COVID-19 Website Strategies

There’s a lot on everybody’s plate right now. From adaption to a new normal to concerns about family, friends, and the world, it’s a tough time that is new to all of us. But beyond the day-to-day logistics, we want to encourage you to think about this time as a real potential opportunity to begin your plan, protect, and recover path through to the future. We believe that this path should include a focus on a short-term marketing strategy for your biggest marketing tool, which is your website. Reports from the CDC and U.S. Travel continue to share that the risk to the U.S. public is low and there are no restrictions on travel anywhere in the U.S., however it is clear that public confidence is shaken, and the full impact of this time has yet to be seen. The bottom line is that both DMOs and the travel industry in general will come out of this. With that in mind, a focus on Q3 and Q4 marketing efforts for your site can be a good way to help you prepare for the return of visitors and travel throughout the country.

So what can these strategies be? The good news is that there are plenty. While we encourage you to use your site to relay information to locals about news and updates, we do also believe that you can think about a shift to inspiration for travelers for when they are comfortable and able to travel again. While your events sections today seem overwhelmed with a sea of cancellation notices, the longer term strategy of continuing to show visitors why they should visit you can still be ongoing. These types of changes can include:

  • Ongoing SEO efforts to make sure your website rankings are preserved.
  • Adjusting your homepage content to focus less on current events and more on general destination information.
  • Temporarily pausing media campaigns directly aimed at specific events or time windows.
  • Consider a round of inspirational storytelling to help website visitors become inspired to visit you when the dust settles.
  • If you are seeing a large volume of cancellations on your events pages, consider only showing any activities that are still scheduled, and also add content to discuss what sorts of events typically happen at your destination.

In addition to these types of changes, this can also be a time to do a little house cleaning, or working with your website development team to address long-standing issues that you’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t had time. If you are utilizing our Growth-Driven Design website and marketing strategies, we can adjust your ongoing sprints to focus more on these types of projects. If you are on our monthly hosting and maintenance plans, we can also work with you to show you ways that you can work to clean out outdated and redundant content using your WordPress administration area. 

The takeaway is this: While we don’t want to sugarcoat anything that is currently happening, we do know that this will pass, and when it does, we want you and your primary marketing tools to be as ready as possible for the return of visitors to your destination. And as your partner in that process, we want to be available to you to help and guide you through to that time. The reality right now is that people are at home way more than they might have typically been – this means they will be surfing the web and looking for information, be it as a distraction from the times, or wanting to plan future trips once we come out from the other side. This is why it’s important that you and your site are ready to help them.

Interested in learning even more about how you can protect, plan, and subsequently recover from the current COVID-19 environment? We’ve developed a COVID-19 Marketing Preparation Guide for you and your partners.

The Importance of SEO

SEO is a crucial element of successful marketing campaigns. Madden’s experts want to share what you can do to keep your website optimized for good Search Engine Optimization.

Why Focus on SEO Now?

SEO is more critical to destination website success following the COVID-19 pandemic. Early on, many people were confined to their homes and searching for things to do and places to travel once restrictions lifted. As people start feeling safe to travel again, you want your website to appear in searches. This will help you connect your brand to audiences interested in travel.

Protecting your current SEO status and preventing it from slipping now will help you recover in the future. Madden is here to help. We have SEO experts that are ready to ensure your site remains as visible as possible for those with travel intent. Our team is always happy to provide strategies and advice that can help your website stay high in search results.

SEO is an Always-On Tactic

Remember that your site needs to remain SEO-optimized in order to be seen by visitors. It is much more difficult to regain lost rankings than to maintain and improve current rankings over time. Beyond this, there are additional items that can occur with a suspended SEO campaign, such as:

  • Competitor sites can overtake your website in search rankings, especially if they are continuing SEO while your campaign is inactive.
  • Stopping a long term investment such as SEO will greatly reduce its value. Think of SEO like a gym routine—if you stop, it is much more difficult to pick back up where you left off. The longer you neglect SEO, the harder it will be to regain lost traffic and rankings.
  • Unresolved errors can cause a poor user experience and result in a drop of repeat visitors.
  • Any new keyword opportunities are missed, resulting in a loss of new visitors.
  • Updates to Google’s algorithm continue to happen frequently – these updates have to be addressed with ongoing SEO.
  • Your site can quickly lose search visibility.

Bringing it All Together

Travel has been and continues to be one of the first industries affected by unprecedented national and world-wide events. However, we firmly believe that tourism will be one of the first industries to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. People will be more eager than ever to get out of the house once again when it is safe to do so. Using strong SEO tactics to be there for them with strong search results will translate to a quicker recovery for your destination.

In closing, we know that saying you have a lot on your plate right now is an understatement. We want to help make you aware of how you can best be prepared for recovery through positive planning and prevention. Stay positive, keep your websites visible in front of audiences worldwide, and remember that we will come out of this stronger as an industry.

Interested in learning even more about how you can protect, plan, and subsequently recover from the current COVID-19 environment? We’ve developed a COVID-19 Marketing Preparation Guide for you and your partners.

Protect. Plan. Recover.

Updated 4/28/20

The evolving role of Destination Marketing Organizations into Destination Management Organizations has never been more evident than in recent weeks. We’ve developed the following framework to provide you and your partners with a helpful guide to thinking about not just short-term actions, but preparing and planning for the recovery of your marketing efforts for your destination.

Protect. 

While our hotel partners are experiencing a downturn like never before—one that some may not recover from—we know your destinations provide much more than room nights. Each of you hosts your own unique offering of coffee shops, breweries, museums, events, and so much more. While we cannot promote immediate travel, we can promote those assets and the stories and people behind them through social media and local earned media. More than ever, you will need to activate your local residents for the duration of this COVID-19 crisis to help fill the massive gap left by the mitigation measures currently being put in place.

