Stephanos Economides[1] & Spyros Alexiou[2]

ABSTRACT

It is widely accepted that small enterprises constitute a catalyst for creating jobs and generally growing the economy. One industry that is characterized by the proliferation of small enterprises is the tourism industry. A critical factor for this industry reaching its full potential is, however, access to markets. The Internet is seen by many, as having the potential to facilitate small tourism businesses to access their markets, understand them better, expand their market, reach and serve their customers more effectively, regardless of their location.

The focus of this study is to identify those entrepreneur-manager factors that are present in a small tourism enterprise which influence the success with which the Internet can be used to market the business.

These factors are related to the entrepreneur-manager characteristics and not to the technology factors. The identification of those factors and the estimation of their impact on Internet marketing activities will allow small tourism businesses to access markets more readily.

The methodology of this study was based on a quantitative research that was conducted via the Internet. The measuring instrument was a questionnaire that was linked to a 7-point Likert scale. The sample was selected from a database of Greek tourism businesses.

The results of this study indicate that the level of involvement of entrepreneur-managers, their ability to select the suitable internet agency, their ability to brief satisfactory the latter one, their writing skills for communicating effectively their services, their understanding of the web 2.0 technologies as well as their marketing orientation are important to the successful use of the Internet for the marketing of small tourism businesses in Greece.

Keywords: entrepreneur-manager, small tourism enterprises, internet, marketing, Greece

INTRODUCTION

The importance of the SME for the Greek Economy is quite substantial. Voulgaris et al. (2004) write that SMEs create 50,000 new jobs in Greece annually, and represent 60% of the employment in the manufacturing and service sector. Also Zimmerer et al. (2002) point to the high labour absorption capacity of small businesses suggesting that small businesses generate wealth at a faster rate than larger firms would. Also they point out; the growth in numbers of people employed by small businesses is greater than the growth in the contribution of these enterprises to GDP.

An important factor that distinguishes large businesses and the small ones is the substantial impact of the entrepreneur-manager to the day-to-day activity of the latter ones and to their decision making (Gilmore et al., 2001). According to Marcati et al. (2008) “entrepreneurs’ innovativeness and personality play a key role in the adoption of innovations in small- and medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)”. Since the Greek tourism sector is particularly characterized by the proliferation of SMEs the study of the contribution of the entrepreneur-manager to the success of internet marketing activities is particularly relevant.

THE SME TOURIST BUSINESSES

The tourism and travel business is consisted of five sectors, which are the accommodation sector, the transport sector, the travel organizers sector, the attractions sectors and the destination organization sector (Middleton, 1993). More specifically each of the aforementioned sectors is analyzed as in Figure 1. The tourism and travel sector is mainly considered as a service industry. As Cooper et al. (1998) have stated “An understanding of the complexity of the service product concept is an essential prerequisite for successful marketing”. According to Lovelock et al. (2007) services have distinctive marketing challenges in relation to those of goods.

More specifically:

  • Most services cannot be inventoried
  • The intangible elements of the service product usually dominate value creation
  • Services are usually difficult to visualize and understand
  • Customers may be involved in co-production
  • People may be part of the service experience
  • Operational inputs and outputs tend to vary more widely
  • The time factor often assumes great importance
  • Distribution may take place through nonphysical channels

Particularly for the tourist services, Middleton (ibid) has identified some additional distinctions, namely:

  • The seasonality of the tourist services
  • The interdependence of the tourist services e.g. staying in a hotel, visiting museums, using transportations.
  • The high fixed cost of the tourist services production.

The above elements influence the tourism business performance and viability and “explain why much of the travel and tourism is considered to be a high risk business” (Middleton, ibid, p. 32). In this high risk business, entrepreneurs are asked to react accordingly to the rapidly changing market trends, making difficult, if necessary, adjustments in order to become more competitive. To this direction, the finding of inexpensive production factors and the use of them, in such a way as to render the maximum result, is a very crucial task (Karagiannis, 2004).

The tourist sector is quite important for the Greek economy since in 2004 the tourist income represented the 6.2% of the Greek GDP in relation to 3.5% that was in 1995, according to a study of Sampaniotis & Vorlow (2006).

For the purpose of the present research there will be a focus in the accommodation sector and particularly in the hotels sub-sector, since the latter one is quite important taking into consideration that there are about 10.000 hotels in Greece, according to the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels.

