Scotlandhour: Digital Travel Takeover November 2017

Michael Hayes

The team here at Pocket Leap are excited to say we're cohosting the #ScotlandHour Twitter chat this month for a digital takeover and we hope you can join us on the evening of Wednesday 29 November, from 9-10pm.

The aim of this digital travel chat is for the #scotlandhour community to share their tips, insights and thoughts on the best travel apps, games, VR, AR, and your sources of digital travel inspiration for exploring and experiencing Scotland. Which apps or digital services make your stay or travel plans more fun, easier or better?

What is #ScotlandHour?

ScotlandHour is a monthly chat on Twitter. On the last Wednesday of the month, Twitter users are welcome to join the chat and answer questions using the hashtag #ScotlandHour. Each month a set of questions are decided and published ahead of time that will be used throughout the hour as topics of conversation.

It’s a chance for travellers to chat and plan a visit to Scotland and for people and business in Scotland to shout about why our country is so amazing.

The whole Pocket Leap team will be taking part in the chat - Michael (@_MDHayes), Charlotte (@colourscarousel ) and Chris (@chrisasaur) - so give us a follow and say hello to us beforehand.

#Scotlandhour Questions for Wednesday 29 November 2017, 9-10pm

9:00pm Q1 How do you uncover hidden gems in Scotland via digital sources? #scotlandhour

9:10pm Q2: What is your must-have app for travelling around Scotland? #scotlandhour

9:20pm Q3: Apps, VR, AR, gamification: Any good #travel experiences to share?  #scotlandhour

9:30pm Q4: What content do guests want in a hotel app? #scotlandhour

9:40pm Q5: How important is digital to your own experience as a guest/visitor? #scotlandhour

9:50pm Q6: Share photos/videos from an unforgettable Scottish travel experience! #scotlandhour

To take part get onto Twitter on the 29th November, use #ScotlandHour in your Tweets and feel free to tag us (@pocketleap) if there's anything you'd like to talk to us about.

4 Ways to Use a Mobile App for Your Tourism Business

Charlotte Dougall

The beauty of mobile apps is that there are endless ways to use them. Technology can easily be altered and adapted to fit your needs as a business, be that to streamline your operations or to showcase your product offering on a brand-new platform. Mobile apps benefit from enhanced features like portability, connectivity and analytical insight, but how can you use these functions to enhance your tourism business? Here are four ways you could potentially use a mobile app.

As an Information Source

One of the primary benefits of having a mobile app is the portability. Your customers can take your business with them, wherever they might be. Use this to your advantage and create a handy information source that provides them with all the relevant details about your business at any given time. Use an app to promote recommendations in the local area, or suggest a particular route to take around your attraction. Use push notifications to share timely updates as and when they’re needed, putting your business at your customers’ fingertips no matter where they are.

To Create an Immersive Experience

You could also use a mobile app to bring your business to life, taking your customers beyond what they’re standing in front of and placing them into a new world. Using new content types, like video and virtual reality, allows your customers to experience your business and a whole new level. Use mobile to help make your business stand out, and give your customers an experience they won’t be forgetting any time soon. The result? Satisfied customers who are more likely to return and recommend. 

Find out more about enriching the customer experience with mobile

To Make Interaction Easier for Your Customer

The best thing about technology? It’s great at making things easier. You can pass this benefit on to your customers and improve the efficiency of the ways in which they interact with you and your business. A mobile app offers the opportunity for your customers to book an experience with your business in just a few clicks. They can store tickets or reservations on their phones, cutting out the need for printing or fumbling around in emails. Simplifying your customers lives makes them happier, and happier customers tend to be loyal customers.

To Simplify Your Business Processes

Whilst mobile apps are great for your customers, you can also use them for the benefit of you and your employees, too. When used correctly, mobile apps can do a fantastic job of streamlining processes such as timesheets. They make a great marketing tool, and can help to reduce the overall workload by automating processes and answering customer queries, too. Digital solutions can cover everything from training and on-boarding to the day to day running of your business.

