The bi-town digital marketing push was first introduced in July 2015, when Wilmington and Dover’s selectboards each agreed to share the costs of the effort through their 1% local option tax, over a period of three years.
The chamber of commerce is handling the administrative side of the campaign, and a bi-town committee made up of members from Dover and Wilmington meets regularly to discuss progress, updates, and future endeavors. The campaign includes creating digital ads, buying ad space, and driving web traffic to visitvermont.com, the chamber’s website.
The overall goal of the campaign is to drive more tourism to the valley through digital marketing.
Wilmington Economic and Community Development Consultant Gretchen Havreluk says a major component of the campaign is figuring out how to quantify its success. “Part of all of this is how are we going to measure the response from this digital ad campaign?”
Havreluk says that although the committee considered using Google Analytics to track website traffic, they ultimately decided that wouldn’t be enough. “We decided that we wanted to gauge actual numbers,” says Havreluk.
However, the committee found that there was no existing software that would easily allow them to gather and track data in the way they had decided would be beneficial. So the committee hired Vickery Hill, a Vermont-based technology developer, to create software that would allow businesses to input sales information on a weekly basis. For the purposes of organizing the data, businesses that are most likely to be affected by fluctuations in tourism traffic have been split into three groups: retail, lodging, and dining.
“Each week, we ask the businesses to share data,” says Havreluk. “For lodging, they put in how many beds were available and how many were in service. For retail, it’s how many transactions did you have? For restaurants, it’s how many covers did you have?”
One business that is participating is the Nutmeg Inn in Wilmington. “The software is incredibly user-friendly,” says Nutmeg owner Shelley Lockyear. “You don’t have to have technical know-how or be computer savvy to do it. You just log in to the chamber’s website, go to the dashboard, click on the week you’re in, and enter your numbers. That’s it.”
Lockyear says she decided to participate in the data collection because she sees the data as being beneficial to valley businesses over time. “Ongoing, historical data is going to allow us to look back and make sure that our advertising spends and marketing efforts are going to the right places,” says Lockyear. “I think the data they’re collecting is going to be really valuable.”
The hypothesis is that eventually, the data will illuminate trends in tourism and also shed light on whether or not the digital marketing campaigns are affecting those trends. Havreluk says she thinks the aggregate data can also be helpful to each business owner, since they can compare it to their own individual data.
The data will be compiled in such a way that no individual business’s information is identifiable. For example, with inns, only aggregate data about participating inns in the entire valley will be available to other inn owners. Numbers will not be broken down by individual inn either anonymously or with business names.
“We’re also not asking for detailed information about how much each business made in a week, because that’s a little invasive,” says Havreluk. “But the data still gives us a trigger as to where it is now and where it is in the future. It’s a baseline.”
Havreluk says that getting businesses to join the effort has been difficult, and although several businesses have joined in, there is room for more. Havreluk says that business engagement is going to be integral to securing funding for digital marketing campaigns in the future, and could also help the towns apply for economic development grants.