As destinations begin to open up the gates to responsible marketing, the current message should be “Don’t travel now, but we are looking forward to having you back when the time is right and we want you to be dreaming about us, too.” This sentiment is reflected back in comments on social media as past visitors are expressing nostalgia and the desire to visit again soon.

Now is the time to adjust SEM plans for those in the planning phase and shift keywords and ad groups to outdoor spaces or promotions for curbside pickup and other ways to support local economies. Beyond organic posts on social feeds, numerous cities across the country are running display, video, and paid social campaigns for inspiration.

As you look forward, look at the collective impact models that exist to bring together diverse organizations and groups with a common agenda. Collective impact models bring people and organizations together in a structured way to achieve social change with a common goal. We have the opportunity as an industry to advocate for our communities and lead toward this future.

Some immediate measures you can take to support your community broadly include:

  • Continue being the conduit between partners to share information and best practices. This includes sharing information between partners about resources available to both the people affected through layoffs and the companies themselves. Helping to ensure the people have access to these resources will soften the effect of this crisis on them and improve the likelihood that those individuals will be able to rejoin the industry and bring back their historical knowledge, training, and skills. 
  • Tell the stories of your partners on social media, consolidate a list of companies offering take-out and delivery services, and create unique, newsworthy experiences with those partners to be picked up by local media. Look for opportunities to bring these efforts to visual-based media like YouTube or 360 videos. 
  • Reinforce the messages from your local health department regarding the current situation and the best measures to protect individuals, along with links to official releases.
  • Review your current content and itineraries and determine what to share with locals to encourage activities they can do while practicing social distancing. Not all of these activities will be doable during specific times like a shelter-in-place directive, but locals will be able to return to those activities at some point ahead of visitors. These can also help drive pride-in-place among your residents and help reinforce your brand.
  • Listing management is always a challenge to keep the most relevant information updated, and it will become more challenging during this period as businesses are forced to close. Create a workflow to review what businesses are temporarily or permanently shutting down, so this does not become a significant task that shadows your plans when you start to return to the new normal.
  • Work with your local chambers and economic development offices to share resources and coordinate joint messaging.
  • Adjust your homepage content to focus less on current events and more on general destination information.
  • Share educational content (potentially in partnership with teachers) about your destination for children at home across the country. This could include math problems around distance, volume problems around size, destination history, and more.

Everyone is seeking assistance from all levels, and you likely have reduced resources either through furloughs or new budget constraints. You already know your most critical assets through your existing destination development plans, visitor profile studies, and research data; use these studies or get the historical pattern of life tracking data, so you know where to prioritize your resources. While you may have significant leisure data, do not forget to review the pattern of life data of visitors to your convention centers to see what enriches the experience for event attendees. Work with your board to move some of your media efforts to support these key partners.

Whether you’re a government entity or a non-profit organization, you are going to have to protect and defend your budgets. Right now, you need to protect your organization and resources and, like your partners, look for recovery funds and loans to protect your team and efforts. Seek board approval to take on debt that might include potential payroll protection loans and economic stimulus benefits. Like your partners, you have also been adversely affected, and your non-profit should be seeking SBA assistance and working with your political leaders to ensure 501(c)6 organizations can qualify. Programs like these will be helpful to ensure that you have your full team to help you prepare and respond. U.S. Travel has established a guide to review options and your potential eligibility.

Lastly, keep in mind that there are still bookings for meetings going on for the future. These will easily be 6-18 months in the future, making short-term cuts for payroll could have long-term consequences. The relief programs should help to minimize the short-term pain and help mitigate the longer-term impact.

Plan.

The world has just hit the pause button and we can’t expect that travel and tourism will suddenly go back to normal once the doors are open. Still, we all need to be working towards growing your destination and returning your hotel partners to a sustainable occupancy level. First, identify where you are on your curve. We are seeing a 15-30 day bell curve from the time community spread reaches a destination—this is within a metro region or state, not the data we will see from the country. As we review industry news, trends, and considerable research provided by Tourism Economics, we see booking interest start to return at 30-45 days from community spread. The result is that those areas which are most likely to be hit first will also be the first to recover, but will continue to suffer the longer-term PR concerns about safety. 

As the virus settles into pockets, some destinations will be better suited to handle visitors sooner rather than others. All of us know from our experience working within the traveler’s journey that leisure travelers will dream about a type of trip well before they start considering your destination. It is imperative to meet them where they are in the journey. Right now, people are home either not working or working remotely; they are looking for distractions and are online in droves. Keep those who are showing interest and intent to travel inside of your funnel by maintaining some limited media through the duration of the crisis since leisure travelers generally take 40+ days to decide to book. Bear in mind, 76% of travelers stated they planned to travel in the next six months, as recently surveyed by Longwoods.

When travel does pick up again, there will still be significant segments of the population that are reluctant to travel—whether due to financial instability or lingering health and wellness concerns. For those who do travel, find ways to highlight the affordability of your destination. The first people to travel will likely be drive-markets looking for budget-conscious short stays, day trips, and potentially weekends. Rather than lowering base prices (which can create complications around raising them in the future), increase value for these travelers with special packages and incentives.

Travelers will also take a particular interest in what your community, your restaurants, and your attractions are implementing to ensure their safety. Collaborate with your partners to create and communicate plans that address health and safety.

