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September 8, 2018

Duetto’s Jason Freed on Content Marketing and Future Trends: The Thinks Out Loud Interview (Thinks Out Loud Episode 228)

September 8, 2018 | By | No Comments

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Jason Freed of Duetto talks content marketing with Tim Peter on Thinks Out Loud

Duetto’s Jason Freed on Content Marketing and Future Trends: The Thinks Out Loud Interview (Thinks Out Loud Episode 228) – Headlines and Show Notes

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil Sound PR 30 Large Diaphragm Multipurpose Dynamic Microphone through a Cloud Microphones CL-1 Cloudlifter Mic Activator and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 28m 24s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed )(or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

Duetto’s Jason Freed on Content Marketing and Future Trends (Thinks Out Loud Episode 228) – Transcript

Tim Peter: (00:00) Well, hello again everyone, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the Internet marketing expertise, your business needs. My name is Tim Peter, today is Friday, September 7, 2018 and this is episode 228 of the big show.

Tim Peter: (00:18) Thank you so much for tuning in, I really do appreciate the fact that you come back and join us week after week. I would like to, as ever, start by thanking our sponsor, SoloSegment. SoloSegment focuses on site search analytics that unlock revenue, and they focus on AI-driven content discovery for your businesses, so you can really look at how you improve search results, and improve customer satisfaction for your business. You can check them out at solosegment.com.

Tim Peter: (00:49) Now I’m really excited today because, as I do periodically, I’ve got a guest this week and we’re going to be talking with somebody who’s really cool and really smart and knows a ton about content marketing and that’s Jason Freed of Duetto. Now, Jason has been with Duetto since June of 2015. He’s their managing editor, which I think is fascinating that a software company has hired a managing editor to focus on reporting, and writing, and editing news and information about the company, to help tell the company story most effectively.

Tim Peter: (01:29) Jason is really passionate about content marketing, he’s really passionate about hotel technology. He works in the hotel industry, obviously, and he has some truly unique perspectives on hotel distribution and revenue management best practices, but, more importantly, he has tremendous insights into how you use content marketing to grow your business. So, without further ado, I’m gonna start our interview with Jason Freed.

Tim Peter: (01:58) So, Jason, thanks so much for joining me today. I’m here with Jason Freed, who is the managing editor of Duetto’s marketing department, and Jason, thanks for being here.

Jason Freed: (02:08) Thanks for having me, Tim.

Tim Peter: (02:09) My pleasure. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, what you do, things like that.

Jason Freed: (02:14) Yeah, sure, so I am the managing editor at Duetto. Duetto is a hotel technology company. We provide software as a service to the industry to help them better collect analytics, and then price the rooms based on those analytics. I’ve been there about three years, little over three years, and I came from the journalism side, so I was in the newspaper industry for about 10 years, and, you know, kind of a sad industry at this time. I think you’ll find a lot of people in my boat who wanted … Who really, really liked working at the newspaper, and wanted to be a journalist and just couldn’t feed their family on it. So, that’s where I ended up looking into BTB magazines, and I became BTB editor, and my first gig was writing about hotels, and covering the hospitality industry.

Jason Freed: (03:18) I really enjoyed it. Picked up on it quickly, and it’s very obviously a hospitable industry.

Tim Peter: (03:25) We try.

Jason Freed: (03:27) Great, great. Yeah, so everybody was welcoming, and able to sort of teach me, and interviews went super smooth, and I really gravitated toward hotel technology and, you know, really enjoy the space, and learning about it, and writing about it. You know, and then I think, as Duetto was looking to build out it’s content marketing strategy, they looked to find an editor, somebody who was good with good with wordsmithing, and I think it was a great fit for both of us.

Tim Peter: (03:58) That’s awesome. It’s really interesting that a company like Duetto I went ahead and brought somebody in who was a journalist by trade, right? Can you talk a little bit about how that played out, what was their thinking around content marketing that said, “You know what, we really don’t wanna go with a marketer, we want to go with a journalist to do this.” What’s what’s your take on that?

Jason Freed: (04:23) Yeah, sure. I think they wanted somebody who knew the space. It’s sort of a tough industry to learn, I think, as you know, it’s so fragmented, there’s so many pieces and parts. I think it took me a couple years just understand the whole relationship between management departments, and ownership, and brands, and franchises. I think they wanted somebody to come in who at least know the basics of that, and then, you know, I think it was important for them to … They really wanted to build themselves as thought leaders in space. So, to do that they wanted somebody who understand the challenges, and the pain points that the industry was facing, and that it wasn’t can be a huge learning curve to sort of understand that stuff.

Tim Peter: (05:14) That makes a ton of sense. That makes a ton of sense. So, can you talk a bit about why you think content marketing … This can be, you know, Jason’s point of view, this can be Duetto’s point of view, but why do you think content marketing is valuable in a space? Why do you think content marketing is something that is so important for Duetto, and for what you do?

Jason Freed: (05:34) I would hope that my take on it, and Duetto’s take on it is similar, at least somewhat aligned. You know-

Tim Peter: (05:41) As the managing editor, you’d think that’s important.

Jason Freed: 05:44 Right, right. I mean, first of all I think it’s just the basics. For any company, spelling, if you’ve got a spelling error on your website it’s horrible. Accuracy, and then it gets more importantly. You know how you want your website content to be attention grabbing and clean, but more importantly, then if you’re good at it, it starts to get a little bit more challenging. You look at brand awareness and messaging alignment, you know you want your messaging on social media, and your blog. Even at events, on what’s displayed at the events, and even your sales collateral that you’re putting together, you want that messaging sort of aligned, so you’ve gotta start thinking a little bit more strategically about how you want to position the company.