Want to learn more about how an app can help your business? Get in touch today.

When Is a Mobile App Relevant for Your Business?

Charlotte Dougall

As much as we harp on about how valuable a mobile app can be, it’s important to recognise that it might not always be the most relevant investment for your business. There are countless benefits to having a mobile app, however if it’s not a suitable move for you as a company then it could a waste of precious time and resources. It’s worth considering exactly how an app would fit in to your business, and the impact it would have on how you work, in order to make an informed decision about the relevance of an app for your brand.

One of the main things to consider is the way in which your business works. Different types of organisations have different needs, and no two businesses will operate in the exact same manner. Will an app help streamline your operations, or enrich your customer experience? Carefully think about how an app can fit in to the day to day running of your business and if it will really bring any benefit to the way you work. Maybe you could use your app to make your employees lives easier – which is always a good thing to do – or it might be a case of helping your customers get the information they want, when they want it. There are endless ways to use a mobile app, and it’s all about finding the best way for your business. 

It’s crucial to think about your bottom line, too. Can you really afford to bring an app on board as part of your strategy? Luckily, Pocket Leap helps to reduce the costs typically associated with building a mobile app, making the technology more accessible to businesses of all sizes. With a mobile app, you’ll also need to invest a bit of time in keeping your app up to date with the most relevant information. With a content management system, like Pocket Leap, this is really simple to do and ensures that your users are getting the right information at the right time. Overall, though, technology can go a long way in saving you money on your day to day business operations. Using the right technology in your business can help boost your efficiency, and optimise the way you use your valuable resources like time and money.

Your customers should be at the heart of your business, so it’s important to pay careful attention to how they interact with your brand. Understanding your customer is important at any stage of your business, as they will influence everything from which digital platforms you use and how you set your pricing to the way you word your marketing. If you don’t think your customers would really use your app, is there much point? But if you think you can really optimise the way they see your business, then it’s time to bite the bullet. Keeping your customers happy is vital, and a mobile app could be the perfect way to do this.

Ultimately, your mobile app must integrate with your overall business strategy. You can’t just push a mobile app out into the world with no rhyme or reason and expect your customers to use it. It’s important to consider not only how you’ll make customers aware of your app, but why they should be downloading it in the first place. It has to have a unique selling point that adds value to their overall experience, or else it’s just not going to work. When used correctly, a mobile app can become a powerful tool to attract, keep and satisfy your customers or staff.

Think a mobile app is right for your business? Dive right in with Pocket Leap and get started building your app in a matter of minutes.

Why You Need to Enrich Your Customer Experience

Charlotte Dougall

In the ever-saturated business environment, you need to be striving to ensure that your customers are experiencing the very best of your business. It’s not enough to just show up anymore, you have to show up and stand out. Keeping your customers happy should be at the core of your business, but it’s about more than serving them the right product at the right time. Everything your business offers, from start to finish, must be carefully created with your customer in mind. But why is this so important? Well, if you want to be successful in the competitive environment that currently exists, your customers are key. If you don’t have those all-important customers, your business will struggle – and your customer experience should reflect this.

With so many other businesses out there, chances are that at least some of them do what you do. It’s hard to find a totally unique business concept nowadays, but by investing time and energy into creating the best possible experience for your customers, you can stand out from the crowd. These days, customers are becoming increasingly less focused on what you provide, and are more interested in how you provide it. They want straightforward processes that actually work and add value to their experience, without any added hassles to access them.

Bringing a new level of customer service to your business is vital in building relationships for the future. The customer experience allows you to showcase your best bits and creates a platform to bring some of your brand’s personality to the forefront. People like to know that there are real people behind the business they’re buying from, and adding your unique brand personality to your overall offering can help you connect with customers on a personal level. Brand perceptions are largely driven by feelings and emotions, so using your customer experience to boost these personal relationships can go a long way in selling your services.

