6 ways hotels can use social media to attract more guests

A guest blog from Juste Semetaite

6waysGuestBlog

To thousands of holiday seekers, the planning phase may seem like a time-eating disaster. With so many options where to stay and what to do, the majority find themselves immersed in indecision and torn between equally exciting, glamorous and exotic choices. And this is where your social media strategy gets tested.

To capture the holiday seekers’ imagination early, you need to keep the engagement fire blazing on daily basis – a whopping 66% of leisure travellers turn to search engines when planning their next trip. So, what it means, really, is that a ton of potential guests are snooping around your social media accounts every day.

How can you turn curious vacationers into soon-to-be guests?

Capitalise on the magic of compelling visuals

The number of international travellers has skyrocketed in the last 10 years. People are more eager to travel to distant, exotic places than ever before and the thirst for unique experiences pushes them outside their comfort zone.

How do they pick their travel destinations? It’s not uncommon to hear about travellers crossing the world to visit a place they’ve seen featured in a magazine, on TV or in a travel blog. The mind is a visual instrument, so if there is one way to grabbing travellers’ attention, it certainly involves gorgeous imagery.

Here are some ideas to try:

read the full article here

Juste Semetaite is a content marketer @PeoplePerHour,  For hotels struggling to find spare hours or energy to execute social media strategies, PeoplePerHour.com can help. You can ping Juste at juste@peopleperhour.com or tweet @JusteSem.

What’s your digital footprint?

heather turner

As a property owner, what’s your digital footprint? US based marketing guru Heather Turner, Forfeng Media provides some great tips and cautionary tales.

Facebook

Posts: Make sure your posts are locked down to friends only, if you want to keep your posts public, fine, but be cognizant of, if you wouldn’t discuss it at a gathering, ie. religion and politics mainly, you may not want it posted publicly.

Likes and Groups: Be aware your likes of other pages may be visible (depending on your settings even if your posts are locked down) You may not think about this one, but think about it, you may have friends asking you to like their business pages as well as like pages they like.

Profile Pictures: Your profile pictures are public including likes and most especially comments from others. Be cognizant of profiles images but mostly the comments from others (delete comments if needed).

Even if you think your profile is totally locked down, go check it at least once a month, Facebook is constantly changing the settings and sometimes things can be viewed you may not know about. Get a friend on the phone, have them unfriend you, and then have them refresh your profile page and tell you what they see. The “View As” option in Facebook is NOT 100% accurate.

Pinterest

Having some personal hobbies or interests on your property board is fine, food of course is always good. But eyeball your interests, knitting and home improvement are generally fine, but fashion, bad memes, pictures of spider bites, inappropriate photos of men and women, weird toilet boards (yes these are all images and boards I’ve found on property accounts) and I could go on … are probably not appropriate, and belong either on a personal account, or make the boards secret so only you can see them.

Twitter

Who are you following and who is following you? Yes people do look. If you are following all the Kardashions for example, A. they will never follow you back (so why follow them) and B. if you want to follow their posts, put them on a private list (you are then not actually following them, your following their tweets, and only you can see that). Any celebrity including sports figures can actually influence a booker. Same goes for politics.

Lists: If you use the lists feature or someone has added you to a public list that you don’t want people to see. Your own lists you can make private. If someone has added you to a list and you don’t want to be on it, you can block them, and it will remove you from any of the lists they have added you to.

Favorites (now call likes): Take a look at what you have liked/favorited. Anyone can see that list, a funny joke you liked 2 years ago shows up on that list in the number 5 spot, is it appropriate?

Stalk Yourself

It’s worth Googling yourself as well periodically. Put your name in quotes “Jane Doe” Charleston, NC, “Jane B. Doe” Charleston, NC, and add yourself to any Google alerts you’ve set up. Hopefully you have done this for your inn already. The alerts don’t pick up 100% of new spidered items and news though so it’s worth looking manually.

Why do this? I have an innkeeper friend in the UK who had another innkeeper namesake in the UK, different town get arrested for fraud last year. They actually lost bookings about this, until they started being proactive and put out on their social media accounts that this was not them in question.

Eyeball your own online presence heavily and view from the aspect of someone who may book. Even better ask some friends to help you out and get some additional perspectives, what might not occur to you, they may see differently.