What you can do to ensure your message and assets continue to be seen and considered by your future travelers:

  • Don’t wait for stay-at-home orders to end before restarting your marketing efforts, encourage your audience to plan for recovery but recognize that destinations cannot go back to the same messaging. Tailor your messages to be specific to the situation and call out those activities travelers are most excited about such as getting outside and enjoying a change of scenery.
  • Utilize your B-roll. Repurpose those images with a new soundtrack and voice-over telling future visitors—especially those in your remarketing pool and social channels—that you look forward to their visits in the future. Identify distribution channels that have increased viewership currently like YouTube, CTV, and social media.
  • Nurture your existing social media relationships by offering calming messages and continued engagement of your followers. There will be a time for prospecting, for now, you may want to put a small amount of paid media behind your posts to ensure visibility to your followers.
  • Consumers are shaken from this event, and they’re seeking things that give them comfort. Memories of previous trips will be shared as families come together, and they will want to recreate those memories now even more. 
  • Build stronger social advocacy campaigns and dive into some of your historical UGC efforts to reengage with past comments from visitors on social media. 
  • Try and find a unique spin for your marketing. Many destinations are putting out the same message, what opportunities do you have to differentiate your message? Be funny. Be humorous. Be memorable.
  • Consider lead-generation efforts to build your email list and get people to sign up for visitor guides, get access to a special passport to your businesses, etc. Find ways to build anticipation and curiosity about your destination with your consumers.
  • Continue to meet the consumer where they are through current SEM, Remarketing, and RLSA efforts. Keep them dreaming about what they want to do; it will increase their desire and commitment to making their dream a reality. 
  • Respond to consumer shifts in their travel plans. Use in-market audiences to capture those individuals shifting plans from cruise and international travel to road trips and domestic.

What you can do to improve the performance of your organization and marketing assets:

  • Analyze website traffic trends. Use consumer-driven insights to update pages seeing the most interest. Ongoing SEO and conversion optimization efforts will make sure your website can be found in searches and help to pinpoint organic consumer intent metrics that show you should start ramping up your media spend.
  • Dust off your strategic plan, media strategy, most recent visitor profile studies, etc., and reset your priorities and core messages. Redefine and evolve campaigns and personas; what made sense six months ago may not be fitting today. 
  • Conduct a more in-depth media analysis of historical data, establish what is working & where tactics can be the most beneficial for future spend/channels.
  • Start planning an intense summer blitz that is likely to be more competitive than we have seen in the recent past, along with fall and winter campaigns to drive occupancy back up in softer months.
  • Identify which meetings have been postponed and rescheduled and use this information to adjust your tactical marketing plans.
  • Plan outreach with partners and gather lists of media outlets (print, online publishers, blogs) to contact about positive destination stories (SMBs, Locally Made, One-of-a-kind attractions, outdoor spaces).
  • Understand the unique value drivers and the search trends behind those places to make recommended content plans.
  • Improve your meetings marketing assets—use this time to create assets that speak to the meeting planner personas and types of events that correlate with economic development planning instead of building solely against square feet, configuration options, and price. 
  • Work with your restaurants and attractions partners to build assets and programs on platforms like Bandwango to be able to provide to residents, visitors, and conference attendees.

Recover.

Your office, your partners, residents, and visitors all want to get to the other side of this crisis. The future will look different, but the core roles and responsibilities of DMOs will remain the same and will likely be that much more appreciated by your stakeholders. You will be the ones to help lead your destinations through the recovery. Whereas your hotel and attractions partners currently have messaging driving bookings, you are there to inspire the dream and brand of your destination for the consumer.

This year, the focus will be on occupancy over ADR, opening the doors of your hotels and attractions again, and a continued emphasis on social distancing. Consumers will want to see your inspiration-focused imagery or videos. However, it is wise to limit videos and images with numerous people in them due to social distancing concerns for the intermediate future. 

Use your social media channels and email marketing campaigns to let people know which of your partners are open for business. Media budgets have been paused, so when your destination is cleared to receive travelers, you will need to start ramping media up to peak levels while still seeking to control costs per conversion. Continue to focus on media channels that supply the highest return on investment, focusing on conversion actions that meet the strategy that you developed during the planning phase.

Be positive. There are more challenges to come as this virus affects your communities and individuals whom you know personally, and there will be more difficult decisions ahead. There is no crisis our industry has not rallied together to find a way through; because we know travel is a necessary part of the human condition. We have always been drawn to explore, to not sit in one place for too long, and to seek out the unknown. We are curious, social, and insta-worthy travelers that want your destination to be part of our story.

Great Marketing Comes with Great Responsibility

Consumers expect brands—including destinations—to think beyond the bottom line and deploy responsible marketing. Marketers have a duty to protect the privacy of the individuals they are trying to reach, embrace inclusivity with personalized content, prove the ROI, and integrate environmentally sustainable practices whenever possible. 

How can agencies and marketing organizations in the tourism industry increase responsible marketing? From combatting over-tourism to creating environmentally responsible publications, your organization can choose to follow socially responsible practices and become leaders in making travel more sustainable. 

Madden believes in actively developing long-term growth alongside our partners through conscientious marketing. Together, we can lead the way to thoughtful and responsible promotion of travel.

Inclusivity and Diversity

As we think about the challenges of 2020, none came to light more than the challenges we face trying to be a fully inclusive society. When we think about how to become more welcoming to all travelers, having a team that is inclusive and representative of the country is one of the most important ways to embody and affect change. As a company, we are committed to seeking consistent, sustained improvement. Consider your team dynamics and how you are building your organizations. To build a diverse organization requires work on recruitment, it does not just happen.

As marketers, we look to continue to evolve our marketing practices to better represent all of the population and not just those that have the perceived highest value. Some of the ways we are working with DMOs to become more inclusive include:

  • Audit Content, Photo Assets, & UGC: Take an open-minded look at the content used in your marketing. Look for opportunities to showcase a wider variety of people in your imagery. Evaluate your website content, blog, and social media efforts and audit for staff bias.
  • Talk About Inclusion With Your Partners: Your teams know your destination best. Brainstorm ways you can work together to be more inclusive and hold one another accountable.

Review Partner Listings: Are you featuring Black-owned business in your partner listings? Are there ways to highlight diverse businesses in a way you haven’t done before? Help your partners update their Google My Business listings.

Inclusivity starts with us — embedding equity in all aspects of our organization. The more diverse voices we have at each table, the more trusted spaces we have to listen, learn and amplify compelling stories. Creating this culture is critical to our shared success.

