Bill's Bountiful Blog
May I keep you posted on my thoughts, ideas, observations, and silliness?. Am I serious? Is it relevant?. Does anyone care? Probably not much.
But in today's age of everyone has something to say, why not me? And who can blame me for jumping into to the pool? For speaking up For laying it out?
"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." - Thomas Wiley, Journalist
By William May
Published: 12/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0
Over the decades there have been numerous stories here in the Northwest U.S. about how the favorite restaurant of Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, was an old fashioned burger stand not far from Microsoft's campus.
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University District Burger Master
Learning From The past
Based on its altered construction, Burger Master looks like it was once a "Happy Day's" type car hop joint from an era well before my day. You remember Happy Days, the icon of 50's cliché, with Ritchie, Potsie, Ralph, Joanie and of course the Fonze.
I'm not sure if Burger Master had roller skating carhops long ago but maybe.
About 10 miles west of Bill's Burger Master there is another Burger Master just off the University of Washington Campus. Its been there so long, that the carhop motif was stripped away decades ago, leaving it with a big handy parking lot and a menu more like a diner than a burger joint.
I found myself driving past one morning recently and, having missed breakfast, rolled in to see what they serve at that hour of the day. I entered a time warp.
The menu behind the counter was to be expected. But when I chose the eggs dish I was sent back in time. The clerk said, "How would you like your eggs?" I was immediately suspicious of the question.
They don't ask you what kind of eggs you want at McDonalds, "Scrambled?" I guessed.
The clerk was a well dressed 55 year old man. The cooks were adults and there wasn't a teenager in sight. Nothing against kids, but the owner of Burger Master was paying these employees a real wage. Huh.
"And would you like Ham, Bacon or Sausage?"
Another trick question, you don't hear at McDonalds. "Link sausage," I said quickly in case he would remember that offering customers a choice wasn't normal.
"And to drink?" Ok here we are on normal ground. "Coffee, orange juice, tea?
"You have tea?" I mussed.
"Earl Gray, Darjeeling, English Breakfast, Chamomile... "
I cut him off, "Earl Gray please."
"Toast, Pancakes, Cinnamon Roll, or . . . "
I cut him off again, "Do you have biscuits".
"Two biscuits. How would you like your hash browns?"
"Crispy. No make it extra Crispy."
"Can do," he said. You won't hear from a teenage clerk at McDonalds. "That will be hash browns, link sausage, scrambled eggs, biscuits and tea."
Burger Master Breakfast
And Service Too
I must have been looking uncomfortable, because he said, "We'll bring it to you, sir." Now it was really getting weird. Sir he called me. The price was only a bit more than McDonald's. I'm suspicious. I'll bet they'll even want a tip too. And in a burger joint.
The dining room was very large and very clean with big windows. I grabbed the free newspaper ($1.00 at McDonald's) and crawled into a booth. Before I got through the first page, the food appeared. It was on a real plate, with real utensils. A big napkins and was delicious.
The hash browns? Crispy. The sausage? Jumbo sized and tasty. The biscuits - melt in your mouth. I read the whole paper. I didn't want to leave.
There is a lesson to be learned from Burger Master, for any business. Offer a better product. Provide a few extras, give good service and set a reasonable price.
Burger Master was packed at 10AM on a Wednesday morning. It was standing room only actually and probably has been for decades.
Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0167 – 12/01/10
By William May
Published: 10/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0
Years ago when I operated an advertising agency we sure thought we worked long and hard. Not to reveal my age, but I remember when we had to "spec" type, courier the details to a type setter and then wait days while it was set and returned to us. We then had to paste the galleys onto art board along with photos or other art to arrange the desired final ad.
All about Chateau Chocolate Cake
Marketing campaigns took months to prepare. To convince a client to accept a print advertisements required us to draw the ad roughly replicating what it might look like. Once approved we then had to produce it, or record the radio commercials or shoot the television spots and in film no less.
Media plans, the choosing and budget of conventional media, also took lots of time. Decision making was actually fairly smooth but just typing orders, processing payables and comparing results was a paper and pencil exercise.
So I have been one to whole heartedly embrace the personal computer and how it has made marketing, advertising and selling smoother and more controlled. We can produce a lot more with better product and hopefully better outcome.