Jason Freed: (06:32) Then, I think, lastly, as I was mentioning for Duetto it was important for them to sort of build a thought leadership campaign, and be recognizable out the industry at events, and in trade magazines, and that way when people are thinking about getting something to help them solve their pain points, you come to mind. But I did want to note on that thought leadership point that you can’t fake it, right? So, that’s why I was glad to join Duetto, a company that I had worked with in the past, that I knew they weren’t smoke and mirrors, they weren’t just out there trying to push some content, that they really didn’t have a product to back it up. So, you can’t … And, you know, Patrick and Marco, the co-founders of Duetto are just so passionate about the industry, and they come from the industry, and they know the industry, and they’re so smart people, that I felt I wasn’t getting myself into a situation where I would be writing puff pieces, if you will.

Tim Peter: (07:34) Right, that makes … Actually, that’s a really interesting point, because I know one of the things people talk about with content marketing a lot is this idea of authenticity, right? So, here you are talking about thought leadership, and these folks were authentically, are authentically, thought leaders, right? It’s not, we’re going to generate thought leadership, or we’re gonna pretend to be thought leaders, they definitely had a perspective and a point of view. Is that something you would think is true? I know this is an incredibly leading question.

Jason Freed: (08:03) Yeah, no, no, no. Yeah, I mean, for me, I think there are companies out there that are trying to fake it, and I’m not gonna name names ’cause I don’t even know any off the top of my head, but it’s easily recognizable, you can see it, right? Like, these people, they could’ve been writing the content themselves, right? They’re smarter than I am when it comes to this stuff, but they don’t have the time to be producing content-

Tim Peter: (08:34) Right, they’re busy running a company.

Jason Freed: (08:36) Yes, exactly, exactly.

Tim Peter: (08:38) Right. That’s fantastic. So, apart from the authenticity thing, which you can certainly double in on this if you want to, but apart from that, what are some common mistakes you see when people think about their content marketing, when people think about how they create content to tell their brand’s story, what are the mistakes you’ve seen folks make?

Jason Freed: (08:56) Yeah, well, it’s funny, coming from the journalism world, and learning AP style, and all the spelling and grammar and punctuation that you learn, you see mistakes in copy all over the world, right? Even on signage, I’m walking through somewhere, and I’m like, “Oh, that apostrophe shouldn’t there.” Or, “That should be a semicolon.” So, those are really common mistakes that you see almost every day, but then mistakes that I think some content marketers fall into some [inaudible 00:09:33] traps maybe is using all aggregated content, right? If you’re just like picking content from various places, and aggregating them into a newsletter, and sending it out, maybe there’s some benefits to that, but there’s probably a little bit more benefit to doing something unique, spending some time on putting together some content that people can’t get anywhere else.

Tim Peter: (09:56) Right. So, being original, bringing something else to the conversation, beyond just making a list of links.

Jason Freed: (10:02) Yeah, I think so.

Tim Peter: (10:03) Yep.

Jason Freed: (10:05) Yeah, and then again back to what we were just talking about, content. You can have content people who don’t understand the business that they’re writing about, and that’s not gonna work out. You need to give your content people access to, whether it’s leadership in the company, or the product people in the company, they need to be able to have those conversations and be able ask questions so that they understand the messaging that you come across.

Tim Peter: (10:40) So, having things like this, kind of like do interviews, or have discussions with them about the thing, even if the person you’re talking to will be the one creating the content, at least sort of plumb their knowledge, right?

Jason Freed: (10:54) That’s like a big thing that I’ll probably keep going back to, it’s really important. I feel fortunate that I can ping the co-founders of my company at any time, and just say, “Hey, I’ve got this quick question.” And if they don’t know the answer, they’ll say they’ll put me in contact with the VP of product, or the VP of engineering. I can ask that question, and that’s that’s immensely helpful, right? I couldn’t imagine being stuck in a position where it was just like you, we need you here to create the message, and we need you to just write, and just push out blog and collateral, but we’re not gonna give you any information on what the product is, and where we want to position ourself in the space. So, having access and being in those conversations is immensely helpful.

Tim Peter: (11:48) That’s fantastic. That’s really cool. Is there anything else that you can recommend that marketers who were handling their content marketing ought to be doing differently from what they’re doing, apart from that?

Jason Freed: (12:02) Yeah, so, I think, just to build on that a little bit, building on the access to leadership thing would be just allowing your content team to collaborate with the other departments, especially within marketing. Even if it’s graphic design, or paid search, or whatever other departments in marketing there are. Collaborate with those, so that everybody is sort of on the same message, or at least aligned on the same page. It might be even like, the logo of the company, if the person designing the logo sort of understands the message, and you understand the message, and that, you know, the sort of unique differentiators for your company, it just helps. It helps everybody sort of build a coordinated strategy.

