At the annual Simpleview Summit, Simpleview Director of Business Development Paul Franke Jr. moderated a panel featuring five Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) thought leaders to find out how they use website advertising and sponsored digital content programs powered by Destination Travel Network (DTN) to promote their destinations.
In case you missed the panel, couldn’t make it to Summit, or just want to revisit the discussion, we’re sharing some of the insights they shared about managing their digital advertising programs and the successes and challenges that come with them. The questions they answered shed more light on how monetizing your DMO website can impact your destination marketing efforts.
The panel included Tony Cameron, Director of Marketing & Communications, Maine Tourism Association; Kasey Gillam, Assistant Director of Communications, Explore Fairbanks; Gretchen Pardon, Web Content Manager, Visit Knoxville; Raul Santillan, Sr. Partner Experience Manager, VisitDallas; and Vimal Vyas, Director of Information, Security and Digital Innovation, visitRaleigh.
Q: What were the initial obstacles or concerns internally or from your Board to overcome prior to engaging a DTN program on your website, and how did you overcome them?
Kasey, Explore Fairbanks
We launched a new website in 2016 and faced two hurdles. We wanted to make sure the program was affordable for all of our partners, large and small. And if we were going to put ads on our website, would they look native. We went to DTN before we went to our board to see if that was something we could roll out to our partners.
We worked very closely with Simpleview and DTN to make sure the placements looked streamlined and close to our branding. In the end, it was a great process. Our Board was really happy with it, our participating partners are happy and we have more looking at coming on soon.
Our members wanted the opportunity to buy digital advertisements on a state website. No one else could do that except for us. We wanted to monetize the website and generate revenue and selfishly we weren’t looking for a third party to partner with—we wanted to keep all of the revenue.
I also had a personal bad experience with another company before coming to the tourism association where the company didn’t represent my organization’s best interests all the time. So customer service level was a concern to me. It’s our credibility and our reputation on the line, so we were really concerned about having someone out there speaking to our members on our behalf.
We were wise enough to keep an open mind in the initial build process and the RFP process. Paul and his team came out and spoke to our staff and marketing committee. They shared how they can seamlessly integrate the listings into the website so it doesn’t look like an ad heavy site, and how they can manage those listings in a much more efficient and effective way then we could ourselves.
We have a small staff and 1,500 members statewide. In the end, we realized that the digital ad program would be another thing we would have to take on and manage. DTN did a really nice job of saying they could do this process way more effectively and efficiently then we could on our own. I have to say now, having worked with DTN for over a year, they’ve done a tremendous job representing tourism.
Q: What would you consider to be the primary benefits of working with DTN to offer your members/partners advertising on your website? And what have been the primary successes from the program?
Gretchen, Visit Knoxville
We’re like most DMOs and are budget based. Our website has a budget set, so we are always looking for ways to generate more revenue for our organization to bring in more income to do other things. With DTN, we’re generating revenue that we don’t have to do much to get.
Right now we have about 18 advertisers in place, so we have potential room for growth. We’re generating around $1,000 a month in additional revenue. And around 2,000 referral clicks a month. It’s just a really great benefit for them and for us.
We recently redesigned our non-Simpleview website and our stakeholders weren’t excited about the changes, moving away from banner ads and to native advertising. DTN helped with damage control—someone has to get the calls. At some point it’s me, and DTN. DTN helped pave the way to successful relationship management by helping our stakeholders make sense of the new website while communicating its value.
They found creative ways to offer additional opportunities for our stakeholders and have been key in supporting our vision. As we develop more and more things on the website, whether blogs or itinerary or events, we know DTN will create ways to sell space to our stakeholders.
Q: What would you consider to be the primary initial or ongoing challenges of offering your members/partners advertising on your website?
We had more internal challenges from the standpoint of putting together guidelines. Our marketing team pays close attention to detail. It was challenging to figure out what we wanted and to communicate to our partners the imagery, word count, and punctuation requirements.
