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How to Utilise the Whole Brass Section to Be Your Digital Mouthpiece

April 20, 2017

By Duncan Hendy, Content Strategy Manager at Kentico Software

You’ve got a great product, and you are blowing your own trumpet so loudly, it would give Louis Armstrong a hernia, but it is all falling on deaf ears. Why? Just because you think you are awesome, it doesn’t mean potential consumers will believe you. However, if you managed to get your users and your employees to start lauding you instead, now that’s an entirely different story!

In an era of crowd-sourcing and funding user-generated content (UGC) makes perfect commercial sense. Today’s digitally savvy and active consumers are happy to take some guidance on what to share, yet only a small minority of brands provide any guidelines on what to write.

There are two great types of UGC, from the consumers themselves and your employees. These forms of brand advocacy increase your credibility, promote loyalty and allow you to gain actionable insights into the way in which your brand is being perceived. But before you rush to transform your community into a digital marketing force, it is worth considering giving consumers a helping hand into what your company values are and the voice you use to communicate with them.

People Trust People, Not Brands

Telling your brand’s story from a user’s perspective means they can start to imagine how they can relate to your brand and make it part of their lives. Social proofs through blogs, social media and testimonials promote your product as something that is valued and trusted on a consumer level, and allowing them to do so in their own voice comes across as genuine and open. By motivating and rewarding your users to become brand advocates in their own right.

Guide, Do Not Coerce

A brand bible helps consumers understand your values and aspirations as well as give them access to the correct logos and other useful resources, and gives them a sneak peek behind the scenes into what makes your brand tick—like a trusted confidante. And the important word here is guide, not dictate. The brand bible merely allows them to align their understanding of your company and their own perceptions. It empowers them to communicate their own thoughts more clearly and to feel connected and valued on an emotional level. And emotions sell!

It provides a feeling of involvement. Many of us humanize brands and what they stand for. If we have the opportunity to engage and feel a part of something, it makes us feel special. Think of your favourite brand and imagine if they asked to hear your story. How much more connected would you feel? Would you become an even better customer? Chances are you would tell anyone who would listen, share the brand’s story more often and buy more. It explains why UGC and brand advocacy go hand-in-hand.

But What Should It Contain?

Ideally, a brand bible should contain the company vision, mission, promise, values, personality and tone. It is also important to include a language and copy guide such as copy tone, writing tips and tricks, style samples, social media suggestions, and editorial guidelines. It is important to stress again that it is a guidebook, not a rulebook. Start imposing restrictions on your brand advocates and you face the danger of losing their trust in their value to you. A list of product-specific terminology and its meaning helps employees and users verbalise the things they might otherwise struggle to convey. And a non-preachy grammar guide is always a fascinating read, especially for would-be writers.

Pictures Matter Too

And don’t neglect graphics. Giving clear guidelines about graphics and colour suggestions can empower content creators to understand better the language of logotypes, fonts, images and use of colour. Plus, it helps ensure that they are not using the incorrect logo that might, in fact, damage the reputation of their work.

Types of user-generated content are blogs and blog posts, forums posts and comments, case studies, customer success stories, articles, ratings and reviews, social media posts and comments, videos, podcast and images.

What About the Workers?

And don’t forget employee advocacy. By inviting employees to be an active part of your communication strategy, because employees are trusted more as a voice than just the company, they can dramatically increase your social reach. This means as well as boosting their engagement, you can reach a new online audience. But you must make employees want to share content. As part of their personal development, encouraging them to develop their personal brand by providing them with content, they can become subject matter experts in their own right. And by extending the reach of your brand, so your credibility and social impact increase. And, according to LinkedIn, socially engaged companies are more likely to be perceived as more competitive, increase sales leads and attract top talent.

A Better Horn Section

By allowing others to do the advocating for you, you are encouraging loyalty, enabling quality content creation, increasing your reputation and growing mutual respect. The reach of a truly engaged community is something no company can achieve on their own. And being able to provide guidance and making sure it is a tool rather than a blocker, you can spread your message much further, and better still, let others be your mouthpiece.

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How to Accommodate Ad Blocking in the Hotel Industry

April 20, 2017

The danger of hotels losing revenue by not being able to cut through ad blocking is very real. In 2015, according to Pagefair, an estimated £17.37bn was lost in advertising budget due to the fact that people were choosing to restrict the online ads they received. So what can be done to overcome this threat and turn it into an opportunity?