Creating a seamless customer experience encourages satisfaction, and satisfied customers are loyal customers. Customer loyalty is a huge factor in the success of your business, and everything you can do to maintain your customer base will be massively beneficial in the long run. At the end of the day, going the extra mile to make your customer experience that little bit more enticing will cement your position in your customer’s minds. They’ll be much more likely to remember that brilliant encounter they had with you, and as a result, they’ll be more inclined to return and recommend your business. Customers who are genuinely interested and engaged with your offerings tend to spend more time and money with your business, as well as acting as brand advocates, sharing their satisfaction with those around them.

There are so many ways you can enrich your customer experience, and a mobile app is just one of them. Want to find out more about using a mobile app to create a more engaging experience for your customers, no matter where they are? See how Pocket Leap can help you.

The Importance of Innovation

Michael Hayes

Last weekend I was over in the East of the country for the first Edinburgh Tourism Innovation Challenge organised by Product Forge, The Data Lab and Scottish Enterprise. Edinburgh’s tourism industry is a powerhouse and one of the most important economic sectors in Scotland, delivering £1.3 billion of spend and supporting more than 30,000 local jobs. These figures are rising and this high growth can bring challenges in destination discovery, forecasting the tourism population and navigation and planning around the city.

The format

The Edinburgh Tourism Innovation Challenge was a hackathon that started on Thursday evening and culminated in a series of presentations on the Sunday evening. The event brought together tourism experts, software engineers, data scientists, digital designers and entrepreneurs to come up with innovative solutions to key challenges facing Edinburgh and other Scottish cities and locations in regards to tourism.

Whether you already had an idea that you wanted to prototype or were just looking to make new connections the event brought together talented people with a shared interest in innovation within the tourism industry.

The presentations on the final night were to a panel of industry experts who picked a winner which was Team Budi with their product Tru Scot which encouraged users to explore the city of Edinburgh and in doing so collect points.

Why innovate?

Technology is always advancing. If you're standing still you're actually falling behind. So taking a fresh perspective, adopting new technologies and ways of thinking is essential for Scotland to continue to compete at a global scale. That goes across the tourism sector, from discovery to the experience itself to after the fact.

The mixture of talent given the time, resource, and focus to tackle these problems gave several benefits:

  • Increased awareness - Both to the tourism sector of available technologies and their benefits and to the technology sector and the needs and challenges of the tourism industry in Scotland.
  • Networking - The event brought together such a diverse group of talent the connections can only lead good things.
  • Fostering talent - The next generation of leaders in the tech and tourism industries aren't just going to fall from the sky. These types of events are essential in the development of skills and abilities.
  • Focus - having great minds focused on a niche area over a time period like a weekend means new ideas and ways of thinking can emerge.

Why it worked

I've organised and taken part in several hackathon type events before. Some work, some don't but in my book this was a success and I think there are a few reasons for that:

  • Diverse group - The attendees were really diverse on several fronts. From students to folk with years of experience there was great diversity in experience, gender (many hackathons are dominated by males) and skillset. Too many hackathons have an imbalance in one or more ways (too many developers, or not enough) but that wasn't the case at ETIC.
  • Mentoring - My fellow mentors had great depth and breadth of knowledge that they were more than willing to impart. Curating a group of mentors willing to volunteer their own time is difficult but again the team behind ETIC did an amazing job on this front.
  • Communication and organisation - the team behind ETIC made sure everyone was on Slack, timings were clear and well communicated and what was expected of all parties (mentors, participants, judges) was clear.

What's next?

Often a hackthon comes, there's a blitz of activity then it quickly washes away. I hope that won't be the case for ETIC. Hopefully there will be follow on support for ideas and products that will allow them to continue and the relationships and networking will lead to something.

