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Optimizing Your Facebook Business Page

Maintaining a reliable and up-to-date Facebook presence is an important part of any tour and activity businesses’ marketing plan. More than just a social platform, a quality Facebook page can help with anything from driving more online bookings to placing your business higher on Google search engine results. (And who doesn’t want that?)

Whether you’re just getting started or a social media hero, your business page isn’t complete until it’s squared away with these Facebook fundamentals.

Custom Branding

Facebook Business Custom Branding

After setting up a Facebook business page and a custom business url, your page should be outfitted with a high-res profile photo and cover photo. These visual spaces are some of your best branding opportunities, and page visitors should be able to get a clear grasp of your company’s logo and branding with just a quick glance.

Engaging Content

A beautiful homepage is only the start—consistently update your page with creative and relevant content that engages visitors and communicates your brand. Share high quality images, captivating videos and exclusive company news, optimizing the content for engagement by keeping posts short and linking directly to your website. As customers begin to interact with your content through comments, shares and likes, be sure to stay involved in the conversation. As Forbes Magazine recommends, it is crucial to engage with customers as they comment on Facebook page posts. Responding to these comments is a great way to build a relationship with your visitors and see returning customers.

Direct Bookings

Facebook Business Direct Bookings

Facebook Business direct bookings

Beyond building your brand, Facebook offers additional add-ons that tour and activity businesses can include on their page to promote online bookings. One such add-on is a direct call-to-action button that sits on the Facebook page. By choosing the “Book Now” call-to-action button and linking it to your business’ website, you can drive potential customers directly from your Facebook page to your online booking form. You also have the option of creating a “Book Now!” tab that’ll be located next to the “About” tab. For FareHarbor customers, this tab opens up as a real-time calendar that allows customers to see activity availability directly from your Facebook page.

Consistent Posting

Consistent posting on Facebook Business

Establish a schedule and stick to it. You should be posting at least once a week, and no more than once or twice a day. Remember that quality is more important than quantity, and consistently posting a few times a week is better than clumped together or infrequent and scattered posts. Facebook offers several tools to help you get your content in front of the right audience at the right time. Their scheduling tool allows you to create and schedule posts to appear at a later date or time, making it easy to build and maintain a consistent posting schedule. Posts can also be “boosted” on the Facebook page, so that those who like your page will be more likely to see the post. Spending as little as five dollars to boost a post can dramatically increase the number of customers who receive, engage with and revisit your content.

Once your page is beautifully branded, consistently updated and set up to receive direct bookings, it’s time to add a Facebook icon or Facebook call-to-action button to your business’ website. Don’t let your hard work go unnoticed.

Stay tuned for our next blog post on how to master the art of Facebook Advertising!

How To Improve Your TripAdvisor Ranking

As a business owner, there are few things that carry more weight than the opinion of your customers. In fact, review sites like TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, are so important to a company’s performance, that some companies see up to 90% of their business driven by their TripAdvisor presence alone.

The challenge is that your rating can be a double-edged sword. While things like a high volume of reviews, positive comments, and five-star ratings can drive business, negative reviews, few and infrequent reviews, and low ratings can fiercely damage a company’s ability to attract new visitors.

While there’s no shortcut to building a strong TripAdvisor presence, knowing exactly how TripAdvisor works can help you organically improve your rating.

Apart from customer reviews, TripAdvisor also breaks down your business relevancy through their Popularity Index. This index is based on traveler feedback and reflects how a property ranks compared to competitors within a geographic area. The algorithm used to measure your business’ relevancy is based on three main categories: Quantity, Quality and Recency.

Quantity

Both consumers and TripAdvsior’s Popularity Index give added recognition to businesses that have collected a large amount of reviews. It works like a badge of trust.

Use the TripAdvisor logo: Add the TripAdvisor logo to any material your customer might interact with before, during and after their experience with your business. Use the logo as a subtle tool to constantly remind your customers that you’d like to see their opinion on your performance. Add the TripAdvisor widget to your website, or place their stickers on your shuttle van. Remind your customers that their reviews are welcome every step of the way.

Quality

It’s no surprise that the best reviews come from happy customers. While the easiest way to ensure your customers are leaving positive reviews is by offering an incredible service and experience, there are a few ways you can continue to boost customer satisfaction even after they’ve left.

Focus on customer experience: Never underestimate the power of going above and beyond. Find new and exciting ways to cater to your customers needs, always taking the extra step to provide unparalleled customer service. Cater to each guests’ individual needs, making every experience personalized, authentic and memorable.

