Month: January 2017

Marketing 3.0Storytelling training & case studiesTourism marketing

Storytelling training workshops

Even if the opportunities to tell stories have always existed as a part of intra-community communication and more recently for marketing purposes, very few people have ever been trained to do so, including most marketers. In destinations practicing marketing 3.0, storytelling training has three main purposes:

  • Empowering and motivating stakeholders to contribute in the story creation and delivery, hence boosting the destination’s content marketing machine.
  • Providing the transformational experience that storytelling training creates in many people as a self-awareness exercise, healing therapy and development of social consciousness.
  • Developing leadership skills among the community members to empower them in becoming change leaders of the new culture to be built and the mission pursuit.
  • Educating students by transferring wisdom and values, and by developing innovative thinking, artistic and communication skills.

Storytelling training is a key tool for the development of destinations developing a marketing 3.0 approach. As aforementioned, it may have many different purposes, for it is usually adapted to the main purpose. This training is carried out through workshops.

Before planning a Storytelling training workshop it is necessary to assess well the goals of the target audience. In this regard, we may distinguish between three main types of workshops:

  • Story circle: focused on sharing personal stories about specific concerns
  • Change leadership storytelling: focused on developing storytelling skills for change leaders
  • Digital storytelling: focused on mastering the techniques for editing digital stories

Despite the different focus, the three types of workshops have some common learning outcomes. Participants learn to craft and tell stories to connect with their target audience, learning how to find the right words, rewrite, reframe and craft their story, and developing skills to convey emotions and engage their listeners. The main learning outcomes are:

  • Theoretical framework of plot and character prototypes
  • Techniques for creating and developing characters
  • Techniques for crafting a compelling narrative
  • Process for stretching stories to convey different messages
  • Techniques for public speaking and communicating in a dynamic and compelling way
  • How to use stories for different purposes such as teaching, building community, selling, etc.
  • The importance and roles of logic play, credibility and emotion for successful storytelling
  • Creative process from the brief to the delivered story
  • Quick and easy story creation formulas

Do you think of other ways to train on story making and storytelling?

StrategyStrategy planning & executionSustainability

The 5 Competitive forces: Rivalry among competitors

Competitors’ rivalry may be shown through much evidence, such as advertising campaigns, new product launches, price discount campaigns, product or service improvements, etc. The extent to which rivalry affects the industry’s profitability depends upon the intensity of the competition and the basis of the competition.

The intensity of rivalry is greater when:

  • There are a large number of competitors, or many of them are similar in size.
  • The slow industry growth intensifies the fights for market share.
  • Participants have industry leadership aspirations beyond economic performance, and so they have a passionate commitment to their business. This happens sometimes in the great international events, which are not profitable themselves but foster the reputation of the destination.
  • Different business models measure performance in different ways due to different strategic goals, and so it is difficult for them to monitor their rivals’ evolution, success and chances to gain market share. A diversity of rivals with different cultures, histories and philosophies make an industry unstable. There is greater possibility for mavericks and for misjudging rival’s moves.
  • Strategic stakes (investments) are high when a firm is losing market position or has potential for great gains. Over the last decade there has been a process of concentration affecting most of the major tour operators throughout Europe, taking advantage of the market growth.
  • Industry shakeout. The industry may become crowded if its growth rate slows and the market becomes saturated, creating a situation of excess capacity with too many goods chasing too few buyers. A shakeout ensues, with intense competition, price wars, and company failures.
  • Significant increase of the used production capacity increases offer and hence competition.
  • High exit barriers. This happens in some businesses with very specific assets that cannot be resold for other purposes, thus making it imperative to compete to recover the investment.

The dimensions in which rivals compete and the extent to which they compete in the same dimensions have a significant impact on the industry’s profitability. Rivalry is especially harmful to profitability when it is focused on price competition, as this pushes the prices down and favors only the customers. Price competition also makes the customers overlook other product features and focus only on price. Price competition is more likely to take place when:

  • Product differentiation is low (and there are few switching costs for buyers).
  • The overheads are high and the variable costs are proportionately low, pushing the prices down in some cases to near the marginal costs. This happens especially in the low season.
  • There needs to be a significant increase in capacity to make the business profitable.
  • The perishability of the product forces the price down to what the market is willing to pay, which in some cases is ridiculous. Over the last years there has been a trend to market the vacant rooms or packages through specialized “last minute” channels.

When the competition is based in other dimensions such as product differentiation, design, or branding, profitability is less likely to be damaged, as the competition drives rivals to innovate in creating more value for the customer, which is actually likely to end up pushing the prices up rather than cutting them. Further, value based competition builds barriers to entry and makes the potential substitutes less attractive or suitable.

