You can learn a TON from Dave Roesch. Period.
It is one thing to use mobile marketing to bring customers into a single business – an overwhelming task for many these days for sure. This challenge escalates when it is your role to help not just one business, but a city full of them. This episode focuses on how Atlantic City has embraced the use of mobile marketing, introduced it to many of the local restaurants and tourist attractions to great success and made it a core tenant of their marketing mix going forward.
Dave is the Director of Marketing for the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority (ACCVA) and has fully embraced digital marketing to help do 3 things: (1) Attract tourists to Atlantic City, (2) Bring locals back into the city’s core and (3) Once they are in the city, help move them into local restaurants and attractions. Seems simple right? Well, according to Dave, understanding what part of digital marketing works where is the the key. Once you do this, it really is simple.
Throughout this episode, Dave explains how the ACCVA thought to bring mobile marketing into their mix, how they determined what was (and wasn’t) working and how they’ve been able to segment its use to have the most impact on the local economy. Dave is as sophisticated a mobile marketer as I’ve met – he understands the nuance mobile marketing requires and where it fits in order to have the largest impact on his city, local businesses and visitors.
Key takeaways from this episode. Click on the link and the video will take you to that clip
Rob: Hello everybody and welcome to UNTETHER.tv, I am your host and founder, Rob Woodbridge. A little while back, if you didn’t watch this episode, don’t do it right now, but at some point you’ve got to go back to watch this episode. I did this episode with a company called Arrivalist, and they helped Atlantic City leverage location to drive footfall, drive foot traffic to retail stores.
Now, on the flipside, we actually have the organization that Arrivalist helped do this for Atlantic City. So joining me today is Dave Roesch, who is the Director of Marketing for the ACCVA, live from the city known as Atlantic City, also immortalized in one of the greatest Bruce Springsteen songs on the planet, actually called “Atlantic City”. Dave, thank you for doing this, I appreciate your time.
Dave: No problem, thank you for having me Robert, I appreciate it.
Rob: Well welcome. I love doing this. This might be the first time I’ve done this, where I’ve gotten the company that built the technology that you guys used, and then I got you guys to come on and talk about how you used it, and what you’re doing with it.
So we’re going to lay this out really simply. We’re going to figure out what the ACCVA is. We’re also going to talk about what the problem was, the challenge that they had in front of them, how they leveraged some of the technology and location and mobile marketing and all of these things, and then what the outcome was and what they’re going to do in the future. We’re going to see if we can get that all into one episode, and this is very much, I would call this the greatest case study on UNTETHER.tv and I haven’t even recorded it yet. So Dave, no pressure man!
Dave: Very flattering. No, no pressure.
Rob: So, why don’t you tell us about the ACCVA?
Dave: Sure. The ACCVA is the Atlantic City Convention and Visitor Authority. We’re one of the marketing arms for tourism in the destination. So we deal with the leisure market, conferences and meetings, international group travel trade, anything to do with travel to the destination we’re involved in.
Rob: So you are really responsible for attracting the visitors from not only across the United States, but into Canada, down to Atlantic City, right? In a nutshell?
Dave: Yes. U.S., Canada, we’re fastly moving into larger markets overseas, China, Germany, Italy, Spain.
Rob: How big is your team?
Dave: We have a small but mighty team. There’s myself, I have two coordinators, there’s the vice president of marketing, there’s a director of tourism. She has a couple of assistants. We have a couple of graphic designers on staff, so we are equipped to pump out stuff quick and fast if need be.
Rob: So are you part of the city of Atlantic City, the government, or you an extension of the government, or economic development agencies?
Dave: We’re an extension. We’re a state organization but we’re actually considered an extension of the state government now. We have merged with CRDA, which is the redevelopment company in the city. So we have merged with them, and we are a larger part of their picture as well, now.
Rob: So you handle internal economic development as well as external economic development? Is that what this organization now does?
Dave: Yeah, they do. And we’re just a marketing arm for them, so we help them out on, for example, designing brochures for projects that they’re working on, bus shelter signage. We’re marketing still, for them.
Rob: I love it. That’s a big responsibility.
Dave: It is, and it’s getting larger. It’s a new merger, and we’re still figuring out where we can help them out better, but helping a lot of these specific people on staff that can do these projects for us and them is huge.
Rob: I’ve got to say that this conversation is about how you overcome a natural disaster, and a tragedy, for the shore, and that tragedy is not Donald Trump, right?
Dave: No, no.
Rob: I just want to be very clear on that.
Dave: He’s not the tragedy.
Rob: He’s not the tragedy. As a sidebar, does Trump help you drive activity in Atlantic City? Does he help attract tourists because of what he’s done there, because of the casino and stuff?
Dave: There’s another marketing agency called the Atlantic City Alliance that focuses more on the larger picture stuff for the city. They all have seats at the board. So they’re involved that way; the casinos have always done their individual marketing plans and advertising.
For us, we have a large partnership with the, and we have great works with them, but as far as helping marketing the city, they do their own thing for their properties. We help do the city as a whole. It’s actually not even the city. It’s technically the tourism district, which is what the casinos make up, plus an outlying area of other companies.
Rob: Okay. Springsteen’s song, does that still resonate? Does that drive people?
Dave: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Springsteen, Bon Jovi. All those guys.
Rob: The Jersey boys, yes.
Dave: Yeah. I don’t think they’ll ever fall from fame here.
Rob: No. What I always say is that I’m a Springsteen fan. I’m not a Bon Jovi fan whatsoever. There’s no correlation between, there’s no tie between them. You can be a Springsteen fan and not a Bon Jovi fan, and you can be a Bon Jovi fan and not a Springsteen fan although I don’t know why you wouldn’t be.
I always say, though, New Jersey is the Garden State, and there’s only been one flower that has bloomed from the Garden State, and that is Bruce Springsteen. Enough. Anyway, enough. Enough with my–I love it.
Atlantic City is one of these mythical cities. It’s a destination city. I have many friends that go down there and have just such an amazing time along the boardwalk. Obviously, it was devastated recently. I think that that’s where this story starts, doesn’t it? What was it that you guys set out to do with this company, Arrivalist, even before that? What was the challenge that you guys faced coming into this year, maybe?