I also hope the event opens the eyes of the technology sector to the massive opportunities across tourism. And for the tourism sector I hope they also have their eyes open to the talent and abilities of the technology sector on their doorstep and embrace new ways of thinking and operating.

4 Things We Learned at the Digital Tourism Meetup

Charlotte Dougall

Last week saw the inaugural Digital Tourism Meetup take place here at Rookie Oven, with faces from the flourishing technology and tourism industries coming together to create a stronger relationship between the two sectors. The monthly meetup creates a platform for an informal exchange of ideas, knowledge and connections across the two industries with industry insight from guest speakers. This month we heard from Stuart Ashworth, a web and mobile developer passionate about bringing web accessibility to the forefront, and Daniel Baxter, who lectures in Sports, Events and Tourism at Glasgow Caledonian University and is keen to bring academia and industry together. Each gave valuable insights into how technology and tourism can work together, and here are four of the key things we learned on the night…

Accessibility is essential

Web accessibility is all about ensuring that all users can access information, interact with other users and consume content in a way that suits them. There is so much to consider with web accessibility, going beyond the typical physical requirements, but why is it so important? Stuart taught us that 1 in 5 people in the UK are considered disabled – that’s over 13 million people - and 13 million potential website users. Looking specifically at tourism, 20% of day trips are taken by groups who have a member with a disability, so accessibility should be at the heart of your offering. 

But there’s more than meets the eye…

Visual impairment is a key starting point for web accessibility and you must consider the barriers faced by those who are visually impaired, but it goes beyond that. Web users face many other accessibility barriers, particularly for those who have reduced motor skills. Your website should be produced with this in mind, with the ability to navigate using just the keyboard an essential basis for good accessibility. Sure, visuals look great, but what about your alternatives? Stuart reminded us that all images should have alt descriptions, these are essential for screen readers, and any videos should have audio description and subtitles where needed. Simple things like colour combinations and font may seem easy, but checking your contrast levels and readability are hugely important for accessibility. There are plenty of free tools, such as WebAIM, out there for ensuring your accessibility is in keeping with your user’s needs. 

Collaboration is the way forward

Daniel believes that building relationships is a key part of success for a business, with collaboration being crucial for innovation and diversity. Collaboration between technology and tourism can help cement Glasgow’s position as a tourist hotspot, showcasing our innovative businesses and people on a global platform. Something as simple as having a conversation with someone new can create brand new opportunities, but it’s about going beyond that conversation and having the determination to turn the opportunity into a feasible project for the future. Collaborating with new industries can help you see things from a new perspective, encouraging creative ways of approaching problems and thinking for the future.

For our futures’ sake

Inspiring the next generation is critical, and Daniel is passionate about building students and startups together. These relationships can help students develop vital entrepreneurial skills, linking the theory taught in education to real-life business practice. It’s all about bringing industry and academia together, using real-life business leaders to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators. Students can bring businesses a new lease of life, providing insight from a fresh perspective, whilst at the same time learning from those who have hands on experience in the world of work. It must be a mutually beneficial experience for it to work, with each side learning and developing from the opportunity.

See for yourself...

Want to learn more about bringing technology and tourism together? Come along to the next #DigitalTourismMeetup on the 24th October and gain valuable insight into how you can make the most of this growing relationship - find out more and reserve your free place here.

Stuart Ashworth
Stuart Ashworth is a software consultant, trainer and entrepreneur. He specialises in helping software teams deliver projects for the web and mobile, through consultancy, development and training.
Website - Twitter

Daniel Baxter
Daniel Baxter is a lecturer in International Events and Tourism Management in the School of Business and Society at Glasgow Caledonian University. Daniel is an active researcher contributing to the development of event management research and has represented the University internationally at conferences. He has extensive experience working on consultancy projects with private, public and third sector organisations and before academia, Daniel worked commercially within the tourism and events industry for various international companies such as Tui Plc, ILOVETOUR and British Airways. Other research interests include event tourism, policy implementation, economic impacts and the risk of terrorism, and Daniel leads a number of related modules in the International Event Management syllabus.
Twitter

The Glasgow Digital Tourism Meetup

Michael Hayes

Glasgow is a world leading tourist destination with a rich history, spectacular events and diverse culture. Glasgow is also home to a strong and vibrant community of world leading technology companies (as showcased by RookieOven).

