Category Archives: Blogging

Celebrating Independence Day, Independent-LY!

By Sharon Scott Wilson

(Reprinted from Bay Tree Solutions Blog with Permission.)

In a workaday world, most of us occasionally get the feeling we’re trapped. Let’s face it: we’re just not taking enough time off from the daily grind to free ourselves from stress and lack of rest. As I write this, we are heading into the July 4th Independence Day holiday and you know what? I’ll bet many of us can’t remember when we actually took a week’s vacation!

According to an article written by Daniel B. Kline for “The Motley Fool,” @CNNMoney*, “Americans are self-defeating when it comes to vacation. A 2016 Bankrate study showed that more than 50% of U.S. workers give up at least some of their paid vacation days each year. On top of that, an earlier report in 2014 showed that 42% of Americans claimed they don’t take vacation time at all.

“That’s potentially bad for workers and their employers. Taking time off — whether it be a short break or an extended vacation — can help you function better at work. ‘There is a lot of research that says we have a limited pool of cognitive resources,’ Allison Gabriel, an assistant professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University told Entrepreneur [magazine]. ‘When you are constantly draining your resources, you are not being as productive as you can be. If you get depleted, we see performance decline. You’re able to persist less and have trouble solving tasks.’”

How about you? Are you longing to shake off those golden handcuffs? Perhaps it’s time to take a look at making a commitment to yourself and your family to take an honest-to-goodness vacation each and every year. In fact, maybe this your moment in which you begin to turn over the proverbial new leaf. You might even start to move forward by celebrating July 4th in a luxurious resort condo of your very own….At least, you can own a piece of one.

Call It Vacation Ownership; Call It Timeshare….But Most of All, Call It Freedom!

Ask anyone who owns points or a week at a timeshare resort and, invariably, they’ll go on and on about how much better it is to vacation in one, rather than staying in a hotel. It’s much more than a room! Most resorts have 2- and 3-bedroom units with living rooms, separate bedrooms with their own bathrooms, kitchens, dining areas, and balconies.

Family meals together are back in the picture. There’s no more stuffing your family into one hotel room to eat pizza on the bed! No way! You’ll have a fully equipped kitchen for those grab-it-and-go meals or to whisk up a big batch of spaghetti complete with Grandma’s spicy meatballs. If your family enjoys games, sports, swimming, or golfing, most resorts have enough choices of activities to fill the bill.

Oh! And speaking of Independence, did we mention your exchange privileges? You’ll have the freedom to explore a new destination every year if you’re the adventuresome type. Depending on the value of your vacation ownership purchase, it’s entirely possible to spend a week in Orlando one year, another in Europe the next, and yet-another in Hawaii or Bali after that! Or, you may prefer to reconnect with your loved ones in a familiar place for an annual reunion.

Vacation ownership allows you to invest in your happiness and in your relationship with your family by ensuring you take future vacations—and saves you money in the long run. Once you own a timeshare, your vacation choices are almost limitless. You can choose different destinations, resorts, and times of the year. Through exchange programs, you can select places around the world—for your family vacation, a girlfriend getaway, adventurous solo travel, a romantic retreat—whatever your heart desires.

Is It Too Late to Enjoy a Resort on July 4th?

Maybe not! The July 4th holiday falls smack-dab in the middle of the year; that’s “Week 26.” As I write this, it’s close to the last week in June 2018. If you were to purchase a floating week today, there may still be an opportunity to enjoy your first holiday in Week 26. Take a look at Bay Tree Solutions’ list of available weeks at Marriott Vacation Club and note: They are all floating. I’d urge you to call Bay Tree at 800-647-4130 for more specifics.

Imagine watching Independence Day fireworks light the sky over Cinderella’s Castle! At the time of this post, Bay Tree Solutions had several timeshare choices available in Kissimmee, Florida. Among them were some great bargains like the Holiday Inn Club Vacations at Orange Lake Resort-East Village. Located on over 1,000 acres of mystical wetlands adjacent to the Walt Disney World Complex, the East Village of Orange Lake Resort offers luxury mid-rise condos overlooking the championship Arnold Palmer designed golf course. You can choose from two- or three-bedroom units that accommodate eight or ten people respectively, with full kitchens, private patios, washers/dryers, and flat-panel TVs. East Village amenities include golf pro shop, sports bar, pools and spas, and a fitness center. Plus, Orange Lake Resort owners and guest enjoy access to amenities at the other three villages: West Village, North Village, and the newest River Island. Browse East Village timeshares for sale by owner now to save thousands!