Respond to customer feedback: Customer service doesn’t end when your guests go home. Keep a pulse on every review that comes through your TripAdvisor account. Respond to five-star reviews with the same diligence as one-star reviews, showing the customer that you genuinely care about their opinion and want to improve your level of service. When writing a response, remember that your commentary is searchable, so including a few relevant terms such as “family-friendly” or “complimentary” can be beneficial.

Recency

The older the review, the less impact it has on your overall popularity ranking. This is just another reason to constantly encourage users to review your business, and to use their feedback to make exciting improvements to your business.

Always keep learning: TripAdvisor knows what makes a great review, and they want to empower you to grow your business. Their Insights page is a valuable and free resource that you should constantly reference for fresh ideas on how to optimize your presence.

The bottom line: When customers have a truly remarkable experience with your company, they’re more inclined to share their excitement. Pay attention to detail, value their feedback, constantly look for ways to improve, and your customers will be logging into TripAdvisor before they’ve even left your property.

Will The EMV Change Affect My Business?

What is EMV?

EMV (like some of the best things in life) is an acronym– Europay, Mastercard, Visa. It’s a new global standard for credit and debit payment cards based on chip card technology. Instead of transferring information through a magnetic swipe, smart chips embedded in EMV cards will deliver cardholder information, ensuring far more secure transactions.

The switch from magnetic stripe cards to chip cards is posed to dramatically reduce credit card fraud. As opposed to magnetic stripe cards, which contain static information that can be duplicated relatively easily, chip cards generate unique, one-time use codes for each transaction. As a result, credit card information will not only be much more difficult to duplicate, but also more difficult to abuse.

What’s it all mean?

EMV chip cards will still be equipped with a magnetic stripe, making them fully compatible with both classic magnetic stripe credit card readers and advanced chip readers.

That being said, the EMV rollout will not have any affect on the usage of standard, magnetic stripe credit cards. POS devices and software will not be affected by the change, and will operate just as smoothly with magnetic stripe credit cards as with EMV cards.

The migration towards EMV cards has already begun, bringing with it a liability shift that went into effect October 1st, 2015. Designed to encourage merchants to move towards adopting EMV-compliant devices, the shift means that merchants using non-EMV compliant devices can be held liable for fraudulent transactions made using an EMV card.

As defined by MasterCard, “This means that the party, either the issuer or merchant, who does not support EMV, assumes liability for counterfeit card transactions.”

What’s ahead for FareHarbor and EMV cards?

At present, there’s no compatible USB EMV readers on the market. We’re in the process of exploring Stripe’s card present API and compatibility with EMV (chip) cards, and we will be recommending a compatible reader once one becomes available. 

4 Simple Ways To Boost eCommerce Conversion Rates

When it comes to online marketing, getting visitors to your website isn’t the tough part, especially considering that the average person spends one in six waking minutes online. The real challenge comes with converting that stream of visitors into paying customers.

So what’s the key? It’s all about your checkout. Optimize your booking process with these four steps, and start changing site visitors into paying customers.

1. Decrease Options, Increase Sales.

When someone walks in the door at In-N-Out, they already know what they’re getting; a fresh burger and quick service. In fact, the only decision they really have to make is to cheese or not to cheese. Because they know exactly what to expect, people visiting In-N-Out are already arriving with the intent of buying.

Channel your inner In-N-Out when it comes to choice, and watch conversions increase. In theory, more options, the better. But in practice, it equates to more effort during the checkout process and a higher level of purchasing anxiety. Instead, offer visitors a targeted choice and a clear expertise. Your bookings will take flight.

For the greatest increase in conversions, offer two to four options. Make the decision even easier with banners that call out your “Most Popular” or “Best Value” options, providing visitors a clear-cut solution no matter what they’re looking for.

2. Build Trust (And Keep It).

Nobody – including your customers – really enjoys handing out their personal information to a faceless form over the internet. Ease the pain by taking a few extra steps to build trust with your site’s visitors and ensure their information security.

Your website is your company’s first impression. Make sure it’s professional and intuitive, with a direct call-to-action that gets visitors to their final objective with ease.

Welcoming visitors to an image-rich site with a simple, clean design is the first thing you can do to start building trust. Once the visitor has decided to make a purchase, continue building their trust as they move through the checkout.

Make sure your credit card processor is fully PCI compliant, and that your processing system safely and securely stores all of your customer’s credit card information.

3. Keep Visitors On The Same URL.

Consider this: only the unicorns of the e-commerce world ever achieve even a 4% conversion rate. Any customer who is even one-click away from completing a purchase is still at a volatile position in the sale.