However at the moment there's little cross over between these two industries. Why is that? It makes total sense to foster a relationship between these two communities with the aim of creating a stronger tourism industry and increased recognition of the local tech talent in Glasgow.

The technology sector in Glasgow has great breadth and depth of talent in digital marketing, digital design, software development and creating innovative products. The tourism sector is one of the largest industries for our home city and the city’s vision for tourism and its visitor economy is that, by 2023, one million additional tourists will enjoy the world’s friendliest and most vibrant city, spending £771m per year, growing tourism Gross Value Added (GVA) by £148 million. Effective use of technology will be important to reaching these targets and with support and the input from the amazing tech talent on our doorstep.

This monthly Meetup offers an informal format to exchange ideas, knowledge and connections and each month 2 leading figures from the Tourism and/or tech industries in Scotland will give a 20 minute talk with time for Q&A.

The night will have plenty of opportunity for networking and free beer and pizza.

The format for each meetup will follow a simple agenda:

  • 6.30-7.00: Drinks, pizza and networking
  • 7.00-7.30: First speaker (20 mins) and Q&A (10 mins)
  • 7.30-7.45: Networking
  • 7.45-8.15: Second speaker (20 mins) and Q&A (10 mins)
  • 8.15: Close

Who should come?

The event is open to anyone but if you're working or studying tourism at all we hope you'll get a lot from it. Likewise if you work with technology and think you have a lot to offer the tourism sector come along and understand the needs of the businesses in Scotland.

The main aim to bring together people with the right attitude to see both industries (technology and tourism) work better together in Scotland.

How can technology help tourism? Well in lots of ways, from marketing and use of social media to operationally with automation, resource management and digitising processes. Across the customer journey technology can be used to improve the tourism experience and improve how tourism businesses in Scotland do their business.

The meetup is a monthly opportunity for us to get together in a relaxed environment. No hard sales, suits or pushing business cards about. Just great conversations between Scottish businesses.

Venue

Each event will take place in RookieOven which is super simple to find on Google Maps. Its just a short walk from Govan Subway and there is plenty of free, onsite parking to the rear of the building.

RookieOven is not only home to the leading tech talent in our city today but it has historically been a centre of engineering excellence. Not too long ago shipbuilding was the most important industry in our city and Fairfield Shipyard was at the centre of innovation and design that make 'Clyde Built' a world recognised brand for ships.

RookieOven is in the former drawing office of the Fairfield Shipyard and the building is home to a stunning heritage centre operated by Govan Workspace.

Get your ticket

The event is free but ticketed. Tickets are available via Eventbrite - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/digital-tourism-glasgow-meetup-tickets-37031815156 - and are limited. Get a ticket now or get in touch with the Pocket Leap team at [email protected]

Edinburgh Tourism Innovation Challenge

Michael Hayes

Ever been to a Hackathon? They're an opportunity to meet talented people to work on a project over a weekend. The team at Product Forge bring together developers, creatives and entrepreneurs to build new products that solve real world problems and along with The Data Lab, Scottish Enterprise and Edinburgh Tourism Action Group they are organising the Edinburgh Tourism Innovation Challenge at CodeBase from Thursday 5th to Sunday 8th October 2017.

Entrepreneurially minded data scientists and analysts, sector experts, designers and software engineers will spend 3 days and 3 nights side by side analysing a range of tourism-related data to develop innovative products, services or tools that would benefit the tourism industry in Edinburgh.

Participants form small cross-functional teams to work on a product prototype with support from subject matter experts and the wider technology community.