Or, what could be more in keeping with the Spirit of ’76 than a vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia? From historic sites to roller coasters of great heights, there’s something for everyone. Did you know that General George Washington assembled the Continental Army in Williamsburg in 1781 for the siege of nearby Yorktown? From there, his ragged team fought what was, at the time, the largest military organization in the world and won the war for American independence. The famous attorney, planter, and orator Patrick Henry, known for his brave statement, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” had his plantation nearby. The town’s newest timeshare resort, Patrick Henry Square, was given the moniker in honor of the early patriot.

Perhaps you are reading this article after the 2018 Independence Day has come and gone. Well then, this is the perfect time to start planning for next year…or even, next month! It’s never too late to declare your own independence from drudgery and commit to happiness!

*http://money.cnn.com/2017/11/08/pf/jobs/taking-vacation/index.html

Online Marketing on Tablet

Recap: Online marketing techniques you must try in 2019!

By Sharon Scott Wilson

We posted these tips last year and think they are applicable now. Here’s what we said then:

It’s easier to catch a scampering mouse than to stay current with Google’s mercurial algorithm. Plus, experts say a goldfish has a greater attention span than a human in today’s online environment. That means you have less than eight seconds to make an impact! But does this make marketers in the resort industry give up on online marketing? No way! Your attempts may not be as trumpeted (pardon the pun) as often as those from the Tweeter-in-Chief, but here are a few tactics to help you enhance your game:

Dramatic messaging

People respond emotionally, which means you still need to follow the strictures of the human psyche. This is where even a small company can get ahead if you just use your noggin:

  1. Your blogs, your collateral, and your social media will be most effective when you tell a story featuring people. Touch them! Reach them on that emotional level.
  2. Your business is NOT a commodity; it’s unique and special. Make your customer feel that. Let them know they are part of an inner circle; they belong.
  3. Dramatic comes from the root word, “drama,” after all. So, build some in. Use rituals, symbols and events whenever possible. Ask your typical 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.
  4. Being different is better than being better (unless you get weird). Why, one might ask, does the rather ordinary squirrel picture labeled “cute and friendly” get 158 ‘likes’ while the squirrel brutally taking down a stuffed animal and ripping it to shreds gets 1,000? I rest my case.

Weaponize your website

Blog! Analysts who track Google’s algorithm processes say that blogging – optimally with 1500-word-or-greater posts, complemented by a mélange of social media interaction, all with the intent of driving traffic to your website, will rule in 2018.

Install landing pages. (Check out www.instapage.com or www.hubspot.com for the latest on these.) Create a calendar for when you will blog, post to social media, and buy pay-per-click (PPC) ads. (By the way, explore PPC. It is instant SEO [Search Engine Optimization] bait.) As for the site itself, the most valuable real estate is the left-hand side. Get viewers to your call to action with a solid landing page. Hold in mind, viewers read websites in the shape of an “F.” (Who knew?)

Sock-it-to-‘em headlines

As far as what to include in your blogging and socializing, the number one rule is to 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 what’s hot these days. These are tools to make your stories come alive and help prospects see themselves as part of your world.

Free online marketing advice

There are a number of free or low-cost software systems to help schedule, manage and track posts, including buffer.com, zoho.com, hootsuite.com, and postplanner.com.

You can find free guidance for social media best practices from sites such as salesforce.com, mashable.com and guykawasaki.com. At least for now in 2018, you’ll need a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and perhaps to LinkedIn and Google+.

If you’re delving into online marketing for the first time, rest assured, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take it a step at a time, give yourself a pat on the back, and remind yourself occasionally about how far you’ve come.

4 Reasons Why Blogging is Still Relevant

(Reprinted with permission from the May 2018 edition of Resort Trades magazine.)

