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Customer Stories How Black Hills Vacations Used Guest Data and Facebook Ads to Generate a Reservoir of Post-Pandemic Demand

photo of mount rushmore

photo of the author Gregg Blanchard

 Feb 24, 2021

What marketing do you do when people can’t actually visit your destination? It’s a question we would have thought bizarre a year ago, but seems all too familiar today after a year of a devastating pandemic.

This conundrum challenged many brands, but especially Black Hills Vacations, the official central reservations system for the Black Hills & Badlands of South Dakota and home of one of the most iconic and well-known travel destinations in the country: Mount Rushmore.

Their solution, however, was brilliant: generate as much demand as possible that they could then tap into after the pandemic ended.

Plan Now, Travel Later

Their campaign tagline was a simple as it was meaningful:

Plan Now, Travel Later

Among the channels they used to deliver this message, Facebook became a top priority. But without an in-house expert to guide their campaigns and a user of both Inntopia Commerce and Inntopia Marketing Cloud, they turned to Inntopia’s in-house digital team for help.

The Task

The team at Black Hills Vacations gave a clear brief:

  • A fixed budget
  • Two weeks to deliver results
  • Create the ads and creative
  • Create and deploy the campaigns
  • Report on the results

Kristin Connors and Devin Jensen, two members of Inntopia Digital, jumped in right away and got to work. 

Step 1: Creative

As they planned out ad creative and copy, Devin and Kristin needed a few more assets than they had at their disposal. The solution came from the state of South Dakota. With a green light to use anything within their asset library, Devin went to work writing and generating a group of four ads:

  • A video ad featuring drone footage of Mount Rushmore
  • A video ad featuring the well-known bison that roam certain parts of the region
  • A carousel ad featuring top campgrounds in the area
  • A lodging-specific ad retargeted to folks who watched the second video ad

Step 2: Targeting

Here’s where Kristin was able to really work her magic. Audiences in Facebook – especially lookalike audiences – are only as good as the data used to build them. As an Inntopia Marketing Cloud user, Black Hills Vacations had all their data aggregated, cleansed, householded, and ready for marketing. Kristin and Devin built a series of queries to tease out high value guests from key states. 

They then used Inntopia Marketing Cloud’s built-in Facebook Audience Sync feature to push those lists to the Black Hills Vacations Facebook Ads account where they turned each into a targeted lookalike audience of other Facebook users who matched the traits, behaviors, and interests of those high-value guests.

Step 3: Results

Between great visuals, well-written messages, and a deep, accurate data set, these ads delivered some incredible results. The best of the bunch, however, was the video ad featuring drone footage of Mount Rushmore:

photo of the mount rushmore facebook ad

  • Over 300,000 views
  • A 2.8% click through rate (CTR)
  • $0.19 cost per click (CPC)

The CPC was phenomenal, but because the content itself was so engaging and aligned to what Facebook users hope to see in their feeds, this ad ultimately received:

  • 3,300 likes
  • 505 shares

Yes, an ad was shared 505 times by the people who saw it. 

This engagement generated a significant boost in organic reach on top of the visibility they were paying for. It’s like a marketing friend of mine often says: “If you’re gonna show Facebook users an ad, just remember this: They didn’t come there to view ads.”

Home Run

What did Black Hills Vacations think of the results? Here’s what CEO Susan Johnson had to say:

“We ran two Facebook campaigns in about the same timeframe with the same budget.  The team at Inntopia blew the other campaign out of the water! We were extremely impressed with the results, especially with the limited budget we gave the Inntopia Digital team to work with.

The combination of insightful data from Inntopia Marketing Cloud and expertise from the Digital team helped generate future demand for their destination they’ll be able to nurture through the Covid-19 pandemic and convert at a higher and higher rate as their guests ability to travel returns to pre-pandemic levels.

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the inntopia team celebrating a new campground client