For this reason, it’s essential that the customer isn’t forced to change URLs in the middle of the booking process. Moving the customer away from the original URL in the middle of the check-out flow instantly depletes trust. They’ve finally made the decision to trust one company, and navigating to a different URL asks them to blindly trust another. Stick to one URL and prevent any doubts.

4. No Making Accounts. Ever.

Never ask your customers to provide more information than is actually needed to complete the sale. On the same note, never subject your customers to receiving more than they’re asking for.

Customers looking to buy a product or experience are looking to do that and only that. Forcing them onto mailing lists or requiring them to make user accounts will only equate to lost conversions. In fact, 23% of eCommerce shoppers abandon their cart to avoid having to make a new user account.

Don’t make the mistake of forcing your customers to choose between your product and making an account.


Main takeaway: Build trust and make it easy. Your customers have options (a lot of ’em) when it comes to making an online purchase. Give them a good reason to choose your business.

Execute Your Ideas: Our 7-hour Reddit AMA

Our 7-hour Reddit AMA was grueling. But our results, AMAzing. We hope the good people of Reddit found some golden nuggets in our advice on business, entrepreneurship and taking ideas from zero to hero. To recap, we’ve highlighted some of the best, worst, and the realest of our AMA.

Most Useful Q&A

What’s the best way to go about increasing sales?

Take your time and test your output. When used the right way, Facebook ads can be the holy grail of product success. A/B test ads for every age group, interest and demographic until you find something that works. Try different images, alternative copy– then cut out any ads that don’t perform well and focus on the ads, or the parts of ads, that do.

What’s the best advice you could give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Find a problem to solve in a market that you’re passionate about. There’s no selling a solution to a problem that doesn’t actually exist. Focus on a real problem in a market you know well, and the solution will come easy.

Is it better to quit your day job and save up or keep working and develop an idea on the side?

“If you want to be an entrepreneur you need to be prepared to work some 90 hour weeks!” Whether your idea is Destruction Therapy or Toys For Children With Motor Skill Handicaps, there’s one variable that stays the same- it’s not gonna come easy. If you want to see your idea take flight, find the time to make it happen. Work hard. Lose sleep. Stay hungry.

Best One Liner

“Ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution will always win.”

Worst One Liner

“This guy knows how to sell. I want some dirty socks ASAP.”

The Realest

Trust the “doers.” Someone “who renovated their whole house to be energy efficient by hand” often has more gumption than “an MBA with no real world experience finishing anything other than a case study.”

“These days everyone thinks the answer is raising money. It’s not. It’s doing the hard work.” There is no secret formula. It’s not about the idea. It’s about who wants it more. Who’s going to work harder? There are 1,000 people in the world with your EXACT same idea. Are you going to execute better than the muppets? Beat them.”

The All-time Greatest Advice

Who cares if it’s half-baked. JUST START.

Why We Believe In Hiring People, Not Employees

A family-run business to the core, FareHarbor is about as human centric as it gets. From our employees to our clients, we recognize that people are the backbone of the business, and that blood is thicker than gold. In other words, as we continue to grow, we find that we’re more successful when we focus on building relationships rather than making that chedda’.

How does this relate to the hiring process? We’d be nothing if it weren’t for our team! From support to sales, it’s important that our clients feel at home when they’re working with us. If you didn’t know, we’re big on Ohana.

  1. Natural Skill v. Learned Skill

Resumes do a great job of highlighting learned skills. And while knowing what skills your future employee superstar already has is crucial, it’s only half the story. Would you rather teach your new employee how to operate your CRM or to be patient with customers? We thought so! Be cautious of how much weight you give a stacked resume – especially when it comes to outward-facing roles. Like ZenDesk suggests, hire for attitude, train for skill.

What’s it mean? Skills can be learned, experience can be gained, personality can be permanent.

  1. Know The Parameters of The Position You’re Hiring For

If it’s an incredibly technical position, experience can (and should) tip the scales. Especially for managerial positions, having someone who can hit the ground running is essential. On the other hand, if you’re hiring for a role where the leadership is already strong or the position doesn’t require specialized knowledge, you have more flexibility.

What’s it mean? Every position is a little different. There’s no one way to hire.

  1. One Rotten Apple…

The saying that your grandma overused about one rotten apple being able to ruin the whole barrel has never made more sense. Unless you’ve experienced it for yourself, it’s easy to underestimate the value of a team of people that genuinely enjoy their job. Support, positivity and general stoke can work miracles. Even the most cohesive team can feel the stress of an unhappy or unmotivated teammate. What your team is feeling, your customers will feel too!

