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Tim Peter

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February 25, 2020

Is a Recession More Likely This Year? Here’s What You Don’t Want to Do (Thinks Out Loud Episode 276)

February 25, 2020 | By | No Comments

Is a recession more likely this year? Marketers worried about losing money -- and talent.Looking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.


Lots of news this week that affects lots of businesses, including the coronavirus news and Expedia announcing a pretty significant set of layoffs. All of this suggests a recession is more likely this year. But, assuming a recession hits, there's a good way to handle it… and a not good way to handle it. What is the good way? What's the bad way? And what do you want to make sure you don't do? The latest episode of Thinks Out Loud takes a look at whether a recession is more likely this year and tells you what you don't want to do.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you:

Is a Recession More Likely This Year? Here's What You Don't Want to Do (Thinks Out Loud Episode 276) — Relevant Links

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 PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 18m 16s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes, 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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December 11, 2019

The Lessons You Should Learn from Expedia’s Recent Troubles (Thinks Out Loud Episode 268)

December 11, 2019 | By | No Comments

What do Expedia's recent troubles mean for your business? Screenshot of Expedia.com home pageLooking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.


The Lessons You Should Learn from Expedia’s Recent Troubles (Thinks Out Loud Episode 268) — Headlines and Show Notes

Literally days after our episode calling out the dangers of Google forcing your company to become a "hidden intermediary" — and using Expedia’s recent troubles as one example of where things are going terribly wrong — Expedia fired CEO Mark Okerstrom and CFO Alan Pickerell. The reason? Well, apart from a "disagreement over strategy," the real issue is that the company simply doesn't have a plan for dealing with Google's rising dominance. And, as stated, that's something you want to keep from happening to your brand.

How can you do that? How can you avoid Google taking over your share of the market? How can you compete with the search giant to win customers and profits? Tim Peter & Associates' president Tim Peter has a few ideas for you on the latest episode of Thinks Out Loud.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you:

Relevant Links — The Lessons You Should Learn from Expedia's Recent Troubles (Thinks Out Loud Episode 268)

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 PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 15m 52s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes, 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.

Transcript — The Lessons You Should Learn from Expedia's Recent Troubles (Thinks Out Loud Episode 268)

Well, hello again, everyone. Welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is episode 268 of the big show, and thank you so much for tuning in. I really appreciate it. We have a crazy show today. I did an episode last week that talked about the biggest risk to your business is becoming a hidden intermediary, and I really used what's going on with Expedia lately to illustrate the problem of becoming hidden intermediary — how Google, how Amazon, how Facebook, how Apple, you know how the big tech giants are really threatening companies that don't provide a direct value-add to their customers. And you know, one of the things that drove this was that Expedia reported really, really crappy earnings in Q3.

And I talked a little about the fact that, you know, they needed to sort this out and they probably would, well, no sooner did I publish the episode. Then the very next day Expedia fired Mark Okerstrom, the CEO, and Alan Pickerell, who was the CFO. Like out. Gone. Hit the bricks.

Phocuswire who covered the story brilliantly. I'm going to link to a lot of focus wire stuff here because they're really great at this. They do a wonderful job, but I will say, I thought the framing of their headline was kind of funny because it's “Expedia group CEO Mark Okerstrom out amid board disagreement over strategy.” I think the biggest disagreement that the board had was that, you know, Okerstrom and Pickerell thought they were the right people to lead that strategy. And the board, you know, disagreed.

So I'm, not that I was in the room, but I'm pretty sure the biggest disagreement was, you know, "are these, in fact, the people who can fix this?" Now I want to point out, I tweeted on December 3rd, another story about this that was also from Phocuswire because at the Phocuswright Conference, Mark Okerstrom talked about the challenges that we're having with search, and I tweeted — and this is important to those of you who are listening, who are not in the travel industry — I said, “don't let Expedia fool you. This isn't just about travel. Google is coming for a lot of folks.”

