covid-19 case study:
How an Integrated Marketing Strategy Expedited the Road to Recovery for Arkansas River Tours
Background & Context
- We are going into our third season with Arkansas River Tours running year-long marketing services.
- In 2019, Arkansas River Tours had the highest revenue increase of any of the 48 outfitters on the Arkansas River. We had momentum.
- In the three months leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Our total revenue was up almost 98% YoY.
- Website traffic was up 36% from the previous year.
- Things were going quite well, and then, as with every operator, the virus came.
- Revenue was down in March and April 2020 in a major way, but the rest of the season was a different story.
In the end, revenue for 2020 was up 46%!
Our 2020 Integrated Digital Marketing Strategy
We will take a look at each one of these elements of the marketing strategy one by one.
Google has a powerful algorithm – essentially its job is to serve up the most relevant option for any customer query. And it’s very, very good at it. Because of this, you can’t cheat it or fake it. It is a long-term investment, but it is also the best driver of sustained growth over time. SEO can be compared to building a snowball, compounding interest, or pushing on a giant boulder. It can be quite difficult at first, but once you get things going you can start to pick up organic traffic, and subsequently revenue, very quickly.
The graph above shows organic traffic sessions in 2020 compared to 2019.
Organic traffic is the best proxy for a business’s revenue, thus showing 88% YoY organic traffic growth is huge.
Ultimate Blogging Goal: Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are often referenced as obtaining “position zero.” Featured Snippets have more than doubled in prevalence in the past year, and they’ve increased by a factor of roughly 5X since launch. HubSpot did a larger study of high-volume keywords showing that ranking #0 produced a 114% CTR boost, even when they already held the #1 organic position. While you cannot control whether you obtain this position zero, you can optimize for them. The best part is, they are free! You do not have to pay to be on top like you do with Google Ads.
Through optimization of a blog originally published on July 30th, 2019, we achieved a featured snippet for the keyword Colorado Springs rafting trips. Since its publication, just that blog post alone has generated nearly $11,000 in online revenue and 106 leads from the website.
Lead Capture & Nurturing
Because we saw an uptick in Private Tour search queries, we implemented a private tour trip planning lead popup on the website. This allowed customers who wanted to exercise caution while engaging in activities to speak directly with staff. We expect this trend to continue through 2021.
Our automated lead nurturing workflows integrate our website, email lists, CRM, reservation system, and Facebook Audiences.
Website Conversion Rate Optimization
We use Google Optimize to serve altered versions of the webpage in order to conduct A/B and multivariate testing experiments to achieve the highest page conversion rate and drive more bookings from our marketing channels. Google Optimize allows us to test and understand which site experiences best engage and ultimately convert your website visitors.
Our dedicated Director of Paid Advertising ran a campaign in the local central Colorado area for the entire month of May. After refining the out of state geo-targeting parameters, that broader campaign began on May 13th.
All campaigns included, the Google Ads return on ad spend in 2020 was 6.85x. When looking at year over year data, our Google Ads cost was down 51% while revenue was up 55%. As we saw in many of our outdoor recreation markets, there was less competition with Google Ads, resulting in a 55% decrease in cost per click and a 67% decrease in cost per conversion in 2020 for Arkansas River Tours.
Our paid social media advertising campaigns saw a 39x return on investment in 2020, with an average acquisition cost per online purchase of $10.60. These campaigns ranged from brand awareness, special promotions, and various types of retargeting.
We built out brand new post-COVID private trip booking pages that allowed customers to book a private rafting experience. These private trips included a premium for private transportation and rafts.
We added a private boat option to all checkouts that helps customers plan adventures for only their respective COVID circles.
Out of the 3,840 questions the Arkansas River Tours bot received in 2020, many related to private trips and hinted at the pent up demand that was coming. ChatBot users actually stayed on site 72% longer and booked online 172% higher than the average of all website visitors! We review these conversational logs frequently to keep a finger on the pulse of what website visitors want to know. Understanding consumer desire is of the utmost importance, and we updated our strategy accordingly.
With Arkansas River Tours, as with all of our tour operator clients, we have been consistently creating and implementing year-round, integrated digital marketing strategies. Our goal is always to continually strengthen all sides of the digital marketing house.
Are you looking for more ways to get your digital ducks in a row? We wrote a Marketing Plan for Tour Operators Marketing during the Coronavirus that encompasses everything we believe you should do now (and really any time) to strengthen your digital presence.
**We understand that each operator’s situation is different and certain activity verticals and geographic markets will bounce back faster than others. By no means did all TOMIS clients have as strong of a year in 2020 that ART had.