Sheretha Bell, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau

One of our partners, Discover Atlanta, has taken a leadership role in building inclusivity into their efforts. Working with them, we asked local Black writers to give an unfiltered review of their favorite places in Atlanta so that travelers would get an authentic view of the city’s nightlife, outdoor activities, dining, history, and more. Each piece of content includes a headshot and bio from the writers as well as photos of themselves throughout the city. Including these details reinforces Discover Atlanta’s commitment to representative storytelling and resonates more strongly with their target audiences.

Working with Atlanta on their new website, we worked with their team to bring creative assets highlighting a wide variety of people—giving their storytelling the ability to cut across demographics and compel a wide variety of people to visit and enjoy Atlanta’s unique combination of cuisine, culture, and community experiences. 

It’s vital to think about your audiences and create content that makes meaningful, authentic connections. Think about how people from different walks of life will find a photo or video snippet of someone who looks like them enjoying your destination. Investing in inclusive, diverse, and welcoming creative assets (and content!) not only helps our society get closer to universal allyship, but it’s more effective in compelling people to visit.

Environmental Impact

Sustainable Tourism

As travel marketers, our goal is to connect people to places, encourage exploration, and increase tourism year over year. However, from overcrowding to the deterioration of fragile environments, too many visitors can be harmful to local communities. At the destination level, local DMOs have the responsibility to educate prospective visitors about under-trafficked areas so that they can have a truly unique experience, not just everyone else’s vacation. Discovering less explored locations, attractions, and restaurants makes for a more balanced destination. 

Madden recommends implementing Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Programs and Responsible Visit Campaigns to our partners—all businesses and community members should unite together to reduce the impact of overtourism.

As travel marketers, we have a responsibility to proactively communicate and educate prospective visitors with information necessary for a unique and wonderful experience that protects and respects our destinations and residents.

Matt Borud, Idaho Department of Commerce

One of our partners, Visit Idaho partnered with a number of their stakeholders to promote responsible recreation throughout Idaho. The outdoor recreation community throughout the COVID pandemic saw many more visitors, especially many first-time visitors that were less familiar with the outdoors. Through the partnership, our team was able to work together to match responsible recreation messages with those individuals who were most likely to visit. This involved both a strong video campaign and information made available to help visitors and residents alike recreate more responsibly at Recreate.Idaho.gov.

Effective Use of Natural Resources

Our history began with promoting destinations through visitor guides, and there are many ways we can improve the practices and processes used to be more eco-friendly. By utilizing page counts that minimize waste when printing and downsizing pages for efficiency, visitor guides become far more environment-friendly. 

We love sustainable paper, we think it is a more environmentally conscious approach than recycled paper. Paper recycling uses more energy than plastic recycling, it requires chemicals to strip the paper, and you can only reuse the paper seven times before the fibers are too small. To be truly sustainable and environmentally conscious, and give your guide high quality paper, we recommend getting paper from trees that are grown and harvested in an earth-friendly way. These trees are planted and harvested in a way that doesn’t interfere with the habitat and use rainwater (Source: Sustainable vs. Recycled: Which Paper is Best?, Double A Paper).

Consumer Privacy

Complying with privacy laws is only the beginning of being trustworthy with consumer data. As consumers, we all want to know that our personal information is safe, so as marketers we should do all we can to respect and protect the personal information of our target audiences. We should go beyond the minimum efforts that are required and give consumers opportunities to opt out of data collection they’re uncomfortable with—besides, why waste your precious marketing dollars on people who aren’t likely to convert?

Madden takes privacy seriously, and we work closely with our partners to ensure the target audiences we’re reaching opt-in or consent to sharing the information we collect through responsible marketing. For example: 

  • In our remarketing efforts, we do not collect personal information that is protected under GDPR or CCPA policies. As an added protection and best practice, our team expires remarketing lists after 90 days, which is two times earlier than required.
  • We’ve evolved our lead generation programs and marketing through our proprietary sites, so our partners receive better quality leads and consumers are provided with travel information they’re truly interested in.
  • Our team collaborates with data platforms to increase transparency and boost consumer control of data. Madden will continue to work with our future & current DSPs to ensure compliance with the cookie-based targeting of the campaigns we manage for our partners.
  • We encourage our partners to update their website privacy policies as new guidelines and practices come into play.

Fiduciary Accountability

With the rise in technological advances and our ability to track ROI, it has become more important than ever for DMOs to prove the effectiveness of marketing efforts. Organizations from states to cities have been in the media spotlight fighting for their budgets. To execute responsible marketing, your agency must understand your need to report on the success of your campaigns to community members, stakeholders, board members, and partners. Reporting should be data-driven and provide transparent insights to show your budget is being used effectively with attributable results. At Madden, our clients are seeing success using our new destination intelligence platform, Voyage.  

Want to learn more about how your organization can deploy responsible marketing tactics? Let’s collaborate!

Don’t be Left Behind—Content Hubs are the Future

Your shiny new visitors’ guide is hot off the presses and in the hands of readers… what next?

In the hope of further capturing readers, many choose to upload a direct virtual copy or “flipbook” meant to be read from cover to cover just like the print version. It sure looks pretty but it’s stagnant, not easily searchable, and difficult to share across web and social media platforms. At Madden, we think it just might be a thing of the past.

So how can Madden propel you into the future, increase reader engagement, and drive traffic between your guide and your website? With a Content Hub.

What is a Content Hub?

A Content Hub is an interactive, custom-designed version of your print guide that lives on your website. This responsive online companion includes features from the printed guide that are transformed to provide an immersive online experience we call Presentation Layers. The Content Hub carries the cohesive look and feel of your website while giving readers the power to click through and seamlessly interact with other pages of your website or even to advertisers’ sites–bringing your destination to life and highlighting glimpses into the adventure awaiting travelers.

How does it work?

In addition to your editorial features, Madden can produce digital-exclusive stories, which keep readers coming back to your site for more. These custom-written stories will springboard from your brand and voice and delve deeper to further connect people to your destination between publications. These inspiring stories can be updated throughout the year, providing fresh content that encourages new and returning visitors to explore your unique culture, aesthetic, and attractions while engaging with the brand.