Stronger rivalry occurs when competitors aim for the same positioning in the market, focusing on the same dimensions and so are trying to satisfy the same needs for the same targets. This usually ends up in a zero-sum competition, not increasing the profitability.

Rivalry turns into a positive sum –increase the industry’s average profitability- when each participant focuses on different targets, offering different products and services adapted to the target segment’s needs, with different features, different value added services, different branding, different price mix, etc. In this case, so long as the companies’ products satisfy better the clients’ needs, they build more barriers to entry, differentiate from substitutes and so they can also charge higher prices and increase their margins, increasing the business profitability. It is the challenge of the strategist to shift the nature of competition towards segmentation and differentiation in order to increase and secure profitability.

Industry rivalry may be measured by the Concentration Ratio (CR), indicating the percentage of market share held by the four largest firms in the industry. With only a few firms holding a large market share, the competitive landscape is less competitive (closer to a monopoly). A low concentration ratio indicates that the industry is characterized by many rivals, none of which have a significant market share. These fragmented markets are said to be competitive.

If rivalry among firms in an industry is low, the industry is considered to be disciplined. However, a maverick firm seeking a competitive advantage can displace the otherwise disciplined market. The intensity of rivalry commonly is referred to as being cutthroat, intense, moderate or weak, based on the firms’ aggressiveness in attempting to gain an advantage.

In the tourism industry, there are two key trends that favor value based rivalry: market segmentation and leverage of the destination’s cultural identity to build more powerful brands.

However there is a considerable market for price sensitive customers, and once in the destination there is usually plenty of information about all accommodation and services choices, in which the price is one of the most visible features. Massive tourism destinations tend to compete on a price based type of rivalry.

To gain advantage over rivals, a destination may choose among several strategic moves:

  • Developing new products
  • Improving their segmentation strategy
  • Using the distribution channels more creatively to gain awareness and offer attractive deals
  • Developing a cost advantage to lower prices
  • Improving other aspects related to the destination’s competitiveness

How would you measure rivalry between destinations?

Marketing 3.0

The story creation process

Most of the stories are not completely original, but rather a result of combining ideas from many experiences and stories coming from different sources. So in the case of the storytelling marketer, crafting stories requires collecting ideas from various sources and using the imagination to combine them in an original way. Combining many sources of inspiration with the needs and desires of your audience is likely to be the formula of successful brand stories.

According to Joe Lambert –master storyteller and director of the Center for Digital Storytelling-there are several steps in the creative process of a narrative:

Empty your mind. As E’yen A. Gardner said, “To express yourself in a creative way you do not need structure, you need an empty mind”. Best ideas appear in the gap between consciousness and unconsciousness, not as a result of thinking. For instance, try reading a short piece of narrative, and then close your eyes, take a few deep breaths or do a short meditation and empty your mind. Then let the inspiration emerge and start writing whatever comes to your mind. Clearing your mind is the key to letting ideas from past experiences flow and imagining original combinations.

Support your self-confidence. Some writers, especially those who are less experienced, may lack self-confidence along the creative process and mostly at the beginning. There are some mental tricks to overcome your insecurities: As John Steinbeck said “Do not write thinking about an audience or an editor, think about someone you like, who likes you and thinks you are great”. Try to visualize that person nodding at your storytelling in the sense of approval to encourage you in developing your ideas and exploring new ones.

Re-shape and polish. When you read it for the first time, you have to assess whether the narrative conveys the ideas and messages you intended to explain in a compelling and clear way. There is always something you can improve to upgrade the quality of your work: find better words to express the ideas, reframe the explanation to make it more efficient and clear, include missing nuances, further develop the most important ideas, etc. Critical reading is just the first quality control that your narrative will go through.

First audience. Even if you have strong confidence in your writing, it is convenient to check what some of the potential readers think about it: do they receive the message you intend to convey? Do they find it easy to read? Do they understand the most complex ideas you explain? Do they find it compelling? Do they find it too short and miss further development of some ideas? Or do they find it too long and descriptive? From listening to many opinions you are likely to more clearly view what the narrative conveys and how readable and compelling it is for them. You could always listen to more opinions, but you had better stick to set deadlines.

Refining or reframing. Once you have listened to your first audience sample, it’s time to compare the intended message you wanted to convey when you started writing and the one that the audience members have received. Maybe you come up with new ideas and you decide to reshape your initial idea. In this stage you can review the purpose of your narrative or reframe it somehow to make it more adequate for your target audience, making the necessary adjustments to better arouse the emotions and convey the messages you want and also tailor the narrative to their needs and likes.