Dave: For me, it was more of we all want more, right? One of the things I like is I want more measurements. I want more metrics. How Arrivalist started was we advertised on a travel guide site called TravelGuidesFree.com. What I wanted to do was measure the success of those gravel guides. We print a lot of them. We pay a lot of money to have them printed. We do all the design in house. It’s a large production. Any destination is going to know what goes into that kind of project.
I saw a couple of larger destinations getting away from printing them, and they only had their online version. I had said, “How can I measure the success of some of these campaigns?” How are they driving visitation to Atlantic City? We’re paying this amount of money to have them produced and distributed and put in rack distributions all over the East Coast, so what are we getting out of it? What kind of visitation?
That’s how the ball really got rolling for us. It was, let’s get these people who are requesting these guides through their website, and let’s monitor their arrivals to the destination and see how qualified of a request they are. Are they coming first of all? That’s the main question. How long after they request the guide are they coming? What kind of information are they looking for out of that? It just added a complete different dimension to our print materials like that, being able to monitor if those people were coming into the city.
Rob: The process was you came to the website, you requested a brochure for Atlantic City from you?
Rob: What you ended up doing was wanting to, quite literally, understand when it arrived on their doorstep, how many people actually used that and came to Atlantic City, and then the time that it took for them to actually have it land on their doorstep to the time that they actually visited. Right?
Rob: That seems like an impossible thing to want to do.
Dave: Yeah. That’s why, when I had talked Cree about Arrivalist, I said to him, “This is what I want to do.” He said, “I got a solution for you.” We started getting the ball rolling on that project. It’s taken some time to generate reliable data on that kind of source because it is a printed material. We’re seeing it 45 to 60 days later after they get the guide arriving to the city.
It was a little bit of a longer time frame to measure those people, but what we’ve seen is that our visitor guides are our most qualified visitors. They come more frequently than anybody else. Website visitors, mobile site visitors, email database people. They just come. That is pure interest.
How we’ve taken that data, and we’re going to move into next year, is more of an integrated marketing campaign for those people. Now we could set up email marketing campaigns 15 days after they receive the guide that says, “Here’s a couple of things to do.” Maybe we hit them up again and it says, “Book a room” and “Here’s some stuff that’s coming up next month.” We’re getting that life cycle of requests to visit, and we’re filling in the gaps in between.
Rob: I think it’s so interesting here. We’ve kind of advanced in this world of technology, right? I don’t say this in a negative way, but it’s almost like marketing has become–it’s very complicated. I don’t take away from the effort of marketing because as the technologies exploded, as mobile has gone crazy, as the Web went crazy, there are so many different options. Email and SMS and all these different technologies. The complexity of marketing has increased.
But, I oftentimes think that do we get lazy a little bit, and forget about that print side? And say, “Listen, I’ve seen this a lot.” Is it our goal is to, get rid of print completely, and go completely digital? And here you are saying, “Listen, the guys who get the printed documents on their door, they request it and get it on their doorstep, are our most valuable clients, ultimately.”
Dave: Yes. Absolutely, and it’s we can have a million impressions on an online banner campaign. And, we can see that we have a good CTR rate. And we can see how many impressions they reserved, and we can set those max impressions to the ultimate goal. But in the end, if we’re spending all that money, and we’re getting all those impressions, is CTR rate just enough for online advertising anymore? You know, it’s not. In this day and age, and all the technology, and all the analytics, and all the possibilities, there’s got to be another layer to that. So, yeah, I might have had a .2 CTR rate on a campaign, but how many of that .2 percent came?
Dave: And, how many of that . . . of those million impression saw the ad, but maybe didn’t click, but came three months later, and that’s what we can tell now. And that it’s great. I mean I have a great example when you’re ready to go over it that just blows people’s minds when I talk about it. So for us, it’s just another layer of measurement. And if you have your qualified leads, it’s a captivated audience. That’s how I feel about the Travel Guides, and even people who visit our website that we’re monitoring. It’s very captivated.
So, let’s take advantage of that captivated audience, and really have an integrated marketing campaign for them, because they’re our most qualified leads at this point.
Rob: So, I mean, when you look at what you guys are doing, small but mighty team with a huge footprint that you’re trying to reach, right? So, you’re doing many different things. Is there anything that you’ve gleaned from this? How long have you been using Cree’s company, Arrivalist, at this point, to be able to do the things that you’re doing? It’s been year now, is it?
Dave: About a year and a half, I would say.
Rob: Okay. Okay.
Dave: Yeah, we started . . . Gosh, yeah, I can’t believe it, but it’s been about . . . almost probably a year and a half.
Rob: And that’s what it takes to get really good data, and to understand what the data is telling you, right? That it’s not just anomalous?
Dave: Yeah it takes that time to build like a reliability factor in that data, but it really depends on what kind of media you’re measuring. If you’re measuring your website visits, you can build that pretty quickly. If you’re doing something like a Visitor Guide that’s kind of like a slower process, because we’re seeing those people come 60 days out. So, people who were present in January, we’re really not measuring them until March. So, that first run . . . That first two month run is, kind of, obsolete until you really get six to eight months in on that.
So with email, website visits, mobile visits, all those guys, they accumulate really quick. I mean, we have a pretty high traffic . . . You know, our mobile site, we average 115,000 visits a month. You know, we peaked at 196,000 in August. That’s the most we’ve ever had to our mobile site. We are upwards of 700,000 in our regular web visits on our regular website. So we were able to build that pretty quickly for . . . And we consider ourselves a medium size destination. We’re not the larger surrounding areas. So, we were to build those, the online ones quick. Banner ad Campaigns, they build up pretty quickly. You know, what’s great about the banner ads, is you can see the longevity of the campaign.
Dave: So, we ran it eight weeks. . . . If you run an eight week campaign, we’re seeing arrivals, six, seven months later from those people exposed to that campaign. So, to see that it’s truly amazing now.
Rob: Does that go against what you thought? Maybe, like banner ads immediacy? Like, does that does that kind of go against what your hunch was, when you were using the banner ads for the first time?
Dave: I, honestly. . . I think that was the problem was, that was the question. You know, are these people. . . Because visitation stats its people come to your website, three to five times before they even possibly book. There’s a planning process. There’s a planning process. There’s a booking process. There’s an exploring process. So, these people aren’t a one and done shopper.