Tim Peter: (13:00) Yep, that makes total sense. Just out of curiosity, can you talk a little bit about your content calendar process, or things like that? How do you come up with do you talk about, or like …

Jason Freed: (13:13) Yeah, yeah, I mean, it’s an ongoing conversation, and we’re always trying to improve it. Actually, adding those conversations as we speak. Yeah, we use Google Docs for our content calendar, so it’s in the cloud and shared with everybody, anybody on the marketing team has access to it. I think we started it, or I started as sort of an editorial calendar where we were just putting blogs, and press releases, and white papers on there, but it’s grown into sort of more of a content calendar that includes events, and just aligning, like I said, aligning all the other different people that fall under the marketing umbrella as well. So, now we’ve got speaking opportunities and all that stuff sort of on the same calendar, and that allows us to … Well, we’re trying to get to a point where we’ve got four, or five, or six core topics that we want to discuss throughout the year, and let’s have all this content aligned along that same messaging. Whether it’s our unique differentiators, or OTAs in the space, or cloud technology. Having sort of all of our pieces aligned along that same topic.

Tim Peter: (14:35) Does it allow for you … It sounds like, when you’re talking, you’ve got four or five or six core topics that you wanna talk about in the course of the year. I assume, again, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so tell me if I got this wrong, but I assume that then allows you some flexibility and freedom if something comes up, you know, Google announces a new thing, or Expedia announces a new thing, or something along those lines, that allows you an opportunity to say, “Well, we can’t talk about that because we don’t have room in the calendar ’cause we’ve planned this thing out to death.” Is that right, or is there another way to think about it?

Jason Freed: (15:06) Currently, we’re at the opposite end of the spectrum, we’re more flexible than we are structured. I’d like to get to the point where we’re more structured. But yeah, I mean, I’m writing blogs the day before the need that need to go the next day.

Tim Peter: (15:21) I wouldn’t know anything about that. We’re not gonna say what the date is today when this episode airs.

Jason Freed: (15:29) Yeah, right, exactly. So, you know, I guess I was speaking from a point where I’d like to get to with the editorial calendar. It’s not quite there yet. I mean, sure, we’ve got long-term plans, and quarterly plans, and monthly plans, but we’ve also … We’re also very flexible day to day. You and I were at the hotel data conference recently, and I’m still writing amazing coverage from that, that I thought some of those panels, and the speakers really were thinking outside of the box a little bit, and I really enjoyed some of that. So, that just happened, and I’ve got to turn that stuff around for …

Tim Peter: (16:11) Speaking of, I know we’ve been talking about content marketing, but I’m gonna shift the conversation for a minute. Because you’ve been around hotel and hotel tech for so long, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s going on with the future of the industry? ‘Cause I think that that’s appropriate across a lot of sectors, too, right? Where do you see things going, where do you see some things that people ought to be paying attention to?

Jason Freed: (16:32) Yeah, that’s a great question, and to your point, I think you’re seeing a lot of industries going through shifts, or evolving, if you will, because of digital and the role of technology. You know, obvious examples that everybody points to are Uber, and Amazon, and AirBnB, I think in the hotel space. I mean, I do think the industry is sort of at a tipping point where it’s going to evolve rapidly, like all those other industries did. I’m not saying I can predict the future, know what’s gonna happen. But seriously, Tim, think about when we used to have to call a cab. Think about, like you’d dial this 800 number, and you’d get a dispatcher, and you’d tell them your address, and you’re lucky if it’s an hour. It’s probably the next day, you’ve gotta call in advance to get a ride to the airport. All that has just changed, and it’s just like the click of a button, and it’s … Not the travel, and not the hotels, and hospitality is ever to become a clickable button, but I do see it evolving.

Jason Freed: (17:49) I see it, I see the leisure space evolving, and I do think it’s a little bit because of AirBnB. I think there are times for the leisure traveler, often times for the leisure traveler when booking an AirBnB or something similar makes more sense than booking a hotel, I mean-

Tim Peter: (18:09) Sure.

Jason Freed: (18:09) You’re just in a more comfortable environment, you’ve got more space, you’ve got the kitchen, you can cook. If you’re on the beach or whatever, you’d rather be in a home than a hotel. Go ahead, I’m sorry.

Tim Peter: (18:23) No, all I was gonna say was I completely agree with that. Obviously, I do a lot of work in the hotel space, I’m very pro hotel. I try to do what’s right for hotel owners and managers every chance I get. I also had the opportunity, a few years back, two years ago, I was doing work in Paris over a three week period, so I was there several weekends in a row, and I was fortunate enough to be able to bring my daughters over for a couple of days over a weekend. I’ve got two teenage daughters, obviously they need their space, they need privacy, things like that. We were able to get an AirBnB in a fantastic location where they could have their own room, I can have my own room, it worked out great. We had a kitchen, my one daughter is vegan, which we weren’t sure going in how that was gonna work out. Paris, as it happens, Paris has a wonderful vegan food culture, too. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I hadn’t really thought about it much.

Tim Peter: (19:19) It was way, way less expensive, unfortunately for hotel owners, than renting two hotel rooms, right?

Jason Freed: (19:26) Right.

Tim Peter: (19:26) I mean, so it just worked out really, really well and it was an absolutely appropriate trip for that kind of an experience, right? We could come and go as we wanted, there was lots of flexibility in how, you know around the apartment for part of the day, ’cause the girls were jet lagged or things like that, it worked out really well. So, yeah, there’s going to be times where those are appropriate trips.

Jason Freed: (19:50) Yeah, totally agree. Don’t get me wrong, like some people are saying, “Oh, the hotel industry’s going away.” No, it’s not. There’s always going to be … Group businesses is such a huge base of business for the industry, and then meetings. The meetings business, and the business travelers are always going to want hotels. What I’m afraid of is they’re gonna lose a little bit of that leisure business, unless they sort of find a way to adapt, or evolve, and make the booking experience easier, and more personal. That’s a real challenge, like making that stuff easy in an industry that’s very fragmented, and struggles with integrating technology. I mean, that’s like almost making a monumental shift for the industry. So, I don’t know. I feel that we need to step on the gas a little bit, and start thinking about this.

