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Customer Stories How Ski Butternut Converted 44% of Lapsed Passholders With the Help of Four Simple Emails

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photo of the author Pascale Savard

 Sep 1, 2020

Turnover. Churn. Lapsed pass holders. Different industries have different names for it, but we’re all fighting against the same frustrating math — every year, we have to create enough new customers to make up for the existing ones that we lose. We have to do a great job marketing just to get back to the starting line!

Of course, we’ve all heard that re-convincing an existing customer is less expensive than acquiring a new one. But knowing that is different than finding ways to actually do it.

This was the challenge the Ski Butternut team brought to us as they ramped up for the 2018-2019 ski season.

Tucked in The Berkshires in Northern Massachusetts, where the butternut groves are plentiful and filled with rich and delicious nuts, sits Ski Butternut. With around 100,000 annual skier visits, this regional ski area depends heavily on season pass sales to deliver early season revenue to refill their coffers and provide a solid operating base for the rest of the year.

Late in the summer of 2018, their marketing department shared a new challenge with their Inntopia Marketing Cloud account manager — they wanted to move the needle on lapsed pass holders.

With help from the experts on the Inntopia Digital team, a new strategy was developed to supplement their annual season pass sales push complete with loads of data-driven subject line and content decisions, as well as a brand new dynamic email template that leveraged guest pass photo and purchase data from their POS system.

Screenshot of Butternut's redesigned pass sale email

Click to view the full email.

Four personalized emails including an image of what their 2018-2019 pass would look like — guest photo from previous year and all, were sent to a very specific list: season pass holders from the past 3 years who had not yet purchased a 2018-2019 season pass. The first email generated an open rate of 28% and a click rate of 4%, compared to the resort’s usual email open rate of 15.6% and 1% click rate. In this one campaign, Ski Butternut basically doubled open rate and quadrupled click rate vs. average.

The photo pass campaign delivered. When the results were tabulated, Ski Butternut had enjoyed its best season pass renewal rate in a long time. Here’s how Dillon Mahon, Director of Marketing at Ski Butternut summarizes the experience:

“This campaign was an integral part of achieving our best season pass renewal rate and revenue in many years.”

Four different sends were done from August 24th – November 29th:

Date Subject Line Recipients Open Rate Click Rate
24-Aug %%firstname%%, It is time to renew your season pass 2847 28% 4%
30-Aug 1 Day Left to Save Up to $100 on Your Season Pass at Ski Butternut 2476 19% 3%
26-Nov Buy your Butternut pass before 11/30 to save 2035 18% 1%
29-Nov 1 Day Left to Save on Season Passes 1994 16% 1%

“We expected that our personalized season pass email campaign would catch the attention of our pass holders. But we were pleasantly surprised how effective it actually was.”

Ski Butternut complemented the email photo pass campaign with other online and on-the-ground promotions, which resulted in earlier cash flow than ever, as well as a generous increase in overall revenue.

“A combination of our pricing strategy and these critically-timed and highly-personalized messages led to a 44% decrease in lapsed pass holders year-over-year. The increased renewal rate not only impacted our season pass revenue, but has led to increased skier visits and a bump in our auxiliary business such as rentals, lessons and food and beverage. The photo pass campaign was a big brick in the foundation of a successful season for Ski Butternut and we couldn’t be happier with the results.”

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