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Maybe you’re familiar with the term “brand.” And if you’re like a lot of people, you’re saying: “I hear a lot about branding and building my brand. But I’m a small or mid-sized resort, hotel or rental property. I don’t have a brand.”

First things first: everyone who does business has a brand. A brand is the common impression that exists in the minds of every customer who has ever stayed with you, talked with you on the phone, seen you online or heard about you from someone else. And maintaining a good brand is much different in today’s online world than it used to be. More than ever, a good healthy brand is your key to long-term success.

This is actually good news. Part of the beauty of online media is that, unlike TV, radio, outdoor or print, your website can – and should – be involved at every step in a customer’s decision-making process. Here’s how you can be more aware of, and take care of, your online brand.

No matter what they’re shopping for, consumers go through the same basic process: Discover – Research – Plan – Transact – and Share. Your job is to make sure that your customers get the same experience, the same positive impression about your property, at each part of the process.

  1. The Discover phase. Neilsen recently published a report that said consumers are now spending 38 percent of their time online – more than any other media. So your website should do much more than just be appealing, with the right colors and sharp, easy-to-read content. It must capture your values, your entire vacation experience and your main reasons for offering it, and communicate those things consistently throughout. Use your website to show what they’ll find at your property that they can’t anywhere else. Allow people to actually “discover” you, instead of just view your site.
  2. The Research phase. Give your website the ability to really show the customer what you have to offer. That means lots of high-quality photos, and certainly video –comScore estimated in November 2009 alone, 170.6 million U.S. residents watched 31 million videos online. A note: while customers are doing their research, you can do yours too. Use tracking phone numbers that “flip,” so you can tell exactly where your customers are coming from even if their research takes them away from your site and back again. See our blog on Phone Call Tracking By Phonalytics for more information on this.
  3. The Plan phase. Your website must be organized. Place relevant content, photos and video into categories that match how people research their trips. Include everything that they’ll be interested in: your property, your accommodations, your staff, your unique features and information about your surrounding area.
  4. The Transact phase. Always allow visitors to become customers right from your website. Place your phone number and email address on every page. Always include a booking engine so they can make reservations online.
  5. The Share phase. This is maybe the most important, because it’s the phase over which you have the least control. Besides traditional word-of-mouth – always the best form of advertising – it’s now fast and easy for a customer to write online reviews about your property or talk about you on social media sites. In fact, Facebook and YouTube are now two of the top five most-visited websites in the world. Here’s what to do: join the party! Create a page on your website where customers can write about their experiences. Create a page for your property on social media sites like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. Participate, and monitor. It’s a great way to let people know who you are in personal terms – the essence of a good brand.

Yes, you do have a brand. Embrace it. In today’s world, your brand can be the greatest marketing tool you have!

To learn more about VEM Global website design, content writing,  marketing services and phone analytics visit the VEM Global™ website.

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