Unfortunately, the digital age has also made it marketing incredibly complex as we go through a constant dance of Internet and conventional advertising in hopes of maximizing revenue. It is easy to get lost pursuing the latest, greatest marketing scheme.
For lodging we invest in directory ads, video spots and certain pay-per-click. Just like in older media, we try to get in front of the consumers eyes and promote a message that might, just might, get a slight bit of attention.
So it was last summer that I had the great fun of remembering that marketing is, if nothing else, based on common sense.
Packwood, White Pass Washington
Our firm took over a previously shuttered resort located in the shadow of Mount Rainier National Park in an exquisitely beautiful and pristine place. Situated on a minor East West highway over the Cascade Mountains, Chateau Timberline was a well maintained hotel property with half-timber construction and immense visual appeal.
Unfortunately, there was no build up of time to pre-plan and organize media. Our company Sunspot Resorts has created a highly unique software and management system that allows us to deploy full automated websites including photography, online booking system and universal content including local activities, merchants and restaurants. Guests can search by map, available dates and more than enough information to pick the appropriate lodging.
But even with automated deployment and heavy advertising, websites take time to mature. Search Engine's don't index the site immediately. If you want to use the Global Distribution System (GDS) that can take months. Consumers will eventually find a good property and will begin to migrate to it when it offers a better experience than competitors.
But we had none of the time we needed. So we relied on the good old proven methods of marketing. We went local.
We opened within 3 days, and then spent another 3 days visiting all merchants and even the competitors in Packwood, Washington to introduce ourselves and to ask their help. But we didn't just come cap in hand. We came with flyers and cupcakes.
The results were stunning. It would be wrong to presume that none of the people in town had ever had a cupcake. They smiled, they ate and they remembered us as the new guys with good manners (Or at least I hope.)
Mount Rainier is a popular area. Within hours, guests were being referred to the Chateau. Within 10 days we were sold out. Although we basked in quick success we had many people to thank. So early one morning I visited the biggest competitor in town who had referred many overflow guests to us and, at the last minute, I decided to take a fresh Chocolate Cake.
I figured they couldn't or wouldn't take a referral fee. But they were more than happy to eat cake.
And now we have become friends. We refer to them as well. We know the people behind the businesses and they know us, although we'll have to keep contributing to local groups to earn our keep.
Fancy complicated marketing makes it possible for small companies to compete. It allows for advertisers to pick and choose with care and to make the most of their budget. But let's not forget. No matter how great it is, nothing really beats a great chocolate cake.
Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0161 – 10/01/10
By William May
Published: 05/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0
Prior to the lodging industry, I had a perfectly normal life in the media and advertising industry. I worked at radio stations and publications and owned an advertising agency. Then I started, invested and managed some publications and a radio station.
While news, information and entertainment are the product of media companies, it is advertising sales that fuel the organizations. My first big job was at the "Mother Giant" radio station KJR-AM in Seattle, Washington in 1973. Fresh out of college I got to work with my heroes who were as eccentric as human beings are allowed to be when not locked up in prison.
I had sold newspapers ads while in college but the Radio Experts taught me a lesson about selling advertising - 'Don't sell it if it won't create sales for the advertiser," said Mr. Shannon Sweatte my boss. "This business must be built upon return advertisers. If you fail for them once, you'll never get them back."
Of course, the advertisers we dealt with were big and smart. They were stingy with money, and spent it wisely. As I started my career, calling on these tough negotiators, I began to get sales fright. What if I sold ads that didn't work?
I wanted to know and one day, got up the guts to ask Mr. Pat O'Day, the station manager who was then and later became a legend in the radio station business. (That's him in the photo.)
"You can tell your advertisers, that money spent with us will always make their cash registers ring, " said Pat in response to my question.
"But what if they don't?" I asked.
"Then we'll just run some more ads for free until customers come streaming in." He answers. "Or we'll do promotions if we have to. Or we'll have the Disc Jockey's visit or do live on-air commercials. We'll just figure it out. Do what it takes."
Retailers Know the Score
Many of these clients represented retail store owners who were notorious for asking clients how they heard of their stores, why they came in that day, and on which radio stations the customers had heard their store's ads. Expecting these clients to buy ads without knowing whether they worked, would be like thinking a mama Grizzly would let you run off with her cubs. "Ain't gonna happen," I said to myself.
