A small investment now can potentially pay big dividends later.
At least that’s the attitude Moffat County Tourism Association Director Marilynn Hill has as she and the MCTA Board near the launch of an in-depth marketing survey of the county.
The MCTA Board and the Moffat County Commission both gave unanimous approval earlier this month to spend $20,000 on a county marketing survey with the Edwards-based Hill Aevium.
Despite the survey’s cost, Hill said the work Hill Aevium will conduct could hold big rewards for the county’s tourism future.
“The payback is 7-to-1 if we do it right,” she said. “If we don’t do it right, and we continue down the road (like) we have done in the past, we are just going to be down the road spending money and not having anything to show for it.”
Hill Aevium will start the four-month survey of Moffat County in early February. It represents the first phase of a three-phase marketing plan, which Hill expects to have developed and implemented by January of next year.
The main idea behind the marketing survey, Hill said, is to understand what local tourisms assets bring travelers to the area, then use that information in the later phases of the marketing plan to successfully market the area and measure the results.
“So it is understanding all that we have, selling that, but making sure that we carry through on that,” she said.
Simply put, Hill said the survey will include things like asking travelers why they came to the area, which could be different than the factors MCTA, residents or other organizations thought.
The survey is the first step in what could be a long-term process, she said.
“It is not something that you are going to see a change in overnight,” Hill said. “So once we put this process in place (it will be) a way for us not to spin our wheels and spend money (for the) long term.”
Hill said there have been other marketing studies commissioned by MCTA to inventory the county’s assets.
But, Hill said those surveys fell short.
“Those past surveys were not done … looking at it from a travelers’ point of view,” she said. “They didn’t go out and they didn’t do focus groups and they didn’t do intercept studies and they didn’t do all these different things with the actual travelers to see what brought them here.
“I mean, I can sit here all day long and say, ‘Well, gosh, Browns Park is a wonderful place and Dinosaur is a wonderful place, and Irish Canyon — I could name off a dozen easily.”
Hill said knowing the places to market in the county isn’t enough. MCTA needs to understand how to market them to the correct demographic — something the organization hasn’t done effectively in the past either, she said.
“I think some of the issues have been in the past is that we haven’t had a good focus of what we want to do with the data we had,” Hill said.
However, this survey will seek to change that, she said.
Among the things included in the survey are strategic planning goals, qualitative and quantitative research, plans to host focus sessions and conduct tourist intercept studies as well as other forms of analysis such as situational, competitive and target market analysis.
Hill said the survey will also examine the county’s potential demographics and how to reach them, as well as how to market in partnership with other local communities.
“I hear a lot of people say, ‘Well, we are not Steamboat (Springs),’” she said. “Well, I don’t know anybody that really wants us to be Steamboat, but at the same time, how do we take advantage of the market that Steamboat does have for those families that want to do more than the typical Steamboat-type stay?”
Hill Aevium also plans to survey about 500 people who have recently stayed in the area about the nature of their visit, Hill said.
“We have some lodgers who really push to the business traveler,” she said. “Well, we really don’t want to survey those people from a standpoint of, ‘Why did you come here from a business standpoint? (Rather) when you were here, what were the things you saw that you would come back for?’”
Hill said she is not shy about the main focus of the marketing survey and three-phase marketing project.
“I want them to come and I want them to empty their pockets having a great time and can hardly wait to come back the next time,” she said.
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