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Planning ahead for your promotions

heather turnerThis week’s guest blog is from US based social media and marketing expert Heather Turner, “Chief Logroller” at Forfeng Media. Here Heather helps you plan your social media calendar for holiday events and special promotions.

The time to start planning ahead for your promotions throughout the year, is best done in slow season when you actually have a little down time, a little space to actually think and work on your marketing for the upcoming year.

Developing a social media and content calendar in advance is key to getting promotions out in an stress free, and timely manner so you have the best chance for a journalist to pickup an event or special for a story, and to make sure you work any kinks out of the special or offer in advance. If you are doing specials in conjunction with other area businesses, i.e. a discount at a local restaurant in conjunction with a stay, or free or ½ price tickets to a museum, for example, as part of your packages, it’s best to be able to make those connections and iron down the details as far ahead in advance as possible. When making joint package deals its very important to stress to the partnering business that they will be getting a lot of free publicity out of it. Working some numbers up, and letting them know where and how you will be promoting it, and them, is leverage for getting you a better deal on a partnership offer or discount.

If you are hoping to get your special or offer picked up by the news for inclusion in a newspaper or magazine, be cognizant of the fact that the lead time for both is very different. A newspaper generally needs several weeks leads time to run an article. Monthly magazines generally need three to six months.

socialIcons

Realistically any unique specials or promotions should be up online on your website at least 6 months prior to the actual event. If you send press releases out about it, it should be send out at least 4 months or more prior. Advertising them on social media should start being pushed out at last 3 months prior, 2 at the very latest.

If you have something that you know will book up and sell out in advance, advertise it on social media at least 4 months in advance so that if you get the inevitable cancellation or two you have time to rebook it. Developing the social media calendar will help you keep on track for when you are scheduled to start promoting your specials.

Specific Holidays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are generally high traffic days for lodging packages, and many potential guests do like to plan ahead for those. You may want to consider starting to advertise these on your social media channels a little earlier than the rest of your other packages.

Posting your specials on social media should not be done more than once a week, each post should be unique, have an appropriate and inviting picture accompanying it (make sure you either own the photograph or image, have permission to use it or have purchased it from a legitimate stock photo source), and be written in a way that utilizes the soft sell approach.

As an example of the soft sell post: Father’s Day is coming up soon. What better way to thank your Dad for being there for you and your family then treating him to a weekend away from it all. Our special Father’s Day Package includes a full day of golf at the historic Beach Head Golf Club, followed by a day on the water fishing for Bass on Lake Bestinach. For more information about this special Father’s Day package please visit http:thejanedoeinn.com/fatherdayspecial.

VS. the hard sell post:  Father’s Day Package, June 18-19, Package includes 18 holes of golf, cart included. River tour with Bass fishing instructor, $360 for the weekend D.O.. Exclusions apply. Book Now at 800-555-1212.

Make sure to keep your social media calendars from previous years, and note when you have gotten the most traffic and bookings for each previous year on them. You should also include anything of note that happens during the time your packages have happened. The Christmas of 2013 had a horrible snowstorm resulting in cancellations, Easter of 2011 had a travel ban, etc. Long term this helps you better plan for next year, as well as being able to look back and see what previous years results were based on what you did for marketing as well as any external events that may have happened that were outside of your control.

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Great, Gratis and Glorious digital marketing ideas to boost direct sales

Gonzo Marketing
Gonzo Marketing

Our guest blog and interview is with Frederic Gonzalo, founder of Gonzo Marketing. With over 19 years of experience in the travel and tourism sphere, he is passionate about marketing and communications.

Frederic recently attended the EyeForTravel event in Miami as a speaker, panelist and participant to the 2015 edition of Online Marketing Strategies in Travel.

Here Frederic generously shares his industry insights and expertise with freetobook. As he pointedly states, having no marketing budget is no excuse for not having a dynamic online presence!

What is the most important trend in online room booking?

It’s about going mobile. More than 51% of travelers now research their next destination, accommodation and transportation from a mobile device, whether it’s a smartphone or tablet. And more importantly, an increasing proportion of them are now booking via their mobile device: in fact, it is estimated that 25% of all online travel revenue in the US will come from mobile devices in 2015.

How can a property get more direct bookings?