I also tweeted on December 3rd, you know, a link to an article from the Motley Fool that said, “why Expedia blamed Google for its earnings debacle.” And I said, because "Google is a huge problem for Expedia. That's why, and they may be coming for your business next."

This is a thing I've talked about a ton when it comes to travel. Google is the dominant player in organic paid search, organic search, paid search, and a thing called metasearch, which if you're outside of travel, don't worry about it. Well actually, let me rephrase that. If you're outside of travel, you don't need to know precisely what metasearch is, but you should worry about it because it is a canary in a coal mine. And I'm going to come back to that canary in a coal mine in just a second. This is a thing that I've been talking about since at least 2014 when I referred to the big myth about hotel metasearch. Which you know, the nice thing about predicting things years in advance is you only need to be right once. 😉

But there was another Phocuswire article from November 14th where they talked about Skyscanner becoming a search company, pivoting from their original model of being a metasearch engine and instead becoming a marketplace with bookings. Functionally, they're getting out of the business of aggregating search results, right? They're no longer going to be a search engine primarily, and instead they're going to sell travel directly, which by the way, is exactly the problem that, you know, Expedia and Booking.com and the like and TripAdvisor, who I all talked about last week, seemed to be having.

Now remember the canary in the coal mine that I talked about a moment ago? Well, Social Capital CEO Chamath Palihapitiya was speaking at the Phocuswright Conference a couple of weeks ago, by the way, that is run by the same people who run Phocuswire, and I'm going to quote pretty extensively here from a a CNBC review of this. So I'm quoting from the CNBC article. It says, quote

Speaking at The Phocuswright Conference this week, Palihapitiya said that while he “loves” Google and its stock as an investor, he warned that time is running out for companies who have become reliant on it. “The longer it takes for Google to find a second act, the more you’re f—-d,” he said about those companies, adding that investor patience will wane. “If you are in the business of being a parasite on top of Google, your medium-term and long-term prospects are terrible; you’re an impaired company, you don’t know it,” he added. The only way to win, he argued, is to offer unique value; many companies have done the opposite, becoming more like their competitors and relying on Google to drive volume. That’s a recipe for disaster. “This is accurate,” tweeted fellow venture capitalist Bill Gurley, of Benchmark, Thursday evening.

Palihapitiya pointed to the travel industry, calling Google’s travel efforts a “canary in a coal mine” and citing both Expedia and TripAdvisor. “At the core of it is the decision that they will capture the overwhelming majority of profit in the travel sector,” he said about Google.

He's not the only one saying it either. Ben Thompson on Stratechery a couple of weeks back now, on November 12th, actually right after Expedia's earnings call, referred to "the Google Squeeze" and the challenges that Expedia and people like TripAdvisor and Booking.com will have in competing as you go forward.

This is a huge deal, and it's not about travel. This is what Google's doing in a number of markets. Look at what's happening with online retail. Look at what's happening with Google Shopping. Look at what's happening with Google News. They aggregate demand to use Ben Thompson's phrase, and because they have the demand, they control the marketplace for whatever that product or service is.

And this is a huge issue for all kinds of companies. Mark Oak Ostrom got fired because of this, by the way, to point out how rare this is. He was named CEO of the company two years ago. Less than two years ago. Find me another example of a CEO of a public company that by the way, is doing basically okay, right there.

Their revenues were up 9% year on year. Their costs were up dramatically more, but find me a CEO who gets booted after two years. And the reason he got booted was because the board didn't believe that he had a good plan for dealing with the fact that Google's going to come along and you know, eat their lunch or drink their milkshake, or you was whatever your favorite, you know, analogy is basically the board said, mr , mr Pickerell, we understand what you say you're going to do and we think it's not going to work.

Now. Last week on the show, I laid out a three point framework for how you can succeed and make sure what just happened to Okerstrom and Pickerell doesn't happen to you. I said, you must differentiate. You must become a destination and you must diversify. You must get your traffic and your revenue from more than just one source.