By Sharon Scott Wilson

When someone first came up with the use of blogging as a marketing tool, the business world practically swooned. Here was a low-cost solution for connecting with your audience and building relationships. The concept originally surfaced in 1994 when a college student created a website in order to get his writing online. In a few years the term “web log” was shortened to “weblog” and, eventually to just simply “blog.” By 2002, blogging had arrived, complete with its very own search engine, Technorati. (The website stopped indexing blogs and assigning authority scores in May 2014 after its creators launched a separate online publishing and advertising site.)

During the following 16 years, blogging became a veritable Fourth of July celebration. You couldn’t stop the fireworks as ever-greater advancements set an increasingly higher bar. Clever marketers were adding video, introducing landing pages, and floating advertising in front of the viewer, with increasingly more complex gimmicks. But lately, social media is the new darling in online marketing.

It begs the question; is blogging the dinosaur, the buggy whip…the Princess phone? It seems now we are being told to dedicate our best fireworks to our social media platforms. We’re expected to expand our presence on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Exhausted content providers are beginning to wonder. Given the fact that we are operating at top speed and actively using the most current social media tools, are our blog sites really all that useful? Are they relevant?

You bet! And here’s why:

  1. You will optimize your website.

In the mid-90s, I remember being advised that I could outwit Google and boost my search result ranking by adding a lot of descriptive tags and metadata to a website. At the time, we would cram keywords into our copy like a contestant at a hot dog eating contest. Today, that technique would create a blackball situation for your brand, not to mention angering impatient readers unwilling to wade through layers of unnecessary, extraneous copy. True, I still advise you to use keywords when possible, particularly in headlines. The idea is to avoid using nonsensical and obvious ploys.

Instead, today’s SEO experts have learned their lesson: go for quality, rather than quantity. The ideal blog garners a loyal audience, which values your content and will, therefore, share it with others in their community. If instead you use an inauthentic, disingenuous approach, they’ll drop off the radar faster than UFO sightings in Phoenix…which brings us to our next point.

  1. You will connect with “the right” customers more frequently.

It may be argued that creating connections and building a community of followers is what social media is all about. But even the most ardent suitor would need more than 280 characters to properly woo a mate. In order to position yourself as an expert, you need good, solid content. Plus, it’s important to be consistent. You’re not going to build much of a loyal following if you let months go by without communicating. On the other hand, a reader will drop you in a New York minute if you are dishing out self-aggrandizing, boring or purposeless drivel. We’ve all been there: We wait until the last minute and throw up a quickie post that might possibly turn people off, rather than add value. The best way to avoid slamming out a loser post like this is to create a list of topics and put together a schedule for when you’ll post them.

  1. Your archived content continues to attract visitors to your website.

Your blog posts remain on your site and are available to search engine web crawlers, conceivably, forever. You may be creating a ton of content each week for your social media platforms. Hopefully, your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest “Likes” and “Friends” have led viewers to click through to visit your website. Good for you! But for continued longevity, you must build on that by creating an archive of material that lives forever and ever.

Your job is to continue to ‘feed the beast’ so people will find your posts on Google and click to your site to learn more. Not only does this decrease the likelihood of users getting distracted by their Facebook feed or extraneous Tweets, but it also increases the amount of time they remain on your site and comb through your pages – a huge factor in the working of Google’s analytics machine.

  1. Your blog can promote interaction with customers.

Don’t worry if you don’t get a lot of comments at first, or your blogs are only getting comments from spammers. This doesn’t mean you’re not getting read by prospective customers. After all, do you always leave comments after reading an article online? Most people don’t, even if they are keenly interested. Depending on your audience and subject, however, you can hope to get more comments as your audience grows and your SEO rankings increase. Naturally, when those comments do start coming in, you will want to get that two-way street going by responding quickly.

Google Is Our Friend!

Speaking of SEO, I’d advise you to use the web stats tool, Google Analytics. It’s the industry standard when it comes to measuring your website’s performance. It’s free and literally takes minutes to install. Over time as you add more posts to your blog, it will give you a clearer picture of how people are finding your blog and, most importantly, which of your posts are popular so you will learn what kind of content your readers like the most.