Pat O'day could have just taken the money and run and probably would have gotten away with it for a long time. However smart business people know better. Perhaps that is why, all these years later I am so amazed by some of the dominant Vacation Rental Directory websites.
In today's recession, does it strike you right that HomeAway announces their revenue is up Forty Percent last year? Anecdotal feedback from VRA members, tell us that inquiries are down and the cost per inquiry and cost per booking is up hugely. Is it right that FlipKey gives away free ads, then demands reviews and then ratchet up the cost?
Yet HomeAway benefits by pitting one advertiser against another, by taking an ever increasing number of listings, even if it cannibalizes the results they provide for current advertisers. Consumer advocates could easily claim that paid ads from media should know they can not justify their costs to clients and could be accused of "Unfair and deceptive" tactics.
Some Advertisers track and can justify their purchases. Others buy more ads and fall for the gimmicky ad ones of photos to push up rates because they are desperate for inquiries - any inquiries.
Where are the smart website publishers who understand their craft as well as conventional media do?
Dennis Miller, Past President of Publicist of the West, (The Ad Agency who wrote the nefarious Super Bowl Commercials - well after Dennis' Departure from Publicist) says, "Media buyers who place ads for big companies would eat a newspaper, radio or TV station alive for boasting of such an accomplishment when their clients were hurting." Dennis is on the Board of VRA. "Aren't these guys smart enough to understand that?"
Penny Taylor, Former Manager of Northwest Cable Advertising (A $50 million dollar joint venture of Viacom and TCI communications, and now vice president at VRA as well as Sunspot Resorts) agrees. "For a hundred years, smart media operators have justified their existence by the results they can produce for clients. Being new to media, these techies and venture capitalists are making up their ethics as they go along. Failing to put client's needs first is going to bite them in the behind."
Websites and other new media have been a boom to the travel and lodging business. Today, they command a dominant aspect of the industry by usurping owner and manager advertising with their own Search Engine Optimization and big pool of capital.
But will website publishers ever learn what conventional media outlets have learned over so many years, or will they figure it out over time? Will they prosper regardless of their ethics, or will advertisers stop being victims and start demanding results?
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William May is President of Sunspot Inns, Resorts & Vacation Rentals and volunteer Executive Director of the Vacation Rental Association (www.Vrai.org.). KJR radio is still on the air, but now as a sports station. KJR-FM now places oldies music. Its not much like the old KJR-AM Top 40 hit station, but make listeners happy just to see the call letters still in business.
Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0149 – 05/01/10
By William May
Published: 03/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0
Operating a vacation rental business can be fun and profitable but it is also an opportunity to do some good in the world. Now property owners and managers can do that by participating in a public program that offers unused vacation rental nights to charitable causes through the Vacation Rental Angels Website.
The program is administered by the Vacation Rental Association (Vrai.org) a not-for-profit trade association offering membership services to owners, managers, suppliers and website publishers.
"Every now and then we see a property or manager who is inaccurately portrayed in the media", says William May, President volunteer Executive Director of VRA, "And we thought it was high time that the public understands the millions of dollars that owners donate to good causes."
VRA offers inspections and verifications of properties to assure the traveling public of property quality. Members of VRA subscribe to a Code of Ethics and the vast majority of properties are well run, even luxurious. Guest complaints are almost non-existent for VRA members, who take their responsibilities seriously.
Participation in the Angel program is open to all VRA members and there is no cost or rigid rules for donations. Members who agree to offer at least one week per year free to charities may join the program and have their properties and their donations listed on the VacationRentalAngels.com website.
"Limiting how and when donations, or forcing owners to use the site for giving, would only serve to lessen donations," said May, "And that would defeat the entire idea. This program says give first and then get a little recognition later".
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Vrai.org operates the world's first Multiple-Listing-Service (MLS) for Vacation Rentals at www.VRMLA.org. VRA member can easily post their property to the VacationRentalAngels.com website along with subscribing to many other paid and free websites. Vacation Rental Owners and Managers, not already VRA members, can join the group and become Angels by visiting www.Vrai.org to join.
Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0138 – 03/01/10
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