Category Archives: review

Market Research – AKA our trip to Hawaii.

Sometime you have to get away from your desk and do some ‘market research’. I like to think that I did some good research as I just got back home this past Monday after a two week vacation to Hawaii. We’ve been to the “Gold Coast” area on the Big Island several times already, but this was one of the best yet, with my wife, our 2 year old daughter, my wife’s mother and my parents.

We stayed at a comfortable home just steps from a gorgeous beach (see the sunset photo that I took just steps from the house). We spent almost every morning at a beach, sometimes just walking out the door and sometimes driving a bit. I think the consensus was that the ‘best beach’ on this trip was Kua Bay, but we also visited Kauna’oa Beach (Mauna Kea) multiple times in addition to Hapuna Beach and of course Waialea Bay – where we were staying.

In between beaching it, we got out for some shopping and dining and that’s where I found myself doing my ‘research’. I must say, that I felt the most Aloha that I ever have on this trip, wherever we went, people were incredibly friendly, helpful and accommodating. However, it was a bit disconcerting to see the number of empty store fronts in the resort areas along with the decrease in inventory in many stores.

Here’s a quick list of my recommendation on where to go and what to do from this trip:

  • Lodging – 2 Papayas – Mary, the owner/manager was great and the properties they represent are in my absolute favorite part of the Big Island.
  • Dining – Blue Dragon Coastal Cuisine & Musiquariam –  The interesting name says it all, but this is  great ‘supper club without a roof’. Great local foods with local music…I knew we would be eating great when I saw a fellow carrying a huge, whole, fresh from the ocean across the street, fish into the kitchen.
  • Music – John Keawe – He played the night we went to the Blue Dragon, and we were lucky enough to have his wife, Hope,  perform her Hula with him. He’s a great Hawaiian slack-key guitar guru.
  • Dining – Sushi Rock (Google maps link as I can’t see that they have a website) – Hidden way up on the Northern end of the Big Island in Hawi this little coffee house feeling sushi joint is awesome. With local ingredients (sense a theme here) and unique integration of those ingredients into their rolls, this place may not thrill traditional sushi aficionados, but it sure converted me, I’ll be back.
  • Shopping – Hilo Farmers Market – Not what most people probably call the best shopping on the Big Island, but I certainly get a kick out of all the funky foods along with the spread of local artisans displaying their wares. Also, since we went on the day after we arrived, we had fantastic local produce for our whole vacation – yummm…
  • Dining – Bamboo – Located just a block or two down the road from Sushi Rock, this restaurant seems a bit odd at first, but I found myself quickly sinking into the atmosphere of Hawaii-ana that it conveys so well and enjoying the evening (lunch here is great too). Fun gifts at the shop here too.
  • Beaches – Kua Bay, Hapuna and Kauna’oa (Mauna Kea) Beaches – Each of these is wonderful in their own right, Kua Bay has perhaps the most gorgeous azure blue color to the water, while Hapuna and Kauna’oa are both fantastic in terms of being huge sandy stretches of beautiful beach with great spring swimming and snorkeling. Caveat – while I haven’t been to any of these beaches aside from May/June, I’ve been told that they can all be tricky at times, in terms of surf, particularly during the winter.
  • Research – the Tripadvisor Hawaii Forum is a fine way to dial yourself in for a trip to the Big Island. Use the search function as a ton of topics are usually in discussion, but always feel free to post asking for recommendations. Be aware that while some of the local experts can seem a bit short at times, they are very helpful.
  • Research – Twitter – Another great research resource, I got a number of timely recommendations from @nathankam.

Well, it’s back to “reality” tomorrow – first day back in the office after three weeks off – cheers!

My SF Inbound Marketing Summit Takeaways

The San Francisco Inbound Marketing Summit, this past April 28th and 29th was a great learning and refresher experience for me. It featured an intense format with the majority of speakers limited to twenty minutes for their presentation and questions. But, this format also allowed for a wide-ranging spectrum of speakers due to the fast paced, what Chris Brogan referred to as, “ADD-style” format.

This was the first meeting that I tried to dual-task taking notes in a Word document and tweet highlights/memorable quotes at the same time.  I think that I achieved a respectable degree of success with both. Click to see either my #ims09 tweets, all of the #ims09 tweets or my conference notes.  I’m  sure that my notes (and maybe my tweets) are both a bit cryptic and unpolished, so here’s a summary of eight key takeaways along with my best effort at attribution as to the speaker had what I thought was the most salient comment about each item:

