Tourist Guides – Let Clients Find You on the Internet

Why is internet critical to business of a tourist guide? Because most people begin their travel planning online, looking for flights, accommodation, travel insurance, destination review, AND tourist guides. According to the Travel Trust Index Report 2008, 78% of the Americans use the web to make travel decisions and 68% trust the web for travel related advice.

How to let your clients find you on the internet? Here are some suggestions.

Get an email address. This may sound too obvious to miss. But the basic way to promote your business online is allowing your clients to contact by email. Email is instant, convenient and free, especially for overseas clients who are making their initial inquires. It saves them the trouble of time difference or phone costs. When a client emails you, he or she is probably interested in your guiding service. Congratulations! But be careful of the email delivery. Some mail servers are strong in anti-spam, sometime too strong for a tourist guide. Prospect clients, in most cases, are strangers. So make sure you don’t miss any client request in your junk folder or bounced back by your email server. It is better to choose good global suppliers or big local service providers.

Display on a web page. Present your personal information and service on a web page. This is not your own website. It refers to other websites that allow people to create a personal profile page. Your clients may find your page via online search or by referral of friends. It helps to build up trust before further communication. Do pay attention to the relevancy of website where you display your service. You don’t expect people look for tourist guides from a website of IT experts, right? Try searching for websites of tourist guides, local guides association, and tour suppliers. They are highly relevant to your business. Besides, information on these sites is more authentic to travelers. Another option is local classifieds if the majority of your clients are from a certain location. The more relevant, the more clients you would receive.

Create a personal blog. If you are a bit tech-savvy and can spend some time every week, create a blog on your guiding area. You don’t need to write like a professional writer. The content can be as simple as a scenery photo, or a short spot introduction, or your personal recommendations. You are a tourist guide who knows the area well and would like to share it with visitors. Three suggestions if you decide to start a blog. First, give a brief self-introduction and leave your contacts. Remember why you created a blog? To let your clients find you. If you can speak several languages, speak it out in those languages as well. Second, keep it updated. Once a week can be good enough. If people see your post stopped 6 months ago, they would think the information out of date, even though your contacts find you well. Last but not least, keep the comments on and reply to them. The comment field is a great way to get feedback and interact with your blog readers, the possible future clients.

Network with prospect clients. Social networking grows popular at Web 2.0 era. There are now numerous social networking sites, with some specifically for travelers. The challenge lies in finding prospect clients of you from millions of travelers. The downside is time consuming. It is easy to find new people, but takes time to build up and maintain relationship for a real connection. It is up to you how much time you would like to spend on these networking sites.

Build a website. This action requires time and money investment. But you present more professionally with your own website. Your personal background, service provided, client testimonials, blog and others information can all be centralized in one place. Moreover, adding the website to your business card is a good way of promotion.

If you have more budget and higher ambition for your tour guiding business, you can go one step further with paid online marketing. Here are two ways for you to start with – paid search advertisements like Google Adwords, Yahoo Sponsored Search, Microsoft adCenter, and affiliation with relevant travel parties.

Internet is such a big resource that you shall not miss it, even if you only work as a tourist guide in a small town less visited by travelers. Visitors may need your accompany for more local insights. Do present yourself on the internet and let your clients find you for a memorable trip.

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Software Product Development-the Unsolved Mystery of High Tech

One of the most puzzling things in high technology, especially for executives on the business side of things, is the software development process. It’s the high tech equivalent to the “Black Hole” phenomenon made famous in Astronomy. Endless resources can be poured into a software development project, yet there never seems to be an end in sight. Monitoring the progress of a software project can be like peering into the darkness of a seemingly bottomless pit.

And why is this so? It seems that in such a typically high tech, yet now familiar activity, we would have long ago figured it out. We’re in an age where PCs, with the power of supercomputers from just a few years back, are slapped together like bicycles, and don’t cost much more than a bike. You would think that the process of software development would, by now, amount to simply turning a crank–yet it seems it hasn’t advanced much since the dawn of the PC age.

I don’t mean to be overly dramatic here. But I have been in the high tech and software industries since 1983, and I have never been involved with–or even personally known of a software project–that came in on time and under budget. Never. Not even ONCE. That’s pretty incredible. Now, I realize that there are almost certainly examples of on-schedule projects out there, but they are in the overwhelming minority of all software that is developed.