Dave: So, when you’re exposing them to an ad campaign, it’s like, are they ready? If it’s a booking campaign . . . Are they ready to book right now? What are the chances, we’re finding them in this cycle, right now, to book? So that’s where all this came in for us, is I fully expected more visitation months after. So, it’s really, let’s measure who’s in this booking process now, and who’s in just, the planning? And, hopefully we can just be top of mind enough, and these banners resonate enough over time, where they’re going to think of us in a couple of months, when they’re ready to actually commit to a destination.
Rob: So, what about mobile? You’re getting 150,000 visits a month. Talk about that experience. When did you build your first mobile website for Atlantic City?
Dave: The mobile website was in place before I got here. I’d say, we’re probably going on five to six years on our mobile site.
Rob: That’s great.
Dave: Yeah, and we’re in a redesign phase, right now, for next year. We’re moving to a respond to design site for everything. And, I mean, the mobile site has just taken off over the last two years. Traffic is up 40 percent over last year. Seeing that mobile traffic grow, has just been amazing. It really shows you how people are booking. You know, are planning their visitation to a destination. It’s no longer sitting on their computer at home, planning this out, coming down with a couple notes. They’re on the PC planning this out. And then as their driving down, now they’re finding things to do as their driving. So, they’ve gotten out of that what’s going on in three weeks, and more like, hey, what’s going on tonight, as we’re driving down to the destination.
Rob: Wow, wow, wow. So, I mean, I want to attack that. So, remind me, because I think that’s an interesting shift.
Speaker: So you said, activity is going up . . . has gone up 40 percent on the mobile website. Has it been at the sacrifice at the costs of the Web? Like, are you seeing dips in traditional desktop web as a result of this?
Dave: Yeah, we are. We’re seeing probably a little bit less of a decline in the PC. So, we might be seeing, like, anywhere from 15 to 25 percent decrease month-over-month.
Rob: [inaudible 16:34] but the increase. . .
Dave: But the increase in mobile is making up for that. But the messaging is completely different.
Dave: Because we go into our arrival’s dashboard, we can see the life cycle of a visitor who’s on a PC, visiting our website, and who is mobile-y visiting. So you’re talking three weeks for a PC visitor to come down and three days . . .
Rob: For a mobile visitor.
Dave: For a mobile visitor. So that last exposure to the mobile site is really last minute planning stuff. So, the messaging for each one has to be different. There’s no longer the days of. . . We have a mobile site because we need to have one. It’s more of a . . . We have a mobile site, but it needs to be a completely different thought process from when . . .
Rob: How did you figure that out? I mean, is this a new realization that people are using their desktop versus mobile in a different way?
Dave: You know what, I mean going into our Arrivalist’s dashboard and seeing the average days to arrival, and seeing that desktop . . .
Rob: And that was it?
Dave: . . . is higher. Yeah, and seeing that our mobile visitors are arriving one, three, four, five days, and saying “You know what? This is being used more as . . .” And, for us, we’re primarily a drive in destination. We’re close to Philly airports, New York airports. We’re not too far from D.C. But you know, a lot of our visitation is a drive in market. So we’re seeing tablets and mobile devices. And I can just see somebody driving down the Garden State Parkway from New York, saying “Hey, let’s see where shows are this weekend. You know let’s plan this out.” And we’re seeing that. So it’s just a different strategy.
Rob: So, they’re booking . . . They’re ultimately doing a bunch of research? In theory, they could be doing a bunch of research on the web, and then leaving the events the night of, or the day of, to the mobile device, right?
Dave: Yeah, it’s just like, one of those things. We have revue shows. We have great comedy acts that come in, great concerts that come in. And if people aren’t apt to search that stuff out weeks in advance it’s just a great opportunity to hop on, and find those things to do, tonight.
Rob: Do you attack mobile in a different way? Like, so, it just seems to me that you’ve got two . . . Well, I don’t even want to speculate. You’ve got many different markets, right?
Rob: For Atlantic City, and, I mean, you are targeting people that are planning a vacation, who request a printed document, and that’s one aspect. You’re doing banner ads, which is another aspect, which I’m going to assume that it’s like, printed document takes this long, right?
Rob: As you said, maybe three months. And then, the banner ads, maybe six weeks, six to eight weeks. And then, mobile is three to five days. So, how do you not go crazy, trying to be everything to all of those, and everything in between, which is . . . which seems to me, like, what you’re doing?
Dave: Yeah, you still have your core value. And that’s just bringing the best information to the potential visitor. So we look at that stuff, and we change the messaging. We change the content, and that’s really it. I don’t believe you can go crazy, and dive into this so deep where the plan doesn’t . . . just doesn’t make sense. It gets so convoluted, and the messages are so crazy that you’re losing the overall goal which is, just providing great information for the visitor.
Rob: Who spends more money?
Rob: Well, I mean, so, if you like. . . .you know, I’m just . . . The person who plans it, who orders the book, versus the banner ad versus the person that comes kind of on a [lurk] in three to five days plants it on a mobile device. Do you have any idea while they’re in, what the spend difference is?
Dave: I mean we can speculate the spend difference. You know, our visitor guide, travelers tend to come further out than our drive- in market.
Obviously, the main goal is to get people to stay the night. You know what I mean. We want heads in beds for multiple nights because they spend the money, they go to dinner, they go to shows, they experience Atlantic City as a whole.
Dave: So that’s the goal. We want those guys to visit our guide for questers, the trip planners who are coming in. We want them to come and stay the night. And that’s who spends the most money.
But when you have, let’s just say, our local drive-in market was maybe half an hour outside the city, which is kind of where I live. And there’s a lot of families and a lot of people who come in to go, “We have awesome dining experience here. We have great restaurants.” Those people are great subsidies in our off-season [network].
Dave: You don’t want to eliminate those people because on a Friday nights, like, “Hey, let’s go out to dinner. Where do you want to go?” or “Hey, let’s go to one of the steakhouses in the city.”
If we can get them to come one, two, three times a month, you’re talking about a great spend. And if we can push them and give them enough information and say, “Hey, let’s do dinner and a show” or “Let’s go see the fee 3D Light Show at Boardwalk Hall.” We’re adding another dimension to their stay. So it’s all in the messaging.