A lot. Don't get all your business from Google. In fact, I had a podcast, a podcast a weeks ago where I said, stop outsourcing your sales and marketing to gatekeepers like Google at a minimum. Don't outsource a hundred percent of it to those folks, but there's one more point that I want to add to that framework, and I hinted at it last week, but I want to get a little more in detail about it this week, which is, I said, you have to differentiate, you have to become a destination.

You have to diversify. And you have to deliver. There was a fascinating article that on marketing charts that said, uh, uh, here's what B2B content marketers are prioritizing in 2020 and near the very top, they had increased conversions and near the very bottom they had no the customer better, and I thought that was insanity.

Because I think the first of those follows from the last of those. You don't increase your conversion without knowing your customer better. One leads to the other, and we see this all the time when I've talked about customer experiences queen, this is what I'm talking about. Steffan Berelowitz had another great example, a guy from a company called Travel Tripper that said, consumers want Amazon to be a travel booking site.

Why?

Because they really like the experience that they have on Amazon. I talked about this actually two weeks ago with Amazon Go, instant gratification, and the boring future of business customers expect. That the experience will become invisible. It will become so seamless that they don't even notice it.

And that's kind of what Amazon has done with Amazon. Go and now travel. Customers say, why can't they do that for my travel too? That's a huge threat to an Expedia or booking.com and frankly to a Google. And the reason it works is because they're using data to understand the customer and using that understanding to create a deeper, deeper, richer experience.

Uh, there was another fantastic article that was out, uh, Oh, about a week ago from CMS wire about how brands still haven't tapped AI's full promise. Why do I talk about AI? I'm going to talk about customer experience. Because that's how you know your customer better. That's how you use the data to inform your decisions.

It's not that AI is going to tell you, here's exactly how you make the customer experience better. It's going to tell you, here are the pain points and here's what we understand about sentiment analysis. When people talk about our brand and our business, and here's where we see patterns emerge.

That co that you know. Uh, reflect challenges people have when they interact with a product or a service. And so you need to do that to understand what's going on and understand your customer better so that you can deliver a greater customer experience. And so that you can differentiate your product or service from those of your competition, especially the competitors who are the big guys like Google and Amazon and Facebook.

And that's how you can become a destination. And it's how you can diversify the marketing and sales channels from which you get your business. Because at a minimum, your destination, your own web presence becomes one of the places people want to go.

So you must differentiate. You must become a destination. You must diversify. And you must deliver. Because if you don't — like Mark Okerstrom and Allen Pickerell — your board or your company CEO or your customers are going to show you a fifth "D" — and that is the door.

Now looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week, but I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today's episode as well as an archive of all our past episodes by going to TimPeter.com/Podcast again, that's TimPeter.com/Podcast just look for episode 268.

While you're there, you can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes to have things out loud delivered to your favorite podcatcher every single week. You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts or Stitcher Radio or whatever your favorite podcatcher happens to be. Just do a search for Tim Peter Thinks, Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud or Thinks Out Loud. We should show up for any of those. And while you're there, I'd very much appreciate it if you could provide a positive rating or review. It gives other listeners a great insight into what the show is about and helps them understand whether it's something they'd like to listen to too. It makes us easier for new listeners to find us and when it would mean so much to me

You can also find Thinks Out Loud on Facebook by going to facebook.com/TimPeterAssociates. You can find me on Twitter using the Twitter handle @tcpeter. And of course you can email me, just send an email to podcast@timpeter.com. Again, that's podcast@timpeter.com.

As ever, I'd like to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud, is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment focuses on AI-driven content discovery and site search analytics to unlock revenue for your business. You can learn more about how to improve your content, increase your customer satisfaction, and make your search smarter by going to solosegment.com

With that, I want to say thanks so much for tuning in. I really appreciate it. It means so much to me. I hope you have a great rest of the week, a wonderful weekend ahead, and I look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well be safe and as ever take care everybody.

Tim Peter

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December 3, 2019

The Biggest Risk to Your Business? Becoming a "Hidden Intermediary" (Thinks Out Loud 267)

December 3, 2019 | By | No Comments

Intermediary being bypassed: The Biggest Risk to Your Business? Becoming a Hidden IntermediaryLooking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.


