We're at the start of tourist season here in the Vendée but in times of uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, when we've all had to scale down our "business as usual" activities or shut them down altogether. Of course, time is a gift. There are things you can do to keep moving forward, to make your online business presence stronger than ever. This may involve precisely the tasks you never have the time, or take the time, to do because they're not your favourite, but like your antiques, your online life deserves-needs- a polish too.
UPDATE YOUR IMAGE INVENTORY
Spring is here. No doubt, with all this extra time, spring cleaning and gardening is a productive activity right now. But spring also translates to our online business life. With flowers beginning to bloom and blossoms on the fruit trees, spring is a perfect time to update our business image inventory.
- Have a look on Pinterest for inspiration. Do you see anything eye-catching that could be easily recreated around your own chambres d'hôtes or other any hospitality business
- Walk all around your property and gardens (in Covid-19 times that's from 0 to 1000m around your house/ business) looking for nice angles. Make a note of them or mark them
- In the next couple of weeks, take around 100 to 125 pictures featuring your business with flowers, abstract, structure, angles, or interesting objects.
- You can include indoor shots too e.g. experimenting with menus or dishes? Have someone take pictures of you with light coming from your left or right, shining on your activity and face (never from behind you)
- Select the best 75 to 100 or so pictures and save the originals to a folder marked SPRING2020-ORIGINAL. That many pictures should take you through around 6 - 7 months of social media!
- Edit the pictures per our photography tips #3
- Log on to social media business page and create/schedule 2x posts per week to be released automatically throughout the season. Write a short text and use the appropriate hashtags e.g. #inthevendee #vendeetourisme #cafelife etc etc. Research the trending hashtags and the most popular ones to use for France, Vendée, and what applies to your business as related to tourism, locals or expats.
You'll not need to think about posting to social media again this season, however DO create time for one more spontaneous post per week every day if possible. Remember: inthevendee.com's sightseeing itineraries can also be quickly shared with guests and clients to minimise the impact on your day! With an extra post or two per week, your online marketing engine would be in pretty good shape. You will have enticed former guests to share your content, you'll have spread the word about your business and environment, and if you keep doing that it will result in bookings! Our Travel Trends 2020 article will help you to hone in on details as well. If aspects of your business blend with what travellers are looking for, talk about it e.g. in "stories" and demonstrate.
digital maintenance is a cornerstone
of healthy business practices & effective online marketing
"Maintenance" is a word you are familiar with in your business. Typically, it involves physical activity... a brushstroke here, a nail there... But there is also "virtual maintenance" to consider. Website maintenance is just as important as say... oiling a machine. The online world works in many ways like the real world in that the things you don't pay attention to for a while, go a bit rusty. Your online business life, can be and should be like a self-propelling lawn mower. Ask yourself: how long has it really been since you paid attention to your website?
- Install software updates. It is best to do them in order (in other words, don't click the select all and update all in one go)
- Install engine updates ( Wordpress is the most common)
- Then install THEME updates
- After this, 'select all' on the remaining updates, and update those
- Revisit website text. Too little text is absolutely NOT GOOD. There must be text. The longer a person stays on your website, the better the chance it will result in sales. Text must consist of the keywords people are typing into various search engines (of which Google is the most dominant). Text, peppered with keywords, can paint a lovely, accurate picture of your business, while other keywords can be listed in a bulleted list. Keywords are quite straightforward but again, keeping up to date with the current travel trends also helps
- Refresh images - make absolutely sure that they are crisp images, adjusted correctly for the space they will be in.
Having a website is hugely important, but its success online is not a given. Traffic that results in sales is something to tool away at. As explained in an earlier article, a healthy, secure website with ever evolving and updated content is key. So it's good business practice to have a maintenance routine. Check for software updates at least monthly. Update images by season. Offer seasonal specials. Highlight local off-season activities and extra booking incentives. To create a more secure Internet, websites should also be secure. Read more about this here.