Rob: How do use mobile? I’m totally off because I got a whole bunch of questions about responsive and about [inaudible 21:35] impact. And I want to get to some of your key examples. But do you use mobile to attract the local residence or just outside of Atlantic City that come in? Is that how you get them in the door, so to speak?
Dave: Yeah. We took a different approach the last couple of months for mobile after we saw the Arrivalist status formulating. And we saw this big contrast of visitation, after time of exposure, impressions to arrival, and all that stuff.
I took a different approach, and I had gone to create Arrivalist and said, “Okay, listen. We are now monitoring their arrivals to their destination. You know, we’re seeing when they’re coming. We’re seeing their funnel to get here. How can we take advantage of that?”
So we’re throwing banner ads out there. Everyone is in a different network and everyone is just retargeting campaigns and the network.
Rob: It’s tough.
Dave: And it’s all keyboard searches and [inaudible 22:30] that. But I said, “Let’s take advantage of this captivated audience that’s already here.”
Is there a way to serve these guys in-market banners? One approach we did is, we hook with arrivals again and we serve in-market banners to people who we knew were here. And we did a great beta test with six or eight of our local attractions that offer coupons on the website.
For example, we did The Absecon Lighthouse, which sounds like it’s in a different town, but it’s actually in the city. It’s one of the largest lighthouses on the East Coast. It’s a huge attraction for the city, right? So they had 49 coupon visits to their coupon page on the mobile site, and that was last year.
This year, they’ve had over 2,300. So as this person’s walking down the board, [inaudible 23:24]. So as soon as someone is walking down the board, they go on weather.com.
They’re going to get serve the banner that could say, “Absecon Lighthouse: $4 off admission.” You know, “Admission to [inaudible 23:36] a dollar off admission.” And they went from 49 coupon visits in 2012 to 2,300 this year.
Rob: It’s incredible.
Dave: So we hook up with them. And we did that and it turned out great. Then we hook up with [inaudible 23:49], which does just ads our mobile site.
Rob: So we know Josh over at [inaudible 23:55]. They just got bought by . . .
Dave: [inaudible 23:57] bought. Congratulations to them.
Rob: I know.
Dave: I haven’t sent them an e-mail yet, but I was like, “Now [inaudible 24:01] living the dream.”
Rob: That is going to be expensive.
Dave: It can be expensive. Yeah, right? So we did a case study with them too. We were working on a case study. And we saw this. It was an idea, an opportunity with Arrivalist as we turn it into, “Yeah, let’s try.”
Let’s see [inaudible 24:20] a ten-time lift CTR rate on our in-market ads.
Rob: Come on.
Dave: So they’re here. Let’s just give them things to do. And what’s the best way to do that? Everybody want something that’s discounted. So let’s do something discounted and see what we can do.
Hard for our attraction to keep track of that stuff because they’re not on sophisticated systems, but they saw increases. [inaudible 24:39]. Don’t hold me to this, but they had 20 more coupon redemption [inaudible 24:46] month.
Rob: Dave, I am recording this. So I’m going to hold you to it. Right?
Rob: There you go.
Rob: We’re filming this, yeah.
Dave: [inaudible 24:52], you know?
Dave: [inaudible 24:54] coupon redemption in a month. This is all it.
Rob: It just seems . . . So you’re using Arrivalist. You’re using Xtify. You are a sophisticated mobile marketer, man. Is this what all cities are like?
Dave: I don’t know. I would hope so. And if they’re not I think they should really look into this stuff because it’s a different kind of marketing. You know, they’re here. How can you not be successful? If someone’s here walking our boardwalk, how can we not say, “Hey, go have lunch at XYZ restaurant.”
How can we not give them those ideas? They’re on our mobile site. We know they’re on our mobile site planning. Open up those zones to get those in-market ads so as they’re driving down the parkway or they’re driving down the expressway, here’s something to do.
Rob: And so, are you paying for the ads for these guys?
Rob: You’re paying for this? This is you guys putting ads in that are location based ads that are just there to drive traffic to your local merchants.
Dave: Yeah, that’s the ACCVA’s, one of the number one jobs for us is to market Atlantic City and we’ve opened up the advertising opportunity for our partners to, we’re partner based so people pay a fee to be part of our organization. They can advertise with us and stuff like that. So we’ve actually put this onto our media sheet for next year for our partners to buy impressions with us and if they don’t, we’ve already agreed with Arrivalist to buy a large amount of impressions for next year to, just to drive visitation, and hear some great things to do and if the partners are seeing it, if somebody wants to buy on and say, “Hey listen, I’d love to offer this offer on your banner ads for three months.” A lot of them don’t have big budgets. A lot of them are, just not-for-profit businesses that are large attractions. So we help them out as much as we can.
Rob: What was their reaction to this? So, I got to assume, Dave you walk in, you say “This is what we’re going to do, location based marketing, geofencing, coupons. We’re going to do this all through this little thing called a Smartphone and we’re going to drive traffic and footfall, we’re going to drive revenue, we’re going to help you,” and what was their reaction from a merchant restaurant destination perspective?
Dave: Yeah. They were real excited.
Rob: They were?
Dave: Yeah. They were stoked. They said, I had called each one of them and I said, “Here’s what we do, we have you’re nice enough to put a coupon on the website so people can get them through the mobile site. What I want to do is I want to do a test with your okay and I’m going to advertise these with mobile banner. And all I want you to do is roughly keep track of how they’re working.”
Dave: And they were absolutely awesome. The not-for-profits were so excited. Anything we can do to help them now. I talk to those guys often. They’re great to work with. All of the partners are great to work with. Everybody’s so flexible with us. They give us stuff to give away. They give us stuff to help promote. So they were just really excited to help get feet in their doors. They were really excited about . . .
Rob: Were they afraid maybe of having too many people come is. What I’m asking is was there anybody that was hesitant that you converted as a result of doing this?
Rob: No. Everyone was gung ho?
Dave: Everybody was gung ho. These coupons they offer year round.