With all these stories in one central location, site visitors are encouraged to navigate through the site and continue discovering more reasons to love your destination. 

Content Hubs increase traffic and time spent on your site, social sharing, and brand awareness to gain extra eyes through online distribution while providing an engaging experience for the reader. Plus, it makes your website look distinguished, modern, and all-around awesome.

Take a look at a couple of our favorite Content Hubs with the links below, and get in touch with our team today about building your own immersive online experience with Madden.

https://www.visitomaha.com/things-to-do/stories/

https://explorestlouis.com/discover/stl-features/

Advertising Best Practices

When it comes to advertising and marketing, it is easy to assume that something is better than nothing. But, in a world flooded with advertisements, social media algorithms and multi-formats…there are some best practices you can follow to cut through the noise. Fortunately for you, if you follow these simple Best Practices, you’ll be able to deliver an ad that could become a high performer.

No matter the format

It doesn’t matter if your advertisement is going into print, a social media campaign, or elsewhere online, there are a few things that are necessary for your ad to illicit a reaction from a viewer.

Compelling Headline

Grab your viewer’s attention with active and not passive phrases! It is tempting to fill your advertisement with as much information as possible, but when you only have a split second to pull a potential customer to click on your ad, visit your website, or call your company—your headline needs to go beyond your tagline and prompt action.

Call To Action

Now that you have the viewer’s attention, they need to know the next step you want them to take. Your ad needs a clear Call To Action (CTA). Don’t be vague, but don’t be afraid to be creative. The CTA “Reserve Your Sunset View Now” is far more inspiring than “Call For Reservations”.

Complementary Images and Copy

So you have your amazing photo selected, you’ve toiled over the perfect advertising copy, and it’s time to place your ad into the 3” x 3” print ad. You overlay that visually complex image with a ton of copy…how does it look? Less than stellar. Your image and copy needs to match not only the physical ad’s specs but also consider what you can visually accomplish in the space of the advertisement you purchased.

Succinct

Rusty from Ocean’s 11 says “Don’t use seven words when four will do.” You may not be breaking into a casino vault, but the words need to ring true in every marketing piece you present to the public.

Print – Display

Make sure your copy is persuasive, inspiring, and lures the viewer to engage with your CTA. It’s tempting to cram in as much information as possible, but short and focused will provide far more value. Contact info should support the CTA.

Common Definitions:
Some ad sizes are able to “bleed” off the edge of a page; here are some helpful terms to understand when preparing an ad that bleeds.

Trim Size is the finished size of the page. Once a magazine is printed and bound, it is trimmed to size, giving each edge a consistent, clean look.

Because magazine printing is done in large quantities with fast-moving presses, a margin of error is built in to accommodate variances. Bleed is an area outside the trim size to accommodate for those variances.

Live Area is a margin of error inside the trim. Vital information needs to fall within the live area, we don’t want your logo or contact information to risk being trimmed or too close to the edge, so be sure the design of your ad takes this into account.

Print – Advertorial

Best practices: Include a headline, compelling body copy, contact info, and photo (if applicable). Make sure your copy is inspiring. It’s tempting to cram in as much information as possible, but copy that is short and focused will provide far more value.

Photos for advertorials should not include type, logos or any Photoshop effects. They should be at least 3” x 5” at 300 dpi.

Social

Less than 20% of the image you are using for a Facebook ad should be text. Otherwise, Facebook will limit (if not block) the ad from being delivered. 

Facebook Image Ratio: Click

Your Facebook and Instagram ad images will capture a viewer’s attention, but the copy is what lands you the click. Make sure your copy is persuasive, inspiring, and lures the viewer to click your CTA. It’s tempting to cram in as much information as possible, but copy that is short and focused will provide far more value. Studies show people scan mobile ads within .4 seconds on mobile and decide if it’s worth their time or not. Keep your copy short. 

Include at least 3 variations to your copy, so your social media team or agency can swap out, test and optimize your ad. 

General Common Definitions

  • CTA: “Call To Action”, this short snippet should point people to either click, call or visit your website to make a transaction or learn more information. 
  • Prospecting: These are ads designed to engage people who have either never seen your material, or have never visited your site. 
  • Remarketing: If a viewer has visited your site but didn’t make the desired transaction, Remarketing ads are designed to push them one step closer to ultimately making a transaction with you. 
  • Targeted: These are demographic-, location- or time-specific ads that speak directly to the unique needs of a group. 
  • Impression: When your ad appears on someone’s social media feed, on a website, or in ad space somewhere on the page.
  • View: Refers to a Video view. Just because your video ad appears on someone’s feed, doesn’t necessarily mean they watched it. When they do take the time to watch, that action is counted as a view. 
  • Clicks: When someone clicks on your ad, CTA, or link.
  • Facebook Instant Experience vs Facebook ad: A Facebook ad is simply a video or image paired with copy and a CTA. The new Instant Experience ads (previously called Canvas ads) expand into a mini-website of sorts filled with short, engaging videos, copy, and design.

Traveler Intents are the New Demographic

Stop targeting demographics and start using traveler intents

Are you tired of hearing about millennials and their travel habits? Wouldn’t you like to use data to discover more than just age and gender? Forget what you think you know about targeting by demographics.

Currently, when marketers target specific audiences, they consistently generalize and stereotype people into categories such as gender, age, and sexual orientation. Humans don’t like this because they pride themselves on being different from one another.

Learn about a new approach. Read on to discover why you should stop targeting based on stereotypes and instead start looking at why visitors are traveling.

Pivoting our approach

A group of employees at Madden set out to identify the perfect holistic marketing mix of paid, earned, shared, and owned media outlets for our diverse partners. During these discussions, we found ourselves continually coming back to personas and how they are the starting point for most marketing channel discussions. But we realized that each of us felt as though we don’t always identify with the demographics people were putting us in.