The desire in recent years to turn web pages into cash cows by stuffing them full of as much advertising as possible has left hotels paying the price now that the digital worm has turned. Frustrated by excessive generic advertising that consumers considered intrusive, the rise of the ad blocker enabled them to switch all of this noise off. And often not just the annoying advertising, but all advertising. This means that many travel industry advertisers are finding it nigh on impossible to reach their audiences, but smarter hotel marketers are using this technology strategically to not only connect with the consumer, but to target them more effectively through personalisation.

Getting to Know You

This turn of events means it is now necessary to build a strategy based on getting to know a brand’s existing and potential audience better and then use this information to offer advertising that is relevant to them and their lifestyles. For instance, instead of offering adverts for over-sixties Mediterranean cruises on a website based on youth culture, by knowing the demographics of a site’s visitors and reflecting this, the viewer is more likely to be open to receiving these kinds of messages because they directly relate to them.

Getting to know your customers on every level, from the places they go, the teams they support, the things they buy, the TV shows they watch, etc., means hotel marketers need to build a strategy based on where to get these actionable insights. Furthermore, using customer data management and data brokerage platforms enables them to be sure that they are creating a message that connects with the right people.

Break on Through

The threat posed by ad blocking means hotels are looking for other, more effective means to connect with their audience. One such channel is messenger apps. Because of the wealth of information these apps gather when users are setting up their profile, hotels can use bots within the software to monitor the topics a user is chatting about to deliver a timely message that is relevant to them. Imagine that somebody is discussing holiday destinations with a friend and the app informs them of a hotel in that location that has a special promotion available for that day. The relevance of the message, based on the topic they are chatting about and their social profile, means the hotel is speaking to them at the best possible moment. This is a great example of targeted one-to-one personalisation.

Every Cloud Has a Digital Lining

The smart marketer is the one that is always staying ahead of their game. And while some people perceive ad blocking as a threat, others realise that it is an opportunity to get wiser in the way they target their content. By constantly updating the information they are using to build their customers’ profiles, they are getting one step closer to establishing a relationship with them based on understanding. The lazy practice of bulk, disconnected messaging might have had its day, but in its wake is left a better-educated marketer that is able to push their advertising to a more welcoming and relevant audience. Moreover, by giving the power back to the consumer, this could be the breath of fresh air they have been needing for so long. And, after all that effort, you probably deserve a holiday!

Image credit of David Konecny

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Is your online presence attracting or turning away guests?

April 12, 2017

Q&A with Petr Palas, CEO of Kentico

What are the most common mistakes hoteliers make when it comes to developing their website?

Given the competitive market hoteliers operate in today, hotels simply cannot afford to get it wrong with their websites. Too often, you will see a hotel build a new site that seems to be at odds with a potential guests’ needs. Features like auto-start videos can actually turn guests away – in particular when website visitors are business travellers looking at the hotel at work and the auto-start video begins to broadcast in an open space office. Hoteliers need to understand their guests and online visitors better as well as build a website that reflects the unique personality of their property.

A common mistake many hoteliers make today is not delivering a consistent experience across all channels. What if a visitor starts their digital journey on their mobile device during the commute to work, yet finishes it at home on their PC? They need to see the same content delivered in a manner fitting the device they are using. If not, they may leave your site, never to return.

What is likely to turn a visitor away online?

The short answer is falling short of expectations. Web content that is not dynamic, for example, is likely to turn website visitors away. Hoteliers have a great opportunity to show website visitors an exhilirating experience that puts them first. Everybody has a different idea of what a hotel should be. They could be a businessperson interested in the conferencing facilities or how to unwind after a demanding day of presentations. They could be a young family that wants to see a child-friendly atmosphere. They could be a couple looking for a romantic break. Hoteliers must make sure that they present the website in a way that it meets or exceeds those expectations.

What helps or facilitates the online hotel booking experience?

When trying to convert website visitors into paying guests, the focus should be on ensuring that content on the site flows in a ‘reader-first’ order, leading them (through the use of filters) to the content (room type or holiday package) that they are most interested in quickly and easily. It is also vital that hotels have a visually attractive web presence that actively seeks to recreate the look and feel of a physical stay at their property in the digital world. It is important that webpages feature a lot of bold, captivating images and ways in which hotel guests can get a sense of the true hotel experience before stepping foot in the lobby.

