"Musings from a Marketing Junkie"
By Scott and Allison Crumpton

As the time rolled around for me to write an article for this month's issue, I found myself strangely without much to say. For those of you who know or have met me, this may be hard for you to believe but it's very true. Finally, I decided to write about what's hot and what's not with the search engines but then again how many times can you discuss pay-per-click, the fact that meta tags are a dead issue and how utterly useless it is for an innkeeper to focus on link popularity? Truly, aren't there better things to talk about and more important issues rolling around in my head? I do spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince innkeepers not to listen to the hype and to use common sense in their marketing, but I would hope by now they've gotten it. So for the first time in a while I'm breaking from my pattern of tech talk and want to discuss where I think the B&B industry is heading and some problems which I see on the horizon.

Recently someone who has been in the industry a long time made an impacting comment. She said, "In the year 2000, the country became over-conferenced". She's right. Last year I spent much time speaking at state B&B conferences around the country and I've formulated a few predictions as a result:

At present I have over ten invitations to speak at upcoming state conferences with more coming in every day. While I am truly flattered that so many people would like to hear what I have to say, I have to wonder what it is I will say. Following a very successful speaking engagement in January of this year, I was asked to return and speak next year. However, I was also asked the title of my topic. I could only respond with, "I'll tell you next year." For several years, Internet Marketing has been changing so rapidly that it has been difficult for even us experts to keep up. But recently with the adoption of pay-per-click advertising, things have settled down into a slower, more predictable rhythm. Sure, we have the odd news days announcing that LookSmart decided to break their contract with people who paid a one time lifetime membership fee, and have now embraced pay-per-click - but those are rare instances. For the most part, Internet Marketing is starting to mature and settle down leaving behind those awkward years of mysterious placement in the search engines.

Likewise, Innkeepers have started to mature in their knowledge of Internet Marketing. Whether by reading articles in Arrington's, in association newsletters or by listening to expert speakers at conferences, innkeepers are starting to get it. Because of this, I have to wonder what the upcoming conferences will hold. Can we stand another year of search engine strategies? Last year I introduced a new concept into my speaking engagements and performed live web site reviews of participants' web sites. The sessions were very well received but after about five sites and a handful of humorous comments, most innkeepers get the principals of professional design. Truly, is there anything new we can talk about in Internet Marketing or will this new round of conferences contain the same old topics? This last comment is what has me so troubled and I would surmise one of the reasons for the low turnout to many recent conferences. While Internet Marketing is not the only important session topic at conferences I have found that it is the most well attended often with multiple sessions and speakers. Besides, how many times can you listen to a session on floral arranging without wanting to teach the class?

Most every conference I attended in the last year had far fewer attendees than expected. The pattern was so consistent that I even created a formula to predict the number of inns which would be represented at a given conference. You can imagine my shock when the formula predicted to within 25 inns the Chicago PAII conference final numbers. Here's Crumpton's Conference Formula: Take the number of attendees the show coordinator tells you will attend. Cut this number in half to get the true number of attendees. Then cut this number in half again to get the number of inns represented due to multiple representatives from a single inn and coordinators counting vendors as attendees. Yep, attendance really was that low this last year - even at the PAII show. This is not to say there weren't some great shows - just that the numbers were much lower than expected. The sentiment from the majority of innkeepers I've spoken to was that with the exception of the live site reviews I did, they've heard most of it before. If that's true, we're headed for even lower attendance this year at conferences unless someone comes up with some new and exciting topics.

Another troubling issue is the low turnout from vendors. Within the last couple years, many states realized they could turn their annual (or bi-annual) meeting into a money making conference simply by inviting vendors. This was a wonderful idea - while it lasted. However, as innkeeper attendance has dropped so has interest by the vendors. The feedback I'm getting these days is that vendor enthusiasm is at an all-time low. After all, the innkeepers now know who the vendors are - if you're a vendor why spend thousands of dollars to preach to the choir?

Let's put it all together. We have nothing new to talk about in Internet Marketing, shrinking innkeeper attendance, a waning vendor enthusiasm, and innkeepers who know who the vendors are and more about internet marketing than ever before. So what do you think the upcoming conference seasons will be like?

I have suggested to several entities that one way to solve this dilemma is to hold regional conferences and smaller state meetings with only local vendors. The regional conferences would have all the best speakers, top vendors and be held in vacation locations. Why not hold a conference in Hawaii and let everyone use it as a write-off/vacation. I would love to spend a week in Hawaii holding internet marketing sessions under a palm tree. Furthermore, few of us ever get away for a real vacation anymore. I know one vendor who said she'd never simply just go to a conference again without making a vacation out of the trip. Trouble is, it's hard to find anything interesting to do in some conference locations! I know my ideas on this seem a bit radical to some people but I've seen the current state of conferences and I have to wonder if anyone is excited anymore.

Honestly, I don't mean to paint such a bleak picture of the upcoming conference season. Conferences will be held, vendors will come and attendees will glean useful information from the variety of speakers. I just wonder if like print, conferences will also fall victim to the victor of the information age - the Internet. If the average innkeeper can find most everything they want on the web, why bother going to a conference? Sure it's a social gathering but if that's the goal, then let's make it a bit more exciting and relaxing by choosing vacation destinations!

I honestly don't know what the upcoming conference season will be like. I don't know what drastic change in Internet Marketing will pop up late this year just in time for many conferences. But I do know this, conferences are declining in popularity with both innkeepers and vendors and unless something is changed soon, we may be back to annual meetings instead of conferences. I would much rather enjoy the time getting to know innkeepers while golfing in Maui and snorkeling on the Big Island. Want to join me?

Moriah Mountain Internet Marketing    |     P.O. Box 1283     |     Grants Pass, Oregon 97528
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