It was then that we changed our mindset on how we should target consumers: There is no one-size-fits-all marketing mix—just like there is no one-size-fits-all traveler. Each destination has its own set of unique offerings, and each traveler has their own vision for their perfect vacation.

There are countless personas, audiences, and marketing channels out there, and at the end of the day, you can’t do everything. And you shouldn’t! You should instead focus on executing on the right platforms for your audience.

This brought us to the idea of targeting based on traveler intents. The first piece of the puzzle is to narrow down what kind of travelers your destination identifies with or wants to attract.

Current demographics are broken

None of these concepts are all that revolutionary. However, as our Maddenite work group moved deeper into the discussion, we started to realize that demographics weren’t covering it. We were annoyed at how age generalizations were placing us in boxes that we didn’t identify with. We realized we need to stop thinking about targeting solely based on demographics because that isn’t an accurate picture of an individual and most certainly can’t determine why someone might be traveling.

When marketers talk about targeting specific audiences, we put people into categories based on gender, age, and sexual orientation. We take the stance that they all desire the same type of content and can all be reached on the same platform based on characteristics and not interests. As much as marketers like to think that all millennials and boomers are the same, they most certainly are not. We need to stop grouping potential travelers this way and start looking at why they are traveling. A person’s travel intents are better indicators of how we can target them for their next vacation, and by taking this approach, we are capturing more opportunities for potential travelers than span multiple demographics and traveler intents.

For example, let’s think about the typical outdoor traveler. You might picture the quintessential young, fit adventurers. But they are only a sliver of who might be considered an outdoor enthusiast. The reality is that people who travel for outdoor activities can be old or young, single or married, male or female or nonbinary, gay or straight. Those characteristics aren’t influencing why or where they want to travel, but a desire to go on a hiking adventure does influence where they want to travel and what they are searching for online.

Now, keep in mind that an outdoor enthusiast isn’t just that. That outdoorsy person could also be an avid shopper and married. During the span of a year, they could be taking multiple trips for a variety of reasons. One trip they could be looking for shopping, another for hiking, and the next for a relaxing getaway. It’s the same person with different travel intents at different points throughout the year. If you are instead focused on the idea that millennials are more likely to travel for hiking, then you are missing out on a huge portion of other age groups looking to explore your destination.

Fill the gaps

After you’ve determined the traveler intents that fit best with what your destination has to offer, you can think about how you want to use these new intents to identify content gaps that need to be filled. You can use this to evolve your existing marketing efforts or inform future strategies.

It is important to think about traveler intents before layering on demographic data because intents are what drive decisions on where to travel and what to do there. It is also vital to consider diversity and inclusion when producing marketing creative and messaging. At Madden, we encourage our partners to consider the importance of inclusivity with ad creative and personalized website imagery. With that in mind, traveler intents are a foundational layer that should be considered while you build out the content and messaging on your website. We can carry this out in paid advertising efforts by keeping in mind the end goal of showcasing just how welcoming and diverse your destination can be. Traveler intents help us to not single out the individual by demographic but instead use layers of data to ensure we are delivering the most impactful message.

Madden challenges you to start thinking of your target audiences differently. Let our Traveler Intents tool help you reconsider your destination’s marketing mix based on your audience’s traveler intents.

Let Madden help your destination reach the right audience through traveler intents.

Bringing Advocacy to your Marketing

Reaching your audience through authentic content is crucial. But that’s easier said than done. How do you connect your prospects with your brand in a way that gets them talking and brings value to the consumer? Short answer: Advocacy marketing.

Advocacy marketing is one of the strongest forms of marketing, and it is one of the most cost-effective. This involves cultivating relationships with those who visit your destination, not just pushing your message on them through social media and media buying. One of the ways we recommend our partners achieve advocacy is through User Generated Content and So-Fi video.

Authentic people create authentic images

When visitors post pictures and videos of their time in a destination on social media, this is, as the name suggests, User-Generated Content. But UGC is about more than just finding authentic images, you have to put them to good use. Each time you engage your audience, you extend your brand and give potential visitors an impression of your destination. By using UGC in your marketing, you showcase a side of your destination they don’t usually get to see. 

The people who take these images or video are in-destination visitors, and sometimes locals. They share your brand’s story—without even knowing it. Immersed in your destination, they want to share their vacation or the things they love about their hometown with their friends and loved ones, making these images powerful assets in your marketing toolbox. Real people and real stories go a long way in connecting with others. As we’ve seen with our own storytelling efforts, narratives that connect with people keep them on page on average 3x longer.

Inspirational video fueled by UGC

According to Cisco, by 2022 online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic — 15 times higher than it was in 2017. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Visual content is not only more engaging and dynamic, but viewers are more likely to buy a product or service after watching a brand’s video. Over time, a relationship is built between the audience and the brand, fostering trust and loyalty. Scripted videos often come off as staged and impersonal while So-Fi videos using UGC are less polished, and thus more believable. As you can imagine, these videos are beneficial to your social media presence.

Interested in knowing more?

Madden uses UGC in a variety of ways, including:

  • Digital ads
  • Official Visitor Guides
  • Websites and Presentation Layers
  • Social media posts
  • So-Fi videos

Using UGC in Video

Based on a shot list created by the partner and Madden, our specialists: 

  1. Use CrowdRiff to gather photo and video assets.
  2. Collect existing assets from users on social media or put out a call for users to submit specific requested shots  

An added benefit of So-Fi is that you also receive any and all assets for future use that we received rights to use, whether or not we use them in the final video.

Success story

Visit Galena wanted to promote a fun girls getaway using photos and video posted on social media. We produced the video for their destination using UGC. Check out the final product!

Hello, Is it Leads You’re Looking For?

7 Useful Tips and Best Practices for Lead Generation

Lead Generation isn’t always easy but is a crucial part of being able to measure return on investment. Madden is no stranger when it comes to collecting leads for clients; with launching our own travel resource, VacationistUSA, we have loads of experience to help spread our knowledge. Let us make your DMO life a little easier!