Figure 2: Service and goods continuum

INTERNET MARKETING ACTIVITIES

The Internet has been widely adopted globally. According to the Vorlow’s study (2008: 9), the Internet penetration in 2004 was 83% in Holland, 79% in Sweden, 71% in Germany, and 67% in UK. The 57% of internet users conducts searches via search engines. Moreover 2 out of 5 internet users in UK, Finland and Luxemburg make use of online tourist services like reservations, payments, information.

Also the Internet has been proliferated considerably the last ten years and a lot of tools are at the disposal of the entrepreneurs-managers. Anderson (2009) cites that “There are many different ways to use the Internet as a marketing tool, including blogs, social and professional media, and search engine optimization (SEO). More specifically:

  • Blogs: It is a kind of website maintained by an individual in order to place regular entries of commentary, or posting videos, photos. Entries are displayed in reverse chronological orders. The creator of the blog has special privileges, for example he can delete comments or even ban the participation of specific individuals if they do not confront to the blog’s rules. There are literally millions of blogs written by all kinds of different people. A typical blog combines text, images and links to other blogs. Web pages and other media related to its topic. For an agency, a blog represents a very interesting way to have an ongoing dialogue with both customers and prospects. A distinctive feature of a blog is the ability for the reader to leave comments in an interactive format. This is an important part of many blogs because it allows conversation between the bloggers and their readers. Providing focused information on a particular topic along with the ability to create a conversation with those who read the post is what has made blogs popular.
  • Social media and professional media: that includes Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube. More specifically:
    • Facebook: It is the most popular social networking media with over of 300 million users who are networked with their friends and share comments, videos, photos, groups etc. From a marketing perspective there are two aspects of Facebook that a company should pay attention to. First is the social networking aspect. There are an increasing number of companies that have created a Facebook fan page. There are a few companies that are making their Facebook fan pages an integral part of their Web sites and online presence. The second aspect of Facebook marketing is Facebook advertising, one of the most targeted forms of advertising currently available on the Internet. This provides a new way for companies to communicate and connect to new audiences. Because of the information that is provided in a Facebook user's profile, a company can target its ads to a very specific type of person. For example, you can target an ad to display to only those people who have a particular city listed in their profile.
    • LinkedIn: It is the Facebook for professionals. At the last count it had more than 42 million skilled professional users from all over the world, comprising 150 different industries. When someone joins the site, he creates a personal profile that sums up their professional achievements. These profiles enhance his visibility to prospective clients, current and former colleagues and potential business partners. Members can add connections by inviting business contacts to join LinkedIn, and to connect to other members as a trusted contact.
    • Twitter: Twitter is a "micro-blog." In 140 characters or less you can describe what you are doing, reading, thinking, or whatever else you think others will find of value. For most people Twitter has moved beyond describing what you are having for lunch. And it doesn't really matter whatever you care or not. But it might matter to certain clients. Twitter can represent another communication channel for customers who are inclined to be on the leading edge of technology and communication.
    • YouTube: YouTube is a video sharing site where users can upload view and share video clips. Google acquired the site in November 2006. Before the launch of YouTube in 2005, there were few simple methods available for ordinary computer users who wanted to post videos online. With its easy-to-use interface, YouTube made it possible for anyone who could use a computer to post a video that millions of people could watch within a few minutes. It's hard to find someone who hasn't viewed a video on YouTube. From funny to educational, there are a huge number of videos available for viewing on YouTube. A video represents a great opportunity to create a personal connection with prospects and clients.
    • SEO: It is the science and art of getting your company listed on the first search results pages. According to Sharpe (2008) “the Internet community is looking for information relevant to what potential customers are looking for, well-established companies that will provide the products and services that meet their customers' requirements. Search engines are looking for several qualities within each company's Website and beyond, and one major factor is the length of time a company is recognized on the Internet.”

The internet marketing includes on-line advertising, banner ads, pop-up ads, superstitials, interstitials, micro sites, email and rich media banner ads (Fill, 2002). Also recently mobile marketing has been considerably developed in the form of ads and applications (e.g. iPhone applications).

In the field of tourism, hotels see the Internet as an opportunity to cost-effectively, (1) reach out to new customers via cyberspace and (2) enhance business efficiency among business partners. Some of the most common reasons for a hotel to go online may include taking reservations, promoting hotel operations, selling products and services, creating and establishing an identity or brand awareness, providing customer service and product support, generating repeat traffic, and advertising an event, product, or service (Sweeney, 2000).

As the Vorlow study (ibid: 29) notes, the Greek hotel enterprises that use the Internet for advertising their services have higher utilization of their room capacity at 4.8% and higher income at 3.7%. Consequently a study of the factors that influence the successful adoption of internet marketing activities would be particularly relevant.


FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE THE SUCCESSFUL ADOPTION OF INTERNET MARKETING ACTIVITIES

There is limited published quantitative research on the internet marketing that has mainly taken the form of the use of the internet by consumers. This study differs in the sense that an attempt is made to identify and empirically verify the determinants of successful Internet marketing for Greek small tourism businesses. The factors (independent variables) considered in this study are those that are associated with the ‘entrepreneur-manager issues’ of the use of the Internet as a business/marketing tools relating to the perceived performance of the latter one.

The entrepreneur-manager -related factors are identified and empirically evaluated in this study through fourteen in-depth interviews with entrepreneurs-managers of tourist enterprises and specifically of hotels. These are the:

(a) personal involvement of the entrepreneur

(b) entrepreneur’ s ability to select the suitable internet agency

(c) entrepreneur’s ability to brief satisfactory the internet agency

(d) entrepreneur’s understanding of web 2.0

(e) entrepreneur’s writing skills for the web

(f) entrepreneur’s marketing orientation.

Entrepreneur’s involvement

Elliot & Boshoff (2007) states that the entrepreneur’s involvement in the marketing activities of small tourist firms is directly, positively related to the perceived success of internet marketing. This study argues that delegating the day-to-day management of the small tourism businesses’ Internet marketing to someone else, either inside or outside the business, is not considered satisfactory for the owner-manager, as this may compromise the success of Internet marketing. The explanation of that relates to the fact, that in small firms only the owner has usually the necessary knowledge to plan a successful internet marketing activity. By the term ‘knowledge’ the reference is made to the adequate understanding to their business, its products and services, the market, the competition, the pricing policies and the objectives that are to be achieved.

Usually, due to the small size of the firm, no written context exists about the aforementioned knowledge. The approach has a personal characteristic and includes everything that is in the entrepreneur’s mind, and thus it is not easy for another person, either inside or outside the company, to have the ‘whole picture’.

Blackburn & McClure (1998) argue that the entrepreneurs of the small firms do not possess the same abilities. Based on that, they have identified three types of them:

(a) enthusiasts-high IT skills, positive attitude, IT management focus

(b) pragmatists – low IT skills, pragmatic attitude, IT management focus

(c) artisans – low IT skills, unconvinced attitude, IT operations / administration focus.

Having that in mind, it can be assumed that the impact of entrepreneurs-managers involvement in the perceived performance of the marketing activities in the small firms will not be the same and will differ according to their abilities. In any case, Blackburn & McClure (ibid) have identified that the role of the entrepreneur-manager is central to the small firm innovation, new technology adoption and use.

Selection of the internet agency

According to Barnett (1997), ‘while choosing an agency is rarely easy, it is often made more difficult than it needs because of the personalities of the people involved and their sometimes contradicting requirements’. Fill (2002) supports that the process for selecting an agency is relatively straightforward. To start with, a search is undertaken to develop a list of potential candidates. This step is accomplished by referring to the relevant publications resulting in a list where six or seven of them are expected to be included. Next, the client will visit each of the short listed agencies in what is referred to as a credential presentation. This is a crucial stage as it is now that the agency is evaluated for its degree of fitting with the client’s expectations and requirements. The agency’s track record, resources, areas of expertise and experience can all be made available on the Internet, from which it should be possible to short-list three or four agencies for the next stage in the process: “the pitch”. To be able to make a suitable bid the agencies are given a brief and then required to make a formal presentation (“the pitch”) to the client some 6-8 weeks later. By this presentation we can evaluate the way and the philosophy the agency approaches the strategic and creative issues of our interest. Finally, the project is awarded to the candidate who produces the most suitable proposal. The immediate selection process is finalized when terms and conditions are agreed and the winner is announced to the contestants and made public.

This formalized process is now being questioned as to its suitability. “Suitability” is a relative term, and a range of factors need to be considered. In fact, the selection process is a bringing together of two organizations who may have different expectations. However, their cooperative behavior is essential for these expectations to have any chance of materializing.

The first reason under question relates to the time of six to eight weeks. Today most companies need to find communication solutions in one than rather eight weeks. The second one relates to the internet agencies who feel that they have to invest a great deal into a pitch with little or no reward if the pitch failed. Their response has been to ask for payments to pitch which has not been received well by clients. The third reason refers to the tension that arises when each agency is required to generate creative ideas over which they have little control once a pitch has been lost. As a solution, companies could invite agencies to discuss mini-briefs (Jardine, 2000).