Dave: It’s something that, in my 2014 plan, was to get out there better to our audience. We’re going to put coupons in the visitor guide next year because of some of the data we saw. We are going to continue to promote them view web banner ads. So, I don’t know of we’ve created, I don’t want to call it a monster, but we’ve created these discount monsters where everybody wants a buck off or everybody wants a buy-one-get-one so as long as it’s not crushing the bottom line and you’re willing to offer it all the time anyway. Now, if they said, I only want to run this for three months, I would absolutely do it. I’m not out there to hinder anybody’s budget so . . .
Rob: It always strike me that you’ve got this perception of a lot of companies that retailers restaurateurs, even attractions. Right? They understand this couponing. They understand the discount. They understand the coupon books. All those kind of things. We never chastise these guys simply because their business isn’t this. Right? Their business is running this restaurant and creating something that people want to come and participate in. And so I love hearing that, that they’re eager and open and they’re interested in doing this. And nothing works better than a coupon. It’s unfortunate man. It definitely works better.
Dave: Nothing works better but you know what? When I travel, now that I’ve been here and now that I know how it works and how every destination has coupons on it’s website, it’s the first thing I do.
Dave: It’s like, I looked for restaurants and then I look. Well which one of these restaurants are offering some kind of discount. What attractions are offering this and it’s we’ve built that person to do that. We’ve kind of made them do that, but everybody does it. You can’t blame them.
Rob: Maybe it’s a little different with a destination. Now, you say that you do. You try to attract, like, local residents, and residents and tourists, or is it just tourists that you’re trying to attract with your mobile initiatives?
Dave: It’s mainly tourists. We have exclusion groups set up on the arrival list software. So for example, for myself, I live outside the city, but I travel in every day. So, I’m in the exclusion, in an exclusion group because I cross the inclusion . . . the exclusion zone more than twice . . .
Rob: Everyday. Okay.
Dave: So, that’s how we’re doing it. If we’re measuring somebody coming in and out, twice a week, or three times a week, we’re taking them off the list.
Dave: If we’re exposing them to a media, and we don’t feel that they . . . You know, we’re also looking at their IP, seeing where they’re coming from? Is it is it routed? Is it coming from a certain provider? We are putting them in exclusion zones too, because we’re not tagging them, as in, a qualified visitor.
Rob: I think that’s . . . I mean, I love that about this. It’s about displaying ads to those people that are susceptible to the ads. Don’t, don’t . . .
Rob: . . . don’t hit the locals. But maybe for a restaurant, you’re going to hit some of the locals, right? That it’s like an off-season, trying to drive activity to a restaurant?
Dave: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
Rob: You target those.
Dave: Yeah. We can change that all the time.
Rob: And, so, now for you, how long have you been doing this job? Dave, I should’ve asked that before.
Dave: A little over two years, now.
Rob: All right. What was the state of this? I mean, was it hard? You know, you’ve been doing this with Cree and Arrivalist. You’ve obviously been thinking about this a long time. You’ve been trying to figure this out. Two years ago, you walk into this job. Was it hard to convince, I don’t know, the powers that be . . .
Dave: Heck, yeah.
Rob: . . . that what we’re going to be doing is exactly as you’ve just described to me?
Dave: Yeah. You know, for . . .
Rob: I don’t want you to jeopardize you job, here, Dave . . .
Dave: Oh, no, no, no . . . And you know what, everybody has been really great, as far as these project ideas. You know, everybody . . . My Vice-President of Marketing was open to all this stuff. And I said, listen, “All I’m trying to do, is find the relevance in what we spend now.” And that’s how I approached him with like, “We’re spending ‘x’ amount of money on our Visitor Guides. I want to prove to you that this is worth . . .” I’m not saying that we’re going to continue to doing it . . . to continue printing these, and spending money, I’m just trying to prove, should we do it?
Dave: And that’s how I formulated the proposal to them was, “I want to find out what’s working.” You know, and then after we found out it was working, then we’re getting into, well how can we change our plan to make it work better. So for me, it was selling them on the fact that I want to try to save us money.
Dave: And, what can we do to spend more money, but increase tourism to the city. So, those are . . . You tell any V.P., or President that you’re trying to save the destination money. They’re pretty open to that . . . Pretty open to an idea.
Rob: And at the same time trying to increase the pool with which you are pulling people from. I mean . . .
Rob: . . . the reach that you have. And so obviously, the response has been good enough, great enough for you to now, kind of, rethink 2014 and incorporate this into your 2014 plan, right?
Dave: Absolutely, yeah. Just to get a jump in the Visitor Guide for 2014, we’re going from a strictly Directory Visitor Guide, to somewhere around, like, 80 pages to 120 pages of articles, things to do, sample itineraries, trips tours, coupons. I mean soup to nuts Visitor Guide is now being designed around a visitor who is not necessarily our drive in market.
Dave: Because we’re seeing those people come from Montana, Wisconsin, Texas, much different than our drive in market. So, we’ve increased the size. It’s still small enough to fly with.
Dave: But, it’s going to be so nice, that hopefully, people keep it on their coffee tables, while they’re in the planning process, you know.
Rob: Yeah. And then the Web stuff, and mobile stuff, what do you do with that? Same ole, same ole? You hone that to the short decision process, the three to five. The people that are going to do this on a lark, and come down for a couple of days? You’re honing into that audience, as well?
Dave: The mobile . . . Yeah, the mobile we’re using as the people who are here.
Dave: And we’re going to continue to do that.
Rob: So that’s what you’re doing.
Dave: . . . say hit our inclusion zone, they’re getting served ads on things to do in the city. [inaudible 34:14]
Rob: So, you’re not targeting New York, or Philly? You’re actually. . . . Your mobile focus is . . . Okay, you’re in the same market . . .
Dave: Same market.
Rob: We are going to drive you to a restaurant or retail location, or . . .
Dave: And because I feel off the data that it’s more of a planning in market tool.
Dave: And, yeah. People could be sitting on their couches in New York, trying to plan a trip to Atlantic City, but chances are, they’re pulling that phone out on the way down, or while they’re here, to find something to do.
Rob: This is very sophisticated, Dave. Like, I love that you’re doing this, and I cannot believe that others aren’t . . . that other cities. I mean we go to Lake Placid all the time, and Lake Placid is poorly marketed. Not only poorly marketed outside . . . Every once in a while we see a billboard. I’m in Ottawa, Canada and it’s poorly marketed. It’s three hours; it’s a destination three hours away from the city. So when you start to think about what you guys are doing from a sophistication level it is astounding, and I got to congratulate you on it. I think it’s amazing.