Why is sharing lists for lead generation a tactic of the past?

Email list sharing was a popular lead generation tactic to build a quick database way back in Y2K. While this tactic used to work well, it now faces several challenges as technology evolves to protect the privacy of the user along with sender reputations. With this recent evolution of policies, many email vendors like Constant Contact & MailChimp no longer allow sharing email lists with a single opt-in for multiple advertising participants.

The value of these leads deteriorates with list sharing as users expect trust & privacy from a brand they recognize. Even if you have great content, users expect to receive emails from a brand they are familiar with. If a user is not familiar with the brand a few things can occur:

  • Low open rates 
  • Email is flagged as spam 
  • Perceived as a lack of trust
  • Lower engagement with your brand and less potential to convert

This results in:

  • Damage to email sender reputation, like seriously you could get blacklisted!
  • Unsubscribes

What should I do if partners in my organization want to use my email list?

Send a dedicated email on behalf of your partner. This could mean directing traffic directly to their content or offering an opt-in so leads can receive information from your partners in the future through their own email marketing campaigns. By working with your partners in this way, you can also ask the partner to return the favor by including a call out for your DMO into their emails.

What does Madden recommend for capturing leads?

TIP 1: Focus on campaign initiatives directly on your website to keep travelers feeling safe about the info they are providing. It’s also not a bad idea to have the added protection of double-opt-in via a welcome email after they give you their information.

TIP 2: If you don’t have a website form or the budget or time to add one to your website, Facebook Lead Ads are the perfect solution. You can capture leads and email sign-ups which can easily export to a CSV file and transferred into your email marketing database. 

TIP 3: If you are not keeping your leads collections on your website be sure to work with a reliable leads source & request to see the opt-in verbiage they are using. As we mentioned earlier you NEVER want to buy or share a list of leads. It’s gross just don’t do it!

TIP 4: Instead of traditional sweepstakes giveaways offer small giveaways like SWAG along with a visitor guide download or request for a physical copy. This provides users with information on a client’s destination as well as the potential to receive some free stuff.

How can I nurture my leads?

Keeping an engaged list of leads is key to keeping your sender reputation up to par with your email marketing automation vendor.  If you are not taking steps to nurture your leads by sending content

TIP 1: Use an Email scrubbing & validation service to remove invalid emails to make sure your leads list is free potential spam traps. No one wants to waste emails sends to users who yield a pretty email metric to show to your board. 

TIP 2: Work with Madden to get set up with a reliable marketing automation vendor like Sharpspring, yep we are a partner! 

TIP 3: Use your email list for expanding on other Digital Marketing initiatives like remarketing display ads using Google’s Customer Match.

Become a Destination Marketing Superhero

How Marvel Can Help You Revolutionize Your Brand

When it comes to destination marketing, there are certain brands that everyone wants to imitate. Our clients send us pages from VisitBuffaloNiagara.com, or materials from CarmelCalifornia.com or VisitTampaBay.com as directions they want to take their brand. While those are all great destinations to emulate, we also want to take a few cues from the most creative and impactful marketing juggernaut in the game…the Marvel Comic Universe.

You may not have a bench filled with Hollywood celebrities, or a nine digit production budget; but there are lessons your destination can take away from Marvel that you can begin implementing immediately. 

Create a Content Universe

Creating a content universe starts with a specific end goal. Marvel’s goal was to release the movie The Avengers Endgame.  But, how do you make a movie featuring a team of junior varsity superheroes like Doctor Strange and Ant-Man that the general public couldn’t care less about? This is where brand vision takes over. 

Your stories, landing pages, videos, display and social media ads need to not only fit your brand vision, but point everyone towards the end goal. Everything you produce—no matter how small—needs to somehow point from one piece of content to the next. Just when your audience thinks they’ve exhausted the expanse of your content, another piece of related content should be coming their way. 

A chain of blog posts or visitor guide articles that cover various destination highlights isn’t enough anymore. You need to be a master storyteller, weaving in concepts and highlights that effortlessly pull your audience from one piece of content to the next. Create interconnected breaks within your storytelling that will allow you to address the diversity of travel intents and audiences. This will supercharge your ad targeting and email efforts, as you will be collecting valuable data on which group is interested in various aspects of your destination’s content universe.

Your content universe should not be a basket full of stories. They should be part of an overall story and brand that has interconnecting themes where multiple personas will likely interact. They should link to one another to reinforce your brand and continue to pull your prospective traveler into the story of your destination. These interweaving elements bring your destination together. With so many assets in each destination, telling a story about each one does not create excitement or an interwoven story. We know, we can see the limited page views on your partner pages! You are the chief storyteller of your destination, and your partners are the characters in your universe.

Create Anticipation and Curiosity

Almost every Marvel movie has an appearance from a hero who is not starring in the main storyline. In Thor Ragnarok, Doctor Strange confronts and then assists Thor and Loki in New York City, and Iron Man plays a pivotal role in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Why is this worth mentioning in the context of content? Because it builds anticipation for upcoming events, and allows you to capitalize on a curious audience.

When Marvel sneaks fellow Avenger member cameos into their movies they are reminding their audience that they are watching a piece of the overarching Avenger story, and not just a one-off movie. Soon the Marvel audience is trained that they have no other choice but to be excited about buying a ticket to the upcoming movie because there’s no way they are going to miss out on whatever surprises and clues are coming next. 

When your visitor books their trip, that isn’t the time to send a thank you email, that’s the time to hit them with a destination cameo. Did they book for a downtown hotel? Direct them to a story about all of the great bars and restaurants visitors can walk to downtown. Do you have a big fishing tournament in April? Update an old restaurant story to talk about which spots are the best after a long day on the lake. You want your visitors walking away from your content thinking “Wow I was visiting for ______ but they also have _______ , _______ AND _______!” 

