Tour and travel industry professionals listened with rapt attention at NAJ’s recent RTO Summit West in Los Angeles as Kelly Kirkpatrick, executive director of Mesa Verde Country (MVC)—it represents the southwestern corner of Colorado—explained just how her organization was able to build a targeted international marketing program on a (literally) dollars-and-cents campaign in 2017 that has yielded tangible results.
Because of the cluster of inquisitive people around her after she made a brief presentation on the Mesa Verde County Visitor Bureau campaign, the Inbound Report could not talk with her then, so we followed up online and in a telephone interview to find out more about the $5,000 program.
In Brief: Mesa Verde Country lies within Montezuma County (pop. around 25,000) and its principal feature is Mesa Verde National Park, a stunningly beautiful and historic place that is known for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. Its three principal communities are Cortez, Dolores and Mancos. While small in numbers relative to gateway destinations, the area has attracted some international visitors over the years, especially from Europe.
A former travel agent and one-time executive director of the Cortez Retail Enhancement Association, Kirkpatrick had a good idea about what travelers expect and what local businesses want when she became executive director of Mesa Verde Country at the beginning of 2015.
The challenge—from afar it seems especially daunting—was to mount an international program with available resources: $5,000 out of an overall budget of $15,000.
First, this meant targeting specific markets. MCV already had key messages to convey to travelers—the area’s national park product, western culture and Native American culture. After measuring things that included such numbers as website and social media visitors and combining it with “boots on the ground” data from overseas visitors who had stopped at MVC’s information center, narrowed its target markets to three: Italy, France and Germany. A campaign would then build upon three key messages to three key markets.
Unable to wage a multimedia effort on such a small budget, MVC settled on social media (primarily Facebook) and its blog pages. When completed, its strategy looked like this:
Challenges: Kirkpatrick and others involved in the initiative realized that it was important, as she told us, that the MVC message be told “in their own words and not ours.” All those who listened to her presentation nodded in agreement when she said that “Google translation doesn’t always work.” It is always literal, and not contextual. All content, she emphasized, had to be translated authentically. Giving MCV some help and direction in this regard was Florian Herrmann, NAJ’s creative director and CEO of president of HMS Global.
Journalists who visit the destination invariably write about it, Kirkpatrick said, but it is difficult to get permission to reprint a magazine or newspaper article in a blog or on Facebook. So, MCV took to asking visitors to write a brief note about their experience, and began posting their contents.
This helped to trigger increased engagement, as travelers would often return home and visit their language specific page and post further comments. As well, photos posted on Instagram, which is part of Facebook, began to grow in number.
As traffic on the social media grew, MCV helped to stimulate it further, target key countries via social media ads to drive traffic to its website and engaging people with its travel community. The organization didn’t have to spend much. Here are some numbers:
—MCV’s budget was small, $500 but average was 9 cents per click through ad (click through to page)
—On social Media platform, it used video and $20 boost to reach targets
—On social media platform, it used photo and 430 boost to reach targets
—Each appear in target countries with their different languages
—In sum, it was a campaign with total reach of 100k consumers for a total of $50
—Men were more engaged than women
—Online visitors from Italy responded more freely and shared more
—Those from France did also, though not quite as much
—Germany do not share and didn’t engage … “Germans are less inclined to click through.”
—While other social media sites have their place, Facebook is No. 1 for sharing
–Pictures do so much more than copy alone.
And finally, Mesa Verde Country will have another campaign in 2017 but, as it hones its targets further, it might limit it to Italy and France.
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