The Biggest Risk to Your Business? Becoming a “Hidden Intermediary” (Thinks Out Loud Episode 267) — Headlines and Show Notes

In business, there are suppliers and intermediaries. And both face serious competition over the next few years. Google, Facebook, Amazon and others continue to create competitive pressures even in industries where they're not a primary player. But the biggest risk your company faces is if these powerful competitors turn your business into a "hidden intermediary." What is a hidden intermediary? Why is becoming a hidden intermediary so dangerous for your business? And what can you do to stop it from happening to you?

The latest episode of Thinks Out Loud explains what it means to be a hidden intermediary, why it's such a threat, and how you can differentiate your brand and business to triumph against this powerful threat.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you:

Relevant Links — The Biggest Risk to Your Business? Becoming a “Hidden Intermediary” (Thinks Out Loud Episode 267))

    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 PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

    Running time: 17m 35s

    You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes, 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.

    The Biggest Risk to Your Business? Becoming a "Hidden Intermediary" (Thinks Out Loud Episode 267) — 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. This is episode 267 of the big show, and thanks so much for tuning in. I really appreciate it. It means so much to me. So I think we've got a really cool show.

    There was a post on Seeking Alpha. And Seeking Alpha talks about whether or not people should invest in stocks or not. And I want to be really clear. This is not intended as financial advice. I'm not a financial advisor. I don't make stock picks. So please, please, please don't make, don't make investment decisions based on what I'm about to tell you here.

    But this blogger on Seeking Alpha basically said people should sell their shares in Expedia. And he listed a few reasons why that was so. First, he talked about the fact that that functionally they have no moat. There's nothing that prevents others from entering Expedia's business.

    And he gave a bunch of examples of people who have [entered Expedia's business], among them Airbnb and you know, companies like Marriott focusing more heavily on getting people to book directly with them to make reservations directly with them. And he, he said that this is a real problem for them. And of course he said another huge problem for them is the fact that Google is increasingly getting heavily into the space of letting people find and choose and book hotel rooms, which by the way, that's where Expedia makes most of their money.

    You might think of them as a travel agency where you book your flights or you book car rental or things like that, but about 70% of the revenue comes from actual hotel reservations. So they don't have a big moat. They're facing huge competition from Google, and this makes them an unattractive stock to this blogger.

    Now, I've talked for many, many episodes of the show about the fact that Google is a real threat to lots of companies, and clearly Expedia is one of those, and it's not just Google, right? Facebook can enter these types of businesses and Amazon can enter these types of businesses, and I will link in the show notes to, you know, past episodes where you can hear me talk about that. I don't want to beat that to death.

    What I do want to do is take a step back and talk about why Expedia is in this circumstance that maybe they're in big trouble. And maybe they're not. Maybe this blogger is wrong. But I think he's getting at something that is fundamentally true.

    Which is that one of the things digital does is it exposes what I like to call "hidden intermediaries." You know, we all know what intermediaries are: They're people who facilitate an exchange between a supplier and a purchaser of some kind. But on the internet there are all sorts of hidden intermediaries, and I'm going to explain what that is in a moment.

    Expedia clearly is a traditional intermediary. They connect the sellers of travel — so hotels and car rental companies and airlines — with people who actually want to consume those products, people who need a hotel reservation, people who want to rent a car, people who want to book a flight. So they're a clear intermediary.

    And one of the traditional things that digital has done is created this, this reality of disintermediation, a place where because digital allows for the rapid integration of value chains, it also allows for the rapid disintegration of value chains. You know, we often talk about, we as business people often talk about, you know, integration being this really cool thing, but we don't always talk about the disintegration part where things can be taken apart really easily.

    You know, Google has entered travel in a fairly meaningful way, in a reasonably short timeframe. You know, they've gone from someone who directs traffic to people like Expedia or Booking.com or TripAdvisor as a for instance, to being a place where you can find a hotel or you can find a flight, or you can read a review right there without ever leaving the search results.