Another useful tool to finding effective keyword phrases – those which influence ‘click-through’ rates and are being entered into Google by your prospective customers – is the Keyword section on the site, adwords.google.com. Once you’ve typed in your email address and website on the AdWords home page and clicked on “continue,” you’ll be sent to the “your first campaign” page. On this page under item #2, “choose a target audience,” click on the edit button in the keywords box. Here, you’ll be able to input as many as 20 keywords to gauge their popularity. Use this free feature to help create ‘findable’ titles and content for your posts.

At the risk of appearing self-promotional, I do have one final comment. If you’re in a position to direct your company’s marketing activities and think you’ll handle the blogging, yourself, you may wish to reconsider. Is it going to be worth your time and are you going to be able to do it consistently? Perhaps you have a staff with the intellectual capacity to research, write, post and follow through with the various tasks to optimize your blogging activities. But, before tossing a new, and fairly weighty, additional burden into their in-basket, make sure they have the time and interest to make it a priority. Otherwise, you may be better off outsourcing the planning and performance of your company’s blog.

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Sharon Scott Wilson is a professional writer creating blog posts, feature-length articles and other content for both B2B and B2C readers. Her interests are travel, vacations, RVing and vacation ownership. She manages the PR firm of SharonINK and is publisher of Resort Trades magazine, Resort Trades Weekly (an eNewsletter) and ResortTrades.com. Visit SharonINK.com for more information.

 

One Top Travel Secret: Kennebunk, ME, in the Off-Season

(Published on Bay Tree Solutions’ blog, https://www.baytreesolutions.com/blog/2018/02/15/one-top-travel-secret-kennebunk-maine-in-the-off-season)

As a recent article, “What the Travel Industry Needs in 2018,” posted by Robin Amster on TravelPulse.com mentions, “the line between ‘high’ and ‘shoulder’ season has blurred as travelers head out to explore destinations year-round.” The author prognosticates that this year’s travel trends will be punctuated by “New Seasons for Traditional Destinations.”

This is particularly good news for timeshare resort owners who might wish to optimize their week by using their week(s)’ exchange value or points. You can really stretch your vacation ownership privileges when you explore resorts in the off-season.

How about a visit to Kennebunkport, Maine? Long an elite vacation spot for well-heeled patricians, this is the site of the summer home of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, father of former U.S. President George W. Bush. During his presidency, George H.W. Bush would occasionally host world leaders here, including Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev. Later, George W. Bush found it the ideal setting for a less formal get-together with Vladimir Putin.

While you are not likely to run into a member of the Bush dynasty outside the summer season, you can still enjoy having an entire beach to yourself if you visit from September through May. Located nearby is the small (with only 10,000 or so inhabitants), historic town of Kennebunk, where you can enjoy the full range of condo amenities in “84 Maine,” a cozy timeshare resort in the heart of town.

84 Maine is part of the popular Capital Resorts Group Vacation Club points program; allowing owners to exchange to any Capital Resorts location worldwide, in addition to Interval International’s network of more than 3,000 resorts in over 80 nations. Located in the town of Kennebunkport, 84 Maine offers eco-friendly one, two, and three-bedroom units with hardwood floors, gourmet kitchens, and private patios overlooking the town’s charming Main Street. Browse Capital Resorts timeshares for sale at 84 Maine at low ‘for sale by owner’ prices!

The Brick Store Museum is located just down the street and is worth visiting several times during your stay. Founder Edith C. Barry amassed a large number of family heirlooms and art during the beginning years of the Brick Store Museum, beginning in 1936. Today, the Museum houses close to 70,000 artifacts and archival materials.

Ms. Barry’s great-grandfather, William Lord, began constructing the main part of the museum as a dry goods store in 1825. At the time of Lord’s death in 1873, he was one of the wealthiest men in town. “Initially known as Lord’s Store, it was unusual for its time by being constructed of locally-kilned brick, a far more expensive alternative than constructing from plentiful Maine timber,” we are told by the website. “Although the brick exterior of the building remains relatively unchanged from the 19th Century, the interior has been altered significantly. Evidence of the building’s past as a store still remains upstairs, however; a windlass (or pulley system) used to hoist heavy goods is visible through a skylight.”