Speaking it out. When it is a personal story, it is convenient to tell it to someone in order to notice how these words resonate when they are spoken. This is the moment when storytelling starts to become a transformational experience, so long as the story brings you back to past moments of your life that are charged with strong emotions. Such experience may provide you with new insights about the story or to better understand some things about your life. The section “The transformational power of storytelling” at the end of this Whitepaper goes into depth on the power of storytelling as a life-changing experience.

Finally there may be some more iterations on testing and refining the story to get it finished.

Do you think of other creative stages or techniques to foster creativity?

Marketing 3.0StrategyStrategy planning & executionTourism marketing

Monitoring results

As for all strategies, storytelling results need to be monitored to evaluate its effectiveness in terms of the marketing goals. The success of storytelling marketing is mainly measured by the extent to which stories become the focus of conversations. However, so long as the new technologies offer new possibilities, there are new metrics to consider. In accordance with Latitude’s method, we suggest that storytelling marketing performance should be measured through four main categories of metrics: Impact, integration, interactivity and immersion.

Impact: does the story inspire one to take action offline, such as purchasing, supporting a cause, inspiring one to discover more, to better oneself, etc.

  • Mindset shifting: to what extent does the story make the audience consider a new point of view or even change their attitudes in relation to a certain issue?
  • Heart shaking: does the story move the audience to support a good cause?
  • Acquired knowledge: does the audience learn anything new about the destination experiences and services? Does it boost the number of enquiries or information searches?
  • Conversion: does the call to action move the audience to take the intended action?
  • Coverage & impression: what reach, viewership and positive sentiment does it achieve? Does it generate positive publicity? Does it increase the recommendation rate?

Integration: is the story cohesive across platforms? Can it interface with the real world?

  • Cross-platform usage: how many devices and platforms are the followers using?
  • Cross-platform engagement: how engaged is the audience with each platform and device?
  • Offline integration: does the story integrate real world experiences?

Interactivity: can the audience somehow influence the elements of the story? Can they interact with other followers or with characters?

  • Plot building: how much does the audience participate in shaping the story plot (voting, providing ideas, etc.)?
  • Engagement: apart from sharing the content, how active is the audience in discussing, participating, collaborating, and competing with other followers?

Immersion: to what extent is it possible to go deeper in the story world, learn more about the context and the character’s lives, and have sensory experiences about it?

  • Information searching: how active is the audience in seeking further information about the story context and characters?
  • Extended following: to what extent does the audience look for stories related to this one?

Such metrics are to be revised and new metrics are to be created for as long as new strategies are developed in accordance with new media technologies that allow new ways of interacting, immersing, integrating online with offline experiences, and generating new kinds of impacts.

What other indicators would you consider to track the story performance?

StrategyStrategy planning & executionSustainability

The 5 Competitive forces: The threat of substitutes

A substitute is a product or service that satisfies the same need in a different way. A threat of substitutes exists when a product’s demand is affected by the price change of a substitute product. A product’s price elasticity is affected by substitute products –as more substitutes become available, demand becomes more elastic since customers have more alternatives.

Many substitutes may be overlooked because of their different nature, as they are not direct competitors. They limit the industry’s profitability by pressing the product prices, just as another competitor would. There is a high threat of substitutes when:

  • The substitute product or service offers an advantageous price-performance relationship compared to the industry product
  • There are little or no switching costs associated to the substitute product or service.

Strategists should monitor all the potential substitute industries’ evolution, to detect changes that may turn these potential substitutes into attractive alternatives due to a price downturn, emerging risks concerning security or health issues, a crisis diminishing the buyer’s available budget, or new entertainment trends, for instance. In the tourism industry we consider substitutes –in most cases- those other tourism sectors that may satisfy the same or similar needs.

For instance, we consider that two ski resorts are competitors, but a rural villa or a golf resort is a potential substitute as long as it satisfies the need for vacation. Other conventional substitutes could be residential tourism with relatives or friends, or activities related to the entertainment industry. However, sometimes the substitutes may come from technological industries, such as video-conference services in the case of business tourism.

How would you assess the power of substitutes in the tourism industry?

Marketing 3.0Tourism marketing

Controlling the story content quality

As professional writers do when editing their works, content creators should also follow a protocol to ensure a minimum quality standard of the branded content. This protocol consists of a check list to ensure that the content complies with certain requirements. Some of the check points to evaluate the narrative should be the following:

Is it compelling?

  • Is it original or surprising?
  • Is it related to the interests of the target audience?
  • Are the title and headers compelling, interesting and clear to motivate reading?
  • Are the images, infographics or videos clear, compelling and located in the right place?
  • Are there bold ideas and facts to catch the reader’s attention?
  • Does it convey emotions or have some practical value?
  • Does the introduction motivate you to keep on reading?