These discussion topics are considered to be essential and focused on related issues rather than being the traditional challenge about how to improve a brand’s performance. By issuing a mini-brief on the day it saves the companies time and money (eliminates weeks of preparation and associated staff costs), while enables the client to see agency teams working together.

Briefing of the internet agency

Triki et al. (2007) point out that the qualitative briefing is an important role that a firm has to play in order to have a successful firm-agency relationship. The agency’s work depends heavily on the quality and the quantity of the information provided by the firm’s brief. Instead of following up the creation process, the agencies think that firms should concentrate on communication objectives so as to help the agency implement the advertising campaign. According to this research the clarity of briefing is the second most important factor for the successful outcome of the firm-agency relationship.

Figure 4: Components of Web 2.0

Hill (2006) relates briefing with the satisfaction of the agency’s customers. In order to have a sustainable relationship with an agency, it is important to incorporate multiple measures of what consist a success during the briefing process. Fill (2002: 387) supports that “once an account has been signed a client brief is prepared which provides information about the client organization. It sets out the nature of the industry it operates in together with data about trends, market shares, customers, competitors and the problem that the agency is required to address”.

Briefing is used so that agency personnel to be well informed. In order the client problem is dealt with, the account planner will undertake research to determine a number of crucial fields such as: (i) market, (ii) media and audience characteristics. By determining that, proposals could be made to the rest of the account team as to how the client problem is to be resolved. Much of this information is translated into creative work for the development of copy and visuals by the appointed creative team. The briefing process provides the mechanism for the agency operation.

Understanding the Web 2.0

Web 2.0 refers to the second generation of web development and design. It is characterized as facilitating communication, information sharing, user-centered design and collaboration, and has fostered web based communities, hosted services, and web applications. “The essence of the social web is communication. The nature of the communication is continuously changed by technology as it becomes more interactive, democratic, participatory, immediate and responsive” (Jones & Iredale, 2009). Businesses have to recognize the need to work with their community of stakeholders as their image, brand, reputation and ultimately the bottom line can be negatively impacted or positively rewarded in the new online Web 2.0 world (Gelles, 2009).

According to Jones & Iredale (ibid) the Web 2.0 includes various tools such as: (i) social networks, (ii) media sharing and (iii) other interactive online tools. People who share similar interests can communicate or discuss, using those sites offered with similar orientation. As far as the entrepreneurship is concerned, education, teaching, learning and assessment can find scope and space with Web 2.0. Flexible online communities can be easily created, as well as an evolution which affects the range of the conventional media impacts.

Using the web, each person, at every level of the social hierarchy, has the opportunity to become the creator of a news story, than be a pathetic “consumer of news”, challenging thus “the mainstream media’s view of the world”. In this sense, the web possesses all the characteristics of the most democratic tool of our times. Today, social networking has become the prevailing phenomenon and its growth has been tremendous as big numbers of the world population, business, state and private organizations, consumers and various interest groups “are increasingly engaging and involving themselves in new online communities of interest” (Jones & Iredale, ibid). YouTube is often mentioned as a market leader in this field.

One of the main differences that Web 2.0 has, in relation to Web 1.0, is that in the context of the former one branding and reputation are open to question, compliment and criticism. Shaping the brand image is “a joint process that requires the active involvement and willing consent of stakeholders, who now have a greater opportunity to make known their views” (Jones & Iredale, ibid). Introducing image, brad and reputation is a process that cannot be imposed from above, from the management side, since the consumers, the citizens and the suppliers are those who have the ‘final word’. As the building of a relationship is necessary among the two parts of the market, Web 2.0 can be a useful tool in that direction. As Jones & Iredale (ibid) state, “Shared ownership of brand, information, image and reputation are key features of the social web environment”.

Another interesting aspect of Web 2.0 is learning by monitoring other enterprises. Using the social web, a number of skills, behaviors and attributes can be enhanced. Also, it helps the individual to be in touch with the flexible market economy and society, to find employment, to start a business, to participate in a social activity. As a new development, the implications of Web 2.0 “are that businesses, consumers and other stakeholders are more informed and through the acquisition of knowledge they are empowered in new ways” (Jones & Iredale, ibid).

However, no matter how democratic a tool is, some prerequisites are necessary in order for the Web to be operational by customers, citizens or business managers. These prerequisites have to do with the appropriate knowledge of rights, needs and obligations. As citizens and activists enter the field of being active parts of the Web reality, play a part in shaping the new Web 2.0 landscape and this is something businesses should be aware of, alert to and prepared for. The phrase social-casting, as opposed broadcasting, captures the essence of the move brought about by the social web (Jones & Iredale, ibid).