DTN improved a lot of what was submitted and the placements blend into the site. They worked closely with our partners to gather the right assets or use imagery we had on hand for some of them.
The other challenges we faced were from the standpoint of education both on advertising and what we do to promote the website. Some of our partners had no idea what we were doing with the advertisement requirements and found the process confusing. The cool thing is once we had the DTN team on board, our website was sponsored everywhere in a nice manner that fits with the website.
And DTN helped educate our partners about what we do on the back end to generate awareness for the website. They explained the engine behind the website and what we do from a marketing standpoint to elevate the visibility to their listings to make sure they’re getting the visits they’re paying for. DTN really helped with that and I see DTN as an extension of us.
Kasey, Explore Fairbanks
Education was one of our initial challenges as well. We had to let our members know DTN was legit, they were working on our behalf, and that they were calling for good reason. Before selling began, we sent information out to explain the program and alert them to the forthcoming calls and emails. Even after DTN started, we were getting questions.
Education is ongoing today. There remains some confusion with our partners about who to contact to change what. They’ll ask me to update a Spotlight Text Link and DTN to update their listing. A quick email to each other and we get the updates made. Communication is really great. DTN works very quickly to get issues resolved. It’s been really smooth since we launched, with very few problems.
Q: How has working with DTN helped augment your member/partner outreach and engagement efforts?
Having a whole state makes it really hard to have constant engagement with all of our members. It’s virtually impossible. As much as we try to meet on a daily or weekly basis, having individual touch points is really hard to do. DTN gives us additional touch points with our stakeholders.
Whenever DTN reaches out to our members, they take the time to listen to their question, issue or challenge, even when it has nothing to do with DTN. Then DTN relays that message to us so we can get back to them quickly. In fact, when Lia Wik and her team were doing initial outreach, we got all kinds of feedback they shared with us, which gave us a chance to get back with those members. Between DTN, our members, and our staff, this program has been a really welcome addition to this partnership.
Gretchen, Visit Knoxville
DTN handles everything so I don’t have to. I stay in communication with partners and if I get contacted about DTN, I just send an email or call my representative. They get my partners information and get in touch quickly. The process is very smooth and I don’t get too involved on the sales side. They make sure they’re keeping our members happy with what they see.
I can be pretty picky and the Operations side works very well with me. Tyler Bailey tries out different specifications I come up with. We recently redesigned our website, and the site really looks great. DTN responds quickly and doesn’t leave me or my partners hanging waiting to get responses.
Q: How do DTN In-Market Presentations help with the program and are these sales missions valuable?
DTN comes into our market twice a year, once when we have our marketing meeting, and when we host our annual luncheon to 500 to 600 people. Before these events, DTN sends out an email campaign to our partners to schedule a consultation and meet the representatives in person. They meet with both existing partners to re-evaluate campaigns and new people.
It is awesome. The coolest part is the value they bring to the partners. The DTN representative asks questions to get a sense of how to create a campaign. My partners don’t have a media or marketing manager, so they’re looking for advice. DTN explains what visitRaleigh.com can do for them on behalf of us. Most of the time, the partners don’t know what the CVB does. DTN is advising and educating our partners on what we do.
I really feel they are able to talk about the Extranet and their listings on the website. They offer advice on what to update, from photos to copy, which is a huge resource for me. I don’t have people on staff to do that. We don’t have anyone dedicated to updating listings, and DTN provides that for free. They come here, meet my partners, give listings advice, and the partner doesn’t have to buy anything. The onsite DTN meetings strengthen our relationship with our partner.
How can we help your DMO?
DTN is a free, fully managed and proven service which enables DMOs to generate revenue through their destination websites by providing more value and enhanced exposure opportunities while driving more visitor referrals to their local tourism-related businesses.
To learn more about initiating a digital native advertising/sponsored content program on your DMO website via Simpleview’s DTN, please feel free to contact Paul Franke at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 412-254-9002, and visit the DTN website at www.destinationtravelnetwork.com.