Datasets will be provided by a range of public, private and third sector organisations with a stake in the Edinburgh tourism industry. This will allow participants to carry out new exploratory analysis of historical data to better understand trends, patterns and correlations and to develop new data insights, services and tools for the benefit of Edinburgh’s tourism and festival economy.

Whether you already have an idea that you would like to prototype or you would just like to make new connections, we invite you to come along and meet talented people with a shared interest in Edinburgh’s tourism industry.

What do you get?

All the participants receive mentoring, 10 free meals and 24 hour access to the venue, and the top ranking teams can access support to develop their concept beyond the event. The mentoring will come from some of the most talented people in Scottish technology and Tourism including the team here at Pocket Leap.

Register on the Product Forge website at - http://productfor.ge/ETIC17

5 Ways Digital Media Has Changed Tourism

Charlotte Dougall

Digital media has changed the face of the earth in more ways than one, with constantly evolving technologies bringing us new ways to do everything from switching on our lights to communicating with our loved ones. No matter what you want to do, chances are, there’s an app for that. Digital is the future, and it’s hard to deny the impact of this growing focus on digital has had on civilisation, but just how has it changed the tourism industry?

Knowledge is Power

Digital brings with it access to a breadth of information from worldwide sources. Not only does this allow your customers to dive into a world of knowledge to help inform their decisions, this also opens a fantastic resource for both business owners and travellers alike. Information sharing is incredibly easy with the help of digital media, and tourism operators are using this to their advantage by creating their own platforms to share everything worth knowing about their business.

It works both ways, with customers sharing their knowledge and experiences with the world in a multitude of ways. Review sites, social media and blogs allow anyone and everyone to share what they have to say, which can be a game changer for the future of tourism businesses. Digital platforms provide measurable data that can show businesses exactly what their customers care about. Using this feedback can showcase just what works in the business’ favour, and what needs to be improved in the future too. Knowledge may be power, but it’s what you do with it that counts.

A Whole New World of Content

The advent of digital creates a whole host of new possibilities when it comes to showcasing and marketing your business. Gone are the days of traditional advertising being king, now businesses can get their message out to millions of people with ease. From showing off tropical destinations via video to hosting virtual tours of hotels, digital media allows for the flexibility of a multitude of content styles and formats. This is also a fantastic development for accessibility, as enriching the user experience with multiple content formats allows for customers to pick what suits their information needs best.

Technology is constantly evolving and new products are hitting the market all the time. Virtual reality has been dubbed the “next big thing” in digital media, with businesses of all shapes and sizes jumping on board the bandwagon. Virtual reality lends itself well to tourism, as the immersive nature can truly show off tourist destinations, allowing customers to try before they buy, without having to leave the comfort of their couch.

Anywhere, Anytime

People nowadays are glued to their phones, and no wonder. Those little handheld screens hold so much information and power that it’s not difficult to see why they’ve taken over our lives to the extent that they have. Digital media allows consumers to access a whole realm of content at the swipe of a finger, as well as providing near constant exposure to marketing communications, too. The current consumer is impatient, and digital helps fulfil their needs in next to no time. Who wants to spend precious time queueing at check-in when you can do it all on your phone in seconds? Why wait to pop into a travel agents and pick up a brochure when a quick Google search will give you the answers you need there and then? Technology brings ease to the overall user experience. Now, businesses can target customers at any time of day, no matter where they are.

A Wealth of Opportunities

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest changes to come from the introduction of digital technologies is the ability to connect with people across the globe. This global connectivity revolution opens a whole new dimension of possible customers, competitors and connections. Now, instead of paying a small fortune to place an advertisement in a local paper, a hotel can share a post to their social media and it can be seen by millions of people worldwide. Not only is this a brilliant development for those in control of the marketing budget purse strings, this newfound global visibility also creates huge potential when it comes to campaign visibility and brand awareness. The world of data that comes as part of our digital footprint allows for both specific targeting of potential customers and understanding of current clients too, with engaged audiences making promotion more likely to be successful.