Is it adjusted to the content strategy?

  • Does the content tell a story?
  • Is the content aligned with the destination’s mission and values?
  • Is the format adequate for the channels and devices it is to be delivered on?
  • Does the content tone go in accordance with the destination contents’?
  • Does it contain any controversial information or opinions that may offend or be harmful to any of the destination stakeholders?
  • Are the tone and words used adequate for the audience and purpose of the content?

Is it readable and written correctly?

  • Are there any grammatical flaws?
  • Are there any spelling mistakes?
  • Is the narrative smooth and easy to read?
  • Is the flow of the story coherent and logical?
  • Do the chapter titles and headers help in following the story? Do they create any confusion?

These and some more points are to help the writers revise their drafts before continuing on writing the story, or at the end, before sending the narrative to be edited.

What other points would you consider to control the content quality?

Marketing 3.0Tourism marketing

Setting the story style

As for all the marketing materials, brand storytelling has to follow certain guidelines that are usually detailed in the corporate content marketing style guide.

In the case of destinations, where many amateur writers are to participate, this style guide plays an especially important role. First, it has to be explained in the storytelling training workshops for the new storytellers, but it has to be easily available to all of them on the corporate site. The style guide is like a basic road map that orientates writers on how to create high-quality content. There are some key recommendations to take into consideration when crafting the destination’s content marketing style guide:

Clearly define your goals and audience targets. Think about writers with different skill levels, providing not only guidelines for advanced writers but also for average and inexperienced ones.  Focus on the most common flaws and main style guidelines.

Create a logical framework that makes it user friendly. Facilitate the understanding about how to use the guide to make it easy for the new writers who are not familiar with that kind of document. Using simple language and visual aids is likely to help them out.

Use reputable sources of guidance. So long as the Style Guide cannot include guidelines for all the possible mistakes, it is convenient to use a few selected sources of style guidance that users can access in case of doubt.

Promote its usage. Apart from the digital version uploaded in the corporate website, it would be convenient to all contributors to have a paper copy of the Guide in the storytelling training workshop. Then it is the moment to explain the importance of using it.

Update it regularly. The content marketing style is likely to evolve in the same way as all the marketing strategies evolve. The Guide is therefore to be updated incorporating the new social language and other communication trends.

Some of the key components of a Content Marketing Style Guide would be:

  • List of stylistic guidelines on what to do and what not to do
  • Punctuation guidelines on when to use colons and semicolons
  • Corporate guidelines regarding some words and phrases that are part of its culture
  • Guidelines on confusing words to let the writers know the differences
  • Writer’s checklist to evaluate drafts and correct mistakes

How would you foster the adoption of the Style Guide by the non-professional contributors?

StrategyStrategy planning & execution

The 5 Competitive forces: The power of buyers

In a similar way, powerful clients can leverage their bargaining power by pushing prices down, demanding higher product quality or more added services, etc. In the tourism industry, buyers are FIT, outbound tour operators, internet portals, travel agencies, corporate clients and sometimes also DMCs. However, every tourist sector may have a different buyer structure (%FIT, TTOO concentration, relevance of corporate clients and associated clients). Tour operators can be identified as the main buyers of most tourist products. Buyers have negotiating power when:

  • There is higher concentration in the buyers’ side than in the suppliers’, or the business volume of the buyers is significantly larger than their suppliers’. In this respect, there has been an increasing concentration of the outbound tour operators in the major outbound markets, especially in the sectors with the highest concentration of travelers.
  • The products tend to be commoditized. That occurs with destinations that do not care for their heritage and do not foster their culture as an essential part of the experience, in those sectors that are not culture focused.
  • There are few or no switching costs for customers. Switching costs are barely ever relevant apart from residential tourism (when the tourist own a property in the destination).
  • Customers may seriously threaten with backward integration to take a stake on suppliers’ business. Some outbound tour operators buy hotels in the destinations and set their own inbound travel services.
  • Buyers have very good information about the demand, prices and the supplier. In the tourism industry it is not easy to hide information of the suppliers.
  • If the utility of the product is low for the buyer, this will be more likely to press the prices down to compensate the low utility. This is unlikely to happen in the tourism industry.

Instead, buyers are weak if:

  • Producers threaten with forward integration, acquiring the distribution channel. This happens when accommodation operators market their services directly to the client, usually through the internet. It could also happen that these operators create packages including transportation and activities and market directly to the final customer through the internet, travel agencies or its own retailers.
  • Significant buyer switching costs. Only in the case of residential tourism.
  • Buyers are fragmented. This is the case of FITs and sometimes small tour operators.
  • Producers supply critical portions of buyers’ input distribution of purchases. This refers to the uniqueness of the accommodation or activities operator as a supplier within the tour operator package.