How can hoteliers help turn their online visitors into customers?

In order to turn online visitors into actual paying customers, it is essential that the hotel’s booking process be made as simple as possible, but also that the actual website architecture delivers an enhanced customer experience. This could include user-friendly features that enable easy navigation, ease of booking, and offer as many payment options as possible.

A hotel’s website must also be informative and able to be viewed in multiple languages. Such multi-lingual capabilities cater to customers of different countries and nationalities. To further facilitate the booking process, hotel websites should reduce the number of steps it takes for visitors to book with the conditions and services they want.

Visitors to a hotel website want to be able to picture themselves staying at your property and they want to trust that the hotel portrayed online is an accurate reflection of the hotel in which they will be staying. To assist with this, hotels should incorporate peer review content from social media such as user ratings and comments. These reviews help to assure customers of the credibility and service standard of the hotel.

How important is it for a hotel to personalise their website for their audience? How can they do this?

In a competitive digital environment where the consumer is presented with an array of accommodation options for their desired location, personalised hotel website content is critical. Delivering personalised, dynamic content across all digital channels with advanced software platforms such as Kenticos EMS, means that a hotel is keeping visitors on its pages longer, which in turn increases their conversion rate.

To personalise their website for visitors, hotels need to consider who their visitors are first and build detailed personas around them. They should really get to know them; interview them, map their customer journeys, describe their typical behaviour, what they read, what types of activities they enjoy, what dining preferences they have, and more. Once detailed personas have been built, they need to be cross-referenced against actual online behaviour on the website to ensure that digital touchpoints and content are effective and engaging and the website is delivering a personalised experience to their interests. For example, if a hotel website visitor is investigating the property’s meeting room A/V equipment online, they are unlikely to be interested in the childrens’ swimming lesson program.

One of the key benefits of personalising a visitor’s online experience is that it will lead to increased website conversions and on-page time, which also helps with a hotel’s all-important Google ranking. Through this increased activity, Google gets a better understanding of the type of business your website is attracting, which will help increase organic traffic. Additionally, when visitors reach your hotel website and discover that there is new, tailored content available, such as special hotel website-only offers, they are more likely to return, generating even more traffic.

How can social media help support online sales growth? What are some tips for hoteliers in this area?

Peer reviewed social media posts and trip advisory reviews, present hoteliers with the ability to find out what guests are saying about their property. This feedback can relate to the service, brand, product or value-for-the-money and enables hoteliers to address any shortcomings, such as long waits for check-in during peak periods, to offer enhanced guest experiences in the future.

To improve a hotel’s online reputation – where peer reviews actively promote the property as a desirable location to stay; hoteliers need to enact a customer advocacy programme that motivates guests to share their experiences online by offering them rewards of discounts on future holidays, or the chance to win a weekend break. These incentives motivate guests with positive experiences to share their opinions of the hotel online and can help encourage online visitors to become actual future guests.

The bottom line is that hoteliers need to use digital marketing and website capabilities wisely and make changes and adjustments based on the feedback that they receive. In today’s digital world hoteliers need to listen to their guests, think creatively about how they engage with online visitors and be mindful that a first impression can make a lasting impression; so, make sure it is a good one. 

About Petr Palas

Petr Palas is the Founder and CEO of Kentico Software, which has 1,000 digital solution partners and powers over 25,000 websites across 100 countries. With Kentico EMS, hotels can achieve real-time actionable insights to ensure they deliver exceptional customer experiences, that boost sales, and turns visitors into customers. With offices in the United States, United Kingdom and Czech Republic and more than 1,000 partners in 80 countries, Kentico is one of the industry leaders worldwide.

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NHHTC member news: The latest from Council member companies

April 03, 2017

Kentico Software, a fast-growing software company with offices in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and North America, announced it received a 2017 Top Rated badge for Content Management Systems from TrustRadius, a leading website where end users share real-world insights of business software through in-depth reviews and networking. This honor is distinctive because it represents the true voice of customers-based solely on how end users have rated the Kentico platform. More.

Kentico Software supported world water day by co-sponsoring a water filtration for Palla, India; donating software to power website for Planet Water Foundation. More.

