Renowned Author Stunned that Belizeans Still Use the Yellow Pages

Ok.  That headline is going to need a bit of explanation…Yesterday I attended the BTIA’s (Belize Tourism Industry Association) 2012 Marketing Summit at the Princess Hotel and Casino in Belize City.  It was my first “real” Belize industry event about topics near and dear to my heart:  Social Media, Real Time Marketing and Public Relations.  And I’ll just put it all out there.  I wore a skirt and real shoes and now have no skin on the back of either ankle.  See what I endure for “my craft”?  Back to my trusty shorts and flip-flops today.

For all of you thinking “where are the pretty pictures of the Belize beach?”, I’ll keep it brief and be back to that by tomorrow at the LATEST.  (And if you really can’t hold out, I’ll post some beach pictures all day on my SanPedroScoop facebook page.  Promise.)

Initially I went to support my friend who is a professional blogger (aka My Hero).  She was on two of the panels.  That’s Erin below with San Pedro’s Dorian of Ambergris Today.

But the more I read about the presentations, the more intrigued I was.  The keynote speaker was David Meerman Scott, a power house in the marketing world, writer of a pretty slick blog, author of many best selling books like “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and “Cashing in With Content”.   He also happened to start out as a bond trader just like me.

This could be interesting…helpful.  And I certainly wasn’t the only one thinking that.  The huge conference room at the Princess was filled with a few hundred people from all walks of the Belizean tourism industry…from the Mayor of Orange Walk to the Tropic Air marketing team to staff from hotels and tour companies of every size.

Mr. Scott gave three presentations in total.  He started with some very cool examples of “new rules” marketing that work (like a Disney marketing exec that gave the initial announcement about the building of the multi-million dollar Harry Potter Theme Park to only 7 bloggers and reached hundreds of millions of people) and marketing that totally bombs (like most hotels webpages that are void of anything exciting, distinctive or interesting.)

And then he asked some questions of the rather large audience to get people thinking in a different way.  1.  Have you answered any direct mailings in the past year?  (Probably 1% raised their hands…basically no one.)  2.  Do you use the telephone printed directory or “yellow pages”?  (Almost everyone raised their hands…shocking to him since that “old school” medium is pretty much dead in other countries.  Hmmmm…seems like an online directory could be a great Belize  biz…but that’s for another time.)  3.  Do you use print/TV/radio ads to convey your message?  (About 5%)  4.  Do you use Google?  (Everyone)  5.  How about social media like Facebook?  (Everyone)

Bottom line?  It might be time to re-direct your marketing efforts…towards the things people are actually using on a daily basis.  Social media and real-time interaction with your users through many outlets (facebook, twitter, blogging, Pinterest, etc) is critical.  You need a chief real-time officer RIGHT NOW.  You need content that is free, interesting and usable…that will get people engaged and coming back to you for more.

Great content drives people to your website and to your business..  On the web, you are what you publish.  Your website static and outdated?  So are you.  Missing information like your location or telephone number on your site?  Does your site look like crap when viewed on someone’s I Phone?  People will just move on to the next guy.  Waiting 24 hours to return emails?  Same thing.

My very favorite take-away?  Treat bloggers like the media.  They are often quicker with information, more influential and reach a different audience.  All that and they are probably free.

The only question that I wish was answered and wasn’t?  How do you know if all this blogging/facebooking/tweeting is actually working?  How can you quantify it?  Next time…

All I know is that I’ve been left with lots of ideas and lots of research to do.  Sigh…a blogger’s job is never done.

And…I should have arrived earlier to place my postcard in all the packets.

Next time…

One more thing…did you know there are more mobile phones in the world than toothbrushes?  Interesting.  And a little bit gross..