You mentioned earlier on, that you were looking at, you’re doing a responsive website.
Rob: Now walk through that process. Why responsive? Did you ever have this discussion of “Hey, look you know what we are going to do, like the ACCVA app” right? And walk through that process of deciding on responsive.
Dave: I think it is [inaudible 35:39] when we talked to that agency which is one of those things, and the Atlantic City Alliance is also involved, they’re are the other marketing agency in the city, and you know, we just felt that it was a way to move in a better direction. We are a smaller staffed organization. We didn’t go towards responsive because it seems like the cool thing to do like Flash websites back in the day where I give myself kudos in college and said ” I think Flash is just going to run its course at some point, ” and luckily it did, and I said ” That’s it.”
So I don’t think it’s like a, I think it’s one of those things where it made easy for us, you know. We’re using Smart Content, I’m not sure you’ve heard of them, so we can change our messaging, and call to actions based on you know, demographics, where they’re at, having the frequency they visit our website, that’s in our 2014 plan is to use Smart Content.
So I think moving to responsive was okay as long as we were willing to make sure that the content was changing or adapting for the right audience. So, you know I think there’s still some wrinkles that need to be ironed out as far as knowing that the mobile, our mobile visitors are you know more local to our destination than maybe the PC user. So there’s still some wrinkles to be ironed out still, but just one of those things that made sense for us.
Rob: Yeah, and I believe that there is a time and a place right? So maybe what you’re doing right now from a responsive website is appropriate, but maybe there’s, oh I don’t know, there’s a deeper subset of those people that visit often for shows specifically. Where you can build an application for those guys to be able to control that, or get them more, and more engaged with the city.
Yeah, I’m fascinated by that. The decision we’re still going through this conversation round app versus mobile website, responsive website, and I’ll tell you it’s the companies that don’t get their websites set up for a mobile device that are going to be penalized right? And you understand that, because a lot of everything that’s coming out of it is local search, hyper-local search. And if you’re not optimized for a mobile device Google will penalize you, and do you really want to be penalized?
Dave: No, no, no.
Rob: So do you take these lessons, and do you go out to your retailers, and say “Listen guys, restaurant A, B, C, or what was the elephant one?”
Dave: Lucy the Elephant.
Rob: Lucy the Elephant, your website sucks, and you don’t say that, but it’s not mobilized, so we can help drive traffic which we have shown you we can do, and you can convert that, but you know what people are using this, and even if they don’t find our website, they’re not finding yours, because you don’t have a mobile optimized website.” Is that on the radar for you guys to help your members to build out?
Dave: Absolutely, we do that now. Once we get out of the summer we start doing what we call [inaudible 38:29] coffee break hours with them. So part of my responsibility is also giving marketing advise to our 500 plus partners.
So my door is always open to them. We do coffee break hours where they come in, we have one of our advertisement and marketing partners come in with myself and we do an hour to an hour and a half presentation on here’s things that need to be done.
I mean simple things like Facebook 101, how to start an account. You don’t know how many of our partners, small businesses who don’t know how to start a Facebook account. I do them internally for our departments, LinkedIn, Facebook, all that stuff. So, yeah they come in and after the meeting I always have at least two, three, four up to 20 say “Can I come in at another day, and talk to you about how we can, how I can focus my marketing better?”
And yeah so it’s, that’s one of the things that I really enjoy about being here is the openness with our partners, and that’s why I’ll argue that Cree is so thankful I do this for Arrivalist, but it’s like I’m not trying to hide this stuff. I mean, like this stuff is just, you know this is great stuff, and same thing with our partners. I mean, I”m not shy about saying “You need to do this.” Part of being a marketer is being honest with people, and I want to be as honest as I can with our tourists, with our partners, and that’s where all of this stuff has come from.
Rob: So what is the population of Atlantic City? The year round population?
Dave: I couldn’t even tell you.
Rob: It’s funny, because it swells right? From when? May to September kind of thing is the main season?
Dave: Yeah, May to like October. September is actually a pretty good month. I, mean, an insider’s tip, I’d visit Atlantic City in September.
Rob: Yeah, yeah.
Dave: There’s less traffic, or some great deals. It’s like 84 degrees for the past five days before this rain moved in down here. It was beautiful. I mean, we were at the beach two days, you know what I mean? So, it’s still . . . You can beat the grounds, but, yeah, like May, May to October is our peak season frost, and it’s just blistering here. It’s beautiful weather, it’s busy. The Boardwalk’s packed. I mean, people riding their bikes on the Boardwalk, people parasailing, jet skiing, all that stuff.
Rob: It sounds so great.
Dave: It’s a great [inaudible 40:36] season. Yeah.
Rob: So, great.
Dave: Where can you pull in? Play a couple of slots. See a great show. See the world’s largest elephant a couple of minutes away, and then come back and walk the Boardwalk right on the beach? It’s just a small unique destination.
Rob: And they have this great amusement park right on the beach, as well?
Rob: Is it right on the Boardwalk? Yeah.
Dave: I mean, they just put in a new ride last year, and it like, goes back and forth and spins, and it goes like over the water, so at one point you’re spinning over the beach. It’s awesome. I mean and they’re doing huge renovation again. You know, there’s some exciting stuff going on here.
Rob: Well, you said that you had some . . . Do you have any real life examples of how this has been able to leverage all of these tools into something that actually makes sense to the listener? We’ve rambled about . . . around this, is there anything like case studies that you have, examples of companies or things that you’ve done, other than what we’ve talked about.
Dave: Let me think about this. So, we did a booking campaign in the spring. So it’s something that had been in place since I was here. And, I’d always questioned it. I never really produced a lot of bookings, but I said, you know what, “Let me do it one more time.” And what I want to do is, measure the bookings, and I also want to measure the monitored arrivals off the campaign. So, we did it. We had eight bookings off the campaign ran for eight weeks, one booking a week. Yes.
Dave: And, I spoke at U.S. Travel Association S.O. [inaudible 42:00] about this, and I think 100 people gasped at the same time when I said it. So the number . . . The price for booking was just terrible. It was awful, but that was okay because that’s what I wanted to measure against. And, as I’m monitoring this in Arrivalist, we’re seeing thousands of arrivals from people exposed to this campaign, to the point where the costs per arrival, was less than $4.80.