Tim Peter: (20:51) Right, no, that makes perfect sense, that’s all I’m saying.

Jason Freed: (20:54) Just quickly, back to that Paris story, Tim. Anytime you mention AirBnB you get like a similar story of somebody who had a great experience there. That’s building, we talk about building brand awareness, that’s word-of-mouth marketing which is the best kind of marketing you can get, in my opinion.

Tim Peter: (21:15) Absolutely, oh, absolutely.

Jason Freed: (21:18) I stayed in one one year in Nashville. It wasn’t an AirBnB, it was it was very interesting. It was like a hybrid AirBnB, hotel, right? So, it was an old apartment building that had like twenty-five apartments, and they just bought it and converted it into sort of this hotel, but there is no front desk, you just kind of, you book and then they send you a code, and you punch the code in to get in the door. They don’t have on staff housekeeping, I think they sort of outsource it from somebody. I started thinking, “Wow, this this makes so much more sense from an investment standpoint.” You don’t have this owner, and then this operator, and then this brand. It’s all these fragmented pieces that each take their parts of profitability, so, I don’t know, I just see, sort of, some evolution happening there.

Tim Peter: (22:17) No, that takes a ton of sense. It reminds me—I wasn’t familiar with this, this is really cool. It reminds me, if you’ve ever used Breather for conference rooms, right? Not to name drop, or brand drop, I have no relationship with them, but it’s very same thing. They’re just, you know, in the cities where they exist, they are random conference rooms, and random office buildings that Breather, I guess, leases, and then they … You have an app, and you say, “I want this room at this time.” It’s usually a fairly inexpensive price, and you get a code to unlock the door, and you just show up. It works out really well.

Tim Peter: (22:51) So, yeah, it sounds like very much same thing, but if Breather were imagined as a hotel. What I always find interesting about this, and I’d love to hear your thoughts about this, Jason, is I think people don’t yet recognize how much disruption is yet to come, right? You look back over the last 10, or 15, or 20 years of digital, and people say, “Oh my God, we’ve come so far.” But, you know, we don’t have everybody in the world connected all the time, right? People still have to reach into their pocket and pull out their phone as opposed to a voice interface, or as opposed to something that’s a little more invisible from a process perspective that I think we’re really see a lot of behavioral changes still. I’d just be curious for your thoughts on that.

Jason Freed: (23:37) That’s heavy, Tim, that’s deep. No, I mean, I totally agree. One thing you mentioned that just jumped out at me is connecting people globally, I think is huge. Yeah, I mean, I can use my Amazon Echo and calls my mom, who’s a thousand miles away from me, but I can’t call somebody in Asia on it yet. Connecting people around the globe, as we become a global company, it becomes so much more important. I want to be able to talk to the editors that I work with in Singapore more easily, that’s like such a challenge. I think it’s getting … The communication part is getting better, obviously. We’ve got all these chat programs that you can use. We’ve haven’t gone on We Chat, but I know everybody uses it.

Jason Freed: (24:37) In terms of bigger things, yeah. I mean, it’s all happening so fast, that’s what’s crazy about it, right? I mean, look where we were 10 years, you know?

Tim Peter: (24:48) Right.

Jason Freed: (24:48) We didn’t have any of this stuff we have, Netflix. It’s crazy. Crazy how fast it’s all moving.

Tim Peter: (24:55) No doubt, makes perfect sense. That’s awesome. And, Jason, you know, as we as we wrap up here, what would be your number one take away for people listening to this conversation? What would you want them to walk away going, “Oh, that’s definitely something I wanna know.”

Jason Freed: (25:09) Not to be too self-centered on this one, but don’t think content marketing people are just writing a blog, and just bloggers. Make sure that they are involved with other parts of the marketing strategy, and team, because they should be making sure that your content is accurate and on message across all the channels, and across all the mediums on all the content that you put out.

Tim Peter: (25:43) Fantastic. Jason Freed, thank you so much for taking the time today, I really appreciate the conversation, really good talking with you, and I know I’ll see you out there, as we’re out and about in the industry.

Jason Freed: (25:53) Absolutely, Tim, thanks so much for having me.

Tim Peter: (25:55) Thanks so much for your time. Now looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week, but once again I want to thank Jason Freed for joining us. I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today’s episode, as well as an archive of all the past episodes, by going to timpeter.com/podcast. Again, that’s timpeter.com/podcast. You can also find us on Spotify, or iTunes, or Stitcher Radio, or Google Podcast, or whatever your favorite pod catcher happens to be. Just do a search for Thinks Out Loud, you should find us there.

Tim Peter: (26:36) You can also find us on Facebook, at facebook.com/TimPeterAssociates. On Twitter, using the Twitter handle @TCPeter, or you can send me an email to podcast@timpeter.com. Again, that is podcast@timpeter.com. In addition to thinking Jason, I do want to thank our sponsor, SoloSegment. They focus on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to unlock revenue, improve search results, and improve customer satisfaction. You can learn all about them at solosegment.com.