1- Have a “best online rate” guarantee and feature it, big and bold, on your home page. People will shop around no matter what, but if they can have the confidence that by booking direct they will get the best deal, well… you got it!

2- Have a relationship marketing approach in place. This can be through a rewards program or simply by capturing emails from clients and visitors to your site and/or blog. Sending out regular newsletters and promotional offers to this base can ensure retention and direct booking through time.

3- Promote deals and best rates across your various social accounts. I see hotels mention a promo code for 10% off best rate… on their Twitter bio. Others do Facebook offers, or mail push to group databases. Think outside the box, and make sure you crossover information from newsletter to blog to social media.

Having no marketing dollars is not an excuse not to have a dynamic online presence.

The first step is to have a professional-looking website, and this can be done with various solutions that cost a fraction of what it used to 3-5 years ago.

Sending out emails? MailChimp is free up to 2,000 email addresses, and other providers offer similar low-cost solutions.

Social media? It’s not free, contrary to what many believe, because someone has to manage it, but you can have impact and reach on Facebook with minimal investments. It’s more a matter of having a strategy in place to begin with, then finding the resources (human and financial) to manage this new reality. Knowing 87% of travel decisions now begin with an online search, do we even really have a choice here?

15 key stats to consider:

  1. TripAdvisor (42%) is the most downloaded mobile app amongst travelers, followed by Priceline (15%), Expedia (14%) and Orbitz (13%)
  2. There are 139 reviews written every minute on TripAdvisor
  3. You lose 25-60% of visitors with each click on the mobile path to purchase.
  4. 69% of travelers begin their search online…via a mobile device!
  5. Average mobile users check their device 150 times per day!
  6. Of the average six daily hours US adults spend on digital media, 3 hours is on mobile.
  7. Twitter on Travel: in the past year, 60M tweets mentioned hotels, 21M tweets mentioned vacations
  8. 70% of followers have taken some action after seeing travel content on Twitter
  9. 70% of Instagram users have looked for a brand online
  10. 3/4 of consumers are frustrated when online content doesn’t relate to their interest
  11. In 2016, 50% of total travel sales will involve more than one device
  12. Ritz Carlton Hotel sees 18% conversions from email campaigns. Email is not dead, folks!
  13. 92% of visitors to a website will never return. Thus, remarketing is key!
  14. Only 27% of hotels send automated emails prior to arrival (and after departing)
  15. According to Google, 1/3 of people with a smartphone would give up sex instead of their phone. Sad.

Visit Frederic Gonzalo’s website for further insights

 

B&B marketing tips from Karen

hopton house“If anyone knows about B&B, Karen does.” (Guardian) Karen owns Hopton House, a converted granary in Shropshire offering three bedrooms. Alongside her own bed and breakfast business, she runs regular courses for potential B&B owners. Here Karen shares her business expertise and thoughts on TripAdvisor, the ‘Marmite’ of the B&B world.

“I’ve been running Hopton House for nearly eleven years now and the B&B courses for a couple of years less than that. I’m often asked what the biggest changes I’ve seen in that time are. In terms of the running of the B&B it’s very much about guest expectations, they tend to be more widely travelled and the lines between hotels and B&Bs are getting a bit blurred. Internet access is one case in point – ten years ago it wouldn’t have been required or maybe it was just a nice to have, but in 2015, with the amazing growth of smartphones, it’s pretty much a necessity for many people. From my own travels I know that if there are choices of similar accommodation in an area, I’ll always go for the one with Wi-Fi access. I think the biggest changes I’ve seen are the ways in which B&Bs market their businesses.

Here are the top 5 areas that I think have been game changing;

guest reviews tripadvisor1. Guest Reviews:
Tripadvisor; the marmite of the B&B world! All guests these days are potential amateur reviewers. Whilst having lots of great reviews is heart warming for the B&B owner, a negative review has the potential to cause serious damage to a business. Even now my heart skips a beat whenever I see I have a new review come through. Whilst receiving a bad review can ruin the owner’s day, it’s important to address the review and respond constructively. Tripadvisor reviews have shown that potential guests are more likely to choose to stay at a B&B if they’re taken to respond to negative feedback in a positive constructive way.

