Friday, December 7, 2012

Recognition, sales are measures of marketing success

While everyone in the Sun Valley area is celebrating the first big snowfalls, the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance is explaining what it’s done for the area.

It’s having difficulty because the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley haven’t provided any guidelines to gauge if the Marketing Alliance is successful or not.

The cities contract with the SVMA to place advertising, conduct public relations and run a visitor center.

It was clear at the SVMA membership meeting this week that the alliance is struggling to meet vague expectations.

It’s flailing in a climate in which advertising can mean anything from ink on paper in publications or on billboards, audio ads on radio or streamed through the Internet, to video ads on television or any Internet platform. Marketing can mean anything from shaking the right hands to offering a popular product at just the right time.

So, what should the cities and businesses ask for to evaluate the success of  SVMA’s marketing programs?

Two things: Better name recognition for a ski resort that’s fallen off the national radar and more revenue for businesses.

Finding out whether it’s succeeding in raising Sun Valley’s profile in targeted metro areas should be easy. The SVMA should use a little of its budget to conduct a random survey after a major campaign ends to find out if the number of people who’ve heard of Sun Valley increased.

It should also look to state and local economic statistics to help evaluate its performance. Information on sales tax collections and total county sales are going to be better measures of success than the number of “Likes” recorded on Facebook or the number of clicks on Skippy the Robot—one of last summer’s promos. Even better, they’re easily understood because they mean money in the bank.

Private business group Sustain Blaine has compiled and released public economic data tallied by the state of Idaho. If correlated with the activities of the SVMA, sales and tax data would give SVMA a mixed report card to date.

In 2011, total sales in Blaine County increased by 7 percent over 2010 after a 37 percent cumulative contraction over five years. The SVMA had its work cut out for it.

Sales revenue data for 2011 showed that of nine industries that generated 92 percent of total sales in Blaine County, six saw improved sales. However, revenue in the “Other Retail” category, which generates the largest total revenue of any individual industry, still dropped 23 percent.

The goal of marketing in a tourist-based economy is simple and straightforward: It’s to grow business. When the SVMA tells its story, it needs to keep that squarely in focus.

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