Tim Peter: (27:14) Now, in addition to thanking Jason, and thanking SoloSegment, most of all I really want to thank you. I really appreciate the fact that you tune in week after week, and listen to the show, and provide comments, and send me emails, and all those great things. I encourage you to do that as you go forward, but I really do want to let you know how much it means to be that you are here week after week. So, with that I hope you have a fantastic weekend, a wonderful week ahead, and I will look forward to talking with you again here on Thinks Out Loud again next week. Until then, take care everybody.

Tim Peter

By

August 24, 2018

What is More Important than Marketing? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 227)

August 24, 2018 | By | No Comments

Looking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.


What's more important than marketing? Photo of team working together to improve customer experience

What is More Important than Marketing? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 227) – Headlines and Show Notes

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil Sound PR 30 Large Diaphragm Multipurpose Dynamic Microphone through a Cloud Microphones CL-1 Cloudlifter Mic Activator and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 13m 32s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed )(or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

What’s More Important Than Marketing? Transcript

Well, hello again everyone, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. Today is Friday, August 24, 2018. This is episode 227 of the big show, and I think we’ve got a really great show for you.

Before I get into it too deeply, I want to thank our sponsor. We’re brought to you by Solo Segment. Solo Segment focuses on AI driven content discovery and site search analytics that unlock revenue. You can learn more about how to improve your search results and customer satisfaction for your site visitors by going to solosegment.com.

Now, it is funny, I didn’t do this on purpose, but it is funny that we’re talking about customer satisfaction because I heard a great couple of stories in the last couple weeks that I wanted to share with you. The first is I was having dinner not long ago with Mark Schaefer who is a long-time friend of the show. He’s a fellow instructor at Rutgers University, Rutgers Business School, and we were having some discussions about how people think about your brand in the longer term, and what makes them choose your brand in the longer term.

Mark reminded me of a McKinsey study from several years back that I thought was fascinating, and I thought was really, really worth reviewing. It’s from 2012 or 2013, so it may seem slightly out of date, but I want to point out that I think what the study talks about has only become more true over time, and I think experience shows and data shows that it has become a much bigger deal over time. And it really was focused on what percentage of revenue for most companies did marketing directly influence?

Now, before I answer the question, I want to point out I’m a marketing guy. I’m all about "are we creating great marketing that drives people to our brand and our business?" So, I would love for this to be a really big number, right? I have a vested interest in this number being, you know, epically large. But what the data shows is that marketing maybe influences about 30% of purchase decisions. You know, most of what influences purchase decisions is something other than marketing. And I suspect this is still true.

When I talk to companies, when I talk to clients, when I talk to other customers, they often talk about the other things that drove their purchase decision beyond just, you know, they saw a great ad, or they saw a search ad, or they thought the website was really great, right? And it really gets back to something I’ve talked about before here on the show, which is how customer experience is queen.

I had a funny experience years ago. I worked for a hotel company, and one of the brand managers for one of the brands that I worked with was fairly frustrated, you know, came to me one day and said that she didn’t believe the website did a great job of conveying her brand’s value proposition. And so I asked, I said, "What is you brand’s value proposition? What differentiates your brand from all the other hotel brands out there?" And I’m not saying this to be mean to her, but she kind of had a blank stare for a few minutes, and she said, "You know, it’s a fair point. I’ll know it when I see it."

And I thought, okay, that’s something maybe we need to work on a little bit, right? Because obviously the experience that someone had in one of our hotels from the moment they walked in to the moment they checked out was going to shape their perception of the brand far more than anything we could do on the web, especially at that time. I mean, this is not last year. This is several years back. And what we could from a user experience perspective was somewhat limited at the time.

And I think there are a handful of really interesting stories that illustrate what I’m talking about. One of my all time favorites is actually from 10 years ago. It’s when Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks as the CEO to turn the company around. They were struggling, and he rejoined the company. One of the first things he did was he cut the marketing budget, and again this is not something I want to see happen very often, but he cut the marketing budget to put more money into training, into training their baristas to make a good cup of coffee. He was interviewed in Harvard Business Review and he said, and this is a quote and it’s a relatively lengthy one. He said, "Unlike almost any other product or consumer brand, we have not been built through traditional marketing or advertising. It (meaning the company) has been built by the experience that I’ve just described and the only way we can succeed and sustain growth and new development and innovation and new dreams is the foundation of all of the future of the company is linked to the basic elements of one cup of coffee, one customer, and one barista at a time."

I think that’s an exceptionally wise point of view, because he’s really focused on how do we create a great customer experience every single time a customer interacts with one of our people providing the service, the barista, and with the product, the cup of coffee.

There’s another story I heard not long ago about Method soap. These are the people who make, you’ve probably seen these very cleverly designed soap dispensers in Target, in your local grocery store, etc., and there was a fantastic interview on Mixology with the CEO of method about how they chose in the direction that they did. And the story I had heard that led me to this interview was that they said cutting steel is a marketing expense, and what they mean by that is building the molds that shape the bottle that they put the bottle in is actually where they put their marketing dollars, right, because they were trying to create this great experience.

And in this Mixology interview, the CEO Andrew Ryan said, "That’s the role of design and the fragrance and the branding and the fun of it." So we would have people who essentially, what would happen is they would see it on the shelf because of the design. They would buy it, they would smell it in the stores, they’d buy it because of the fragrance, they would get home, use it, see what works, and eventually turn the bottle around and see that it’s good for them, good for the planet. That’s what helped create this cult following, and that’s what drove a lot of the loyalty. I’m going to continue this quote because it’s really fascinating.

