a way that I think are gonna be really helpful to us.

[Sam] I just wanted to call out something Derek had mentioned and I know that it’s happening in practice and Nicole your comment reminded me. Nicole do you mind sharing a little bit about how you’re doing your virtual tours.

[Nicole] Sure. I am no videographer so it’s really elementary at best. But I’m just going for it and daily walking through our bed and breakfast and letting people see an inside look at each of our suites, and kinda giving them a background information as well so we would normally take people on tours when they check-in, so we’re just trying to kind of give them some of that inside scoop and make them feel like they’re here. We’ve had some really good response and lots of views so I’ll take that as good news and I’m getting better daily. I’d love to have the confidence to be able to do a Facebook Live thing, I think I’m getting there but I’m not quite there yet.

[Sam] Nicole, one other thing just ’cause I’m more familiar with what you’re doing, or your bed and breakfast. I know that you also have a lot of people who love the experience of the kind of elaborate breakfast that you have just an idea there and for other people who are in the same situations. I’m sure you’d get tons of engagement if you had a video of cooking the actual breakfast or cooking a meal, sort of like a recipe video or something like that, but it’s just a way that, you know will remind your customers who come back all the time that oh that breakfast is so delicious and I guarantee you they’re gonna comment on it, which means other people who haven’t been to your Bed and Breakfast yet will see that. It’ll sort of snowball from there, and it’ll get people excited in social validation, and add in nostalgia and things like that. So yeah just finding those opportunities is gonna be pretty key to keeping engaged with your audience.

[Nicole] Yeah thanks Sam, I was actually thinking that could be a great way to bring back some of my part-time staff too. Our cooking staff that’s not here currently, and having them sort of spotlight a recipe that’s important to them, or is one of their signature recipes that they do when they cook here.

[Sm] And you can always pair it with gift card sales too.

[Nicole] Yeah!

[Sam] And I know there’s been a couple people who have, there’s a local pub that donate, I think they particularly, they actually donated all of their gift card sales to their employees, I think that’s a little exceptional but I think you could do something similar. Everybody could do something similar to that where instead of just offering a discount for discount’ sake you could do a discount where a portion of gift card sales goes to a local organization, like healthcare workers or it could even go to your employees as well.

[Carl[ One more idea we’ll close with here. I love this idea I’m seeing in chat, from Jamie Burkhart where she mentioned, they’ve posted a video recently about, we send our love from Amish country, there’s a link in there, if you guys wanna check it out. Copy that link and check it out after the meeting here. It just inspired me to think, let’s get behind the county. Let’s celebrate what’s going on in Lancaster, yeah we can’t gather together but we’ve got videos of the countryside, we’ve got videos of people enjoying themselves on our properties, we’ve got videos of other things going on, Lancaster’s an awesome place, that’s why we each started our businesses here, and live and raise our families here. I know not everyone on the call’s from Lancaster, speaking of Lancaster, ’cause it’s where we’re from but the same is probably true in Tennessee, or Chicago or wherever you’re dialing from today. You know and love something about the community that you live in and so do the other people that are there and so celebrating that, celebrating the positive things that are going on. Celebrating memories, will just help encourage and inspire people now and also give them things to think about for the future. That’s great.

[Sam] Carl I know you said one thing but this is pretty unique, I’m probably gonna say the name wrong but it’s Aibek, connecting to your audience, do you wanna share a little bit more about that? I think that’s a pretty unique idea, and I wanna call it out because I’ve actually just within probably within the past 24 hours heard multiple people talking about how they’re engaging using games and things like that, virtually

[Aibek] Hello, hi, well thank you for letting me join this chat. I’m actually joining this chat all the way from Kurdistan which is in Central Asia but I thought I would so to get ideas from what you guys are doing in the states. We’re also kinda very dependent on what happens in the States because most of our clients are from English speaking countries and as I mentioned to Carl yesterday, to some extent we sort of work with the same audience. And currently we have a lot of expat who are stuck in because at the moment we have shelter in place orders so we’re all working from home, we’re stuck at home and one of the ideas, because when we didn’t have this virus and we were not stuck at home, we used to go out and play pop quizzes. And I personally used to host a lot of travel related pop quizzes because that’s what I do for a living. And since it’s been a while I started thinking okay how do we keep in touch with our audience. Most of the expats being foreigners I thought okay there are a lot of things that they don’t know or they want to know about the local culture so I could post as an option a Q and A and let them ask questions about different aspects of the culture and then also in the evenings I’ve been playing online poker with my friends through available free platforms. I thought, you know, hosting a tournament and then give out some sort of certificate or free trips to people who win, like for the finalist. These are still like ideas I need to sort of work about the logistics of it all and how everything will work and where do we host it, and then I thought maybe someone will be able to do the same or get some ideas from what we’re trying to do and yeah.