online travel agents2. Online travel agents:
The OTAs such as booking.com are changing the way people book accommodation, and many B&Bs can have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them. OTAs can bring us a lot of business with no upfront joining fees but the commission they charge is high and the guests haven’t always understood what they should expect in their B&B. I think B&B owners need to make a decision about whether they will use the OTAs and then how will they use them. Whilst I don’t use them myself (I’m on booking.com but haven’t yet released nights to them), I think they can be very useful ( and possibly essential ) to some types of accommodation providers.

social media3. Social Media:
Many B&Bs have always relied on word of mouth to promote their business for years, and social media is the ultimate word of mouth. Social media, be it twitter, facebook, Instagram or even blogging, provides B&B owners with a great way to attract new guests, meet suppliers and keep in touch with repeat guests. I filled a room last minute following a cancellation using a promoted Facebook post last week. Better still, when you attract someone on social media and they like what you offer, they’ll then go back and recommend you to all of their followers.

advertising4. Advertising:
Whilst paper advertising in magazines and tourist guides has been steadily declining, digital advertising has been on the increase. I find both Facebook promoted posts and Google adwords are an effective way of marketing my B&B.

Google adwords particularly are becoming quite complicated to manage these days. I’d always suggest getting a recommendation for a digital marketing company to help you get started (although avoid those that cold call you offering top place on Google).

online booking5. Online Booking:
I’ve had online availability since I opened my B&B, I was one of the first in my area to get online booking. I do think online booking is an essential for any tourism business these days. About 85% of my bookings come through online via freetobook. Taking the deposit, blocking the calendar and sending confirmation are all handled seamlessly without me having to do a thing (the hours I used to spend on holiday looking for an internet café so I could sign into my email and respond to guest bookings with my old booking system!)

These days marketing is as an essential part of running a B&B as cleaning the rooms or cooking the breakfast. If it’s something you enjoy then great, if not then find someone who can help you. There’s lot of support out there locally via local tourism associations and groups.

Hopton House B&B, Hopton Heath, Craven Arms, Shropshire, SY7 0QD

Check availability and book online at www.shropshirebreakfast.co.uk
Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/hoptonhousebnb
Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hoptonhouse
Check out our Pins at http://pinterest.com/hoptonhousebnb/
Read our Breakfast Recipes at http://shropshirebreakfast.blogspot.co.uk/

Reply to reviews for a 21% booking boost

Say something back to your customers

TripAdvisor research* finds that accommodation owners that respond to their reviews benefit with more booking enquiries, they say 21% more likely.

Ever been an ignored customer at a coffee bar or restaurant, seen but just not important enough to respond to? Well that’s how it looks when a customer reads your reviews and finds no responses. They have to assume you don’t care as much as the properties that do take the time to respond.

Perhaps you are extremely busy or don’t need the bookings, so just like the coffee bar,  ignored customers will go and find somewhere they believe does care. According to TripAdvisor’s research it’s exactly what happens, they say up to 21% more bookings go to properties that take the time to respond.

When you do answer reviews (both the good and bad) it *shows* …..bang ! right there and then in front of them – this accommodation is engaged, caring, listening. Displaying this level of engagement is of course

Review sharing widget for hotels

quite different from just *saying* it on your website or in emails.  If you really want customers to believe it then you have to find ways of *showing* it. The ability to respond to reviews is a marketing gift so use it to show how engaged you are.

You might not love TripAdvisor but can you afford to ignore them ? They undoubtedly have a vested interest in getting you, the property owner, to engage with their site (respond to reviews) but even with this in mind we still agree that reviews count.

At freetobook we have been developing review and feedback technology for years, you can already tweet, facebook or place your freetobook reviews on your website and of course you can respond to them. Our customers can make full use of these and many more functions in their “Home” tab by clicking “Reviews” on the orange bar. If you are not yet a customer, what are you waiting for? Join up today for free, no risk and let us show you what you are missing at freetobook.

Related blog articles from the past

Share your reviews online for direct bookings

10 Tips on managing good and bad reviews

Customer reviews a winning strategies

Review Express by TripAdvisor

* TripAdvisor press release Sep 3, 2014

Share your reviews online

Freetobook review sharing widget

Share hotel reviews
Share your Reviews

Isn’t it great to get fantastic reviews! You work so hard looking after your customers, naturally they give you fabulous feedback that influences potential future guests. To find your reviews in freetobook simply go to your “Home” TAB and select “Reviews”.