He said, "When you talk to Method customers, you’ll find two different camps. You’ll find people who could care less about the environmental credentials of it. They just love the whole design experience of it. Then you can find people you really don’t care too much about the design, but they love the fact of our commitment to sustainability and human health."

So they’re really thinking about the overall experience right down to the packaging as opposed to a great ad campaign, or a great marketing effort.

Now, at the time, that interview was from 2012, and at the time they had had over $100 million in revenue at Target alone. Sorry, the interview was in 2017 and he said four or five years ago, so in 2012 or thereabouts. So we can safely assume they were making more than $100 million in revenue focused on design, and they were just sold to SC Johnson earlier this year for an undisclosed sum. So clearly this was having an effect. And remember, they’re competing against the Proctor & Gambles of the world who spend more money on advertising and more money on marketing than any other company in the world.

Now why did it work? Well, it worked because their customers told their story. One of the things I continually talk about with clients is, you know, how can we get customers to participate in the creation and curation of a positive brand story, or our positive brand story? Because if we can do that, we’re putting ourselves in a position to win. We’re putting ourselves in a position to really succeed.

There was a great piece on VentureBeat about how Open Table used just a little bit of data, and you’ve heard me say that, you know, content is king, customer experience is queen, and data is the crown jewels. But using just a little bit of data to understand customer intent and what customers were trying to accomplish, and then changing the product, changing the experience to actually being more useful for the people using it, and thus get them to use it more.

So again, it’s really about how you create this great experience that will get your customers to want to talk about you, to want to use you regularly, to come back again and again. Now, that doesn’t mean that marketing isn’t valuable. Again, if we’re giving credit to marketing for about 30% and you would not want to walk away from 30% of your business by any stretch. Nobody would. So this isn’t that marketing isn’t important, it’s that we have to remember the other 70% too. That’s what’s more important than marketing.

What is the customer experience you’re creating? What data are you using to build that customer experience and learn what’s working, and make it, in the words of Seth Godin, more remarkable for your customers? Because if you can do that, if you can create this extraordinary experience that gets people to com back again and again and again, you may find out that marketing is less than 30% of your benefit and of your results because you don’t need it to be, because your customers will do the work for you. And if you can accomplish that, you’re putting yourself in very rare company indeed.

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. I do want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today’s episode as well as an archive of all past episodes by going to timpeter.com/podcast. Again, that’s timpeter.com/podcast. You can also find us on Spotify, on iTunes, on Stitcher Radio, on Google podcasts, whatever your favorite podcatcher happens to be. Just do a search for Thinks Out Loud, we should show up for that. You can find me on Facebook using the URL faceobok.com/timpeterassociates, on Twitter using the Twitter handle @tcpeter, and via email by sending an email to podcast@timpeter.com. Again, that’s podcast@timpeter.com.

Once again, I want to thank our sponsor, Solo Segment, focused on AI driven content discovery and site search analytics to unlock revenue. Check them out at solosegment.com to improve search results and improve your customer satisfaction too.

With that, I hope you have a wonderful weekend, a fantastic week ahead, and I will look forward to speaking with you again here on Thinks Out Loud next week. Until then, take care everybody.

Tim Peter

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August 10, 2018

Who Owns the Customer? Marketing or Digital? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 226)

August 10, 2018 | By | No Comments

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Who Owns the Customer? Marketing or Digital? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 226)

Who Owns the Customer? Marketing or Digital? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 226) – Headlines and Show Notes

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil Sound PR 30 Large Diaphragm Multipurpose Dynamic Microphone through a Cloud Microphones CL-1 Cloudlifter Mic Activator and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 14m 8s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed )(or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

Who Owns the Customer? Marketing or Digital? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 226) – Transcript

Well, hello again everyone and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. Today is Friday, August 10th and this is Episode 226 of the big show.

As I mentioned last week, we have a new sponsor for thinks out loud and that sponsor is SoloSegment. I'd like to thank them very much for their support. SoloSegment is all about site search analytics and on AI-driven content discovery and improving search results in customer satisfaction. You can check out solosegment@solosegment.com and once again I thank them for their support. I think we've got a really, really cool show for you. There's a lot going on this week. It started out when I shared a post on Linkedin by Christopher S. Penn and what Christopher was talking about is how the end of digital marketing is near.

Basically, his point is that digital is so integral to our lives now that it's not separate from marketing, it's just, you know, it's just out there. It's just regular marketing in and of itself. Now, this obviously resonated with me very well. I've been talking for a long, long time about how it's all e-commerce— and I'll get back to that point in a minute — but clearly this has resonated with folks. The piece itself has more than 227 shares and just my brief mention of it on LinkedIn has almost 1700 views and a bunch of comments in just a few days. Now, many of the comments really resonated with me. Steve Cummins had a great point where he said, "This is true. Naturally we start off by segmenting things that are new and then they come back to the center. Over time it helps them to get traction and helps people to focus where to hone their skills," which I think is exactly right. I think that's very smart.

And there were two other comments that really jumped out at me as well. Max Starkov, who I've known for years, Max is from a company called HeBS, said "The days of distinction between traditional and digital marketing are long gone, exclamation point in hospitality. It has been digital first for at least 15 years and digital only for at least eight years now." Barry Cunningham was even more since succinct. He said, "That's over a year old. Not sure it's still relevant. It's like a lifetime in internet time."