What’s it mean? Look beyond the individual, stay focused on the team.

  1. Build A Team That You Love and Loves You Back

If you didn’t really read anything else in this post, read this! Build a team that is hard working, motivated and passionate about what they do and the sky’s the limit. Strive for a company culture where people are genuinely working towards a vision rather than a paycheck and the rest? It’ll be easy brah.

What’s it mean? A great product will mean nothing without the right people to help it grow.

Tips for Preventing Disputes

Credit card disputes are never fun, but when they do happen we’re here to help. We just published some info about the dispute process and how you can prevent disputes.

Security and Your Website

Since launching the Lightframe this summer, there have been some questions and mis-information out there about security. From the day we started FareHarbor, all communication between you, your customers, and FareHarbor has been securely encrypted over SSL. (When SSL is enabled on a website the address starts with https://, and browsers usually show a green lock icon.)

This has also always been true of the Lightframe.

Even so, we’ve always strongly encouraged that clients also add SSL to their websites. There are a few reasons for doing this:

  • It increases trust for customers visiting your website. The Lightframe basically loads a special page on https://fareharbor.com on top of your website, so although it is secure, the browser does not show the green lock because the main page the user is on doesn’t change.
  • Putting SSL on your site even has some SEO benefits, as Google’s future standards will rank sites served over SSL more highly, and you’ll be able to see the names of other https sites that linked to you in your analytics.
  • It’s more secure! If the connection between your visitor and your website were to be compromised, attackers would still not have access to the information being entered or submitted through the Lightframe. But a hacker could do things like direct your visitors to another fake checkout page.

Adding SSL to your site addresses all of these concerns, and is easy. SSL can usually be added by your web developer or through your hosting management for a minimal yearly fee. We’re committed to security and making sure you and your visitors stay safe. We’ll be contacting any of our clients currently using the Lightframe without SSL in the coming weeks to answer any questions and to help you choose the best option for you.

Conversion Rates, Trust, and Ease of Use

Do you know your conversion rate – how well your website is able to “convert” an online visitor into a paying customer? We measure and improve conversions in two ways: by continually updating and tweaking our reservation forms, and by tracking conversion data across all of our clients’ websites. This allows us to make some general assumptions about why some websites convert at a higher rate than others.

When thinking about conversions, there are four value propositions that drive conversion: appeal, exclusivity, trust, and clarity. For this post, we are going to focus on trust. Why trust? It’s the reason FareHarbor launched on-site checkout for desktops earlier this year. (While trust is still important in mobile and tablet checkout, on-site checkout is less of a concern given URL visibility and design constraints.)

Since launching FareHarbor, one of the most requested features was on-site checkout—our clients inherently understood that their web visitors could be concerned about URL changes. How many times have you visited a website and prepared to make a purchase only to back out when you were redirected to a third party to complete the purchase? You had already made the decision to “trust” the website you were on and then were redirected to a third party to complete the transaction. (Check out this example.) With so many new startups in e-commerce, you likely didn’t recognize the URL and maybe had second thoughts.

Cart Abandonment and Conversions

shoppingcart

It’s important to recognize that in e-commerce, 2-3% is considered a high conversion rate. That rate is even further challenged in travel where just 1% is considered high, and there is nearly a 90% cart abandonment rate at checkout! Cart abandonment is the failure to complete a reservation after having filled out all required information (all that was left was clicking “Complete Booking!”). With such low conversion rates, websites must minimize any potential friction and build up their trust factor as much as possible. In this vein, FareHarbor launched the LightFrame™ earlier this year. The Lightframe is an embed that allows your customers to book, pay, and get their confirmation securely — all without leaving your website. For an example, click on a date on the calendar on this page: http://www.xtremeparasail.com/parasail.html.

 Customers using the Lightframe on-site checkout are 2.5x more likely to complete their purchase.

After migrating customer websites to the Lightframe, we saw an immediate increase in conversions of 22.6%! Unfortunately, due to missing-in-action website designers or, even worse, drag-and-drop website editors without support for JavaScript embeds, not all of our clients are able to take advantage of on-site checkout. Fortunately, for our overall client base, we are able to now run optimization tests and compare data between sites that use the Lightframe and those that still have on-site checkout. The data is astounding: customers using the Lightframe are 2.5x more likely to complete their purchase.

