Vail Valley company doing well in down market |

Vail Valley company doing well in down market

Scott N. MillerVail, CO, Colorado
Kristin Anderson/kanderson@vaildaily.comThe Hill and Company crew pose for a photo Monday in their Edwards office. In the back row, from left, are Linda Hill, Lindsey Miles and Steve Litt. In the center row, from left, are Jordan Halter, Shelly Kunkel and Lars Bjorklund. In front, from left, are Megan Mulroy and Anna-Maria Ray.

Linda Hills office has some awards on the walls, a small basket of toys under a table, and a pile of work on her desk.Hill, owner of Hill & Company, a Vail Valley advertising and marketing company, is like most other business owners these days working harder and trying to find new and better ways to keep the bottom line healthy. In Hills case, though, shes also looking at ways to grow the business. A deal is pending but hasnt closed yet that will make the company bigger.So whats the secret to Hill & Companys success in a down economy? Apparently, its the realization by businesses and tourism-promotion groups that their survival depends on letting people know theyre open for business.Our clients are concerned, Hill said. But one thing they havent done yet is cut back on marketing. And were constantly reinforcing the need to stay out in front of customers. In this economy, that means putting out the word in print, on the Internet and via e-mail about special deals. And, when close-in booking has become the rule, it means getting out the word quickly.For instance, Manor Vail Lodge, one of Hill & Companys local clients, ran promotions in January about Valentines Day deals at the Lord Gore restaurant.That does more than help bring in customers for a weekend, Hill said. Youre creating a competitive advantage in the future, she said. It re-confirms your companys commitment to your products and services. Employees like it, and your customers know youre still there. Hill, whose business depends on accurate tracking, tells clients that businesses that maintained or increased their advertising during the last national recession grew 275 percent faster than they did in the five years before the recession hit.We tell clients theyve got to keep their momentum going, she said. But the kind of advertising clients are doing is evolving. While print remains an important part of the mix, Hill said advertisers were already moving more toward on-line ads, something thats increased even more in the current slump.Were hitting customers with frequent messages at strategic times, and were seeing (bookings), Hill said.Resort customers are also changing their message to something more deal-based than image-based.In the case of Manor Vail, that means focusing on the value of a stay at the lodge.But Hill & Company also works with hospitals, schools and real estate companies. The messages there are a little different, especially in real estate.Thats just not moving forward right now, Hill said.But while business models may be different for Hills clients, there are some constants, like tracking numbers and results. The methods of tracking are the same as theyve been for a while, but clients interest tracking has exploded.Its extremely important right now, Hill said. Every dollar has to work so much harder today.Another key is making sure a companys marketing message is consistent and integrated, from Web sites to print ads to Twitter messages. And, she said, the more businesses that can put together packages for customers, the better. While a lodge pairing with a restaurant could be good, you need to be cognizant that people like to choose, she said.While nobody knows how long the current economic slump will last, Hill and others will be looking closely for glimmers that consumer confidence now at the lowest levels on record is starting to rebound.You need to be positioned to be ready for that, Hill said. Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or

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