So I replied to Barry. I said, "Unfortunately it's all too relevant for many businesses and industries who don't see that as reality yet. You'd be amazed the number of product-focused or sales-led organizations who still tell me, yeah, but my customers don't really use the Internet to buy my products.

They talked to our sales people, reps, etc. instead." Barry's response: "That's nuts. Dinosaurs!" Exclamation point.

Now this is amazing to me. Obviously just last week I asked whether you should abandon digital the way it looks like GE is, and as I noted in my reply to Barry, at least three times this week I spoke with groups of executives, marketing executives, among them who basically talked about digital as being somehow separate from marketing. That these are two distinct disciplines with nothing to do with one another, no relationship at all, which blows my mind that this is still a conversation that we're having. You know, this isn't new. In 2013, I wrote a piece for the Biznology blog that asked is paid search part of marketing. Even further back in 2009, I wrote a piece as part of a point/counterpoint debate that asked is digital marketing a core skill for today's marketers?

By the way, I'm going to link to all of these in the show notes. The question I would have is, how is it possible 10 years later, we're still having this debate? How are we still having this debate, especially when some folks like Max and Barry think the debate is long since settled? Now, as I mentioned a moment ago, I'm pretty in line with Max and Barry. I wouldn't go so far as to call people who hold the opposite view dinosaurs, but it's definitely not something that there's this core distinction between digital and marketing any longer. Just the other day I wrote another piece that asked why are marketers still afraid of data and at least as far back as 2011, I've been talking about how it's all e-commerce — and I know for sure that I was using the phrase long before I wrote piece. So how are we still having this debate?

Well, I think there's a reason for it and I think digital marketers specifically and marketers more generally are to blame and the reason is because too often when we talk about what we do, we get really excited about the tech and not the people. To me that's no wonder that "traditional marketers" — and I'm very much using air quotes for traditional marketers — but that's no wonder that traditional marketers don't get us, that they don't think we're part of their tribe.

The bigger problem though is the traditional marketers are just as guilty. As I pointed out in my Biznology piece the other day, they're using data too. And as Max and Barry and I believe, there's plenty of leakage between the various marketing disciplines already. It's not black and white, but we get hung up on the data and we get hung up on targeting and we get hung up on devices and we get so hung up on all the tools and the techniques that we get trapped into thinking about what we can do instead of thinking about the customer, instead of thinking about the person. You know, I'm always reminded of that scene in Jurassic Park where Dr. Ian Malcolm is taking the owner of the park to task. You know, he says "We're so busy wondering if we could, we haven't always stopped to think if we should." Think about all the times that we've said, you know, mobile first. Well, as I've asked a couple of times, it's not mobile first, why isn't it customer first? Is it the device that matters or is it the person that's using the device that matters?

And by doing this we've sort of decoupled people's humanity here. We've decoupled the people from the situation and we're only now starting to see implications of this. In a way, GDPR has come about because many marketers, many digital marketers, many traditional marketers, et cetera, grabbed all the data they could — all the data available — without thinking about the human implications. I've mentioned many times before here that digital is like gravity, you know. It becomes this thing that can be a real problem because, yes, it can absolutely be a useful tool, It can absolutely be beneficial to you, but also you can fall off a cliff if you do it wrong. You know, as the phrase I've used before a goes, when you invent the ship, you invent the shipwreck

And I think it's only going to get worse if we don't get our hands around it. Now you know, we're about to start incorporating AI into what we do and we have to think about the implicit biases we're introducing into those AI's as we look to understand our customers more deeply, as we look to pull apart our customer segments more. You know, there was a fascinating book by Cathy O'Neil a couple of years ago called "Weapons of Math Destruction" and no, I did not slur or list it is math, M-A-T-H destruction, but O'Neil, you know, outlines the many ways we can hurt customers, we can hurt citizens, by deploying algorithms and AI without thinking through the biases inherent in those programs. Now, I read the book for the first time a couple of years ago and I dismissed O'Neil's wildest fears as a slippery slope argument, unlikely to occur regularly in the real world. Fast forward a couple years now. I'm not so sure.

Think about all the things we've seen over the past year or so with data problems on Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica things and all of these, you know, mini-scandals and mini-crises and some not-so-mini-scandals and not-so-mini-crises that have come about because of how we're using data about customers. There was a really fascinating and thought-provoking piece for Quartz a week ago that explained quote, "everything bad about Facebook is bad for the same reason" unquote. And it's really about how they've not looked at the human being. They've not looked at the person. Now, I don't know that I completely agree with, uh, Sonnad's piece. But I do think it's worth thinking about in detail as we go forward.

When we talk about marketing, when we talk about digital, we often talk about who owns the customer. And that's starting to concern me the more I think about it because nobody owns the customer, the customer owns themselves. I think a more important question that we need to start taking a look at is who looks out for the customer? Whose job is it to look after your customer? Whose job is it to think through the implications of what we do in digital and with data? That's true whether you're a quote-unquote digital marketer, whether you're a quote-unquote tradItional marketer or whether, you know, you're just a marketer because really they're the same thing. We need to start thinking about how are we looking out for our customer? How are we taking care of our customer?

I want to be clear. I don't claim to have all the answers here. I think this is a big, huge question that we need to start getting our arms around and I do know that I'm through having a debate about quote-unquote digital versus marketing.

Instead, I think it's time that we start asking the core questions about who serves our customers, who helps them, who looks out for them. That's what's really important. Because ultimately, if we don't take care of our customers, it won't matter if we're in traditional marketing or digital marketing or anything. Because ultimately if we don't take care of our customers, we won't have any customers.