[Carl] That’s great, thank you for sharing Aibek. Yeah things like, you know, just for everyone, sharing, asking questions, doing quizzes about your property or quizzes about the county or asking people to share their favorite memories of your property or I think Kris mentioned that. Or even if you don’t focus it on your property, favorite memories of the area that they live in or that they enjoy doing. And getting people to focus on the positive and engage with each other and utilize technology to do that like Ivak saying is really great. Awesome. Well thank you everyone for participating in the discussion we’re gonna be thinking a lot more for future meetups how we encourage the participation and really share and collaborate with each other. So I appreciate you joining this very first one and working with us. Those of you who know me know that we are very focused on improvement, we’ll take the things that worked well today and repeat them next week. And things that maybe didn’t work so well will work on that. In that vein of thought, I think we made it clear in the very beginning and in our invite that we intend this to be an ongoing thing. We’re gonna hold these weekly for the next few Fridays throughout what I’m calling the lockdown period and then we’ll probably transition to maybe monthly after that, but one of the things we really wanna do again, we don’t wanna push topics on you, we want you to help us understand what you wanna hear about. So in the last few minutes that we have here, what I’d really love for each of you to do is just make a list in chat of the topics or questions that you’d really like to hear about. And what we’ll promise to do is to try to help organize the right speakers to talk about that. Some of the people that have helped organize this are focused in digital marketing and video and social media so we’ve got a lot of experts on the team that can talk to those things. But I want you to be clear, this isn’t limited to that. The only limit on this is marketing for tourism. So if there are things you wanna hear about, we’ll find the right people, either within this group or outside of this group that can join us and help share some insight ideas or strategies on the topics that you wanna hear about. Again, with the boundaries being marketing for tourism. So if you wouldn’t mind before you leave today, please leave some ideas in chat. So if you could just take a minute right now, let us know what you thought of the call today, and give us one or two ideas of things you wanna hear about in the future and each weak around Monday or Tuesday, we’ll send out an email, let you know what the focus of the next meetup is going to be. We’re gonna keep using Zoom for these. And then while you’re putting your ideas in chat I also wanna let you know about the Facebook group. We have started a Facebook group called Accelerate Tourism the link for it is right there. If you go there or even.

[Sam] I just put it in the chat window too Carl.

Closing Summary

[Carl] If you go into Facebook and search for Accelerate Tourism you should be able to find it there. It is a Facebook group, it’s a private Facebook group so anything that’s posted there is only gonna be seen by the members. We’re gonna post the recordings from these calls there. We’re gonna post other helpful resources like links to the ad grants, links to some of the other things that we mentioned today. Throughout the week we’ll be posting things that we think will be helpful to you and we would encourage each of you as members to post information there too. Again with the caveat being this isn’t to promote or sell your services this is to help the group learn marketing strategies, those kinds of things. So our hope is to build that as kind of a community in between the meetups, places that we can share and also give you kind of a library of the things that are being discussed in the meetups so that you, I saw a lot of you taking notes and things like that that’s great. But we’ll also send out session notes and send out links and things like that after the call and that’ll all be in the Facebook group. So if you liked what you heard today and you wanna stay a part of this, I’d encourage you to join the Facebook group just so that you can make sure you’re getting all the information, we will send out one email each week letting you know about the next meetup and we’ll also send an email out after the meetup with the link to the recording and any notes that we took. But in the Facebook group you’ll get a lot more information

[Sam] Carl before we finally wrap up I just wanna comment on a few things. There’s a couple comments that are in the chat that I want to move over to the Facebook page, Valerie if you can just let me know if I can drop your comment from the chat into Facebook you can just comment that’s okay or something like that. Also just wanna make somebody in the chat had a great idea to follow everybody else’s page on social so you know Facebook Instagram, all of the whatever platforms you’re on. So to encourage each other we can follow each other’s page. And I think also Carl is it okay if people, since the chat window will go down once the meeting is over, throughout the week can people put their ideas in the Facebook group as well?

[Carl] Yeah, absolutely. In fact I think when you join the Facebook group we ask you what topis are you interested in hearing. So yeah we’re collecting ideas there as well. Well thank you everyone, we’re trying to schedule these to be 45 minutes just to kind of keep them crisp. I know there’s lots of other calls going on you’ve got lots of other things going on, so we’re gonna wrap this up right now. If you haven’t already put an idea of things you wanna hear about for future meetups please do that before you close out. Just wanna personally thank all of you. Thank you for letting us do this, thank you for joining in with us. I look forward to seeing you and more people here in coming weeks. I would encourage you to tell other people about it if you enjoyed it, tell ’em about it so they can join in. I think as was said in the email invite the more the merrier, the more ideas we can, the more we can collaborate, the more that we can share ideas that will be great. Thank you all, enjoy your day.

Meet the Author:

Carl Lefever

Carl Lefever, Founder & President

Carl is the founder of Improve & Grow, LLC, where his primary passion is helping businesses grow by improving their online marketing. He leads the team and is involved in developing and executing internet marketing strategies for our clients. Carl's background is in continuous improvement disciplines, focused on sales and marketing operations and he is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is a proud father of 4 girls and loves traveling and supporting missions work.