Category Archives: About SharonINK

SharonINK Joins The Trades Publishing Company

By Sharon Scott Wilson

Jack Richardson at The Trades Publishing Company gave me a call in 1993 to ask if I would begin writing a monthly column for its publication Resort Trades. I had met Jack and his boss, Trades Owner/Publisher Tim Wilson, in 1989 while I worked for ARDA (or, ARRDA at that time). Jack passed away several years later; Tim and I continue to remember him fondly.

After I established my PR and content marketing company, SharonINK in 2006, I continued to write for The Trades. Tim and I married in 2013 and in 2017 Tim asked me to take over as publisher of The Trades’ two publications, Resort Trades and Golf Course Trades. Resort Trades’ audience consists of vacation providers, including timeshare resorts, travel companies, membership clubs, and rental companies. Readers of Golf Course Trades are course owners, operators, and superintendents interested in staying current with their industry.

With the advent of digital media, both titles began to explore the opportunities inherent with the ability to offer a full marketing mix. Because The Trades can now offer a multi-channel approach to help vendors use both the power of print and the reach of the Internet to promote their products, it made sense to add another feature – Content Marketing – to the company toolbox. Engrossed as I was by my duties as publisher and media director for Tim’s housing development, I decided to fold the writing and promotional services from SharonINK into The Trades as THE TRADES INK with its access to a fine team of writers, copy editors, graphic designers, and digital experts.

Perhaps the most significant initiative of THE TRADES is our investment in search engine optimization (SEO). We recently promoted Carrie Vandever to the position of Digital Media Manager. She will be in charge of managing and leading content for the company’s various digital assets including ResortTrades.com, the Resort Trades Weekly eNewsletter, GolfCourseTrades.com, the Golf Course Trades Supplier Directory, the Golf Course Trades Weekly eNewsletter, and all social media platforms. She will also provide leadership in directing the development of The Trades’ search engine optimization (SEO) activities.

The Trades’ SEO Initiative

At our home headquarters, we have been passing around a game-changing book by Will Coombe entitled, 3 Months to No. 1. Resort marketing and human resource professionals who excel at ranking at the top of Google searches are finding the effort to learn this craft extremely useful.

Coombe appropriately bills his masterpiece as “the ‘no-nonsense’ SEO playbook for getting your website found on Google.” Besides recommending it wholeheartedly to our readers, we’ve made the book — particularly his step-by-step, week-by-week “SEO Blueprint and Checklist” — our new corporate user’s manual.

The reason we’re giving this so much of our attention should be evident: We want to serve our readers, to give them enough value that they’ll keep coming back. As they continue to review our material, we receive our reward — higher Google ratings. And as Resort Trades receives higher ratings, so do our advertisers…. Win-win!

I don’t know why it took me so long to fully appreciate the value of SEO; to ‘get it.’ But since I’ve been through my Great Awakening, I’ve taken on the mantle of evangelist. I find myself talking about it to everyone I know!

 My message is perhaps being preached to the choir: In online marketing — whether you’re appealing as a vendor to professionals in the resort/vacation/resort rental business, or you are marketing a resort product to consumers, for example — you can compete virtually with any competitor. It’s just a matter of appearing higher on a Google SERP (search engine results page) than others.

When resort marketers or vendors become complacent and feel their reputation is well established and they are being followed by loyal customers: Bang! Along comes a disruptive interloper. And these days, more often than not, the obtrusive intruder grabs your customer’s attention by appearing above you on a SERP!

Try This at Home:

First Step: Keyword Research. You’ll want to use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool whether or not you are buying an ad. It’s free, but you have to work around a pretty persistent series of landing pages insisting you sign up for an advertising campaign. Visit Joshua Hardwick’s blog post https://ahrefs.com/blog/google-keyword-planner/ for a step-by-step guide to avoid the expense. Another really helpful site is Neil Patel’s blog, https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/

How important is Content Marketing? It is 100 percent, absolutely, totally vital. There is a delicately balanced mixture of art and science involved in pleasing the Google algorithm deities and one of the major offerings you must present at its unholy altar (no offense, Google…just trying to make a point) is a consistent, intelligent, and keyword-clever volume of content.