Writing skills

The Wall Street Journal notes that eighty percent of businesses surveyed believe that their employees' biggest problem is written communication (Price, 2007). According to Wise (2005), writing for the web is a different style than other types of writing such as standard press releases. It needs to be shorter, more concise, more conversational, more enticing.

The way of writing for the web needs to comply with the way people read information on the Web. And this way is different than the one people read information in a newspaper or magazine. The visitor of a website has certain characteristics which are related to the specific of the information he is looking for. As a consequence, writing has to fulfill that prerequisite so that people can find information quickly. If the writing is not written for on-line, the reader will be probably lost. Moreover the on-line writing has to be tailored to the visuals on the page. A title and a few lines that will grab the reader’s attention are necessary in order to attract the attention of the visitors; otherwise they will just keep browsing the internet. The website visitor’s attention have to be captured immediately, it has to be an immediate connection.

Klipstine (2008) suggests five principles for improving online marketing writing: (1) Reading text from a computer screen is different from reading text from paper. People read 25 percent slower from a computer screen. (2) Be succinct. Write no more than 50 percent of the text you would write for a hardcopy publication. (3) Write for scanability. Users don't read word for word from a computer screen. And they don't like long blocks of text. (4) Use hypertext, headings, highlights and bulleted lists to break the material into chunks of information. (5) Writing for the Web should maintain the standards of solid journalism; writing should be mechanically excellent.

As far as the Greek internet agencies, they usually do not have adequate expertise in writing for websites. To deal with that, they either have to employ a skilled person or to address to a freelance. In fact, the Greek small tourist businesses do not usually have employees with writing skills. Thus, they have to use a freelance service. However, if the entrepreneur-manager would like to outsource this task to a freelance copywriter, he has to overcome two barriers for a successful collaboration. Firstly the cost of a freelance copywriter may be too high for a small firm. Secondly the entrepreneur-manager has to brief the copywriter so that the latter one undertakes the writing for the website or the online marketing activity in a suitable and satisfactory way. But, as has already been mentioned before, the adequate briefing is not always taken for granted.

Marketing orientation

Harding (1998: 35) states that the marketing orientation concept refers to “a set of organizational behaviours and techniques which develop value-added products derived from well-developed market research and consultation processes with loyal, long-term customers”. Working in a highly competitive environment, organizations need to be very careful about the way they handle the customer. A company that understands the needs of its customer, and tries hard to develop and provide high-valued products, and market them as a whole across all departments, is considered a market-oriented company. In doing so, it embraces the ‘marketing concept’ that brings the customer into the center of its attention. The slogan used in this case is “the customer is King”. The marketing concept is actually an attitude or a philosophy that characterises the whole management structure of a company.

Singh & Ranchhod (2004) state that there were four latent dimensions underlying this orientation and these are: customer orientation, competitor orientation, departmental responsiveness, and customer satisfaction orientation. From all four dimensions, customer orientation and customer satisfaction orientation have a stronger impact on performance.

Tzokas et al. (2001) mention Jaworski & Kohli’s (1993) empirical evidence which suggests that “the adoption of a marketing orientation has a positive effect on business performance and also impacts on employee commitment”. And also Deshpande et al. (1993, Tsokas et al., ibid) suggest that “as marketing is an organizational not a departmental function and requires a particular culture in order to adopt such an approach, issues of organizational culture are integral to discussions of marketing orientation”. Implementing the idea of ‘culture’ is not an easy task since “definitions of culture in the literature vary and include ideology, a coherent set of beliefs, shared core values, important understandings, or the ‘collective programming of the human mind’ (Hofstede, 1980, in Tzokas et al., ibid).

Osborne (1996), referring to the role of strategic values writes that these are the rationale for the viability of a business and link the firm to its environment. And all this “because strategic values describe what a business does to win in the marketplace and why, they enable an organization to focus on what is important to success and determine what is irrelevant or counterproductive”. Varey & Lewis (2000: 113) consider these values to be reflected in and be a reflection of “the prevailing culture within the organization”.

Between the academics, there is a tendency “to adopt an interpretavist point of view, with culture being viewed as something an organization ‘has’, as compared with something an organization ‘is ’, or as the ‘glue’ which holds an the organization together” (Tzokas et al., ibid).

Diamantopoulos & Hart (1993: 103) copy Kohli & Jaworski (1990) arguing that “a market-oriented organization is one whose actions are consistent with the marketing concept”. Having that in mind, we can argue that there develops “a positive linkage between the perception of the marketing concept as a business philosophy and the company actions underlying a market orientation” (Diamantopoulos & Hart, ibid).