    And obviously that's a big challenge for companies like Expedia. But, but there's this idea of the hidden intermediary. And to me a hidden intermediary is somebody who offers something that either is so generic or lacks differentiation so much that they can be disrupted in pretty substantial ways.

    So to give you an example, if you think about real estate agents, I used to think that real estate agents were intermediaries. You know, they got between the seller of the home and somebody who wanted to buy the home. But they provide a very real value in that most people don't know how to sell a home and most people don't know how to buy a home. And yes, you can have for sale by owners. Those all exist. I get it. But that's not how most real estate is transacted.

    And there's all kinds of reasons why real estate agents continue to have some market dominance. You know, they control the access to the multiple listing systems. There may be legal, you know, hurdles, legal barriers in some states or some jurisdictions that make it harder for people to sell homes directly or require more specialized knowledge. But at least the real estate agent fulfills a useful function. They know how to market a property. They know how to reach buyers so they can bring some real value to it in addition to controlling access to the MLS or controlling access, you know, to some of the legal stuff.

    But the hidden intermediaries have been the real estate brands. You know, if you think about the brands, if you think about the agency you go with, most people don't care about that as much as they used to do.

    They don't care that you're a Re/Max real estate agent. They care that you got good reviews on Yelp or you got, you know, good recommendations from friends of yours who've used them. And that's why you're seeing companies like Redfin or Zillow enter the market and be very effective very quickly.

    They've exposed these hidden intermediaries, the brands between the agent and either the buyer or the seller. Now maybe someday technology will knock out the agent too. We're seeing examples of that, you know, companies that are buying real estate and just marketing it directly, buying it directly from the seller and selling it directly to the buyer with no agent in the middle.

    So that's certainly a possibility of another disintermediation that will occur. But the hidden intermediary was the brand. And we're seeing many of those brands really struggle to attract new agents because of this. So for many companies, you need to think about whether you're a supplier, whether you're an intermediary, or whether you're a hidden intermediary.

    And being a hidden intermediary being one of the most dangerous ones. If you're an intermediary, you already know you have problems, right? I don't think I'm telling you something you don't know, that Google can come along or Facebook can come along or you know somebody else, Amazon can come along and knock you out of the picture. If you're a supplier though, you need to ask whether or not you offer something truly exclusive, something that your customers can get nowhere else.

    You know, if you're a hotel, if you're a restaurant, if you manufacture a product, you're probably a true supplier. There are other examples, but I mean, you know, just using those as for instances. But if you're a hotel or you're a restaurant or you're a manufacturer and customers have a lot of other options, if you're fairly generic, you may be more of a hidden intermediary than you think you are.

    Because your customers may be able to get what you offer from someone else.

    So what do you do about this? Well, if you're a supplier first, it's good to be a supplier. You need intermediaries and intermediaries need you. And if you think about marketplaces like Etsy or eBay or Zillow, they seem to have some value add because they work for the person who's creating that listing. They offer them ways to make that product and service available to more people more easily. But that could change over time. Facebook's Marketplace offering shows one way that eBay or Etsy could be in trouble in the longer term. Alibaba's Taobao platform could also represent another long-term threat. But the reality is any supplier could be disintermediated because they're just too generic.

    So the first thing you want to do is you want to differentiate. You want to think about "what separates me from my competition?" and actually I'm going to use a buddy of mine's terms. My friend Mike Moran always likes to talk about the fact that differentiation isn't just what makes you different; it's a difference that's so valuable to your customers that they're willing to pay extra for it. You know, to put it bluntly, your customers would have to be stupid not to buy from you. So you want to think about how do you look at what separates you in such a way that people would absolutely pay a premium for it.

    You also want to diversify your offering. You know, the channels where people can find your product or service. If you're a supplier, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Don't assume that because you get good amounts of business from — pick the intermediary of your preference — that that's the only way customers can find you. You know, if you're getting a lot of business from Google, look and see, can you get more business from Facebook? Can you get more business from Yelp? Can you get more business from TripAdvisor? Can you get more business from, I don't know, FindMyDoctor.com? Think about all of the different ways customers can find you and, to use an old, you know, platitude "don't put all your eggs in one basket," but instead use multiple baskets to spread the risk.