Rob: Come on.
Dave: Yeah, and that’s a case study I give internally for that was . . . So any other Director of Marketing, who would’ve went to their VP and their President and said, “I just spend ‘x’ amount of money, and only had this many bookings,” they would say you’re probably fired, or “never do this again.” But you can see how a campaign really resonates with somebody is. And this goes back to what I said, I probably didn’t hit them in the booking cycle.
Dave: But maybe I hit them in their planning cycle. And maybe they didn’t book off that campaign, but you know what? Somewhere in that campaign it said to them, “Oh, yeah, let’s consider Atlantic City.” Would I change the theme of the campaign for next year? Sure, maybe it would be let’s prepare for summer in Atlantic City, and see how that message would resonate better. Maybe it’s not about booking, maybe it’s really just about an awareness campaign, and see how that gets people to come.
So, I mean, that’s like an internal study I use a lot for people. We’re getting ready to launch another one for our in-market ads, which we call Connect to Traveler Ads. And I just bought. . . We have an Atlantic City Restaurant Weekend every March. And, so I bought 1500 tee shirts, put them out at the Visitor Information Center. I’m going to start running in-market ads that says: “Just Hop On Over To The Visitor Information Center And Get Your Free Tee Shirt.” And, we’re going to see, a CTR rate, versus the impressions, versus how many people actually went in there and got it.
I mean, I didn’t even do ads last weekend, and we gave away 250 tee shirts just by people walking in, talking about it. You know, our Visitor Information girls over there, talking about Restaurant Week. So we had the . . . The A.C. Rodeo was here last weekend. So, I went out to one of their P.R. events on the Boardwalk. They did square dancing. I just handed out, like, 75 tee shirts to people, and it was awesome to see, these people watching square dancing. I can’t even tell you how many guys, unfortunately, took off their shirts on the Boardwalk, and put on their Restaurant Week tee shirts.
Rob: It’s probably not something . . .it’s not it’s something that you see quite often anyways on the Boardwalk, right?
Dave: Yeah, yeah.
Rob: This just brings up so many more questions, just around the impact of all of this. And, I look at it from a mobile perspective, as well. But this digital impact around analytics, right? The data. I bet you where was it, at the Tourism Bureau that you talked at?
Dave: The S.O. – the U.S. Travel Association.
Rob: Okay. So, the U.S. Travel Association they probably gasp at the numbers, because they probably didn’t want to know, because they’re doing the same thing, right?
Dave: And nobody else is willing to share them.
Rob: Not only that, and nobody. .. They know, but they’re not willing to stop, because it’s just the way that they’ve done business, but . . .
Rob: . . . now, thinking this, like two years into this role, 18 months into, after bringing Arrivalist in, and you see these results, and you’re changing the way you’re marketing, and you’re leveraging all these technologies, and you’re going into 2014 with a brand new plan, are you ever going to look at something that doesn’t have some kind of analytics associated with it? Are you ever going to just let things go on a whim, and hope?
Dave: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I hate to lose the sincerity, and just letting people decide.
Dave: It’s hard. It’s hard because what you don’t want to be, is the person not to do that.
Rob: Right, right.
Dave: That’s where I am with arrivals, like, you know Atlantic City was one of the first people to do this. So, when I go and speak about this people are so interested in it, like I guess as a marketer, with technology and analytics, you’re just so afraid to be the last person to do it.
Dave: But, yeah. There is some love taking away from just letting people do their thing, and plan, and hope they come.
Dave: But today’s times, there’s just so much stuff.
Rob: I mean, I agree, right, is that, like, you want a little bit of serendipity, right?
Dave: Yeah, yeah.
Rob: And then, you took a risk. You did. Like, maybe you’re the poster child for tourism in . . . for mid-market.
Dave: I don’t want that . . .
Rob: I just labeled it. But, you took a risk 18 months ago, doing this, right?
And so I think that that’s a challenge. It’s that you can look at stats all day long, but you said “Listen, there’s got to a better way.” I looked at the uber stat, the high stat, and said, “Some of these things aren’t working, so we’re going to change it.” And, now you’re fully into bringing this into your business. You’re bringing in enhanced print, your enhanced web, and you’re focusing on [solo mode], which is literally, hyper local mobile activity. And, it’s a really great [lering]. But in a year from now, my hope is that you’re not kicking back, and saying “Oh, we’ve got this marketing thing done.” Right?
Dave: Ha, ha. No way.
Rob: And you’re always looking for that new thing. But it strikes me . . .
Rob: . . . that you’d be the guy that would be doing that.
Dave: Always. You know Arrivalist was this year. Smart Content is next year. You know, but . . .
Rob: Xtify, yeah. [inaudible 47:18]. Hitting our guys.
Dave: Xtify was a couple of months ago where . . . Yeah, and it’s . . . I’m trying to build these players of technology. But it always go back to when I first started this year, I always take a sales call.
Dave: You know what I mean . . .
Rob: Good advice.
Dave: Because you never know. It’s like one of those things where I look at my phone some days, and I see a California number, or a Texas number, and I’m like, “Ah, I don’t feel like answering this.” But, at the end of the day, like, these people like Cree and Josh from Xtify, and the guys from Smart Content, they are the idea people. All we’re doing is implementing and using their ideas, to work for us. You know, they are the revolutionists in every industry. So, if you don’t give them the time of day, you’re going to miss out on some great stuff, you know.
Rob: I just swore, Dave, because I love what you’re talking about.
Dave: Every sales person was just like, what is his phone number?
Rob: Exactly, it’s okay. What is it? Come on. You got to leave a little bit of effort on your part. I mean, sales is still sales, just like marketing is still marketing. I love what you’re doing. I love this approach. I love the openness with which you’ve attacked this, and actually the way that you’ve actually explained it all here. Because, like it gives a glimpse into what the future of marketing is, and for those people who are ignoring the phone call, or not listening to the revolutionists, the people that are there, like Cree, like Josh. Like, these guys can help your business, and I think that this is a perfect example of what they can do, if you let them in a little bit. Right? If you listen.
Dave: Let them in, and work. And look, listen, watch the data, and just adapt, and it’s not large annotations. It’s really not. It’s the core questions are . . . is, what’s PC good for us? What’s mobile good for, for us? What’s Visitor Guides good, for us? And adapting the plan. I honestly think it has made life easier, for me. Because now I know what mobile marketing is about for us.
Dave: I don’t have to find a banner ad campaign that works for mobile. It’s like, you know what, in-market ads is where we probably should be on mobile marketing. You know, and it simplified what each one stands for. It really has. It’s just been, in my opinion, has made marketing easier for us, as I know this works, and this works.
Rob: See, that is the statement here . . . 100 percent is that, I opened up by asking you, how you deal with the complexity of marketing, right? Because there are so many new options. Every day, people are bringing new opportunities to you. And, you’ve just said, listen, as a result of this technology, we have a strategy for print. We have a strategy for Web. We have a strategy for mobile. We understand it. It’s simple. Right now, we are operating at a simple level, even though the technology has made it complex. We have actually just distilled it down to the things we need the most, and it’s simple to run.
Rob: Dave, you’re my mobile marketing hero!
Dave: Oh, thanks, I appreciate it.
Rob: So, I mean, where do we send people? Obviously Atlantic City, right?
Dave: Obviously Atlantic City. Come see, we’ve got tons of stuff, you know? We’ve got the night life, we’ve got the attractions, we’ve got the family stuff, we’ve got boardwalk, we’ve got the beaches, we’ve got great food. An hour from Philly, two hours from New York City two-and-a-half, three hours from D.C., we are just…Come, drive over, just experience it for a day, you’ll love it, I guarantee.
Rob: We’re right in the middle of it and you know, what I always anticipated would happen, you know when Elvis couldn’t tour anymore he went to Vegas, right? He just did a standing show in Vegas. I always figure that, look, Springsteen is going to be in his early 60s, he’s going to say “Forget about it, I don’t want to go on the tour anymore and I’m going to settle into a regular show in Atlantic City, I’m just going to be down there all the time.” Little did I know that the guy is 64 years old and still putting on four hour concerts around the world, right?
So my idea that I would just take up residence in Atlantic City and make a full-time career out of going to Springsteen shows in Atlantic City is now dashed and now I have to travel with him around the world.
Dave: He might reach 70, so you still got some hope in there.
Rob: I hope so, don’t even talk about that, Dave! Come on, of course he’s going to reach 70! I’m going to be 90 when I die and he’s still going to be alive singing…
Dave: He’s still going to be doing shows.
Rob: So where can we send people right now? Where can we send people? What website should we send them into?
Dave: Doatlanticcity.com. Go there, check it out see what’s going on. January 1st, somewhere around there, we’re going to be launching the new site.
Dave: Awesome stuff, really honing into what people are interested in, focused on events, it’s just huge to us. We have great, great revue shows, Legends in Concert is a great show. You know, Elvis impersonators, Madonna impersonators, awesome stuff. I mean we just have great Steel Pier, anything you want. Come down with your spouse, your significant other for an adult night, come down with the kids. We have stuff for everybody.
Rob: I love it. I love that, I’m going to make my way down to Atlantic City. I’m going to follow you.
Dave: Find me!
Rob: Do you greet people when they walk in? Dude, it almost seems like it. Like “Hey, I’m Dave! Welcome to Atlantic City!”
Dave: I’ve become an ambassador.
Dave: That was funny because before I started working here I rarely came into the city. I was in my twenties, so I came here for the night life once in a while with friends. But ever since I started working here I’ve become an ambassador, for now, I’m married. I have a daughter and a son on the way, so I’ve become an ambassador for families, for my friends, and people I meet. And say “You know what, there’s lots of stuff to do for everybody.”
I used to come in for night life all the time, great clubs, great dining and you know, and now as a family person, I check out the events at Steel Pier I’ve been to the light house. We took my daughter to Lucy. We’ve been to all these places. So I definitely become an ambassador and I think the marketing programs that we put together gets me even more excited, which for somebody who comes in here every day, I hope amplifies for the person who’s not here every day. It’s like “Gosh, if I’m excited about this and I’m here every day, so do these people, right?”
Rob: It’s going to be, but you can’t fit it into five days, stay for seven!
Dave: Stay for seven, yeah. Yeah, stay for longer.
Rob: So, go to atlanticcity.com…
Rob: Say that again?
Rob: Doatlanticcity.com. D-O Atlantic City.com. Dave, I can’t thank you enough for doing this. You’ve been so open, so honest. It has been a blast. This has been easier than [TechRanch] hasn’t it?
Dave: Yeah, definitely.
Rob: Okay. This is more conversational. Dave, I am so completely impressed with what you’re doing with this and with all this integrated marketing campaigns, but really about location based marketing, very few companies get it, very few cities understand it, very few states get it and I’m so happy that…I mean, you should be elevated and used as an example because it just shows you. Shows you what you can do with this technology, it doesn’t have to be complicated. So, congratulations, Dave.
Dave: It’s not complicated and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming for visitors. I mean yeah, we’re monitoring arrivals, but you know, we’re not watching where you go. Just trying to get a better plan for you, that’s it, you know?
Rob: Yeah. Wicked. Dave, thank you so much. Thank you so much. We’ve been speaking with Dave Roesch, the Director of Marketing for the ACCVA. Go to doatlanticcity.com and then go, do Atlantic City. How’s that?
Thank you to Dave, thank you guys for listening, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, hopefully it is on the way to Atlantic City and if you’re not, shame on you. Go and visit Atlantic City and we will see you next time on UNTETHER.tv. Thanks, Dave.
Dave: Thanks, guys.
Dave’s daily responsibilities at the ACCVA include digital marketing strategy, website coordination, new media research and execution, analytics, email marketing and web content development. His early career experiences as a graphic & web designer have allowed him to combine a creative background and a strategic approach to tourism marketing.
Personally, Dave i an avid outdoorsman who prefers a flannel shirt and jeans to dress pants and tie any day. Mountain biking, kayaking, fishing and sitting next to a camp fire with his wife and daughter are what he loves most about life. He’d rather make a book shelf than buy one, he doesn’t use starter logs and he refuses to call a plumber. Experience molds a person, determination makes a person.