The very fact that the product is co-produced and co-marketed with the consumer is the main reason why the application to the service sector has been modified (Li & Greenberg, 1997, in Harding, 1998). Harding (ibid: 39) goes on stating “Businesses with a marketing orientation adopt it because they want to exploit the desires of as many of the target market as the law and the competitors will allow –consumers are safe because they can always walk away”. Thus, there has been an emphasis, within the marketing literature, on the importance of a firm attaining a marketing orientation in order to compete in today’s marketplace.

METHODOLOGY

The measuring instrument

In order to ensure validity and reliability, measuring instruments from previous studies were used, where possible, to measure both the independent variables and the dependent variable. All the items in the questionnaire were linked to a 7-point Likert-type scale where 1 was labeled strongly agree and 7 was labeled strongly disagree in order to measure the dependent variable of the Perceived success of Internet marketing activities.

The sample

The sample is drawn by the population of Greek SMEs tourist businesses and specifically from those of the hotel sub-sector. According to the European Commission (2005), the classification of the European medium, small and micro companies (SMEs) is as follows in Table 1:

Table 1: Classification of the SMEs (European Commission, 2005)

Enterprise category

Annual work unit

Annual turnover

Annual balance sheet total

Medium sized

<250

<€ 50 million

<€ 43 million

Small

<50

<€ 10 million

<€ 10 million

Micro

<10

<€ 2 million

<€ 2 million

However, since companies in Greece that have not the Société Anonyme legal status, as it is usually the case with the small and micro enterprises, are not obliged to publish financial data, it is not possible to classify them according to the European Commission suggestions. For this reason, Papanikos (2000: 29) has developed a study which contains a combination of the SMEs classification according to the EC standards and the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels data. According to this study, the classification for the Greek hotels is as follows[3]:

Table 2: Classification for the Greek hotels (Papanikos, 2000)

Hotel size

Number of rooms

Number of hotels

% of hotels

Employment

Average number

of employees

Highest number

of employees

1. Family

1-20

3,548

43%

1,4

10

2. Small

21-50

3,011

37%

4,8

25

3. Medium

51-100

1.075

13%

15,0

60

4. Big

101 -

610

7%

64,0

210

It seems that the hotel size that corresponds to the SMEs definition is those of Family, Small and Medium ones. Consequently, for the purpose of the present research, the yardstick for selecting the SMEs hotels was that of the number of rooms, which, in the particular case, has been less than 101 rooms.

The sample was drawn from the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels database, where data for approximately 10.000 hotels in Greece can be found. A sample of 200 hotels that (i) have websites and (ii) have less than 101 rooms was randomly selected. These 200 hotels were surveyed the period October 2009 to December 2009 using a Web based questionnaire that allowed respondents to complete the questionnaire online. The usable 145 questionnaires received comfortably exceed the minimum guideline for the use of multivariate statistical procedures to analyze the data (Hair et al., 1998).

Statistical procedure

Validity assessment

The initial step in the data analysis was to assess the discriminant validity of the instrument used to measure the variables in the theoretical model. This was done by using the multivariate technique of exploratory factor analysis with the purpose of establishing which of the questionnaire items measure each construct in the theoretical model. The analysis was conducted by using the SPSS 13.0. In Table 3, it is displayed the factor structure that has been emerged by an iterative process, where items were deleted. Those deleted items either did not load higher than 0.45 on any factor or alternatively loaded higher than 0.45 or higher on two or more factors (cross-loading).

Reliability of the measuring instrument

Reliability is the consistency or stability of empirical indicators from measurement to measurement (Parasuraman, 1991). For measuring reliability the Cronbach’s alpha coefficient is used, which is based on the average correlation of items within an instrument or scale and is regarded as an indication of internal consistency.

RESULTS

Discriminant validity results

The factor matrix of the exploratory factor analysis is shown in Table 1. It reveals that 27 items loaded on seven distinct factors and there were a total of 49.4 percent of the variance in the data. The seven factors were named Entepreneur Involvement (items EI01-EI04), Internet Agency Selection (items IS01-IS03), Internet Agency Briefing (items IB01-IB03), Understanding of the Web 2.0 (items UW01-UW03), Writing Skills (items WS01-WS03), Marketing Orientation (items MO01-MO04), Perceived Success of Online Marketing (items PM01-PM07). The items that measure each factor are described in Appendix 1.

