WHAT IS WORKING: Real-life marketing for 2021 | East Idaho

Editor’s Note: Over the course of 2021, we’ll be interviewing some of these brilliant local professionals to learn more about their challenges and how they created successful advertising campaigns to meet their goals. Hopefully you enjoy these discussions and find some ideas and inspiration for your own marketing.

Free Range Consulting, based in Teton Valley, offers the services you would expect from a professional marketing agency: marketing strategy, branding, content and social media. But Kristi Baughman, who owns the Free Range, also has special expertise. She is adept at scholarship writing – a science in itself – and she is an expert helping clients who focus on tourism, such as the Yellowstone Teton Territory organization.

YTT had a fantastic year 2020 despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.

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Of the many organizations that have received grants from the Idaho Department of Commerce’s Travel Council, YTT was the only nationwide group to maintain funding for the year – with great results.

We sat down with Baughman recently to see what works for YTT.

East Idaho Business Journal: Yellowstone Teton Territory is made up of what types of companies? Who are the members?

Kristi Baughman: YTT is a non-profit whose mission is to increase tourism for six counties in east Idaho. Members are mainly composed of lodges, attractions and other businesses that focus directly on tourism.

EIBJ: How do you measure success when planning marketing campaigns for YTT?

KB: I’m truly a “rubber meets the road” person, which means that success is measured by actual sales or, in the case of YTT, income from housing. There are of course indicators along the way that determine how campaigns are structured or what they focus on, such as engagement rates on social media posts, impressions from target ads, etc. But ultimately, it’s really about increasing revenue.

EIBJ: What tactic would you use to fill beds in a “regular” year? And how did this tactic work?

KB: YTT got its name from its proximity to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, which Idaho is not usually known for. While we benefit from finding Yellowstone on the internet, winter (and there) seasonal closings come when we really have the most room for growth.

Focusing on outdoor recreation and unique events (which are often cheaper compared to other neighboring states) really helps the region stand out and even out the peaks and valleys of the tourism season.

This strategy worked well as even the shoulder and winter seasons continued to grow over the years.

EIBJ: How did you turn in 2020 and why?

KB: I think YTT is fortunate that, even in a “regular year”, their assets are organically “COVID-friendly”, meaning plenty of freedom of movement and outdoor recreation. Be it a global pandemic or just normal pressure on city life, people appreciate spacious spaces in a relaxed environment.

So much of the images and content we would normally use to promote visits to East Idaho is still true.

We have a great collaboration from regional tourism companies and have worked very hard to extend our summer season for as long as possible. As a result, sales grew by 26 percent even in November.

EIBJ: What works at YTT and why?

KB: Again, we’re fortunate enough to have such a large fortune and it’s always an easy sale. But it’s not the only thing that draws people to the area. Surveys keep showing how important kindness is to them and why they return. I think this really has a lot to do with the value any company places on customer service and the friendliness of the people they hire. All of these things make my work easier.

EIBJ: What advice would you give East Idaho companies as they head into 2021 as they develop their own marketing plans?

KB: It is easy to want to spend less on marketing in times of uncertainty, but the reality is that the most important time is to focus on marketing. Take the time to know not just who your audience is, but where they would most likely see what you are selling. That way, you can reevaluate where you’re spending marketing dollars and make sure those dollars are actually providing a return on investment.