  1. Everyone is a publisher on the internet – whether you are  brand or an individual you are known first and foremost by the content that you produce and publish online. Jason Falls put it that content is king because consumers demand engagement, engaging content becomes conversation and websites then become living, breathing things. John Battelle urged that we should “dare” to let our brands create content and conversations, he said that “every marketer is now a publisher, every publisher is now a marketer and every consumer is now both”. Most importantly, we should “work on stuff that matters” according to Tim O’Reilly.
  2. Content should not just reside on your “website”, it should be posted on blogs, forums, review sites or wherever someone may wind up looking for information on a topic that your content covers. 30% on your domain and the rest in other places according to Brian Halligan from Hubspot.
  3. Speak to individuals through personas and segmentation. Don’t expect your content to be all things to all people. David Meerman Scott emphasized personas in his example of hotel websites. He stated that all hotel websites seem to feature products, e.g. pools, restaurants and rooms while, in his opinion, hotel sites should focus on buyer personas and then create content that speaks to those separate personas. In agreement, Darren Guarnaccia said that we all want to be “self-segmented” and that this should be done organically on sites.
  4. It’s objectives that must determine what you monitor online. The “Listening and Monitoring” panel really stressed that in order to monitor effectively, you absolutely must establish what the strategic goal is and then refine your listening tactics accordingly. And Susan Rice-Lincoln summarized this when she said that “Social Media has been long on tactics and short on strategy so far”.
  5. Inbound Marketing offers nearly unlimited potential. Dharmesh Shah opined that “Outbound Marketing was limited by the width of your wallet. Inbound is only limited by the depth of your creativity.”
  6. Web 2.0 is progressing to the Web Squared according to John Battelle. Meaning that the the next step in terms of computing and networking with not be additive but a multiple step forward.
  7. All campaigns must be fully integrated across platforms, on and off-line to be most effective. Chris Brogan also said to “remember the physical world” to be most effective in social media.
  8. Think beyond your brand. Tim O’Reilly stressed that it’s not about your brand or your story, but rather it’s about your community.

These were the things that resonated with me, but in the spirit of sharing and aggregating, here’s a list of other Inbound Marketing Summit San Francisco blog posts:

Please leave me a comment if I missed any posts and a big thanks to all of the speakers, panelists and in particular, the organizers

Check back later this week as I’ll try to translate this for the resort industry; in particular, I’ll be posting ideas on how to implement Inbound Marketing in our segment.

Photo credit: (CC) Brian Solis. www.briansolis.com. (Yeah, I’m the one wearing the white shirt, dead center in the first row)

Best concert of the year

Ok, I don’t get out to see many concerts anymore. Having  2 year old in the house definitely crips the style a bit in terms of nightlight. But, this past Saturday night, my wife and I left little K with a babysitter and headed down to Salt Lake City for a ‘date night’. This date was to go to a concert that we had bought tickets to, well actually my wife bought the tickets while I was out powder cat skiing, with the feeling that the show would sell out. And sell out it did, as The State Room has a limit of just 300 tickets per show, and Brandi Carlile is an artist that could fill venues much larger than that.

Neither of us had been to The State Room before and the venue quickly impressed us as extremely well run as well as a fantastic space for live music. However, that was nothing compared to the show that Brandi Carlile put on for the few hundred people that spent their Saturday evening enjoying her and her band.

If you haven’t hear of Brandi Carlile, please take a peak atthe clip below (from the show we were at) – I’d say that she’s a bit of Patsy Cline mixed up with a dash of Tori Amos, Elton John, some Indigo Girls and a touch of Johny Cash, take a gander and enjoy:

Thanks for the great night Ms Carlile, my wife and I are aleady looking forward to your next trip to the beehive state!

Cat Skiing with Park City Powder Cats

I skied with Park City Powder Cats about four or five years ago. I’ve been meaning to get back out again for some time now and today was finally the day! I was a bit leary as we drove out this morning, partly because it hadn’t snowed much for the past week and also because the day was starting out cloudy without any blue sky poking out anywhere.  However, once we pulled into the cabin in the beautiful Thousand Peaks Ranch, that serves as the base camp for the Park City Powder Cats, I started to get a good vibe – helped along no doubt, by the views of the magnificent bowls that we’d soon be riding!

After a quick safety briefing from lead guide Johnny, some tasty muffins and a last minute shot of coffee, we clambered into our chariot for the day, ably driven by Jacon, along with our two guides Megan and Jason. Dropping into Giant Steps for our ‘warm up’ run, we all could sense that this would turn out to be a great day. The wind had been whipping along the ridge before we dropped in, but once we started making turns we enjoyed a healthy serving of a few inches of fresh Utah powder piled upon a nice and supportable base.

After this first run, our guides seemed to be happy with our riding abilities and we quickly moved into territory that was steeper and deeper. That along with a clearing sky made the day zoom past. By the time we were snacking on a few delicious cookies for desert and heading out to No Name Bowl for our last run, the clouds were again closing in, but with all the blue sky, powder – and some corn that we got to play in all day, it almost seemed a fitting close to have the skies darkening again.