THEY ALWAYS SLIP

It’s just accepted in the software business that projects will slip, particularly when the end result is an actual commercial product. The businesses I’ve been involved in have tried everything. When I’ve had direct responsibility, we’ve taken every approach imaginable. We’ve tried an approach of “No upfront planning”–starting coding as soon as possible. We’ve tried “extensive and laborious upfront planning”–with a detailed spec, and a prototype, completed prior to initiating production coding. I’ve seen many projects that tried using intermediate steps, falling between the two extreme approaches above. We’ve tried to start projects by purchasing as many “pre-written” modules as possible, used various languages and platforms, hired dedicated debugging personnel, tried code-generators, assembled both small teams & large teams, you name it–we’ve tried it. Project schedules have been written with the utmost conservatism, at the insistence of senior management. No matter. Across a number of different companies, EVERY project has slipped out beyond the wildest nightmares or everyone involved.

ONE LINE OF CODE, TWO WEEK DELAY

Once I asked our lead programmer to change ONE LINE OF CODE in a well-established product. He estimated it would take just a few seconds to make the change, and a few hours to test it. The change would be final by the end of the day, at the latest. Two weeks later I was still waiting for a solid product.

Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not writing this to bash software developers. While not every developer I’ve worked with over the years has been a world-beater, I’ve had the fortune to work with quite a number whom I consider to be outstanding. Many have been extremely bright, dedicated and hard working. But no matter how much thought, time and effort went into it, our projects always slipped. A lot. We usually ended up with a commercially successful product, but how much better we could have done, had we figured out a way to bring the product to market on time? The only saving grace was the competition had the same problem.

MORE ART THAN SCIENCE

The reason, I believe, is that writing software remains much more of an art than a science. This statement is a bit surprising, until you look a little deeper. There is certainly much methodology available to guide a team to use sound, time-tested practices in developing software. However, a software program is really just a document written in a foreign language. That’s why C++ and Java are called Programming Languages. It’s also interesting that many programmers who aren’t classically trained in computer science come from an English, Music, or other language background. Just like in writing a novel you are guided by syntax, grammar and writing rules, writing a software program is very similar. In writing a novel you are essentially creating a unique work that has never been done quite the same way before. Also true for a software program. If you knew exactly how the writing of a novel or software program would go before you began, there would be no need to write it–it would have already been done. While there are plenty of rules (representing the science) to writing good software, at the end of the day it’s a unique, written creation (the art).

COMPLEXITY OVERWHELMS EXPERIENCE

Another key reason why conquering the software development process has appeared to be impossible, is the vastly increased complexity associated with software projects today. Let’s face it, the average piece of software today does a lot more, and is quite a larger in terms of the number of lines of code, than at the dawn of the PC era. The creation of graphical user interfaces really started the explosion in the size of software code. So much more code is needed, to bring the user-friendly products of today to life. And what enabled this, of course, was the dawn of the modern operating systems, especially the overcoming of the 640K limit that the original DOS operating system required PC programs to run in. Windows and other modern operating systems almost eliminated the need to write software efficiently, at least from a code size perspective. Today the embedded systems world is pretty much the last bastion where writing code efficiently lives on–it’s pretty much a lost art to most of the software world. It’s interesting to speculate–if we were still writing in the 640K box, would software development have evolved to a more predictable science today? Maybe, but the world would be a less productive as a result.

WHAT TO DO FROM A BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE?

As you can tell from this discussion, I don’t have a great set of answers on how to bring software to market on time. It’s one of the great frustrations of my career. I still strongly believe that getting the best people you can get will make the problem better, even if it can’t be solved completely. I also believe in keeping development teams small, with the minimum of structure necessary to run the project. It’s also wise, in my opinion, to structure your product releases to be more frequent, while adding fewer new features per release. This should at least minimize the pain of each release slipping, since the slip time of each release should be less. And knowing what you’re going to be coding, developing a spec document and sticking to it (no feature creep!) is also sound practice, although I’ve found it to be no panacea. Beyond that, I’m at a loss. Maybe one of you has a strong opinion on how to bring projects out on time? If so, send me a comment–this is a discussion worth having.