Don’t sacrifice ease of use to increase trust

Now that we understand the importance of on-site checkout and trust, let’s quickly discuss how ease of use is just as necessary when providing an on-site checkout solution. Recently we’ve noticed that some of our competitors have been using unacceptable design in their haste to create on-site checkout. While iframes are very useful for embedding static images or badges (think a TripAdvisor review badge or Facebook like button), they are terrible solutions for dynamic embeds like reservation forms. Most companies have reservation forms that shrink or expand based on the number of fields. The end result is that when the iframe containers are not big enough to display all of the fields, the webpage will display a scrolling window within a scrolling window. For beginner web users, this can be one of the most confusing parts of a website, especially if they accidentally turned off scrollbars on their new Apple computer—in that case, they might not even recognize that they need to scroll down!

FareHarbor is always focused on providing our users and clients with the best-in-class checkout process. This means always considering the 5 biggest factors in online conversion. We always avoid sacrificing one metric, like ease of use, for the benefit of another, like trust, when possible. Interested in learning more and optimizing your online checkout process with FareHarbor’s on-site checkout via Lightframe? Watch our short demo video and let us know that you’d like to learn more. We’re excited to help!

Don’t let aggregators control your backend

Most online aggregators do not have access to live availability. Aggregators are defined as an “Internet company that collects information about competing products and services and distributes it through a single Web site” by the The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. In travel, this could mean anything from a company that lists all tours in an area, like Hawaii Activities listing Hawaii tours or Scubaba listing all scuba companies.

For those unfamiliar with online aggregation, it usually works like this: You list your tour with an online aggregator. Listing is usually free, although some do charge upfront setup and listing fees. For every booking generated via the online aggregator, a commission is paid. This rate most often ranges from 15% to 30%.

Aggregators and live availability

Without access to live inventory, aggregators are forced to use older methods of confirming bookings made via their website, like phone or email. While this might lead some “live and confirmed” bookings to not actually be available, the distinction doesn’t phase the aggregator. They are able to handle the mishaps and are usually able to book their customers on a similar tour or activity.

Do most wish they had access to live availability or that their customers could make “real” live bookings via their website? Of course! In both situations, tour and activity customers would have a much better experience. This was very apparent when answering phone calls for North Shore Catamaran — most unhappy customers were given incorrect or outdated information via an aggregator. (We’re working on some solutions to this at FareHarbor.)

Work with aggregators…

In my last post, I discussed why activity companies should work with aggregators and what type of aggregators are preferred partners. One of the most important points is that tour and activity providers should not limit themselves to a certain number of aggregators as long as the price and marketing/visibility are appropriate. Over the last year, two aggregators have made concerted efforts to monopolize the live availability of their clients. They’ve offered to promote businesses that sign on and have promised droves of bookings if they are the only aggregator allowed to resell an operator or tour. Both are bad options.

…but don’t let them control your backend.

Your reservation system should only be focused on your tour and activity company’s success. It shouldn’t be concerned with which aggregators are providing you business or what you are paying your aggregators. Unlike investment banks, aggregation companies do not have Chinese Walls. This means that the team that controls the aggregator’s SEO or Adwords account might use your company’s reports to improve their efforts. (And don’t forget, if the booking originates on the aggregator’s website, you owe commission). And most important, your most valuable aggregation partners might be scared knowing that one of their competitors now has access to their financial information. This could lead to dropped accounts, business, or even worse, a lawsuit.

And why is it a bad idea to enter into an exclusive relationship with an aggregator? First off, by limiting the number of resellers, a business is limiting its marketing scope, and effectively its direct bookings. Secondly, these preferred partnerships usually come with a higher commission, not lower. A higher commission is not acceptable in a circumstance where an aggregator is demanding exclusivity.

In an exclusive relationship (which is sure to lead to less bookings), the commission amount should be lower. Finally, here in Hawaii, many tour companies have “preferred” relationships with aggregators. Unlike with “exclusive” reselling rights, the aggregator promotes the tour and activity company while still allowing the tour company to work with others.  This rewards both parties for the relationship.

It’s very important to have a hand on how much business aggregators provide and their commission levels (this is easily attainable using FareHarbor’s reports). The next time an aggregator proposes an “exclusive” relationship, counteroffer a “preferred” relationship with a higher commission. And keep an eye on bookings. If the additional commission doesn’t generate enough new business, ask your partner if the commission isn’t high enough, or bring it back in line with your other partners.

If you are in the tour and activity business, I’d recommend you check out FareHarbor. We’re interested in your long term success and in helping you manage and maintain your reseller relationships profitably.