Archive for January, 2011

I’m a big fan of the New York Times “You’re The Boss” small business blog, due in large part because much of what’s discussed involves marketing or public relations.

This week, the blog completed its latest website critique–a cool (and insightful) feature in which a site is chosen for scrutiny, (business owners volunteer their sites for public fine-tooth combing), readers e-mail and/or post comments offering constructive criticism, and the blogger (in this case, Blue Fountain Media founder/top dog Gabriel Shaoolian) posts a follow-up with some of the better insights, as well as some insights of his own.

The latest site to go under the microscope belongs to Executive Limousine. Some of the feedback is interesting, and underscores how focusing on what appeals to your target audience–as opposed to what appeals to you–is paramount to creating an effective site.

Executive Limousine

Executive Limousine's home page on 1/28/2011 (Courtesy http://www.executivelimousine.org).


Case in point: Executive Limo’s home page features rotating images of iconic New York landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty. Very nice images indeed. But what are they doing for Executive?

Notes Shaoolian:

When you are in a competitive business like limousines, where people have dozens of options to choose from, you have to persuade your visitors to use your services and not your competitors’. But when I come to this site, I don’t see what Executive Limousine’s value is. The first things I do see are pictures of New York City, the Statue of Liberty and the New York Airports. But nothing tells me why I should use Executive Limousine to visit them. If your Web site doesn’t answer the question “Why you?” within three seconds, then the site is failing to do its job.

Three seconds. Yikes.

To Executive’s credit, the company made numerous tweaks based on the feedback. The exercise raises an interesting thought, though: if you’re planning a website revamp, does it make sense to reach out directly to your existing or potential customers?

One airport, Harrisburg International, is putting this to the test. The airport this week reached out to its very active Twitter community inviting suggestions on content and navigation for a re-vamped FlyHIA.com site. I know a certain airport girl at HIA; maybe, after the new site is up (and a little persuasion), she’ll shed some for-publication light on whether the input proved useful.


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Languages & Websites

This week’s discussion in my current grad school class was on company websites (or parts therein) that target a specific minority group. Many of the posts (the class is online) discussed site content offered in other languages.

That got me thinking about how well airports use different languages to cater to their customers. To get an (admittedly unscientific) idea, I visited the sites of a few major international hubs to see how many languages each website was available in. Here’s what I found:

London Heathrow: 12, including English. Pretty impressive.

Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly, which are run by the same company: 2.

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson: 1 for the world’s busiest airport, but driving directions to the airport are available in Spanish (.pdf).

Beijing Capital International: 2, Chinese and English.

Singapore Changi: 2, ditto.

Frankfurt: 4, including Russian.

Dubai International: 2, English and Arabic.

Amsterdam Schiphol: 5, an impressive number reflecting the airport’s recognition of its stature as an international hub. Airports like Denver and Madrid are bigger, but they don’t handle as much inter-country connecting traffic.

What to take from this?

For one, English isn’t just the international language of aviation on the operations side. If you can’t read it well, navigating a major airport’s site could be a challenge.

Another key point: Atlanta may be the world’s busiest airport, but it’s not even close to the biggest mover of fliers between different countries. In other words, while lots of foreign nationals pass through its terminals, the vast majority of the folks who take off, land, or change planes there are English speakers. Ditto for most other big U.S. airports, with LAX (and its 8 languages, most of which related the airport’s status as a major gateway to East Asia) being among the notable exceptions.

Still, it stands to reason that many airports have a ways to go with regard to catering to their customers along these lines. It may not seem so important today, but in a few years, when the onslaught of app-driven services available on mobile phones really kicks in, the availability of multi-lingual services may be directly tied to the amount of ancillary revenues that advanced apps (like geo-location-driven coupons for nearby restaurants pushed to smartphones, for instance) will help generate.

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There’s nothing better than an assignment to motivate one to breathe life into a sputtering blog. In my case, my grad school life has converged with my work life, making it doubly beneficial for me to keep cranking out posts. (At least for the next nine weeks.)

To my West Virginia University Integrated Marketing Communications classmates, welcome to my blog on IMC in the airport arena. Here’s the story of why I started it. I hope you get some use out of the mandatory readings, and I hope they convey that the airport world has some pretty cool things to offer on the emerging-media-as-marketing front. This holds true especially among smaller airports, who (no surprise here) don’t have much of a marketing budget and have capitalized on the fact that well-designed and well-executed social media strategy can make a small airport look huge–at least online.

To my airport-industry readers (all three of ya!), take a minute to check out the WVU IMC program. It’s populated with a couple- hundred-strong crop of talented, creative folks from all over the map (and not just the U.S. map, either). Some of ’em may be in the hunt for bigger and better jobs pretty soon; consider your job-candidate pool deep if you happen to attract any of their resumes in your recruiting efforts.

Okay, back to small airports doing stellar things with emerging media. Regular readers of this blog (wake up, you three!…) are well-aware of the uber-effective IMC efforts–like this one, for instance–that Team Akron-Canton Airport gins up on a regular basis.

Well, here’s another example of using what you have (sound familiar?) to meet your objectives.

It would have been so easy to produce the commercial, buy some air time, and call the job done. But running the commercial on TV and Facebook and tying a contest to it? That maximizes resources and reach, leverages different tactics to meet objectives and encourages interaction by the customers.

Yep, I’d say there are some pretty on-it folks out there in Northeast Ohio….

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