A buyer group is price sensitive if:

  • The purchased product accounts for a significant proportion of the procurement budget. Accommodation is usually the most significant fraction of the package, along with transportation depending on the length of the trip.
  • The customer is under pressure to reduce its costs due to low profits, tensions in the cash flow, etc. This happens quite often with the tour operators when negotiating with incoming services suppliers.
  • The product object of negotiation has little impact on the buyer’s product quality. This cannot happen in the tourism business, as all the main components are clearly visible to the final customer.
  • The product has little impact on the customer’s other costs. This is not likely to apply to the tourism industry. Only in very special cases.

Many producers try to counter the channel power with exclusive deals with specific distributors or simply by selling directly to final customers through their own channel.

Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, a few tour operators control most of the sales outlets today. Operators such as Kuoni are also in a position to centralize purchasing for an entire brand in all European countries. A common complaint by hoteliers is that if the requested price is not given, tour operators have the ability to take their clients to another destination. Tour operators identify new destinations with low startup costs and compete with existing destinations which are then forced to reduce prices. Certain European charters recently pulled out citing price issues.

Would you add more considerations on analyzing the power of buyers in destinations?

Marketing 3.0Tourism marketing

Strategies to foster story virality

Based on the factors that have proved to foster virality, there are three main strategy recommendations:

Design your content to provoke an emotional reaction. Arousing a sense of amusement, surprise, anger, solidarity or affection is likely to foster sharing among the audience. However, to make it effective, you should consider the following points:

  • Support the story with visual content, either photos or videos. Good visual content communicates much faster and is more engaging than written.
  • Make it entertaining by presenting your story in a humorous or original way. Make it stand out with an original plot or a more engaging tone or language.
  • Make the content personal by showing the faces of the people working in the organization. This helps by creating emotional connection and humanizing the stories.

Create content that provides real value. As aforementioned, stories may address some of the audience’s needs, challenges or aspirations, providing know how and inspiration for their personal lives. You may create and enhance the value provided by:

  • Inspirational stories work like case studies showing how others overcame a specific challenge or difficult situation, that are at least partially applicable to other people’s cases.
  • Stories related to other destinations with similar mission purpose provide a sense of authenticity to the audience and may eventually lead to cross-marketing alliances.
  • Invite thought leaders in the issues related to the audience concerns to write stories or participate in a story creation with the added value of reputable advice and know-how.

Embed features that facilitate virality. Incorporating interactive features in the content is likely to foster more engagement, and engagement is the first step towards virality. There are many possible ways to do so:

  • Incorporate social sharing tools throughout the site so that readers need only to click once to share it with their connections.
  • Encourage people to make comments so as to spur discussion among the story. Ask questions at the end of the content to provoke people into giving their opinions.
  • Create contents calling for participation and interactivity, like contests, sweepstakes, polls, etc. They are great engagement drivers and are also likely to go viral.

Finally, there are some common mistakes you should avoid if you want to boost engagement and virality: being offensive, asking for likes, talking about yourself and being too obscure.

Do you envision other strategies to make stories go viral?

Marketing 3.0Tourism marketing

What makes stories go viral?

One of the most desired effects of content creation and delivery is to make it go viral. Despite the fact there is not any magical formula to do so, there are many strategies and tactics that increase the chances of stories going viral. The main key factors fostering virality are:

Promise of practical value inspires people to share knowledge that may be useful to others. Either it is a matter of generosity or a matter of a desire to be perceived as smart and helpful, inherent practical value works as a social currency that fosters relationships among people. For some people, it makes them feel like insiders having privileged information.

Specific topics related to the dreams, aspirations and challenges of specific audience segments, inspiring them and spurring discussion among their community. These may encompass warnings, inspirational stories, advice, special deals and opportunities.

Inspiring strong emotions of laughter, amusement, anger, surprise, inspiring solidarity or uniting people for a common cause are powerful drivers of virality. The stronger the emotion is, the more likely the content is to go viral.

According to a survey carried out by The New York Times, the top motivators for sharing were:

  • 75% said that sharing helped them better understand news they were interested in
  • 85% said that the comments they got from sharing provided them with more thought
  • 94% considered how helpful a link would be to another user
  • 68% shared as an advertisement for themselves, to give others a sense of who they are
  • 73% said it helped them find people with common interests

Do you think of other factors that make stories go viral?