Getting Social

People love to share, and now they can do it in seconds thanks to social media. Although it’s far from a new phenomenon, word-of-mouth marketing is ever present with social media connecting people across the world with ease. Social media is second nature now, and it brings huge marketing potential with it. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all have their own inbuilt advertising features, but aside from that, businesses can utilise social media to start conversations with customers past, present and future. Social sharing makes it a breeze for people to share recommendations with their friends and family, acting as valuable brand advocates for a business. 74% of consumers cite word-of-mouth as having the most influence on their purchasing decisions, so having an engaged network of social media fans can be hugely beneficial for businesses.

Social media is also a fantastic source of user generated content, with consumers sharing everything from reviews, anecdotes of their experiences, images and videos which can all be used to help market businesses further. Communication is key on social media, which makes it a fantastic platform to build lasting relationships with customers, as well as gathering vital feedback for future developments.

Technology should save you money

Chris Sloey

In a landscape where we are facing an increasing cost of doing business there are two ways to maintain our margins; increasing our prices or reducing the cost of doing business. Technology is key to the latter. Yeah, 'technology' is expensive but getting the right tools into your business can make you more efficient, better informed and provide a better service. Here are a few examples.

People management

For most business the largest cost will be people. Managing them take up a lot of time so how can technology help reduce that burden? An effective HR Management System can help automate many tasks:

  • Storing and collection of data for compliance (drivers licence, SIA licence, CRB check).
  • Timesheets, rotas and payroll. For creating, processing, distributing and collecting.
  • Holiday booking. Self service holiday booking reduces admin load.
  • Training and company knowledge base. Make all your training materials and SOPs available in one area.

A good HR system can save time across your business and it doesn't need to cost the earth. Open source system like OrangeHRM and subscription services like People and Bamboo HR could transform your business in no time at all. 

Marketing and sales automation

We spend so much time working to get customers and each customer actually has a cost of acquisition. What I mean by this is across advertising, social media, email campaigns, content marketing and any other marketing and sales activity divided by our total number of customers we can work out roughly the effort/cost it takes to get a single customer.

Automation can help us reduce this cost.

Marketing automation software allows us to engage an audience with highly personalised and useful content with the goal of converting the audience into customers.

The process involves feeding a funnel with leads and channelling these leads along the funnel eventually into paying customers. Many platforms exist to help with automation but it can be done through email, SMS and social media and done correctly it helps businesses win new customers at a greatly reduced cost. Services that can help with Marketing Automation include Hubspot, Upsurge and Prospect.io and they can cost $100 per month to $2400 per month. That is a big outlay but compared to your current marketing and sales process is likely to be more efficient and effective.

Knowledge is power

How well do you know your business? It might seem a cheeky question but the truth is we often lack insight into what works and what doesn't. Many key business decisions are based on a hunch or at best feedback from staff or customers.

In my experience feedback from people is often a case of "do as I say not as I do". We say one thing (and we often believe it) but our actions are totally different. We really need insight into our customers real actions to understand our business.

How can we get that insight? Analytics. From our website and mobile apps we should be able to gain a powerful insight into how our customers use or view our services.

If we have any type of ecommerce system can we pull out trends? Maybe we can see that customers who buy the VIP package are also likely to buy red wine. From our mobile app maybe we can see a trend that 24% of our customers use German as their first language but we don’t cater well for Germans. Data is available all around us and it should be used to make our businesses stronger. We can get an insight into what we do operationally and an insight into our customers. Ultimately this insight should help us make better decisions.

The above three examples are just a drop in the ocean for what is possible through technology to increase your margin. While we face ever increasing costs, sensible investment in technology can help us save money. So please do invest in your technology.

This post was included in the July 2017 edition of the Scottish Tourism Alliance The Talker magazine - read it online