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. I want to remind you, you can find the show notes for today's episode as well as an archive of all past episodes by going to timpeter.com/podcast. Again, that's timpeter.com/podcast, and while you're there, simply click on the links you find to subscribe to us in iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Podcasts, or whatever your favorite podcatcher happens to be. You can also find us on Spotify. And while you're there, please feel free to provide us a rating that tells all your friends and family and fans and followers how much you enjoy Thinks Out Loud every single week. You can also find us on facebook at facebook.com/timpeterassociates on twitter using the twitter handle @tcpeter or on email using the email address podcast@timpeter.com. Again, that's podcast@timpeter.com. Once again, I'd like to thank our sponsors SoloSegment, that's SoloSegment, who provides site search analytics and AI-driven content discovery to unlock revenue. You can find them solosegment.com.

And with that I want to thank you, especially, for tuning in. I hope you have a really wonderful weekend, an amazing week ahead and I will look forward to speaking with you again here on Thinks Out Loud next week. Until then, take care everybody.

Tim Peter

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August 3, 2018

GE Abandons Digital: Is it Time For You to Give Up Too? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 225)

August 3, 2018 | By | No Comments

GE Abandons Digital: Is it Time For You to Give Up TooLooking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.


GE Abandons Digital: Is it Time For You to Give Up Too? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 225) – Headlines and Show Notes

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil Sound PR 30 Large Diaphragm Multipurpose Dynamic Microphone through a Cloud Microphones CL-1 Cloudlifter Mic Activator and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 13m 07s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed )(or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

Tim Peter

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July 31, 2018

There Are Two Ways To Grow Hotel Direct Business. One Of Them Has A Future

July 31, 2018 | By | No Comments

Grow Hotel Direct Business: Guest searching for hotel reservations Looking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.


Here where are in mid-2018, gearing up for our 2019 budget season, and once again everyone’s talking about how important it is to grow hotel direct business and get guests to book direct. Brands are putting increased emphasis on loyalty — or at least on offering heavily discounted rates to guests willing to sign up for their loyalty program. Individual hotels are touting their best rate guarantees — or offering heavily discounted rates… Are you sensing a theme here?

In truth, all this is great. Seriously. I’m absolutely in favor of driving direct business. But too often it’s focused on the booking. And on discounting. We’re spending money to buy the booking. Why aren’t we willing to invest to buy interest earlier in the process? We’ve become so focused on the booking, we sometimes forget how to talk to guests before they’re ready to book.

It’s time to change that reality.

Why OTA’s are Winning

One study shows that guests who start their booking journey on an OTA reserve through OTA’s around 93% of the time. Meaning that guests who start on an OTA will choose to book direct only about 7 times out of 100. By contrast, guests who start on a branded website book direct about 60% of the time (though, admittedly, they may not always choose your property to book direct).

To put it more plainly, guests can’t book direct, ever, if they don’t come to your property or brand website at some point while shopping for travel. Period.

So where’s the investment in attracting guests to visit early in their decision-making process — the dream and plan phases, not just when they’re ready to book.

Think of it this way. A 150-room property selling for $130/night and running at 64% occupancy with an 18% OTA margin — all roughly average in the current market — typically surrenders about $100,000 in topline revenue to OTA’s. How many have demonstrated the willingness to invest a healthy share of that amount in content creation to attract guests early in their browsing, shopping, buying activity? We’ve said for years that content is king; shouldn’t we be more willing to invest in it?

By contrast, that same representative property will generate roughly $900,000 in revenue through its website (assuming industry-average 20% website revenue and giving no credit to web for voice or walk-in). If you include voice and property-direct, those numbers roughly double. How much are you willing to invest to drive that number higher? Would $50k sound too expensive? Remember, that’s still half what you’re already paying OTA’s.

Content Marketing Matters for Hotels

Does this sound crazy to you? Well, here’s a crazy idea for you: Google has announced a new program that brings a professional video director to your business to shoot a video advertisement. The price tag? $350 in YouTube advertising. That’s it. The search giant clearly understands what customers want; those customers literally tell Google what’s important to them millions of times every single day. Do you think Google might know something useful here about customer behavior?

Guests are starved for content about your property, your destination — the attractions, events, shops, festivals, concerts, entertainment and businesses near to you. And the first rule of selling travel to consumers remains “sell the destination first.” Research from Google shows that travelers tend to start their travel planning by searching destination-related terms. This is a huge opportunity to attract guests to you early in their planning, place your property at the center of their consideration set, and then turn them into reservations. But only if you’re willing to make the investment.

Growing Direct Business — Conclusion

Budget season is right around the corner. It’s time to start thinking about where to put your money, where to invest to grow your business next year. This isn’t about building a new website or finding a new booking engine or — heaven help us — planning for a new “closed user group” you can sell your property to more cheaply. This is about investing in “the painting” — your property’s content — not just “the frame.” It’s about telling a story designed to attract and capture interest from potential guests. It’s about getting them to start their journey with your hotel in mind.

Or you could just continue to pay “loyalty” programs and OTA’s and intermediaries to do that for you — to you — again. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

If you’re looking to learn even more about how changing customer behavior will shape your marketing going forward, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Finally, you might enjoy some of these past posts from Thinks to help you build your e-commerce strategy and your digital success:

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on Hotel News Now, where Tim Peter writes a regular column for the magazine’s Digital Tech Impact Report.