MAILING LIST SPRING CLEANING
This tip may be quite more self explanatory than the previous two, but it's by no means the easiest or the most fun maintenance to perform. There are many digital mailing list softwares out there, which makes it more challenging for us to offer valid instructions but - in broad terms:
- Log on to your mailing list provider (for some this might be your website), and follow the steps to
- clean up any duplicate email addresses,
- people who are deceased,
- obvious bots (email addresses look different)
- Delete all that applies and save
- In some cases [like e.g. Mailchimp], a mailing list can be downloaded into a spreadsheet for easy alphabetical sorting; and then re-uploaded.
- Create a newsletter - let your customers/ clients know how you're doing and be a voice of support. Talk about what you're doing to continue work on your business. Be positive. Add a couple of new pictures.
If you do not have a mailing list or it is stored inappropriately , it's time to review our article about the GDPR - the European privacy regulation, and make adjustments. Use the [digital mailing list of your choice] instructions to set up everything up. We recommend using the "FREE up to....sign ups". Just like Wordpress is the most used website engine in the world, Mailchimp is easily the most used 3rd party mailing list/ data collector, but there are others. Learning the software is always a bit daunting, even for us! It is a living thing that is frequently updated and improved. Which means that you'll run into some small learning curve frequently. You are not alone! Once you get through the process of setting up your mailing lists and creating a newsletter, RELAX!
Your status with Google is yet another area that needs the occasional check-in. What does this mean? Or rather... how do you do that and why is it important?
- Open an INCOGNITO WINDOW.
- located at the top right of your screen when online, there are three dots in the URL bar, click on the dots
- a small navigation window will appear
- select **new incognito window**
- a new internet access page with URL is presented. You are incognito, as if it's the very first time you go online. This window has no search history - it's a blank sheet from which to start looking at your business.
- Do a search for your own business and review the information that Google presents
- Make a list all that needs to be fixed (wrong or old information)
- Take stock of the images for your business
- Review the age of your uploaded menus and price lists
- Contact Google with a list of items that THEY need to update - it will take a while for them to respond, but they will. And it's okay to keep on following up with them too! Our article will help you!
- Delete images that are no longer relevant where possible but those uploaded by customers/clients are probably there to stay
It is SMART to keep your relationship with Google current. Google's algorithms **love** engagement which in turn strengthens your online business presence. In other words, your engagement gives the algorithms incentive to present an active business vs. a stale one when the user does a search for your type of services. It's also important for your relationship with guests and clients with current menus and the latest images. Respond to comments and negate negative feedback in a positive way.
TIME TO BRAINSTORM
In the last two weeks, we've been cleaning a lot, checking chores we may not otherwise get around to off of our to-do list. We've been harvesting our sudden "freedom", using the pandemic as an advantage to jump ahead in our normal work. We are sailing against the wind right now or actually, with no wind at all... The point of this exercise is simply to throw the ship's wheel around and catching the wind using the sails you've already got but may have never thought to tap into. So, why not RETHINK, using the "inventory" that you already have? Involve the family in this exercise! Here too, the current travel trends may prove inspirational
- Grab a notebook and pen
- Take inventory of skills and knowledge around the family
- Take inventory of interests (learning included)
- Take inventory of your space
- Take inventory of materials
- Think of community (local community, greater community and tourist community) needs in the future
- Connect the dots to form a plan of action
We live in a worrying time. Something potentially catastrophic is happening in our life and our work. It's no different for us at inthevendee.com. In our business, it's important to help tourists have the time of their lives here, to find a spot to savor, and to create beautiful memories. It's important to us that our expat community, locals, and tourists find YOUR business on our website. In today's marketing environment, TOGETHER we're stronger than we are alone. Building a stronger home in the wake of a natural disaster is much less daunting when the village shows up armed with bricks, mortar, hammers, and an open heart. Well... our hearts and arms are wide open. Contact us for assessments of your online business presences such as website and social media. Or just if you have a question. We are not the oracle. We are just like you, fighting and hoping to come out stronger.