Share your great reviews with the world. Freetobook is about to release a new review sharing system so you can get your reviews out there and read by potential guests.

Sharing reviews is easy with :

  • a simple to install review widget for your website, available in a variety of formats and the ability to resize and customise colours
  • freetobook’s new “click here to share” a review instantly on facebook and twitter.
  • linked to your booking system for instant direct bookings.
Review sharing widget for hotels
Review sharing widget various sizes

It gets better…each review widget will give guests instant access to your freetobook reviews and link them directly to your booking system, making it easy for impressed customers to make a direct commission free booking there and then.

Keep an eye open for the launch of the new review sharing system… another great idea from freetobook giving you more for less. As soon as the review sharing system is available you will find it in the same place as your current reviews – go to your “Home” TAB and select “Reviews”.

Social Media review sharing for hotels
Social Media review sharing

We expect to launch the new review sharing system before Christmas 2013 so it won’t be long before you can show off all your best reviews across your website and social media platforms.

In the spirit of sharing please feel free to tell others about your experience of freetobook the internet booking engine with more for less.

10 DOs & DON’Ts for Managing Good (& Bad) Reviews

There are good + bads ways of dealing with guest reviews.
There are good + bads ways of dealing with guest reviews.

We’ve all been there, whether we’re accommodation owners or not. We’ve all imagined we’ve done something well only to be brought up short when we’re told we haven’t. It leaves us feeling baffled and hurt – especially if we imagined we’d done our best.

If you’re the owner of a B&B, guesthouse or cottage and you receive a less than glowing review, the feeling is even more acute, because your property is your home – it’s not just a building where you go to work every day. The temptation is to take any negative feedback personally and react instantly. But if you allow yourself to do so, it can result in real damage to your online reputation. And in the modern digital world, where there’s so much scope for people to review absolutely everything, that’s something you want to avoid at all costs. What you need to do is take a deep breath, count to 10 and keep these (appropriately enough) 10 DOs and DON’Ts in mind…

1. DON’T Ignore it, no matter how unjustified or unfair it is. You might imagine that you’re maintaining a dignified silence, but to other users of the site (e.g. TripAdvisor) it’ll look as though you don’t care enough to respond. The review in question will therefore acquire unearned credence.

2. DON’T Respond in a defensive way that personally attacks the reviewer. You’ll do just as much harm as you would by ignoring it.

3. DO Thank the reviewer for his/her contribution.

4. DO Highlight any positive aspects mentioned in the review first.

5. DO Express surprise and disappointment that the reviewer had an experience that was in any way negative (thus implying that it was extremely unusual.)

6. DO Point out any factual inaccuracies in the review, but politely. By being polite and expressing regret you not only show that you care about your guests’ experiences. You also take the higher ground.

7. DO Take the conversation off-line: suggest that the guest contact you at your private email address, thus defusing the possibility of a public row.

But it’s not just negative reviews that require a response. Positive feedback on review sites is an incredibly useful free marketing tool, so it needs to be acknowledged too…

8. DO Once again, thank the guest for taking the time to write.

9. DO Highlight any specific aspects that they praised – if it’s good, it’s worth repeating.

10. DO Make sure your response includes details of your website, making easier for any fans of your property to pass on those details and book again.

reviews_cbowns
Think before you respond to reviews

With the huge increase in the number of people using social media, a guest’s opinion of your property is no longer limited to whatever site it originally appeared on. Reviewers can now also link back to their opinion on Twitter or Facebook. Other Twitter/Facebook users can then retweet/share it, allowing it to gain more and more traction online. You can’t afford not to be part of this conversation. But by getting involved in a dignified, circumspect way, you can turn it to your advantage and defuse its potential threats or get added value from the positive.

TripAdvisor book now button for direct bookings

Direct commssion free bookings on Trip Advisor

Just mention the name “TripAdvisor” to independent businesses and you are guaranteed to get some interest. Businesses have to take a pragmatic view when considering what tools and partners they need to make themselves more successful.