    Think about the value-adds that you can offer that make your product or service more valuable to your customer. What makes it special?

    And I think there's a fascinating real-world case study that we have seen in recent years with bookstores. Now, bookstores aren't suppliers. They're an intermediary, right? They were for a long, long time a place to simply buy books. And when Amazon came around, they were the original example of companies that got disintermediated. See Borders bookstores, for example. What bookstores have done a tremendous job of, especially independent bookstores, is making themselves a destination unto themselves.

    They're not a place to buy books. I mean, you get books there, but they offer curation and communities and cafes and all sorts of other things. They've become a service offering, not just a seller of merchandise. And that service, that experience is something beyond just what you're going to get anywhere else. And that's something that an Amazon or a Google or a Facebook cannot easily replicate.

    This is what I mean when I've talked in past shows about how "customer experience is queen," because it can be a thing that sets you apart and is very hard to duplicate. You need to think about how can you become a destination unto yourself?

    If you think about the companies that compete well with Google or compete well with Facebook or compete well with Amazon, they're places where people go because I know that that's what they do when they do it really well.

    So they've differentiated in a very specific way. Think about, think about Indeed.com if you're doing a job search or LinkedIn if you want to connect with your professional network. They're really just intermediaries, but they're so specialized that it makes it simple for people to choose them.

    So is Expedia in big trouble? Maybe. I don't really know. I'm not going to make a prediction about that one way or the other. I'm going to say that, if they cannot differentiate — if they just become another place where you can book a hotel room or find a rental car or book a flight — without adding something beyond that, then, yeah, they're probably in real big trouble.

    The thing you want to avoid is being like them. What you want to do regardless of whether you're a supplier or an intermediary or especially a hidden intermediary, is you need to differentiate. You need to become a destination. And you need to diversify the channels through which customers can find you. Because that's how you're going to compete in the long run. Today, you may feel like you're a supplier, but I guarantee you there's somebody out there who's trying to turn you into an intermediary and more important the person they're trying to hide that from is you.

    Now looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week, but I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today's episode as well as an archive of all our past episodes by going to TimPeter.com/podcast. Again, that's TimPeter.com/podcast just look for episode 267. While you're there, you can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes you find there to have Thinks Out Loud delivered to your favorite podcatcher every single week.

    You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts or Stitcher radio or whatever your favorite podcatcher happens to be. Just do a search for "Tim Peter Thinks," "Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud," or "Thinks Out Loud," we should show up for any of those.

    While you're there, I'd also very much appreciate it if you could provide us a positive rating and review. It gives other listeners a window into the show and helps them understand whether it's something they'd like to listen to too. It makes it easier for new listeners to find us, and it would mean a ton to me. You can also find "Thinks Out Loud" on Facebook by going to Facebook.com/TimPeterAssociates.

    You can find me on Twitter using the Twitter handle @tcpeter. And of course you can email me by sending an email to podcast@TimPeter.com. Again, that's podcast@timpeter.com.

    I'd also like to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment focuses on AI-driven content discovery and site search analytics to unlock revenue for your business. You can learn more about how to improve your content, increase your customer satisfaction, and make your search smarter by going to solosegment.com.

    With that. I want to say thanks to you so much for tuning in. I really appreciate it. I hope you have a great rest of the week, a wonderful weekend ahead, and I'll look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time.

    Until then, please be well be safe and as ever take care everybody.

Tim Peter

By

May 10, 2019

The Hotel Marketing and Distribution Trend You Care About Most This Year

May 10, 2019 | By | No Comments

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


Hotel marketing and distribution: Why Google matters

Let’s talk distribution for a minute. Yeah, I know, distribution is one of the least sexy aspects of the hotel industry. It’s also one of the most important, especially for hotel owners and independent hotel operators. Hotel owners, operators, and brands looking for ways to reduce costs and increase profitability need to continue thinking about how they’re going to acquire guests in a cost-effective manner. Also, hotel marketing and distribution are joined at the hip. And the whole topic is about about to get much, much more interesting.

