Monday, 23 December 2013

The Hotel GDS Connectivity Warning

GDS Connectivity only works when you work.

Landmark Hotels Dubai
It happens all the time:  A hotel starts with GDS Connectivity, and then sits back. 
The hotel waits the 6 or 12 months of the initial contract, and then calls its representative to say: "We do not get any reservations, we want to cancel!"

Because often it is not understood that this connectivity is a marketing tool. As with any tool, it needs to be used.  Compare it to buying a car. You can buy a Mercedes, or a Rolls for that matter, and there it is, a shiny status symbol at the front door. But if you do not use it, or didn't even know you needed a drivers license, do you think: "It's useless"?

Read my 'Adventures in GDS Land'
A good GDS representative will always offer you a training. They will tell you how to manage the system and how to make the most of it. Never hesitate to ask for that training. And, if you did not understand it the first time round, ask for a second training.

Any representative will always be more than happy to provide you with that training. Because the better you understand how it works, the more reservations you will attract, and that again is very good for the representative.

Depending on the quality of the representation, lots of work and thought will go into the revenue management. But if you as a hotel marketing manager do not your part of the work, this representative can only do so much.

In the end, it is the hotel that is the pilot. Opening and closing availability, offering different rate plans, learning to play with these rate plans... All that might seem difficult or confusing in the beginning. But the more you start to understand the possibilities, the more you will start to like to know more, experiment more, until it becomes a passion.

Do not see that part of marketing as work. In my experience it were always those hotels that were enthused, that almost saw it as a game of Monopoly, that got the best results. 

Being on the GDS gives a hotel world wide exposure to almost up to 400.000 travel agents, so it is a wonderful marketing tool. But never forget it is just that, a tool, so it is in your best interest as a hotel to actually to start understanding it, and using it.

Ben (Bernardus)

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Website conversion starts with 7 seconds

This is the time you as a website owner have: 7 SECONDS.

I NEVER work with stock photography. It seriously hurts the conversion.
This is the time span in which your website visitors will make their emotional decision. 

Whether or not they will take your site into account as a possible contender.

To make it to their 'shortlist', so to speak. 

So not even whether they will convert into a customer, but whether it's realistic to expect such conversion. It's the first and most important step towards website conversion. 

As I described at length before: website visitors scan, not read.  Just as at any time in history or any place in nature, our immediate reaction is the question: fight or flight? 

Always remember that language and words are brand new. For the greatest part of our history we humans 'read' environments, patterns in the sky, eyes, attitudes. 

It's the drum roll of the song, the first notes of the symphony, that will decide whether you are willing to start listening or not. 

It's the reason why template websites do not work, why stock photography doesn't work, etc. They are instantly recognized as such, and you as website manager are judged on it.

For their subliminal message is: 'I could not be bothered to invest time or original thought in it, or do not have the budget for it'

So all your words about how good you are, how professional, how successful - instantly sound false or parochial. 

It's also the reason why so much effort and money poured into SEO or paid advertising are wasted: you are nothing with 10.000 website visitors a month or even a day, if only a fraction converts into a customer (and most probably even a fraction without potential).

If a website manager is serious about website conversion - he or she needs to be serious in the first place.

And the first step is realizing that your website is scanned by intuition and instinct... long before the ratio starts to read.


Friday, 20 December 2013

I wish you a Vermeer Christmas

Vermeer is the antidote for all things stress or alienation. 

Looking at his painting here, one wonders whether 'Zen' only popped up as fashion and trend - 
when we no longer possessed it.

Just as rustic furniture only became a fashion from the moment rusticism disappeared from our lives.  

Or as the umbrella being invented when getting wet suddenly turned into a problem

Of course the state of complete inner peace is not reserved to a specific Asian culture. We used to all know it. 

Looking at this lovely milkmaid we experience a stillness of mind of an era long gone by. Trivial as her action may be, she is one with the moment. And right she is. It is also a moment in her life. Can we even remember the last time we had a moment of such almost religious surrender? 

If only we could enjoy this full contentment, of natural light, our surroundings, our decoration, our action - or 'job' if you wish.

Looking at a Vermeer one becomes a still life one self. Sheer inner peace. 


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Religion, Art and Marketing

In Brussels alone, the budget spent on pharmaceuticals amounts to a million euro - per night.

But through all major cities runs a never ending river of trucks bringing in tranquilizers, sleeping pills and anxiety suppressants.

It's not Big Business. It's Mind Blowing Business.

OF COURSE art and religion remain on the back burner in education.