TripAdvisor book now button
TripAdvisor Show Prices button can link to your property

TripAdvisor is without doubt a very powerful influencer for your customers because it helps them gather information from other customers i.e. people just like them. Lots of studies have shown that people value and trust the advice of friends and family far more than anything else. That’s not new, since time began we have always asked for the advice of those closest, those who you trust.

Like most things on the internet it’s not perfect but that doesn’t lessen it’s importance to your customers. Good businesses engage with their customers, listen to their feedback and react accordingly and TripAdvisor provides one of the platforms to do that. Time invested in that is money well spent because it’s highly visible and highly searchable. Managing your reputation is critical in this increasingly connected world.

Many businesses rely heavily on their reviews to attract new customers and now there is a way to get direct bookings, not just referrals, from your TripAdvisor page. It’s not free but then TripAdvisor is not a charity, it provides a service to you and your customers.

You can place a direct link to your booking engine on your profile and every time a customer searches your availability you pay TripAdvisor – a Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising model where each search is a click. The service is currently only offered on a wholesale basis i.e. individual properties can’t do it themselves they have to go through a service provider and properties do not need a business listing.

The direct link is valuable because customers are usually at the end of their purchasing cycle when they are looking at your profile….so they are ready book. When you consider all the marketing that has preceded that point i.e. providing a service that encourages reviews, advertising in different places etc. you can see that you are about as close to “closing the sale” as you will ever be. That’s where you have to make it easy for the customer…..search and book here!

The service is offered on a 3 month trial basis. TripAdvisor will give you a cost per click and estimated budget required for those 3 months based on their history of your page. How do you know you’ll get value for money? Well, you don’t at the outset, but at freetobook we will track and monitor every search and booking to give you a definitive return on investment. It’s that level of information that gives you the control to make a 100% informed decision on your marketing spend. If you have already invested heavily in your marketing this is well worth a try.

How To Manage Your Online Reputation – Part 1

 

Iain shares some thoughts on the best ways to engage with your customers online and how to turn good service into sales.

Everyone seems to be talking about ORM. You could even say that right now ORM is one of the most popular TLAs (three letter acronyms) in the business world! The official, rather stuffy, definition of ORM is, “the practice of monitoring the Internet reputation of a person, brand or business, with the goal of suppressing negative mentions entirely or pushing them lower on search engine results pages to decrease their visibility.”

That makes it all sound a bit sinister and corporate. I think the true definition of ORM is more positive and is best expressed by former Vancouver hotel manager and ORM consultant Daniel Edward Craig: “…Online reputation management is the process of tracking and responding to online reviews and commentary and using feedback to guide improvements. It’s about actively participating in social networking to build awareness and shape impressions.”

Spot on. Online reputation management isn’t about anything so crude and cynical as gaming the system. It’s about developing an on-going relationship with your customers, responding to their opinions and showing that their feedback, whether positive or negative, matters to you. So what follows are some personal thoughts about ORM that have emerged out of my own wide experience of managing an online travel company and communicating with customers on a daily basis:

1.                  Managing your online reputation

Why bother?

  • People now research trips, make decisions and share experiences online via social media.
  • 75% of customers now cite reviews as being influential.
  • More and more people are using social media platforms, like Twtter and Facebook, so review information moves at ever greater speed.

Evidence suggests social media is currently used primarily as a service channel rather than a direct sales channel, so if your customers are using it they will expect you to be on it and may want to connect with you via social media.

Sales and service are linked and there is absolutely no doubt of the link between service and loyalty, so service and reputation are a great place to start. The transactional “sales” side of social media may not be that strong, but I don’t believe it will be long before large businesses make it happen….just like they did with the Internet! Indeed large companies are building these social media platforms into their service models.

When you come right down to it, using social media is really just about working with your customers in a way that they find most convenient…and isn’t that what good service is all about anyway?

We built the customer review process into “freetobook” right at the start so every customer using our online booking engine receives a review email a day after their stay….and 29% of our customers complete reviews for the properties (voluntarily).

2.                  Where does your independent property start?

  • Audit first, find out what’s out there and what people are saying…or not saying.
  • Understand what you want customers to say and where you want them to say it.
  • Monitor, react and encourage feedback: these are all “first principles” of service… wherever you are.

(These are just some of the tips I have picked up from various places, but if anyone has any comments or examples of situations I would be glad to hear of them: iain@freetobook.com).