In Part 1 and Part 2 of “DIY Marketing” (Adventure Park Insider Fall 2021 and Winter 2022), we explored how to craft and share your message: the customer-facing areas of a marketing plan. A key, and often overlooked, aspect of your marketing plan, though, is measuring your marketing efforts to know what is—and isn’t—working.
Marketing without measuring for success is like the classic “shell game,” where a performer puts a ball under one of three cups, quickly shuffles the cups around, and then invites you to guess which cup the ball is under for a prize. (Spoiler alert: It’s a scam!) You spend on your marketing, guests come to the park, but your guess is as good as anyone’s as to which of your marketing channels brought them there.
Testing and measuring your marketing is the equivalent of playing the shell game with clear cups. If you have a way to track your marketing, then you’ll know exactly where your guests came from, how they found you, and where to put more of your budget.
Of course, this is easier said than done, even if you’re an Excel expert who loves spreadsheets. To measure your return on investment (ROI), you need to know two things: where you are spending your money, and how your guests are finding you.
Your spend should be fairly easy to track as long as you have a system for tracking your other business expenses and budget. We’re big fans of QuickBooks, which allows you to streamline all your expenses into one platform. Although, you may also want to hire a bookkeeper to help cross the t’s and dot the i’s.
Figuring out how your guests found you is trickier. If you can crack that code, you can save thousands of dollars on marketing that isn’t working and instead put that extra money toward those efforts that are bringing people through the door.
The following are some of our favorite ways to test and measure your marketing efforts. Some are more effective and/or DIY-friendly than others—we’ll offer insights on those aspects, too.
There are digital tools for everything nowadays, and tracking customer behavior is no exception.
Web data. For tracking good old-fashioned website browsing, there’s no tool better than Google Analytics. This tried and true (and free!) plugin provides ample data on where your customers came from, how long they spent on any given page, what brought them to your site, and where in the booking funnel they clicked out of your site. The tool, while still highly technical, is intuitive as far as online tracking goes, and is a good DIY option because you don’t have to pay for the software or additional advertising costs.
Built-in tools. Your booking or reservations software should include some extensive analytics tools, as well. Your software representative should be able to set you up, but you will have to do some heavy lifting to learn the ins and outs of the platform and what all the different numbers and charts mean.
If the mere thought of a graph or spreadsheet makes your eyes roll into the back of your head, you may want to consider outsourcing this job to someone else on your team. It’s important to know where people are finding you, and it’s equally important the person tracking the information be up to the task.
Online advertising. While online advertising itself isn’t strictly DIY marketing because it is paid, you can use DIY methods to measure its success. One of the most popular ways to monitor customer traffic is through online advertising like Google AdWords and Facebook Ads, among others. Most of these programs come with an initial consultation in which someone will teach you the mechanics of their platform.
Just be aware that online ad analytics often involve a significant time cost, learning curve, and high degree of tech savvy. It’s worth noting as well that privacy concerns—i.e., how much personal data online advertisers are entitled to access—is a hot topic in the digital ad industry right now. If you’ve noticed an increase in those “enable/disable cookies” popups on the websites you visit, that’s because websites are increasingly allowing visitors to opt in/opt out of certain types of personal data collection.
While this is good news when it comes to personal privacy, it makes a marketer’s job more challenging. Changes to data access may change how your customers are served online ads. So:
Track your marketing costs and always stay up-to-date on available customer data in case the privacy laws change later.
Don’t put all your marketing eggs in one basket.
To that end, there’s a lower tech but highly reliable methodology for measuring marketing success that can be applied to almost any medium: A/B testing.
The concept is simple—create two variations of the same thing and see which one works better.
For example, you might place billboards on two different interstates approaching your attraction. You don’t want to pay for both indefinitely, so you do an A/B test to see which one performs better. To track performance, you set up two different 800 numbers—one for billboard A and one for billboard B. At the end of a predetermined number of weeks or months—however much time will give the billboards enough exposure—you check which phone number got more calls. That metric then allows you to know which billboard had greater visibility and can inform future marketing spend.