As I sit on my couch relishing the great day, I wanted to jot down a couple of quick tips for anyone thinking of booking a cat skiing trip:

  • If it hasn’t snowed for a few days prior to your trip, don’t worry. There is lots of terrain at snowcat operations. For instance, Park City Powder Cats has over 40,000 acres of terrain in the private ranch that they operate on. Since they only run a maximum of two cats per day with each cat making from 8-12 runs per day, their terrain can offer virgin powder runs for days and sometimes even weeks after a storm!
  • Try to book with a group of friends if you can, because cat skiing is an experience that is best when shared.
  • A day in a snowcat can usually beat a heli day (for a fraction of the cost). You can’t ground a snowcat due to weather – you realize that it’s cloudy when it snows?! The snowcat will often beat you down to the bottom of the run and since it’s only for your group, you can leave packs and other items in the cat for the ride back up. Plus, you can get about as much skiing and riding in with a snowcat as you can with a helicopter because your day usually lasts longer and is more uninterrupted.
  • Snowcat trips are also not just for hardcore skier and riders, if you feel comfortable riding advanced terrain in a variety of conditions, you’ll have an absolutely fantastic time. Remember, there are no crowds on the slopes and no lift lines!

Finally, for some ‘eye candy’, I’ve embedded a slideshow with pix of our trip below, (click here if the Vopod player isn’t loading the content):
Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Best Job in the World?

While I might think that I have the best job in the world, the marketing people at Tourism Queensland have come up with what a very unique and timely campaign promoting what they say is “The Best Job in the World.” What they’re offering is actually a six month position that requires regular photo and video updates to a blog and pays a nifty AUD$150,000 (just over $100k US) it even includes a lovely sounding 3 bedroom home with private pool and airfare. Here’s their video promoting the job:

It’s a great concept and well executed, but what I really like is how they have such great timing what with the global economy stagnating and people flocking to job and other employment sites both online and offline where Tourism Queensland has posted ads promoting this ‘job’. Check out these samples I found online:


This brings up an idea, why don’t other businesses look to employment ads as a way to target business in unorthodox places – perhaps as a ski resort we could advertise openings for skiers and snowboarders in help wanted placements? Whether or not something like that could work, this approach by Tourism Queensland has certainly created a huge word of mouth campaign – over a thousand news articles within a week – and even crashed the web server that they were using to host the application site. I look forward to seeing how this campaign evolves over the coming months and I think that I’ll have to subscribe to the blogs’ RSS feed to see what the winner really thinks of their job come December!

Yummy and Delicious

I’ve been using the Delicious social bookmarking service for nearly two months and I am really enjoying it. As a matter of fact I wish I could convince more of my peers to jump on and use it because of how easy and helpful I think it is. Here’s what I like:

  1. I can access all of my bookmarks from any computer and I won’t lose any if I change browsers or my computer crashes!
  2. Use tags to filter and sort bookmarked pages.
  3. Tags are automatically suggested based upon your existing tags as well as those that other users use for a page.
  4. Sharing of  bookmarks with friends that are in your Delicious network is as easy as clicking on the network for:<username> tag.
  5. Installing the Internet Explorer or Firefox add-ons takes the whole Delicious experience to another level of ease and usefulness, personally I love the feature that alerts you when someone bookmarks a page a tags it for you.
  6. I enjoy browsing through Delicious just to see what other users have bookmarked, kind of like StumbleUpon but without the slot machine pull aspect (although I have been known to stumble a bit every now and then)!
  7. It’s also fun to find the Delicious account of someone you know or are interested in and check out what they’ve bookmarked. Please feel free to browse mine at http://delicious.com/eric_hoffman
  8. And you always have the ability to keep selected pages private.

There are many other social networking tools out there, but Delicious is quick to learn, easy to use and very helpful, I give it a solid A.

Photo Credit: Autumn Sweater

Social media peeps are cool

081218-blogThe Park City Mountain Resort blog that I helped to launch, and am a contributor to, was reviewed today by social media guru Mack Collier as part of his Company Blog Checkup series and I’m happy to say that we did came out pretty darn good! Of course, I wish we could have aced the “check up,” but I knew that our blog could use some improvement and also that I’m not always the one to see the changes that could or should be made. Here’s the summary that Mack gave us:

Content: 27 (Out of a possible 35) – I like how the blog is currently positioned to cover the current slope conditions. I would like to see more videos as I think these are also a promotional vehicle for the resort.

Comments: 31 (Out of a possible 35) – Very active comments section. I’m not completely sold on bloggers replying directly to each comment in the comment, but the sheer volume of comments from the readers, and the promptness of replies from the bloggers, is impressive.

Posting Schedule: 8 (Out of a possible 15) – Looks to be decent now, but big gaps in the offseason, would try to work on closing those.

Sidebars: 10 (Out of a possible 15) – Pics of the bloggers at top of blog makes this score. Also like the weather-related links.

Total Score: 76 (Out of a possible 100)

The rest of the post is very informative too and has given me some great ideas for continuing to evolve and improve our blog.

It’s well worth mentioning that the reason Mack reviewed our blog, was because of a referral from his friend Sean Howard, who had written a post called The Role of Messy in Social Media on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog on which I had left a comment. Sean looked up our blog, thought that Mack might like to review it, and was kind enough to pass along a note which got the ball rolling. This just affirms what I’ve been learning about social media and the people that participate in it – they’re really cool!