Why? What’s going on here?

In a word, it’s Google. Google is what’s going on here.

The Beast That Scares the 800-lb. Gorillas in Hotel Marketing and Distribution

Google isn’t the 800-lb. gorilla of the hotel industry. No, Google is a much larger and more ferocious beast that has all the industry’s 800-lb. gorillas running for cover. Google is stealing mindshare — and potential margins — from OTA’s and other intermediaries every single day. No less an observer than Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom plainly stated that Google represents his company’s biggest competitor. In his words, “The internet has been littered with the bodies of companies put out of business by Google.” Okerstrom’s job is to make sure Expedia isn’t one of them.

Okerstrom is right. It’s no secret guests increasingly use Google as the first stop in their decision-making journey. And with recent integrations of Google’s artificial intelligence-powered, travel booking capable Assistant into Google Maps on Android and iPhones alike, expect even greater use of the search giant when guests plan their stay. There are over 3 million searches on Google every minute, with more than half of those on mobile and roughly 20% of those using voice. That’s at least 300,000 voices searches every minute, many of them targeted towards travel. Everyone’s scrambling for share, further driving up the cost of acquiring guests.

For example, Expedia, Booking.com, and others — OK, Expedia and Booking’s subsidiary brands and metasearch channels — recognize this shift, spending more on marketing and advertising with Google to drive more traffic to their direct channels. That’s a switch, huh? But it’s a fact. To drive traffic to its sites, Booking.com paid Google in Q3 alone last year somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion.

Nice neighborhood, eh?

At the same time, as Google increases the amount of metasearch and paid inventory in its search results page, it’s also driving up costs for individual hotel owners and operators. Worse, without solid connectivity solutions — which far too many independent hotels lack — hotels can be shut out of Google’s latest product offerings and miss out on direct revenue opportunities altogether.

How to Deal With Google’s Domination of Hotel Marketing and Distribution

So how can you ensure you earn your rightful place at the table and gain booking share without significantly increasing your cost of guest acquisition? Here’s how:

  • Develop a comprehensive distribution strategy that includes both search and metasearch. Search is a distribution channel. And the search landscape gets more and more challenging every day. SEO, paid search, voice search, metasearch, AI, schemas, and whatever else Google rolls out next can’t be considered in isolation. Each plays a role in driving guests towards your direct booking channels and in delivering flow-through — positive or negative — towards your bottom line. Similar thinking should shape your OTA agreements. Do your internal team, website development firm, and marketing agency understand how to best make these work together to deliver the lowest total cost of distribution for your property? This is critical question that your property must get right. Otherwise, you risk continuing to fund OTA’s bidding against you in search, driving up the costs of your hotel marketing and distribution, and further risking your property’s distinct value proposition.
  • Offer destination content to gain guests earlier in their decision-making journey. Data shows that guests who start their research on OTA’s book on OTA’s. I strongly suspect the same will be true for Google before long, most likely in the form of metasearch and partnerships. Already, Google displays a remarkable number of paid listings and metasearch results before getting to organic results. This is a huge problem for hotel marketers. Why? Well, to put it bluntly, guests who don’t come to your website never get the chance to book direct. It’s critical you use content about your destination to move deeper into the long tail of search, getting guests to your site early in the journey and for terms that aren’t flooded with paid/metasearch offerings already. Google’s AI-driven search results place significant value on quality content. Give them — and your guests — something worth finding.
  • Focus on increasing conversion rates on direct channels. Here’s a simple truth: It’s always going to cost you something to get guests to contact you. You’d damn well better make sure they convert when they do. It doesn’t matter whether guests come to your website or call your reservations line; every lost opportunity increases your cost. Take a close look at where your reservations come from, how effective your direct channels are at turning interest into action, and how to improve those results to get the best return on your spend.
  • Ensure your connectivity options support Google — and potential future competitors. Do your direct channels appear in Google’s metasearch results today? Or does your property only appear via intermediaries? The latter is a clear sign you’re paying more for reservations than you should — likely much more. Make sure your team is working towards placing your property’s direct channels front and center in metasearch on Google, as well as on other metasearch partners who offer the opportunity to challenge Google in the future. Or accept the fact that you’re always going to pay more for bookings than you should. But that doesn’t seem like a good long-term plan to me.