Other examples of A/B testing include:
Placing rack cards with different QR codes at different hotels to track which QR code brings more visitors to your booking page.
Creating two different landing pages for two different online advertising campaigns to track which landing page gets more unique visits.
This method of testing and measuring your marketing can provide invaluable information, if you do it right. It will require some outsourcing or tech savvy to create different phone numbers, landing pages, QR codes, etc., but once the foundation is set, A/B tests provide a wealth of helpful data.
“How Did You Find Out About Us?”
Asking people how they found out about you is probably the best way to … find out how they found out about you. The challenge with this method is that you give up control of the tracking process and rely on your customers to remember exactly how they discovered your operation.
The question is simple, though, and there are a few different ways to obtain an answer from your customers. You can have a questionnaire embedded into your booking page or as part of your post-program survey. One of the easiest options is to have a spot on your waiver where people can indicate how they found you.
User-friendly. With this type of survey, you want to make sure that people not only answer but answer correctly. Make the questionnaire as user-friendly as possible by making the question visible and simple and the answers multiple choice so the guest isn’t required to type a response. Fewer answer choices are better. But you’ll also want to have a box marked “other” that the guest can fill in if their response doesn’t fit with the choices. Don’t make the question mandatory. If the guest doesn’t know how they found you, they’ll make something up—and the only thing worse than no data is incorrect data.
In person. Alternatively, you can get in the habit of simply asking customers how they heard about you. Your reservationist may or may not have the time or energy to ask every customer, but your guides or park monitors might.
Consider training your staff to ask people how they found out about you as part of their briefing or guiding process, and have a log so they can record the information at the end of the day.
Don’t worry too much about holding staff to specific numbers—the last thing you want is for an exercise in data collection to get in the way of a seamless guest experience—but even a general sense of trends is better than nothing.
What Do I DO With My Data?
Whether you’re trying to do this all on your own or outsourcing your tracking to a marketing agency, the information is only as good as what you do with it.
You’ll want to periodically look at your marketing budget and examine how much money is going where against what percentage of your customers are finding you through which channels.
If the numbers match up, great. But if you discover that 70 percent of your customers find you through a billboard with a specific phone number on it, and only 10 percent of your budget is going to billboards, that information will be invaluable in planning your future marketing spend.
That said, if you are launching a new tool, strategy, or campaign, don’t expect to have comprehensive data one week in. We generally recommend auditing your marketing every few months during your open season to get a sense of the trends and what is working.
The Down-Low on DIY Marketing
In any DIY marketing effort, from crafting your message and sharing it to measuring your success, there are a few things to remember:
Everything comes at a cost. Most people want to learn how to be better DIY marketers so that they can save money. That’s a reasonable goal, but as a rule, the more you are saving money by doing something in-house, the more of your time you are investing in it. Realistically, if you own or operate a course, you don’t have time to also be a full-time marketing person.
Consider which aspects of your marketing you want to prioritize.
Don’t take the “Y” in DIY literally. New owners often think of marketing in extremes: You either must do it all yourself or outsource it completely to a paid third party. Doing it all on your own isn’t realistic, but you may have members of your team who can help with parts of the marketing plan. Delegating within your operation can be the perfect middle ground between third-party paid and DIY marketing.
Get good at one thing first. When it comes to implementing new marketing strategies, you’re much better off specializing in one thing than trying to do 10 things at once. That one thing could be social media copy, website branding, or creating new ways to reach your community—regardless, you’ll see a much better return on your investment in time or dollars spent by narrowing your focus.
If you’re not sure where to begin, start by asking yourself which area you’re most interested in, because that’s probably where you’re most likely to follow through. You may also consider polling your staff and seeing if anyone has a passion for, say, blogging or Instagram that you didn’t know about.
Above all, have realistic expectations about what you can accomplish in a given timeframe, stay informed about the latest marketing trends, and don’t forget to keep testing and measuring to see what’s working.