How fortunate for us that Lord took such pains to erect a building that has lasted almost 200 years! Edith Barry acquired three other buildings, all dating from the 1800s and expanded the museum’s footprint considerably. “These buildings date from 1810 to 1860. The initial core of the Museum’s collections came from the Lords and related families, but the Museum today is a regional history, art, and archives center.

“While many items can be found on display in rotating exhibits, most of our items are stored in a secured area of the Museum. Objects in our collections are used for exhibitions, educational programs, and research. The number of artifacts grows every day with new donations relating to the history of our community in the Kennebunks and southern Maine.

“Imagine quilts with secret pouches and handwritten inscriptions. Or a rare chest dating to 1685. Even a painting found floating at sea of a Kennebunkport ship captain. Examine pieces salvaged from area shipwrecks. Peek inside a Civil War drum for a real surprise. View the largest collection of World War I and II posters in all of Maine. Witness paintings created by Thomas Badger, John Brewster, Jr., Abbott Fuller Graves, Louis Norton, and Hannah Skeele.”

After a morning spent surveying how the typical ‘Maineiac ‘ lived during the Nineteenth Century, you can virtually remain in the past with lunch at the picturesque general store, H.B. Provisions. In 2002, an enterprising couple took over this 1865 building, turning it into a popular meeting place for the town’s community and where visitors can find a variety of unique gifts from Maine, as well as wine, beer, liquor, made to order deli breakfast and sandwiches, fresh baked goods, specialty coffee and more.

Those interested in the Great Outdoors may wish to visit the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. It was established in 1966 in cooperation with the State of Maine to protect valuable salt marshes and estuaries for migratory birds. A few of the activities to be enjoyed — particularly during the warmer months — include hunting, fishing, shell-fishing, kayaking and more. “Located along 50 miles of coastline in York and Cumberland counties, the refuge consists of eleven divisions between Kittery and Cape Elizabeth. It will contain approximately 14,600 acres when land acquisition is complete. The proximity of the refuge to the coast and its location between the eastern deciduous forest and the boreal forest creates a composition of plants and animals not found elsewhere in Maine. Major habitat types present on the refuge include forested upland, barrier beach/dune, coastal meadows, tidal salt marsh, and the distinctive rocky coast.”

With easy access to beaches from Kennebunk, here are some ideas one writer at www.weekendnotes.com/visit-the-beach-winter offered:

“You might think I am bonkers for mentioning going to the beach during the coldest season of the month, but I’m not crazy, I actually have a lot of good reasons for you and your family to visit the beach and things you can do there in Winter.

• Go shell collecting. The sand won’t be hot like it is in the Summer so it will be easier to walk around and dig up old shells. Lots of fun, my boys seem to really enjoy this activity – they paste the mini shells onto paper using glue.

• Take lovely photos of the beach. It will be less crowded and easier to take some really nice landscape shots. Kids at the beach also make for really good photos too.

• Watch the sunset and the waves crashing while there is no one around, most likely the beach will be empty. It is the perfect time to sit on a blanket or pier and watch the waves rolling in.

• Eat some hot food on the beach, if it is slightly warm or a bit cool it will feel nice eating hot food like fish and chips on the beach. You can even eat it from inside the car, but still watching the beach.

• Go for a run along the beach, much easier to do than in Summer because there isn’t a lot of people.

• I love the beach during the Winter, I think it is more beautiful and more fun to enjoy. My favorite part is that there is hardly anybody there, and if there is you can always make friends.

• I have noticed tides can be quite rough in the Winter time so always be careful and make sure your kids do not fall into the water.”

If beaches are your ‘thing,’ then check out gokennebunks.com/pages/visiting/beaches to read reviews and select your favorite. Regardless when you visit or how you like to spend your holiday time, however, this vacation destination is a great spot for anyone interested in beating the hustle and bustle of the city. Plus, you’ll fall in love with 84 Maine!

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