 

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Give Your Customers What They Want before They Get it Somewhere Else

March 28, 2017

By Duncan Hendy, Content Strategy Manager, Kentico Software

In the digital age, people are increasingly aware of what they want and how they want to consume it. If a business is not offering content online that is both relevant and interesting, they will face significant challenges in converting visitors to customers. Personalization is key to earning the respect and trust of online visitors. Businesses that only offer static content, which fails to take into consideration who they are as individuals based on location, demographics, site history and interests, risk losing potential customers forever. However, those businesses that adopt a dynamic online approach that provides visitors with a truly immersive experience can engage with these potential customers on their level. And it is their level that really interests them.

One of the key benefits of personalizing a visitor’s online experience is that it will lead to increased website conversions and on-page time, which also helps with a business’ all-important Google ranking. Through this increased activity, Google gets a better understanding of the type of content your business is delivering, which will help increase organic traffic. Additionally, when visitors reach a website and discover that there is new, tailored content available, they are more likely to return, generating even more traffic.

“Performing a content gap analysis is as important as refining the content a website already has”

Delivering personalized, dy­namic content across all digital channels, not just the website, means that a business is keeping visitors on its pages longer, which in turn increases their conversion rate. It doesn’t matter what sector a business operates within, speaking to their audience on their level and with their interests in mind makes content more attractive and credible.

I Think We Need a Better Strategy 

In order for a business to have a valid strategy for personalized online content, it must consider content mapping. Establishing a visual guide to every stage of the visitor’s digital journey,including how they are accessing the website and then moving through it, will help build a clear visual guide. From this research, a business can understand visitor habits as well as the strengths and weaknesses of their online content. Are there any areas where there is something lacking that is causing a digital communication breakdown?

Performing a content gap analysis is also as important as refining the content a website already has. Filling in these gaps will make the visitor’s transition through the website smoother and more engaging. Businesses need to think from the point of view of their visitors to see where personalization would be most effective on their website so that they are maximising the consumers’ online experience.

While undertaking research to gain a clearer picture of the content, a consumer is interacting with is hugely beneficial, many businesses struggle to put this data into effect. It is not enough for a business to carry out a content audit, they must also have the right systems and technology to deliver it. It is critical that businesses have a CMS that can combine its visitors’ interactions in order to build a clear profile to ensure that their personalized content is delivered to the right person at the right time.

If a visitor responds to an email content item, favours one section of your website, has a purchase history or has completed an online form, businesses need to be sure that this information is being gathered and processed efficiently. Not delivering a consistent experience means a visitor might leave when shown content that has nothing to do with who they are and what their interests are.

This Is the Content You Are Looking For 

While personalized content should be the key pillar of any business’ digital strategy, there are other considerations that need to be factored in. Like making the navigation intuitive and attractive through a website by organizing the site based on its relevance to the visitor. The shorter the path to the content they need, the better it is. This means businesses need to think about how consumers can discover content through the website’s menu, the CTAs that are present on pages, the ease of the check-out process or how the search function works. And do not forget the content itself. Writing complex text is going to send visitors away. Consumers need text that is clearly aimed at the reader first and that is easy to digest. Overloading visitors with numerous CTAs and too much content will confuse and frustrate them—and could ultimately overshadow any work that has been put into personalizing a website, costing the business potential sales.

Consumers of content also respond positively when they feel there is a sense of community— reviews of products and services, social media share buttons, forums and a blog with the possibility to add comments are especially important. Because, if a consumer wants to talk about a business, and they feel they can connect with other like minded people around a brand to discuss topics and products that are relevant to them, the level of engagement and the way that company is perceived in the community are enhanced. This should be the ultimate goal of creating a personalized online experience for consumers— happy, engaged, customers that become brand advocates in their own right.

Founded in 2004, Kentico Software is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner headquartered in the Czech Republic with offices around the world. Kentico has 1,000 digital solution partners and powers 25,000 websites across 100 countries.

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Headless customers are happy ones. Seriously.

March 28, 2017

Since the launch of the Internet, through the mobile phone boom, and into the current world of smart technology, it has almost become human nature to expect change and for technology to keep up. Such a pace can make one’s head spin...so maybe it's time to go headless.

The future of content

In 1977, Ken Olson, President of Digital Equipment Corporation, claimed, "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." Now, 40 years later, the average US household has 13 connected devices. And to take that one step further, the first iPhone was launched on the US market on June 29, 2007—less than ten years ago. But now, iPhones and smartphones in general are synonymous with modern life and are becoming one of the most go-to channels for modern customers. Any company that wants to be successful with digital marketing must clearly factor this into their customer journeys.