Would Avengers Endgame have been as successful if Marvel released all of the Iron Man movies back to back, then all of the Thor ones, then all of the Captain America movies? Probably not, because the interplay between the storylines created curiosity and anticipation. So why do so many brands build their websites and stories like that? They publish pages listing all of the hotels OR all of the restaurants OR all of the attractions. Let your stars build intrigue and excitement not only for their own category, but for the categories they can help support. What are the best restaurants near your most popular hikes? Where are the best quick breakfast spots near your conference center? Which hotels have the best golf courses? 

This idea extends into practical tactics as well. Do you have a popular blog post that continues to perform? Update it to mention your new blog post. Do you have an active Instagram feed, but struggling on Twitter? Share screenshots of your Tweets on Instagram to cross pollinate your social media followers. Trying to kick off a podcast? Upload videos of the recording sessions to Facebook or YouTube. Once you get going, you’ll find the possibilities are endless.

Your visitors will soon become so entertained by your destination’s content that they forget they are being sold to. Did you ever sit through the credits to watch what the post-credit clip that is essentially nothing more than an advertisement for the next Marvel movie? Your content should have the same effect on your audience. 

Create Bonus Material, Hidden Gems, & Easter Eggs

Offer your die-hard fans extra content that rewards their attention to detail and loyalty. There is nothing more gratifying to an audience member than the feeling that they got the joke, or caught the twist that went over “the average viewer’s head”. Marvel did this by hinting at what was coming in future movies, or by sneaking in real world cultural references into their jokes. This forced the average audience member to either ask a die hard fan who the weird purple guy at the end of the Avengers movie was (i.e. word of mouth) or search on Google themselves to make sure that really was Matt Damon playing Loki in the Asgard play (i.e. SEO boosting). 

By doing this, you’ll create an “in crowd” and an “out crowd” within your audience, which is ideal as long as you give the “out crowd” an easy way to get “in”. Why is Loki so terrified of the Hulk in Thor Ragnarok? Well, you’ll just have to go back and rent The Avengers to find out. Why is this hotel the obvious choice for a girls’ trip? Well, here’s a piece on the best brunch spots in town to answer your question (::spoiler:: that hotel serves up one of the best….). Give your audience questions, or things they’ll need to research and then offer them the answer via extra material like visitor guides, signing up for emails or following your social media accounts

Marvel proved that audiences want the bricks in the Fourth Wall to be loosened a bit. They want to know that you understand them and that you are willing to reach out from behind your brand and speak directly to them. Your die-hard fans will feel like the experts in the room when they catch on, and your newcomers will get a slight twinge of FOMO that will pull them deeper and deeper into your content.

This could be done as easily as having your local college’s mascot or local business “celebrity” walk past in the background of a video shoot, or have your models in a display ad wearing popular local company’s merchandise. Tip your hat to major events and conferences coming through town by retooling your website’s colors, photo assets, and content to match that audience’s interests. Will everyone in your total audience get it? No, but the ones who do will be more inclined to share your content, which will create a bump in traffic to your site where there otherwise wouldn’t have been any. 

Activate Brand Advocates and Influencers

Marvel expanded their audience by partnering with GEICO, Coca-Cola, Google, Hertz, Audi, and Stand Up to Cancer among many others. Brand partnerships unlock new audiences that are not already your fans, but are the fans of your partners.

While your destination may not have the budget or sway to partner with an international soda company, you can easily align yourself with local brands that have some regional pull, or social media influencers who can reach their audiences the world around. You need to take advantage of both free and paid content collaboration. 

Does one of your partners produce commercials that everyone in the area can quote? Why haven’t you invited them to be in one of your videos asking locals to share a piece of content. Is there a restaurant or site that tourists regularly visit? See if they’d do a Social Media Take Over where you show their audience around town (without highlighting competitors) and they take your audience through their location. 

Marvel decided to announce the advancement of Avengers Infinity War’s release date from May 4th to April 27th with a clever back and forth Twitter conversation between their official Marvel Studio account and Robert Downey Jr.’s. What real life players can you use to draw attention to your content? Maybe your mayor? The owner of the trendy restaurant or the head brewer? There are local personalities that would probably love to help your brand, don’t be afraid to reach out. 

 Hiring a professional social media influencer with a large audience of like-minded folks to visit your destination could be a great place to kick off or conclude a successful social media campaign. People are far more likely to listen to the voices they have chosen to follow than those that randomly pop up in their feed. Take advantage of that trust, find yourself a few influencers and you’ll gain a whole swath of curious eyes.

Deliver An Amazing Experience

We all love a good movie, but no amount of brilliant marketing will make a poor movie successful. You need to deliver when your audience actually commits to a visit. 

Your efforts do not end when your visitor buys their ticket, or books their room. Your brand voice should emanate every piece of material your visitors come across when they’re in destination—from the Visitor Guide waiting for them in the hotel lobby, to the geofenced “only the locals know about this place” social media ads that makes your visitors feel special—you need to take ownership of your visitors’ experiences while they are actually visiting. 

You may not have the surface level “wow” factor that other destinations have been organically gifted, but think about this: The year is 2007, trailers are coming out for the groundbreaking Dark Knight and Marvel’s Spider Man 3 is a laughing stock. An executive producer calls you up and asks if you want to invest in the DC movie franchise which makes Batman and Superman movies or Marvel that will make Ant Man and Iron Man movies…which would you have picked? 

You see, Marvel took relatively obscure superheroes and turned them into five of the top ten grossing movies of all time. Their success was not grounded in each of the superhero’s existing popularity prior to their films, but by creating a marketing master plan that capitalized on one of the most ingenious universal content schemes of all time.  

If you feel that your destination’s voice is simply your team shouting the same message into the void, it may be time to rethink your master plan. At Madden, just like Iron Man, we bring the right mix of technology (some even powered by AI) and personality to drive results. We are storytellers, world creators, brand builders—and we can’t wait to see where a marketing masterplan will take you.