If perhaps you’re wondering where to start, my advice is simple: study the blogs and books coming from the most notable SEO gurus and, meanwhile, start building a volume of work in the form of blogs and posts.

Just a few tips:

  • Be likeable; show you’re human. People buy from those they know, like and trust.
  • Create a sense of belonging. Resorts are often very good at making their guests feel they are part of an exclusive group. Wine and dine them, woo them like a lover.
  • Use storytelling whenever possible. Your blogs, your collateral and your social media will be most effective when you tell a story featuring people. Storytelling is the most compelling promotional tool you have.
  • Use events whenever possible. Ask a car salesman or a realtor. They will tell you that the words “Grand Opening” or “Super Sales Event” draws a crowd, even though the prices and offerings are the same on a non-event day.
  • Being different is better than being better (unless you get weird). Here’s where having a sizable volume of good, solid content can set you apart.
  • Focus on leads, not sales.

Blog Away, Oh Pilgrim!

How do you build content? Blog! Here are some more tips:

  • Pay careful attention to writing attention-grabbing headlines in your blog and social media posts. The best headlines create surprise, ask a question or create curiosity.
  • Use your keywords in headlines and the text whenever possible. Use pictures everywhere. Pictures and videos with people telling their own stories, your story…any story…are hot these days.
  • If you’re studying this post, you are probably a perfectionist seeking to produce highly researched and well-written materials. While it is important to create as grammatically correct and accurate posts, try to not procrastinate. Experts say, get it out there..
  • We didn’t have a chance to discuss cross linking in this post; I guess that’s worth a post all by itself. All of your online efforts are intended to drive traffic to your website.

It has been suggested you should add a landing page to every URL.I confess to be behind the times when it comes to adding these to my own sites. (Do as I say; not as I do!) Offer some special information in exchange for contact information. People are accustomed to being asked to give something to get something. But provide a landing page as an option for viewers to fill out, whether it’s gated or open.

All in all, remember that SEO is a lifestyle change, not a diet. Make it your marketing priority and don’t assume you will ever catch up totally with All Knowledge. Things are happening too quickly out there; just do your best. And good luck!

Sharon Scott Wilson is Publisher and Managing Partner at The Trades Publishing Company, a media and digital content marketing company located in Crossville, Tennessee. The Trades produces multi-media channels supporting resort and rental marketing professionals, golf course owners and superintendents, and a niche community of luxury homes with attached, fully-enclosed RV garages. GardensRV.com; ResortTrades.com; GolfCourseTrades.com.

Timeshare Exit Companies Under Fire

The timeshare industry and companies that help you exit your timeshare are at war, according to a MSN.com 50-second video: http://a.msn.com/01/en-us/BBRsPMn?ocid=se. According to freelance writer and longtime resort industry veteran Sharon Scott Wilson, “Timeshare exit companies have popped up everywhere, it seems. Many of them attempt to mislead consumers who have entered into legally binding real estate agreements by persuading them to essentially lie. Often these companies advise consumers to make claims that they were misled in the sales process and, in so doing, they are told they may then refuse to meet their mortgage and annual homeowner fee obligations.”

“While the legal system needs to protect individuals who have legitimate complaints, it does not condone fraudulent claims,’” she added. “Before attending a timeshare presentation, I would advise people to do some research. One informative resource is BayTreeSolutions.com, a timeshare resort resale provider. (By way of full disclosure, Bay Tree Solutions is a client of mine and the company’s CEO, Doug Milbrath, is one of what I would call ‘the good guys.’)

“In addition, I recommend reading Lisa Ann Schreier’s Timeshare Vacations for Dummies, which I have found to have plenty of good information. You can also visit VacationBetter.org, a consumer-oriented website managed by the American Resort Development Industry.”

About Sharon Scott Wilson

Wilson writes print/online content for blog posts, feature-length articles, and social media. She is experienced in planning and implementation of online marketing strategy, and is a prolific business writer. Her timeshare industry-focused B2B articles have appeared on numerous occasions in Resort Trades, DEVELOPMENTS (ARDA’s magazine) and other media.  Sharon is Publisher of Resort Trades and Golf Course Trades magazines.  Her PR and marketing firm, SharonINK, recently became a subsidiary of The Trades Publishing Company.