Table 3: Exploratory factor analysis

Reliability results

The internal reliability of the seven factors that emerged from the exploratory factor analysis is shown in Table 4. All seven factors returned a Cronbach alpha coefficient score in excess of 0.70 and are accordingly considered reliable.

Table 4: Cronbach alpha coefficients

The hypotheses

The following hypotheses were empirically tested:

H1: There is a positive relationship between the entrepreneur’s involvement in the internet marketing activities of their hotel and the perceived success of online marketing.

H2: There is a positive relationship between the entrepreneur’s ability to select the suitable internet agency and the perceived success of online marketing.

H3: There is a positive relationship between the entrepreneur’s ability to brief adequately the internet agency and the perceived success of online marketing.

H4: There is a positive relationship between the entrepreneur’s understanding of the Web 2.0 and the perceived success of online marketing.

H5: There is a positive relationship between the entrepreneur’s writing skills and the perceived success of online marketing.

H6: There is a positive relationship between the entrepreneur’s marketing orientation and the perceived success of online marketing.

Multiple regression analysis results

A multiple regression analysis has been conducted to address the aforementioned six hypotheses. The results, with the five independent variables – entrepreneur’s involvement, internet agency selection, internet agency briefing, understanding of web 2.0, writing skills, marketing orientation – and the perceived value on online marketing, as the dependent one, are shown in Table 5.

It is obvious from the Table 5 that the aforementioned independent variables exert a positive influence on the dependent variable; consequently the hypotheses H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6 are accepted.

Table 5: Multiple regressions results

MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS

A hotel should use all modern means to promote itself and be known at the public (Karagiannis, 2001). It is widely accepted that the Internet is a medium that allows a targeted and cost-effective way to approach target groups either locally or internationally, especially the latter one. Since the SM Greek hotels can not afford the luxury of using the traditional media, due to budget restraints, the Internet seems to be the ideal media for achieving their objectives. The entrepreneur-manager of a SM Greek hotel is the most suitable person to be involved in the online marketing of his enterprise due to his overall understanding of the business, his high motivation to achieve the corporate objectives and due to the luck of specialized employees.

In order to fully take advantage of the Internet potentialities, the entrepreneur-manager has to be personally involved in the planning and implementation of the online marketing activities. In doing so, he will obtain:

(i) The appropriate know-how to select and brief the Internet agency to collaborate with,

(ii) An adequate understanding of the Web 2.0,

(iii)The adequate writing skills for the web, and

(in) A marketing orientation

Since it is difficult for all these qualities to be found in an SM Greek hotel’s entrepreneur-manager, it is highly recommended the development of suitable courses that will address the aforementioned issues. These courses have to be quite practical and focused on “how to” rather on “why” so as to be immediately utilized. Also the SM Greek hotel’s entrepreneur­­­­-managers are strongly advised to fully use the Internet for personal or professional purposes (e.g. social networking sites, professional sites, email, blogging and mirco-blogging, chatting, cloud computing, publishing electronic material etc.) so as to have an experience at first hand about the potentialities of the latter one as well as to keep pace with its continuous developments.

In any case, since the matter presents specific interest, a deeper research would be more useful. More objective assessments of marketing success and the inclusion of a wider variety of variables that can drive Internet marketing success leave scope for future research.


REFERENCES

- Anderson S. (2009), ‘Diving into internet marketing’, American Agent & Broker, December.

- Blackburn, R. and R. McClure (1998), The Use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Small Business Service Sector Firms, London: Small Business Research Centre, Kingston Business School.

- Barnett, P.(1997), Nike dumps UK shop, Marketing, 27 November, p.15.

- Buhalis D. <ed> (2001), Tourism distribution channels, Practices, issues & transformations, Continuum, London.

- Cooper Ch., Fletcher J., Gilbert D., Wanhill S. (1998), Tourism, principles and practice, Prentice Hall-Financial Times, Harlow (2nd edition).

- Diamantopoulos A., Hart Susan (1993) Linking market orientation and company performance: preliminary evidence on Kohli and Jaworski's framework, Journal of Strategic Marketing, 1 (2), pp. 93-121.

- Elliott, R., Boshoff, C. (2007), The influence of the owner-manager of small tourism businesses on the success of internet marketing, S. African Journal of Business Management, 38 (3).

- European Commission (2005), The new SME definition, Enterprise and industry publications, pp. 14.

- Fill, C. (2002), Marketing Communications, Prentice Hall-Financial Times, (3rd edition)

- Gelles, D. (2009), Blogs that spin a web of deception, Financial Times, Vol. 12, February, pp.14.

- Gibb, A.A. (1993), The enterprise culture and education: understanding enterprise education and its links with small business, entrepreneurship and wider entrepreneurial goals, International Small Business Journal, 11 (3), pp.11-34.

- Gilmore, A., Carson, D. & Grant, K. (2001), SME marketing in practice, Market Intelligence and Planning, 19 (1), pp. 6-11.

- Hair, J. F., Anderson, R. E., Tatham, R. L. & Black, W. C. (1998), Multivariate data analysis, 5th Edition. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

- Harding S. (1998) The marketing orientation and nonprofits: the concept revisited, Social Marketing Quarterly, 4 (4), pp. 35-39.

- Hill,R. (2006), Advertiser satisfaction with advertising agency creative product, European Journal of Marketing , 40 (11/12), pp. 1254-1270.

- Jardine, A. (2000), Will workshops replace the pitch?, Marketing, 13 April, p.16.

- Jones, B., Iredale, Norma, (2009), Entrepreneurship education and Web 2.0, Journal of Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship, 11 (1), pp. 66-77.

- Karagiannis St. (2004) Productivity and Managerial efficiency in Hotel Industry. Crete as a case study, Tourist Scientific Review-Semestrial Journal, V. 2, pp. 167-181.

- Karagiannis St. (2001) The prospectives of hotel marketing and the contribution of Hotel manager. The case of Crete, Dioikitiki Enimerosi, Vol. 21, pp. 104-114 (in Greek).

- Klipstine,T. (2008), Time to take our own advice: Five simple principles for effective Web writing, Tactics, February

- Lovelock C., Wirtz J. (2007), Services Marketing, Pearson International Edition, p.16-21.

- Marcati A., Guido G. & Peluso A. (2008), The role of SME entrepreneurs’ innovativeness and personality in the adoption of innovations, Research Policy, 37 (9), pp. 1579-1590.

- Middleton V. (1993), Marketing in Travel & Tourism, Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford.

- Osborne, R. (1996), Strategic values: the corporate performance engine, Business Horizons, 39, September/October, pp. 41–48.

- Pavlopoulos P. (2007) Tourism establishment small and medium size: role, perspectives, measures, Institute of Tourism research and Predictions (ΙΤΕΠ), Athens (in Greek).

- Papanikos G. Γ. (2000), The Greek SM Hotel Enterprises, Institute of Tourism research and Predictions (ΙΤΕΠ), Athens (in Greek).

- Parasuraman, A. (1991), Marketing research, 2nd Edition,Reading: Addison-Wesley.

- Price,H., (2007), Poor Writing Skills Cost You Money, South Carolina Business, May.

- Sampaniotis Th., Vorlow K. (2006) Tourism & Greek Economy, Economy & Markets magazine, Eurobank Research, Vol. 8/ Year I, October (in Greek).

- Sharpe J. (2008), What to know about Internet Marketing, Air-conditioning, Heating & Refrigerated News, October.

- Singh S., Ranchhod A. (2004) Market orientation and customer satisfaction: Evidence from British machine tool industry, Industrial Marketing Management, 33, pp. 135– 144.

- Sweeney, S. (2000), Internet marketing for your tourism business, Gulf Breeze, FL: Maximum Press.

- Triki,A., Redjeb,N., Kamoun,I. (2007), Exploring the determinants of success/failure of the advertising agency-firm relationship, Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 10 (1), pp. 10-27.

- Tzokas N., Carter Sara, Kyriazopoulos P. (2001) Marketing and Entrepreneurial Orientation in Small Firms, Enterprise and Innovation Management Studies, 2 (1), pp. 19–33.

- Varey R., Lewis Barbara (2000) Internal marketing: directions for management, Routledge, London.

- Vorlow K. (2008) Internet and the Hotel sector in Greece, Economy & Markets magazine, Eurobank Research, 3 (1) (in Greek).

- Voulgaris, F., Asteriou, D., & Agiomirgianakis, C. (2004), Size and Determinants of Capital Structure in the Greek Manufacturing Structure, International Review of Applied Economics, 18 (2), 247-262.

- Wise, K. (2005), The importance of writing skills, Public Relations Quarterly, 50 (2), pp. 37-40.

- Zimmerer, T.W. & Scarborough, N.M. (2002), Essentials of entrepreneurship and small business management, 3rd Edition, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Appendix 1


[1] MSc, DipM MCIM, Hellenic Management Association, E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[2] MSc, PhD Candidate, TEI of Lamia

[3] See also the study of Pavlopoulos P. (2007) Tourism establishment small and medium size: role, perspectives, measures, ΙΤΕΠ, Athens, (in Greek).