Conclusion

Distribution funnels through a limited number of chokepoints and gatekeepers. And, at least for the foreseeable future, the number of gatekeepers continues to shrink towards just one: Google. If Expedia worries about Google eating its lunch, you might want to given the search giant some thought too. And then you want to put those thoughts into action.

Google may be the beast that 800-lb. gorillas fear. That doesn’t mean it should scare you. Individual property owners and operators may not be 800-lb. gorillas. But unlike the big guys, they can run through the jungle much faster. Think about your hotel marketing and distribution strategically and you’ll be able to outrun the big guys for a long time to come.

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

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:

A version of this article originally appeared on Hotel News Now as "The Distribution Trend You Care About Most in 2019"

Tim Peter

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August 14, 2016

10 Great Hotel Direct and OTA Distribution Posts: Hospitality Marketing Link Digest

August 14, 2016 | By | No Comments

Want to drive more direct bookings to your hotel? Click here to learn more


10 Great Hotel Direct and OTA Distribution Posts: Hospitality Marketing Link DigestHowdy, Big Thinkers! Super hot here in the wilds of New Jersey today, so I’m going to skip the setup and get you straight to this collection of these 10 great hotel direct and OTA distribution posts from the past week. Enjoy:

  1. Leading off, we’ve got these “3 Myths About Hotel Direct Revenue You Must Stop Believing” for you. Great stuff.
  2. You also won’t want to miss these “8 Outstanding Insights: the Top Travel Marketing Posts of Summer, 2016.” Definitely worth your time.
  3. One of the reasons you’ll want to pay attention to the tips outlined above comes from Business Travel News, who report that “Hotel Occupancy Flattens Across Global Regions.” It seems like the good ol’ days are starting to come to an end. Most of the RevPAR growth in the past year has come more from rate than occupancy. While that’s a good way to gain growth, it’s also a sign that demand for rooms is beginning to fall, the supply of rooms is increasing, or, most likely, a bit of both. Definitely time to get ready for a tougher market ahead.
  4. Inc. Magazine looks at “3 Travel Hacks Millennials Use and You Should Too.” Interesting insight into how millennials — and many consumers, really — actually shop for travel and well worth your time.
  5. In other less-welcome news, HotelMarketing says that “In Search of Hotels, More Travelers Turn To OTAs Than Hotel Websites.” That’s not great, really.
  6. EyeForTravel looks at “OTAs vs Hotels: Why ‘An Old and Tired Story’ Keeps Running.” Well, for starters, there’s things like this: “OTA’s vs. Chain Brands: Expedia Comes Out Swinging.” Though, I suppose, we also ought to consider “A Fair and Balanced Look at Balancing Direct and OTA Business” too. OTA’s have their role to play in your distribution strategy. It’s your job to ensure you use them correctly.
  7. Before moving on, Director in the UK explains how “Booking.com Envisions the Future of Travel.” Absolutely something you should check out, if for no other reason than “know your competition.”
  8. And on a highly related note, TheStreet says “Here’s Why TripAdvisor Is Becoming the Facebook of Online Travel” that you should take a look at too.
  9. If you’re looking to grow your direct business, these “5 Helpful Hospitality Marketing Stories for You” from our Hospitality Marketing Link Digest are worth a look.
  10. And, finally, pay attention to these “Four Key Elements of Modern Hospitality Marketing” to help you reach and attract more guests to your hotel. You’ll be glad you did.

If you’re looking for even more travel marketing goodness, you might also want to take a moment to review the slides from my recent seminar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2016: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your hotel, including: