Category: Strategy

Strategy planning, strategy execution and business model design focused on collaborative modelling

Culture changeStrategyStrategy planning & execution

The Tipping Point’s theory for expanding destinations 3.0 (III)

Following with the second article presenting the Tipping point theory, where the “Stickiness factor” was explained, this third article explains the third key success factors to reach a Tipping point: the power of context.

The power of context

Social epidemics are very sensitive to the environment and the circumstances of the times in which they occur. The key idea of the power of context is that people are more than just sensitive to changes in context. And the kinds of contextual changes capable of tipping an epidemic are very different than we might ordinarily suspect.

For instance, Wilson and Kelling argued that crime is an inevitable result of disorder. If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will think that no one cares. Soon, more windows are likely to be broken, and the sense of anarchy spreads out from the building to the whole street, and further to the rest of the district, sending a message that anything goes.

The Tipping Point in this epidemic it’s something physical like graffiti. The motivation to engage in a certain kind of behavior is not necessarily coming from a certain kind of person but also from a feature of the environment. The essence of the Power of context is that our inner states are the result of our outer circumstances.

Thinking about “How much influence does immediate environment have on the way people behave?”, Philip Zimbardo –from Stanford University- concluded that there are certain times, places and conditions when our inherent predispositions can be swept away, and that there are circumstances where you can take normal people from good schools and happy families and good neighborhoods and powerfully affect their behavior just by changing the immediate details of their situation.

What this study suggests is that the convictions of our heart and our thoughts are eventually less important in guiding our actions than the immediate context of our behavior. Environmental Tipping Points are things that can be changed: we can fix broken windows and clean up graffiti and change the signals that first invite to vandalism or other kind of undesirable behavior.

Judith Harris has convincingly argued that peer influence and community influence are more important than family influence in determining how children behave. Their behavior is powerfully shaped by the environment out of their family, and the features of their immediate social and physical world –the streets they walk down, the people they encounter –play a huge role in shaping who they are and how they act.

More specifically, hereby we analyze the critical role that groups play in social epidemics. Psychologists say that when people are asked to make decisions in a group, they come to very different resolutions than when they are asked the same by themselves. When we’re part of a group, we’re all susceptible to peer pressure and social norms and other kinds of influence that play a critical role in sweeping us up in the beginnings of an epidemic.

The spread of any new and contagious idea also has a lot to do with the skillful use of group power. It’s easier to remember and appreciate something if you discuss it for two hours with your friends. Then it becomes a social experience and an object of conversation. On the other hand, peer pressure is much more powerful than a concept of a boss. People want to live up to what is expected from them. When each person has a group-acknowledged responsibility for particular tasks and facts, greater efficiency is inevitable.

The rule of 150 is an interesting example of the strange and incredible ways in which context affects the course of social epidemics. There is a concept in cognitive psychology called the channel capacity, referring to the amount of space in our brain for specific kinds of information. We have a channel capacity for feelings, and there is also what could be called social channel capacity. So what does correlate with brain size? According British anthropologist Robin Dunbar social group size is what correlates with the size of our brain. If you look at any species of primate the larger their neocortex is, the larger the average size of the groups they live with.

Dunbar’s argument is that brains evolve, they get bigger, in order to handle the complexities of larger social groups. If you belong to a group of five people, then you have to keep track of ten separate relationships: your relationships with the four others in your circle and the six other two-way relationships between the others. That’s what it takes to know everyone in the social circle.

Humans socialize in the largest groups of all primates because we are the only animals with brains large enough to handle the complexities of that social arrangement. Keeping things under 150 has proved to be the most efficient and effective way to manage a group of people. When the group gets larger than that, people become strangers to one another. They’re knit together, which is very important if you want to be effective and successful at community life. If you get too large, you don’t have enough things in common, and then you start to become strangers to one another and that close-knit fellowship starts to get lost. Above the 150 Tipping Point, there begin to be structural impediments to the ability of the group to agree and act with one voice.

If you are interested in further insights about this topic, I strongly recommend you to read Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point”, where you will also find many case studies that illustrate all the concepts and theories among other interesting content.

Culture changeStrategyStrategy planning & execution

The Tipping Point’s theory for expanding destinations 3.0 (II)

Following with the first article where the Tipping point theory was introduced, and the first point “The law of the few” was explained, this second article explains the second key success factor to reach a Tipping point: the stickiness factor.

The stickiness factor

Whereas the law of the few focuses on the nature of the messenger, the stickiness factor puts the focus on the content of the message and its capacity to become compelling, practical and personal. Only then it becomes memorable. As I explained in the Whitepaper “Marketing destinations through storytelling”, where the secret of successful stories was revealed, crafting a compelling story is an art, attainable only for especially talented individuals. This applies to the messages too, to make them stick.

To figure out how to create sticky messages, we should further deep into the storytelling technique. First of all, why do we like stories? We like them because they provide answers to our lives and a mechanism to shape our identity by connecting with the story characters. We connect emotionally with the story characters as long as they have similar challenges and values, and thus we regard them as a representation of ourselves. Stories not only help us building our identity but also work like social glue, as they help us in connecting with others and building relationships. Stories are the most effective way to create an emotional connection between brands and consumers.

Further, humans process information more efficiently when this is delivered through a story, and therefore this information is more likely to be remembered in the form of a story.

Stories can change our way of thinking and influence our feelings. They can drive an organizational culture change by opening people’s minds and building capacity of mutual understanding to enhance cooperation. They also have the power to make people envision a better future and how to overcome all the obstacles. Stories are pull strategy, as they allow people to decide by themselves, which is a key success factor of effective influence.

The art of persuasion consists on uniting ideas with emotions, and emotions are best conveyed through the form of a compelling story. Arousing the audience’s emotions spurs energy in them and moves them to take action. This is the power of storytelling.

Compelling stories are those that not only move people to share and take action but also engage the audience in a way that they are willing to follow up with the story with more chapters. Such kinds of stories are like the marketing diamond all marketers dream of, because they not only boost conversions, but also virality and customer loyalty.

To sum it up, as Aristoteles said, compelling stories need to have ethical appeal, emotional appeal and logical appeal to connect with the mind, heart and human spirit of the audience. Beyond the story itself, skilled storytellers have the ability to connect with the audience and convey the emotions embedded in the story. How the message is delivered is as much important as the content of the message itself. By telling the story with passion, enthusiasm and expression, the audience is more likely to get engaged. Besides, great storytellers have the ability to turn “me” into a “we”, by telling stories that shine the light on a concern that both the teller and the audience share. This connection creates empathy and opens people’s hearts, hence appealing to their human spirit and enhancing commitment in taking action.

There is no magic formula to reach the Tipping point to trigger the social epidemic, but there are many factors, strategies and tactics that increase the chances to make it happen, according to those who have studied the marketing contents that go viral. The main key success factors 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 will 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, advise, special deals and opportunities.

Inspiring strong emotions of laugher, amusement, anger, surprise, inspiring solidarity or uniting people for a common cause are powerful drivers of virality.

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 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

Based on these factors and other considerations, there are three 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.

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.

Embed features that facilitate virality. Incorporating interactive features in the content is likely to foster more engagement, and this leads to virality.

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.

You may find further information on this topic in the Whitepaper “Marketing destinations through storytelling”, freely downloadable in www.envisioningtourism.com

Marketing 3.0StrategyStrategy planning & executionTourism marketing

Brand Planning Should be the CEO’s Baby

This article is written by Bill Baker, Chief Strategist at Total Destination Marketing, author, speaker, and blogger at “Small City Branding around the world”.

At the conclusion of a presentation on place branding, I was approached by the CEO of a mid-west Chamber of Commerce who lamented that their brand planning had resulted in a bland and uncompetitive outcome. To my surprise, the CEO went on to take the blame himself by saying, “I made the mistake of delegating the project to our marketing manager and not taking responsibility to drive the process myself.” I’m sure that he hasn’t made the admission within his community or to his Board, but it’s commendable that he recognized this as being a major factor in the brand’s mediocre result.

The president, executive director, or CEO of the organization leading the effort on behalf of the community must be actively engaged in every aspect of the brand planning and development, and breathe vitality into the assignment. We have found that the only way for the brand to take off is having a leader who “gets it” and has the passion, authority, skills and vision to make it work. If he or she takes a passive role, the brand will almost certainly fail.

Understandably, there may be many legitimate distractions that consume the CEO’s time. However, the brand is at the heart of every activity directed toward the way the place will present itself for years to come, so it is worth every minute that he or she can devote to it. While the CEO may want to delegate aspects of the day-to-day management of the process to others, he must remain intimately involved in crafting and managing the strategy.

This article is re-posted with permission from http://citybranding.typepad.com/city-branding/page/2/

Culture changeStrategyStrategy planning & execution

The Tipping Point’s theory for expanding destinations 3.0 (I)

As it has been explained in previous articles as well as in the Whitepapers, the success of destinations 3.0 is based on growing and expanding a network of varied stakeholders who contribute in different ways to the destination’s business model development, as innovators, content creators, brand ambassadors, etc.

Creating and developing such a network is probably the most daunting of all the challenges in the destination 3.0 journey. Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point explains a theory on how social epidemics and trends work, through the power of influence of three types of characters: Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen, disregarding the support of the technological means. This theory may serve as a basis for understanding how this stakeholder network development can be achieved, so long as it is possible to craft a strategy to make it happen.

The theory states that social epidemics take place following three common characteristics: contagiousness, little facts causing big effects, and the existence of a turning point in the expansion of the epidemics, also called “the tipping point”. Besides, it identifies three key rules in spreading social epidemics or trends: the law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context.

“The law of the few” says that a group of people with exceptional skills are the ones who create the trend and spread it throughout their community; “the stickiness factor” says that there are some ways to make a message compelling and contagious to create an outstanding impact; and “the power of context” explains how the environment turns to be a key factor to determine human behavior. These three rules can provide us with guidance on how to reach a tipping point in spreading social epidemics.

The law of the few

Understanding why some ideas or messages turn viral and others don’t starts by understanding how people are connected to each other, and findings show that there are different types of people, who connect in different ways and bring different types of value to their community.

Connectors are individuals with an extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. This type of people is important not only for the number of people they know, but also for the many kinds of people they know. They are gifted with an instinct that helps them relate to the people they meet. Therefore, when looking for a job, new information, or new ideas, acquaintances turn to be more useful than friends, because these acquaintances are more likely to live in a different social or professional environment than yours, hence more likely to know many things that neither you nor your friends know.

The closer you are to a Connector, the more powerful, wealthier or the more opportunities you are likely to get. The closer an idea or a product comes to a Connector, the more chances to succeed it has as well.

The Maven, instead, is someone who accumulates knowledge. In recent years, economists have been studying Mavens, so long as if marketplaces depend on information, the people with the most information are among the most important to research on. They are who keep the marketplace honest. They are not just information collectors, once they figure out how to get that deal, they want to tell you about it too, initiating discussions with consumers and responding to requests, becoming helpers in the marketplace. Mavens are teachers, but also students. They are information brokers who share knowledge and create the message to be spread out by Connectors.

Finally, the Salesmen are those especially skilled to persuade the community members on to their way of thinking, to adhere to the new idea or trend and join the social epidemic. What sets them apart from average people is the number and the quality of the answers they have to the objections commonly raised to what they preach.  These persuasive skills relate more to the non-verbal than to the verbal communication, and consist of the ability to express emotions and to be emotionally contagious. People with this ability are also called “senders”.

The rest of the Tipping Point theory is to be explained split in three upcoming articles.

Culture changeStrategy

Fostering engagement and high performance

Apart from innovation and collaboration, a third key ingredient to make the organizations thrive is engagement, not only within the employees but also within the whole stakeholder system. Engagement comes naturally from motivation, which has to be sustained by leaders through trust, fair rewards, mission alignment and empowerment to develop new ideas and initiatives. All together creates not only loyalty and commitment, but also engagement, so long as the organization members have or develop a certain passion for what they do. These ingredients combined are the key elements of a high-performance culture. Performance-based cultures unify employees in a way that their relationships overcome hierarchical or geographical distance, making them feel and behave like within a family.

Commitment makes employees behave more like business owners, showing accountability and taking personal responsibility for the overall performance and not just their area. A high-performance culture has to be aligned with strategy. Such cultures usually share two features:

  • Behaviors related to high engagement. Employees are committed to their work and purpose of the organization, focused on ambitious results regardless of the effort needed.
  • Behaviors that align with the organization’s strategy. The way work gets done promotes the organization’s mission, goals and the strategy designed to realize them.

One of the key ingredients to boost engagement and high performance is passion for the work and for the organization. There are many ways to build passion within the organization:

Spotting Passion from the outset. Identifying enthusiastic professionals, right in the recruitment process is a first step to nurture the organization with the necessary passion. These may be spotted through their initiatives in getting a position within the organization, the way they talk about their job and their vision on their future job, the questions they ask, etc.

Leaders inspiring passion. So long as the leaders’ behavior shapes most of the employees’ behaviors, senior executives should be the first ones who convey passion to their younger peers. A good way to help them in creating an emotional connection between the brand and the team members is by telling stories about how the brand promise can be delivered.

Workspace that inspires passion. Despite the need for individual work spaces, it is also convenient to have open spaces that favor collaboration and let employees help each other with brainstorming and getting past problems even if everyone is working on different projects. All rooms should be bright and colorful with natural or ambient lighting.

Passion for the company. The organization can inspire passion in its members mainly through its mission. As in the case of destinations 3.0, triple bottomed business models, focusing not only on financial goals, but also on social and environmental ones are likely to engage and inspire passion in their employees, so long as they address their concerns.

Beyond high performance, one of the key benefits of employee engagement is turning them into brand ambassadors. Strong brands are not only created by marketing departments. They need the cooperation of the organization’s employees to deliver the brand promise effectively, and employees are those who hold the highest public trust, above Public Relations department or company leaders. Therefore, employees are like the first clients to be convinced, and the best way to gain their buy-in is to care about their concerns, right in the mission definition: not only their personal growth, but also the social and environmental challenges of the community.

Transforming employees into brand ambassadors may be achieved through these three steps:

  1. Promote Self Discovery & Personal Branding. When the employees can be the best version of themselves at work, productivity and retention increase. When they realize that the organization cares about their personal growth and well-being, they are likely to regard it like their second family and engage further in the mission. Helping them discover their strengths and integrate them into their work is essential to your team’s success.
  2. Make Brand awareness a priority. Leaders have to educate their teams on the brand values and live the brand by walking their talk, so they can learn from your example. It is convenient to create stories that illustrate how the brand promise is delivered, not only for the clients but also within the organization. Stories are the best conveyors of values, so long as they help the audience identify with the characters that represent the brand values.
  3. Connect the personal and the corporate. Successful firms help employees develop their personal brands, integrating their individual features with the corporate goals. It’s called applied personal branding. When employees know what makes them unique, and understand the corporate brand goals, they can apply their unique skills to achieve these goals. Each individual needs to determine how he can deliver the corporate brand promise. A strong brand requires employee engagement, which is driven by integrating the personal brands of your people.

This blogpost is from the Whitepaper “Building a culture of collaboration and innovation”, freely downloadable in this weblog. You may check the Whitepaper’s references to know the sources used for its elaboration.

Collaborative business modelsCollaborative cultureCulture changeMarketing 3.0

How collaborative leaders manage to build a collaborative culture

Following with the previous article on the same issue, a key success factor for building a culture of collaboration is to have collaborative leaders. These leaders ask for the others’ opinions, make them feel empowered, encourage contribution, are capable of managing egos, care about keeping high trust levels, and share credit with all contributors. These leaders also have strong skills in many areas:

  • Mission & goal orientation: defining and communicating the mission and common goals aligns all stakeholders in the right direction, reducing friction between functional teams.
  • Connectors: connecting the core group of stakeholders to other outsider agents expands the network of potential collaborators and opens their mind to new ideas and opportunities.
  • Information sharing: leaders should share their knowledge to guide their peers in taking leadership roles by teaching and mentoring them into the collaborative leadership culture.
  • Fostering understanding: so long as collaborative success depends on trust, leaders have to show understanding of their partners’ goals in order to bring their goals into alignment.
  • Talent attraction: recruiting and mixing people from diverse backgrounds and origins has been proved to generate great results in terms of innovation, so long as they are well led.
  • Collaborative role modelling: walking their talk and setting the right indicators and incentives, top leaders are those who ultimately create the corporate culture.
  • Empower other leaders: leaders should feel comfortable with letting others take their role when appropriate, so as to let them take ownership and thus increase their commitment.
  • Strong hand: showing a strong hand to set direction and leap forward when progression is stuck in the search for consensus or lack of prioritization.
  • Enterprise perspective: having a sound understanding of the overall corporate strategy and how the joint work they are leading aligns with that strategy.
  • Cross-functional perspective: understanding the needs, goals, indicators and incentives of the different areas, so as to align competing priorities within the operating model.
  • Customer perspective: beyond knowing the customers’ needs and motivations, managing to keep the team focused in enhancing the overall customer experience.
  • Self-management: being patient and exhibiting self-control when challenged, without taking disagreements personally.
  • Good listeners: managing to listen objectively and respectfully to many opinions, and empathizing with peers with different perspective.
  • Matrix influence: communicating effectively with different stakeholders and gaining their support on collaborative projects.

When looking for collaborative leaders, organizations should evaluate the following capabilities:

  • Attaining results by influencing rather than directing
  • Sharing ownership of the achievements, sharing also credit and rewards
  • Delegating roles and letting others deliver results
  • Motivating groups whose members do not share the same viewpoints
  • Making and implementing decisions in a collaborative way
  • Getting results without having direct control over people or resources

This article is from the Whitepaper “Building a culture of collaboration and innovation” written by Jordi Pera, Founder and CEO at Envisioning Tourism 3.0 Ltd. You may download for free the full Whitepaper at www.envisioningtourism.com/whitepapers

Collaborative business modelsCollaborative cultureCulture changeMarketing 3.0

Building a culture of collaboration: key success factors

In the case of destinations willing to embrace the principles of Tourism 3.0, the main behaviors to foster within the culture change effort are collaboration, innovation, and engagement.

Recent research in psychology, sociology, and experimental economics suggests that people behave far more cooperatively than it is usually assumed. During experiments on cooperative behavior, only 30% behave selfishly, whereas 50% systematically and predictably behave cooperatively. Some of them cooperate conditionally, treating others in the same manner as they are treated, but there is never a majority of people consistently behaving selfishly.

Further, Neuroscience also shows that a reward circuit is triggered in our brains when we cooperate with one another, and that provides a scientific basis for saying that at least some people want to cooperate, given a choice, because it feels good.

These findings suggest that instead of controlling and setting individual achievement based incentives to motivate people, companies should use systems that rely on engagement and a sense of common purpose. Several levers can help executives build cooperative systems: encouraging communication, ensuring authentic framing, fostering empathy and solidarity, guaranteeing fairness and morality, using rewards and punishments that appeal to intrinsic motivations, relying on reputation and reciprocity, and ensuring flexibility.

The majority of human beings are more willing to be cooperative, trustworthy, and generous than the dominant model has permitted us to assume. If we recognize that, we can build efficient systems by relying on our better selves rather than optimizing for our worst.

Based upon these assumptions, destinations 3.0 can easily build a culture of collaboration by:

  • Inspiring them with a vision of change that is beyond their individual capacity to bring about
  • Convincing them that the other collaborators are necessary to overcome the challenge
  • Preventing any participant from benefiting unfairly from others’ efforts, balancing the rewards
  • Cultivating good relationships among participants through informal gatherings and activities

The success of a collaborative community requires four organizational efforts:

  • Defining and building a shared purpose articulates how the group sets itself apart from competitors and the value it intends to bring to its customers and the society. This should be agreed upon consultation of members to ensure that they all feel involved in it.
  • Cultivating an ethic of contribution is about fostering a set of values that rewards people who prioritize the advance towards the common purpose over their own.
  • Developing processes that enable people to work together in flexible but disciplined projects. Protocols should be written and revised with the contribution of people involved in the task.
  • Creating an infrastructure in which collaboration is valued and rewarded, a platform that centralizes all generated knowledge applicable to various projects, where it is possible to assess everybody’s contribution, working as reputation scorecard to reward contributors.

These organizational efforts into results, it is essential to provide a framework for collaboration allowing the connection between people based on what they know and in the context of the innovation challenges at hand. This also means giving employees tools to rapidly identify subject matter experts.

According to Harvard, there are 7 key factors to create a successful cooperative system:

  • Communication is an essential component for collaboration, so the system should facilitate communication among participants by all possible means.
  • Framing and authenticity. Framing a collaborative practice will help in engaging the participants at the beginning, but it will require authenticity to keep them committed.
  • Empathy and solidarity. As long as we feel socially linked to our community, we are more likely to cooperate sacrificing our interest for the group’s benefit.
  • Fairness and morality. People want to engage in what is morally correct, for which the main set of values should be defined.
  • Rewards and penalties. Incentive systems should be aligned with the inner motivations of participants rather than material rewards only. It should be social, rewarding and fun.
  • Reputation and reciprocity. A very powerful motivator is the expectation for reciprocity, which however may lead to corruption. Reputation is the best tool to avoid corruption.
  • Diversity. Cooperative systems need to consider motivation drivers other than money. So long as innovators have various motivations, incentive systems should integrate such variety.

The key factors for success in building a culture of collaboration are to be further developed in another upcoming blogpost, based on collaborative leadership.

This article is from the Whitepaper “Building a culture of collaboration and innovation” written by Jordi Pera, Founder and CEO at Envisioning Tourism 3.0 Ltd. You may download for free the full Whitepaper at www.envisioningtourism.com/whitepapers

Culture changeMarketing 3.0Strategy

Developing internal leadership talent

So long as destinations 3.0 intend to expand by leveraging the human potential of the local community, developing leadership talent is an essential success factor. The development of the future leaders should begin at present. As a part of the vision and duty of Creative leaders, the development of young leaders is a must have requirement to ensure the models’ sustainability and adaptation to the environment’s changes.

Organizations have to change their leadership talent sourcing strategy, by focusing their efforts on developing talent within the organization rather than head hunting in the market.  This can be done through the deployment of leadership development programs, which have proved to bring in many advantages:

Boost of the employee engagement. According to 90% of leaders, employee engagement has a positive influence on business success, but 75% of the organizations have no engagement plan or strategy. Development programs provide the employees the opportunity to leap forward to a better version of themselves and find a more meaningful and fulfilling professional life. Make sure to appropriately define the program goals.

Increase of the employee performance. As it happens with all professional development programs, they prepare employees to bring more value to the organization and therefore increase their performance. Investing in the human resources development is also very likely to favor their retention, so long as they feel that they are in an organization where they can grow professionally and develop their potential.

Ensure the business sustainability. Developing internal talent is not only more profitable than sourcing it outside, but it also ensures that only those professionals that share the organization values will be its future leaders. Further, the availability of many prepared leaders facilitates a natural selection for the best leaders to thrive and take the top leadership positions. Therefore, it is not only an investment to boost profitability, but also to reduce risk.

This article is from the Whitepaper “Building a culture of collaboration and innovation”, written by Jordi Pera, Founder and CEO at Envisioning Tourism 3.0 Ltd. You may download for free the full Whitepaper at www.envisioningtourism.com/whitepapers

Business trendsIntelligenceMarketing 3.0StrategyTourism marketing

Key Takeaways from #SoMeT13US, the Social Media Tourism Symposium

When I moved to Huntsville, Alabama, as a surly teenager in the mid-90s, I never thought I’d be returning 17 years later to attend a professional conference on social media and tourism. Mainly because there was no such thing as social media then and I was largely consumed by door slamming, journal writing, and comic books. And, to be honest, I thought Huntsville was a drag.

Things have changed. Huntsville’s CVB proved that Rocket City USA has legitimate tourism cred and serious social media chops.

The Social Media Tourism Symposium, referred to as #SoMeT in both Twitter and spoken parlance (soh-mee-tee), is an annual conference hosted by Think! Social Media that brings together the best and brightest tourism marketers. Each year, the conference’s location is crowd sourced online. The perspective attendees vote in a bracket-style competition for which destination is best suited to host the pack of social media nerds and tourism geeks. Huntsville triumphed over much larger and more convention-y places like Indianapolis, Cleveland, and St. Pete’s.

Huntsville’s process to win #SoMeT13US became a case study used throughout #SoMeT13US to highlight new trends at the intersection of social media and tourism. It was really inspiring. Here are a couple themes that emerged from #SoMeT13US and Huntsville’s selection as host that were especially relevant.

1. The DMO is dead. All hail the DMO.

Destination marketing alone is not enough. Comprehensive destination management is what’s needed. Hey this sounds familiar! (I’m looking at you DMAI).

As Fred Ranger of Tourisme Montreal put it, “destination marketing has been about brand expression. Destination management is focused on the brand experience.” The visitor’s online experience during their dreaming and planning phase is just as important as their offline experience when they arrive – and the DMO/CVB has a critical role to play. In Huntsville’s quest to land #SoMeT13US they blasted their social networks with calls-to-action. But it was their offline work that pushed them over the finish line: they deployed street teams to educate and engage locals and visitors and posted signs in highly-trafficked areas. The campaign might have been born on Facebook and Twitter, but it lived and thrived with real-life people-to-people contact. This took work and planning and investment and it wasn’t easy, but it was successful.

2. Less Volume, Better Engagement

We’ve come to a beautiful time as social media marketers where we can focus on quality not quantity.

I presented a case study of our work in Namibia where we realized very quickly that our destination was highly specialized and creating a huge online community was not in the cards. And that was okay. Because, the people that are attracted to Namibia are the super-enthusiastic people that are social media dreams. The online community growth has started to slow, but the level of engagement continues to get deeper and deeper. We’re able to get to know our community and give them the kind of content that they’re looking for – the kind of content they want to own and share with their networks. We also know that these folks are the ones who return time and time again to Namibia and try to get their friends to come along. We can use our social platforms to communicate directly to the dune hikers, the rhino lovers, the extreme photographers. We’re not trying to create campaigns for Johnny McCarnivalCruise or Sarah O’AllInclusive. We want to speak directly to Namibia’s biggest fans and give them every possible reason to book a trip.

Mack Collier thinks you should probably be more like Taylor Swift. Or Johnny Cash. Or Lady Gaga. Basically, any kind of “rock star” – because they understand the importance of developing real connection with their fans. Incentives for the “superfans” doubles down on engagement and creates newsworthy opportunities to re-connect with casual participants.

Fred Ranger also spoke about how typical ROI should be replaced with RQE – return on the quality of engagement. Reporting on the number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, are good… but are you actually creating brand interest and  attracting visitors to your destination? Measuring this is easier said then done, but it’s getting better. And if social media wants to start justifying the same kind of cash that traditional tourism marketing is pulling – then we need to think about conversions.

3. If Content is King, then… this Metaphor is Hard. Be Smart with Your Content.

So, how dow we create conversions? My delicate vocabulary sensibilities were assaulted when Tom Martin threw “propinquity” at me all willy-nilly. If you consult your SAT vocabulary flash cards, you’ll be reminded that propinquity means proximity and similarity. As tourism marketers, we can get lost in inspiration. The idea is that your main content piece – be it a video or blog post – should be complimented with actionable, related content. Someone is really digging a post on your new bike trails? Give them a call-to-action to book a bike tour.

This idea isn’t new: think the popup boxes on YouTube or Amazon’s “You Might Also Like” feature. This inbound marketing strategy is an important component of successful tourism websites and new flexible website designs means there’s no excuse to turn your destination site into an opportunity for sales.

Inbound marketing is content driven. Many of us create content calendars that include hundreds of individual posts – all with an active shelf life of a couple of days. We come up with ideas and then distribute them. Tom waves his finger at us. Tsk Tsk.  “Every content piece should be re-purposed at least three times.” Invert your content creation strategy: think first about all the places the content live (affinity blogs, media placements, newsletters) and then build your content from the ground up. Once the main piece has been create, disassemble and distribute.

4. This isn’t Easy.

Peppered throughout the successes, were plenty of stories of failures. Sometimes ideas that are hammered out in a conference room, that seem perfectly logical, fall flat. Social media is people driven and people – jeez – they can be fickle. Platforms can change on a dime (I’m looking at you Foursquare badges), what you ask your community to do can be two clicks too onerous, and sometimes – something more shiny pops up somewhere else. Playing it safe doesn’t work – it’s important to take risks and try something new.

As two novice spacemen from MMGY remind us, “Proceed and Be Bold.”

Check this video in Youtube    https://youtu.be/K9ZPHrnoBXc

Article reposted with permission from www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Social%20Media%20Marketing

Marketing 3.0Strategy

Welcome to the Experience Economy

The digital world is all about experiences. Combining web content with video and mobile applications (and even large screen and interactive print), organizations have to provide an experience with their brand and content that is compelling enough for users. Although an organization may be selling a product or service, they are first selling an experience with their brand through content (text, images, video, games). The cost of that experience? Attention.

People only have so much attention (just like money in the bank). So they try to spend it wisely and feel cheated when the experience doesn’t live up to the cost.

But when the experience is worth the cost? People get something in return: a relationship. The experience transcends just the screen. It strikes at the heart of who we are and our need to connect. Which is why people gravitate towards experiences that are personalized, dynamic, relevant, and contextual. They want an experience that seems like it was built for them…or will shape to whom they are the more they interact with it.

Ultimately, this is why relationships are the currency of the experience economy. Businesses who can develop, cultivate, and stockpile relationships through engaging and interactive digital experiences will have a larger pool from which to draw repeat (and new) customers while everyone else is trying their hardest to get consumers to spend their attention.

You Can’t Have a Relationship With a Number…or a System.

As marketing has embraced digital (or maybe it’s as consumers have embraced digital and marketers have reacted to it) technology has becoming increasingly important. In many cases, marketers are caught up in the systems they use to generate the leads that drive the business. But that is just as dehumanizing as referring to people as leads or prospects in the first place. Which, of course, jeopardizes developing the relationships that are needed to succeed in the experience economy. Because with that focus on graphs and analytics, marketers stop thinking about the people to whom they are delivering their content. They only think of leads and growth and pipeline.

They ignore that most fundamental aspect of developing a relationship: engagement.