Education is not here to make us happy or healthy. It is not here to teach children how to deal with their own aggression, low self esteem, cope with failure, bullying or general survival.
If anything, it does NOT want to teach us all that. Happy people or people who feel at peace with themselves, are not good for the economy.
They don't need to go shopping, they don't need beauty farms or wellness centers, they don't need the latest shiny tool to fill any void or experience a temporary rush of contentment. Not to mention just how many professionals in physical and mental health would suffer because of the lack of customers.
Education is here as fuel for the economy. Nothing more. And the economy demands we feel averagely satisfied. More or less happy. Not unhappy rather than happy.
The whole of marketing is aimed at promising you happiness. Promising you success, popularity, beauty and happiness.
I know, I work in marketing. And love it.
And am not even its subversive member.
My thinking is the same as the one that is slowly spreading throughout the whole industry.
That people want a real Christmas, not a marketing version of it.



Sunday, 15 December 2013

There's nothing that art can't cure

This is an article to read slowly.
Living in the moment is the cure to many things.
And the rest is solved by art.

Stress? Art. Loneliness? Art.
The problem you are having right now? Art.
Your website doesn't convert visitors into clients? Art.

It's the reason why artists are the poorest members of society - and the richest. More than psychiatrists, than life coaches, than entertainers, than business consultants, more than SEO's, more than soccer players - more than anyone anywhere, it are great artists that are remembered and that people turn to.

Why a museum can trigger half of the income of a city.

Why behind every new invention in consumer technology there is not only a great IT specialist, but also a great designer. 
Popular culture entertains us, art heals us. It doesn't matter if you define yourself as not culture minded - at one point or the other, you as well will turn to art. And more often than not, you don't know WHY.
If all else fails, every career move or every valium, we turn to art.
We try to contain our feelings by putting them into words. By precisely defining them. Most of our deeper feelings though are inexplicable.
So we give up and say: something is wrong. Something seems to be lacking.
Many of us don't believe in an official religion. We turn to surrogate religions (positivism, the Secret, New Age, Herbalife, Apple) and also there we give up and end by saying: "But I believe there's something".
We live in the era of Somethingism. Of Somethingity.
As a matter of fact, we've always lived there. For here is something you should realise:
In the ocean of time, it is - what?  100 years since we read? A few thousand years since a very first person in our species could write?  A little bit more since we communicate by using a language?
Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of years that we survived by 'reading' images.
Landscapes. Patterns in the sky. An intuitive scanning of the surroundings.
We are all still far, far, far better at 'reading' moods, situations, faces, an atmosphere, than words. (Marketing Manager, this is why your website has a low conversion rate).

This is what art does to you or for you.

Reach you, HIT YOU, on that deeper level.

Straight to your limbic brain, past your day-to-day defense systems, your average 'house-garden-kitchen' rationality.

And fix it there.
Art is the big defragmenter of your brain.
The cleanser of your hard disc.

If you let it in.



Saturday, 14 December 2013

How to protect your online reputation

Protect it by knowing the 3 rules of thumb.

(An expression, by the way, that comes from an old English custom in which a man was not allowed to hit a woman with anything stronger than a thumb).
Here are the 3 rules we can pretty much say they apply to the online reputation of each of us: 
Just as the car we dream of, our online image is simply how we wish to be perceived. It's our facade.
That's not hypocritical at all. Our survival techniques always indicate the same: our lives do not neatly walk over the line of who we are, but how we are perceived.
You learn it very quickly: your post that talks of being depressed or ill, will trigger one quick 'ow, how bad'. And that's it. Your positive post though will trigger dozens of likes and comments. People feel bad or bored or insecure enough as it is, and crave for the energy of others. 
So online we all have to just use one side of ourselves. That side we deem safe to show. 
You are not worried at all about how you are perceived? You don't care about 'privacy settings' or just how many times social networks change them, so you basically give up on changing them? You think that everything you say or show can be seen by everyone? 
Because you've "got nothing to hide"?
The only danger here is that this information can still be used by everyone. Your liking of this type of clothing, that movie, such country - not to mention how we all throw open the door very wide for future facial recognition - will be used in marketing. 
Right now we only experience the first babysteps in that matter. The days when you set foot in a shopping mall and all the shops already know your name, face, likings and behaviour is not far away.
Do you like that prospect? 
You set foot in a store and your name pops up on a screen, together with ads personalized to your taste, the music and lighting adapt to your preference, and the sales persons already know what you were interested in the weeks before? 
We've got nothing to hide - except ourselves.