Media Contact: Sharon Scott Wilson, RRP;  SharonINK.com; 310-923-1269

THE TRADES INK

Let Us Create Content That Sells!

  • Business-to-consumer (B2C): Our writers specialize in travel, vacation ownership, golf course equipment and maintenance, and RVing.
  • B2B materials: Let us create content that will help you sell products and services
  • Affordable pricing:  our work is customized to reflect your brand and produce results.
  • Quick turn-around: blog posts, feature-length articles, advertising, news releases, and collateral.

*Directed by experienced writer Sharon Scott Wilson (shown above).

Contact Marla@TheTrades.com or call (931) 484-8819.

ARDA Then And Now

In 1989 on my first day of work as membership director at the American Resort Development Association ARDA (then called ARRDA for the inclusion of the word, residential), my boss, Cynthia Huheey, and then-president Tom Franks began to explain “timeshare” to me. It was a business about which I was unfamiliar and, in fact, what little I had heard was not very positive. Over the next few years ARDA  and its volunteer officers and board of directors faced down challenges: There were a number of crooked marketers selling ‘vaporware,’ plus one of the biggest scandals occurred in California when a company called Glen Ivy sold the same inventory to multiple customers.

For the most part it was an energy-charged, positive period encouraging creativity among entrepreneurial developers, marketers and exchange companies. Marketers were in their element: sending direct mail, opening off-premises sales booths in high-traffic tourist areas and employing contests to gather names and phone numbers. And of course there were those who sought to hoodwink the crowd.  It was the Wild West and ARDA served as posse for the straight-shooters by denying membership to unethical players.

With limited consumer protection in place at the time, Tom, Cynthia and our highly respected legislative affairs person Stephany Madsen helped lobby larger developers and marketers to self-police the industry to shut down miscreants. As I remember it, ARDA did it all with a team of less than ten people. We each did the work of two or three. (Today, ARDA has approximately 30 employees.)

A tribute to ARDA’s success was the entrance into the market by publicly-held hoteliers including Disney, Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt and with them, the decade of consolidation. The new millennium witnessed the growth of large companies becoming public and performing asset-backed securitizations. These larger developers provided a clearer field of play for smaller, independent developers and with them, brought greater security for a handful of specialty lenders. Interestingly, the recent recession separated the wheat from the chaff, both among developers and lenders. Resort operators with sound marketing practices who set higher credit score standards and their lenders were the victors.

These days ARDA continues to face down threats, most of them in the form of governmental groups looking to double-tax timeshare owners. Typically, owners hold an interest in real estate that is often held in a trust in exchange for vacation points, which can be put to use for greater flexibility when they don’t wish to visit their “home resort.” One of ARDA’s never failing duties is to explain to bureaucrats that owners pay property taxes and should therefore be exempt from transit occupancy taxes charged to hotel guests.

When I left ARDA’s employ in 1992, there were approximately 800 corporate members – just about the same number as today. The majority – approximately 80 percent – of ARDA’s corporate members are suppliers and vendors if one includes resale, exchange and management companies in addition to those who provide everything from finance, marketing and legal services to mattresses and outdoor furniture. In essence the value ARDA provides to its members comes from participation in the annual spring convention and the fall conference. Attendees come to discuss deals, find new business or, simply, to remind one another they are still viable.

Amazingly, the ARDA events continue to witness the nascence of creative new ideas, such as new pay-for-service arrangements whereby established developers provide sales and marketing services for resorts no longer in development. If you could time-travel to past ARDA conventions, the attire of the attendees would indicate where you were on the timeline: Gold chains and white bucks signified the late 80s/early 90s’ mavericks; three-piece designer suits befitted the heyday of the late 90s until shortly before the recession. These days, ‘resort casual’ signifies a more self-assured, confident group intent on making sound business decisions, rather than an impression.

With the economic crisis now in the rear-view mirror, today’s attendees most likely will continue with a no-nonsense approach by bringing thoughtful, inventive ideas that innovate new ways to promote the vacation lifestyle. It would be unfair not to mention the ARDA team’s innate sense of dedication to improving the lives of their members and member resorts’ customers. There are more than 2,000 trade associations operating in the Washington, DC area. It’s doubtful that many of them share this level of commitment.