Is It Really That Bad?

Some marketers would say that it’s not. Their job, they would say, is to drive business growth. I would argue that they are no more than robots if that’s the case. Connecting with people through an organization’s brand is the greatest opportunity afforded to marketers by digital. For the first time they can really form one-to-one relationships with existing customers and people who are interested in becoming customers. It’s a global version of the corner store or the water cooler. People expose information about themselves in digital forums that they would never speak about face-to-face. And yet little is done to cultivate that.

Developing relationships with people can be an uncomfortable business. Marketers need to get uncomfortable.

Why Are Relationships So Important?

In a world full of noise, marketers must do something to separate themselves and their brand. Sometimes that may be a catchy marketing gimmick. Sometimes that may be an accidental campaign gone viral. But for the most part it will be something that fundamentally touches the core of what makes us human: connection. As humans we want to be a part of something. A neighborhood. A political party. A family. And that is no less in the digital world. In fact, digital exacerbates it by making connectivity easier. In all that noise and clutter that is becoming online, to whom will people turn when they are looking to make a purchase or subscribe to a service? To the marketer with the catchy jingle? Or to the marketer that is connecting and engaging with them through Facebook, blogs, email, and more?

In the experience economy, relationships are the new currency. At the heart of relationships is engagement. Engagement is personal.

The First Step to Humanizing Marketing

I admit this is a bit of a fluffy post. But it’s been weighing on me. Marketers have this great opportunity to actually talk with people through their digital marketing and yet, instead, they focus on programs and campaigns and a lot of that “broadcast marketing” mentality.

So the first step to humanizing marketing? Stop thinking about leads and pipeline and acquisition and start thinking about engagement. Talk with people through posts and tweets. Send personalized email. Develop trust and credibility by providing content that is helpful (not product focused). This is why persona-based marketing is so important. When you see your targets not as targets but as people (which is possible when you “put yourself in their shoes”) you have a much greater appreciation of

A New Way to Measure?

There have been a lot of services hitting the marketing industry offering to help manage social engagement. Of course, social is only one way to engage with people. But they bring with them the beginnings of a new paradigm: measuring engagement. Of course, the beginning is just that. And the offerings are shallow. What marketers need is a way to quantify the value of a relationship:

  • how deep is the person’s network?
  • how often do they talk about my brand to their network?
  • through what content do they engage with me most?
  • what was my last engagement with them?
  • what kind of conversations do they want to have?

When the marketing industry can develop software to help quantify the value of a relationship, we can take the second step towards humanizing marketing.

The Second Step to Humanizing Marketing

Where the first step is pretty easy (if not time-consuming), the second step is hard. We have to convince a global economy that relationships with people are the best long-term strategy for continued growth and success. That’s right. It’s not short-term pipeline that will make the company succeed. It’s the trust, credibility, and customization provided by a humanized approach to marketing that will build the business of the future. It’s people.

Doing this will require educating executives that short-term leads are counter-productive to long-term growth. The pipeline will fill. The leads will generate. But it has to be done naturally, through establishing a relationship, or it comes off as just a clinical activity involving systems and spreadsheets.

The Middle Ground?

Okay, so I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that there is a place for lead-generation marketing activity. Let’s face it, some people don’t want a relationship. They just want to get in and get out. Marketing, then, should be about building a layered approach. For those that just need the facts, that just want the information so they can decide themselves, that just want to buy, treat them like they want to be treated. Like a number. One could argue that by giving them what they want marketers are actually establishing a relationship with them as well (albeit utilitarian).

But this approach can’t be the dominate layer. Again, long-term business success in the experience economy is all about establishing relationships and connecting with people so that you become the place where they spend their attention. But a combination of tactics actually enables marketers to satisfy existing business requirements (i.e., lead generation, conversion, and pipeline growth) while practicing the humanization of their craft…and demonstrating how deep, intimate relationships with online users can actually generate much more success than focusing just on the numbers.

Go Forth…and Humanize!

Okay, in addition to being a little fluffy, this post (and my position) is a bit Utopian. But successful marketers are already changing. Just look at the trend towards storytelling (the foundation of any good experience).

Marketing is going to change. Do marketers all need to get around a campfire and sing Kumbaya? No. But if marketers fail to understand that they must treat their audience as people who want to have some kind of relationship (and not be considered just a number) they will get lost in the noise.

This blog post is from  http://www.rethinkeverythingblog.com/2017/10/22/humanizing-marketing/