Fast forward to June 29, 2027, and I wonder where we will be. We are already seeing Internet of Things (IoT) devices making their way into households. Shops are increasingly introducing self-service kiosks for browsing and ordering in stores. Virtual Reality is being utilised to give people a chance to experience the product or service before making purchasing decisions. And although Augmented Reality is still very much in its infancy, it has already found fame with the Pokemon Go app, which took 2016 by storm. In ten years' time, or probably much sooner, all of these could be at a level we currently experience with smartphones and wearables. And let's not forget that good-old-fashioned computers, laptops, and phones all continue to improve , too.

But why am I mentioning these devices? Each device serves the purpose of presenting the user with the right information at the right time in the right place. It is about making the customers' lives easier and more convenient to a point where they welcome and appreciate the interactions they have with you, rather than seeing your messages as annoying spam. Imagine you are walking through a city and get a message on your phone to tell you that it is going to start raining in ten minutes and there is a shop two minutes from your location that has a 50% sale on umbrellas. Awesome, right? Well, through a combination of your weather app and location tracking on your phone and some very good and smart marketing by the shop, this is actually possible today.

Event-triggered marketing is not the only awesome opportunity for our newly connected world. Imagine if you want to book a holiday but you are torn between two places. What if you could experience it before you buy it? Virtual Reality goggles can help. Travel agencies are experimenting in certain shops with virtual tours of holiday destinations where customers can see the area, experience the location, and make the right decision before handing over their hard-earned cash. And what about seeing valuable information in your own world? What if you are walking through Tokyo searching for a shop that sells trainers but you don't understand a word of Japanese? Introducing Augmented Reality—a view of your real world that is augmented by computer-generated content or elements. With your phone or AR glasses, you can view your environment not just with real-time translations of the shop names and signs, but even have personalised offers and content sent directly to your device as you walk. I bet you want to add all these things to your marketing activities now, don't you!

Headless CMS in a nutshell

So what is making all this possible? Good question. Headless CMS architecture is now being utilised in a way that was not needed in the past because the number and variety of devices did not exist for this concept to show its full potential.

In the past, a traditional CMS was used alongside a templating engine to render web pages to be displayed on desktops, laptops, and, more recently, on mobile devices and tablets. This template rendering is known as the "head" of the CMS and determines the presentation layout of the content. But with the template approach, you are always taking full web pages and trying to manipulate them to the device on which you want them to appear. With all the new channels and devices that are emerging, this is no longer enough. Trying to force a template to fit different layouts is neither efficient nor elegant and will lead to mixed feelings from customers.

The solution: separate the head from the body. Take the elements of your web page—title, subtitle, description, header image, list items, CTA buttons, and so on—and consider them as modules that can be used to build a new page. Figure out how you want to display them on any given device, and call the API to actually get the content from the CMS. Use the CMS as the content repository and management tool it is designed to be, while web developers concentrate on what they are good at—building applications for the channels you need. It gives you much more freedom to design appropriately for whatever display you choose. And on top of that, these pieces of modular content only need to be written once, and they can then be used on any display and in any layout you want.

All in all, it means that you can deliver the same content in the best layout possible, no matter which device you display it on. It improves the customer journey by making it more consistent and more appealing for the people seeing the content. And we are all aware of the impact an exceptional customer experience can have on your conversion rates, customer loyalty, and overall revenue. More importantly, we are aware of the impact a negative customer experience can have, too.

Customers won't see it but they'll love it

What‘s the key to a great customer experience? Enriching their lives without inconveniencing them. Add something awesome without them ever having to wonder how it worked. And, most of all, make sure the experience is an ongoing, lasting and consistent one.

The headless architecture is the means through which you can deliver this experience. By providing the right content in a consistent manner at the right time and in the right place, you make sure that the customer experience is a memorable one. That level of consistency also has a big impact on brand recognition and loyalty. People will no longer see mixed messages and will, therefore, recognise your brand more readily. And a recognisable brand is one that breeds loyalty.

Give people what they want when they need it, and they are going to love you for it. Take your brand into the headless world – it will blow your customers’ minds.

Original article by Stephen Griffin, Product Marketing Manager at Kentico Software

 

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