This might sound contradictory to point 1, and it isn't. For as much we try to only project an image, we definitely reveal our complete being.
It just takes an amateur psychologist, or a robot collecting information and cross-referencing data, to quickly detect the subliminal message of your online profile.  
You can be very quickly defined as: a person who needs attention, displays egocentrism, shows signs of irregular behaviour or sociopathy or bullying, is insecure, does not perform well in stress situations, does not finish a task up to the end, is quickly bored, chats during work hours, talks about work, can or cannot be trusted with confidential material, looses himself in details, is assessed as a floating voter,...
It used to take hours of psychological assistance and assessment tests to detect these patterns : the very big social networks already know this about you, and a good psychologist can detect it from studying our online timelines.
Sure: nothing to be done about it. You can't change who you are (at least not without a tremendous amount of energy) nor avoid it to trickle through. Posting as little as possible might be the only protection. Which, anyway, is needed for any addiction!! 

You already wrote about this, Ben!
Why do you repeat this message over and over again?
Here is why:

·         Because it can't be said enough.
We keep saying "yes, we have to take more care online", and then never act on it.
Online moguls will for sure not warn you of the dangers, for these are to their advantage. The information you provide them with, is golden.
·         Because repeating is marketing rule Nr 1.Our heads are saturated with information. One commercial is worthless: it is seen and forgotten. It needs to be repeated, 5 times an evening, 50 times a week, to have any effect.

Your marketing animal.


How to protect yourself in 2014.

Some things will only become active in 2015. Or 2016. Or 2025 for that matter.
They will happen though. The technology already exists. Here are warnings that can't be repeated enough.
1. Please be very, very careful with what you post online
Ever noticed how IT geeks never ever use their name online? Never use their real photo? Never use an email address that gives any hint about who they actually are?
Because they are aware of what the consequences can be. What you put online is indestructible. Regardless about your 'privacy settings', any larger company, amateur hacker or entity can get to it. If not today, then in 20 years from now. What you do today, can hurt your career in 10 years from now.

2. Be careful with what you do online
There are companies who are hacked, and companies who do not know that yet.
Not hacked, does not exist.
Gone are the days that hacking was a means of boycotting or damaging you. Today it is all about collecting information. Monitoring the moves and plans of competition as well as the behavioural patterns of 'consumers'.
You are a tiny company debating a thrilling concept or invention? And then you suddenly discover someone in China was faster than you?
This happens all the time. It's more rule than exception.
3. The effect of your personal photos
You set foot in a restaurant, for the very first time, and the Maitre D has already identified you as a lover of Italian food.
Stronger: he might already know there are lovers of Italian food in the neighbourhood.
Your photo has been posted online so many times now, and the technology already exists to have it automatically cross-referenced with your likings and online behaviour.
Sure, some of you might find that good service. Or even awesome.
Those of you who know the effects of instant gratification on your overall sense of happiness, will find this harmful. (We like those things that remain special or only have once in a while).
Or you might feel this turns you from a human into merely a 'consumer'.
We are all used (and use) the quick glance: that quick scanning of a person, from his shoes to his haircut and car, in order to check out his reliability, finances or social standing. This is now industrialised.
4. The power
In a previous article I mentioned how Google knows more about you, than you yourself. For the simple reason they can analyse the behaviour of a billion people and put it into patterns.
They can detect whether you show the typical behaviour of a gay, feminist, maverick, anarchist, socialist, Muslim, passive aggressive, politically risky, non-consuming, alternative,... long before you know yourself.
Their knowledge is worth trillions.
Governments can still control the massive returns of taxes, it are Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and a few dozen other multinationals that have the knowledge.
They are the rising Roman empire of today.
And just as any empire, need to spread a message of 'goodness'. Just as we went to Africa to 'spread the message of God', to Irak 'to bring freedom'. Especially in the West there are more people who worship Steve Jobs than Jesus, Bill Gates is 'the philanthropist', Facebook only wants 'to bring people together', etc.

That will be very interesting to monitor.
If you know yourself, you know half the world. If you feel reluctant to jump on a wagon, it means that millions of others feel that too.
The explosion in consumer technology might be spinning out of control - there are many examples of inventions that were just not taken on board.
Nobody will dispute that an automatic car is handier. Even after decades it has still not made waves in Europe. Generation after generation keep preferring the clutch. Quadrophonia is better than stereo. Again, just not taken on board.  Or just see how people love to keep struggling with peanuts.
Stereo, clutch, peanuts... very often it is about the pleasure in doing something, rather than have it prepared.
So let's see where you will pass. When will things become a bridge too far for you.
When your eye movements will be tracked on a tablet?
When your brain can be printed in 3D? (already possible)
When every stranger can scan you and instantly know everything about you?
Some of you will say: brilliant!
Some of you will find this a full handover to bigger powers - and ones that will be near to impossible to ever get out of. And to end on a pleasant note:
You are still the captain of your ship

Right now, in December 2013, you still are.
You will decide who you will be in that brand new world, or what signal you want to give right now.
Every move of you online, is a political one.