My guest today is William Pate, president and CEO of Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. He is charged with maintaining tourism in one of the city’s top economic drivers. Previously, he’s held positions at Goodwill Industries International, MCI, Bellsouth, and career sports and entertainment. The Atlanta Chapter of American Marketing Association selected him as corporate marketer of the year and Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International recognized him as one of the top twenty-five most extraordinary minds in sales and marketing. Today we talk about what is and isn’t working in digital marketing and how to keep pushing that envelope (or you’re going to get left behind).
Adam: [00:00:03] Hi and welcome to the Good People, Good marketing podcast, a podcast about nonprofit digital marketing and how to make it better so the good people and good organizations can have good marketing as well. I’m your host, Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways Eight, a Digital Marketing Agency that specializes in nonprofit work and 48 and 48, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events that build forty-eight websites for forty-eight nonprofits in forty-eight hours.
My guest on the show today is William Pate. William is president and CEO of Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. He is charged with maintaining tourism in one of the city’s top economic drivers. Previously, he’s held positions at Goodwill Industries International, MCI, Bellsouth, and career sports and entertainment. The Atlanta Chapter of American Marketing Association selected him as corporate marketer of the year and Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International recognized him as one of the top twenty-five most extraordinary minds in sales and marketing. William, I’m really excited to have you on the podcast. Thanks for being here.
William: [00:01:04] Thank you, buddy. I’m really happy to be here with you.
Adam: [00:01:06] It’s going to be a fun conversation. Now, do you have anything you want to add to that little bio?
William: [00:01:11] Oh no, I think that covers it quite well. Thanks.
Adam: [00:01:16] Well that’s good. Well, you’re a good guy, a good friend and I really value what you bring to the table from a marketing perspective. So let’s just dig right in here. So question number one related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that you’re seeing that’s working well?
William: [00:01:32] Well, you were talking about websites and website creation at the opening and I think that’s one of the things that we really started to do well. We really stratified our web presence in sort of three areas, atlanta.net, which is really the go-to source for leisure visitors who are coming to the city and more and more for people who live in the city who want to know what’s going on in town. We have dining and attractions, we have fifty fun things to do for people that are looking for things to do here and then for our convention business we have atlantameetings.com, which really services meeting planners who are bringing big conventions into town, and then finally we wrap that up with news.atlanta.net, which is basically focused on journalists and people who write about travel so that we make sure that they’re aware of the great things that are going on in the city. Our business is sort of a unique business in that on the convention side we know who all the customers are. Their meeting planners, we know how many there are, we know how to contact them, which for marketing people is very unique and is great especially if you’re trying to do one to one marketing. And then on the leisure side, which is obviously a much broader audience, we feel like we’ve got really good techniques to reach large numbers of people very cost efficiently. We’re nonprofit and so we have to make sure that we’re spending our dollars wisely and then just to close out we also have a mobile app that we have both leisure visitors as well as convention visitors that come to the city that allows them to see what’s going on in this city. It’s very timely. We’re updating it on a regular basis. It talks about dining options and things like that so that when you’re in the city you have the convenience of having all that information at your fingertips.
Adam: [00:03:39] Wow. I love that approach and I don’t know that I quite realize that so let me make sure I’m understanding what you’re saying. I believe I’m hearing you say that you’ve essentially split your key audiences into three segments, the leisure visitors, the convention business, and then the writers about travels, sort of a PR promotion play. And then you’ve created individual websites to target them in individual ways and then you’re creating specific campaigns around those specific websites to even further target them to drive traffic to the website. Is that what I’m hearing you say?
William: [00:04:11] That’s absolutely right. I mean I think as we get more and more into the delivery of that one to one marketing concept as marketers we’ve got to deliver on that and so gone are the days when you could have sort of one size fits all and you let your customers find what they’re looking for. Now you’ve got to really narrow the focus and make sure you’re providing the content and the information that those customers are looking for in an easy to use format and content that’s relevant to what they’re looking for.
Adam: [00:04:42] Wow, I love that. That’s incredibly smart. Okay, great, well that was very insightful. So then question number two, related to digital marketing, what are you seeing that’s not working well that we can learn from?
William: [00:04:56] Well, I think what we’re learning is that as Google and Facebook being two of the main platforms continue to evolve as marketers we’re constantly having to keep up with their change in focus, their change in algorithms as they are companies that are trying to deliver better their customers, marketers need to stay in tune with that. And so one of the interesting things about Google particularly is that they’re getting in the travel business, they’re in our business where they’re now starting to offer comprehensive travel planning. They have a booking solution, they’re curating content which really is very similar to what we do as a convention of visitor’s bureau and so our strategy has been to utilize one of their new programs, which is their accelerated mobile page standard, to be able to get our mobile content to customers and do prospects very quickly. It’s a much better experience for our customers and so as we initially lost some traffic to their efforts to reach travelers, we’ve now gained a lot of that traffic back focused on the mobile app. And then on the Facebook side, again, they’re constantly evolving. It’s now, of course, all paid reach and they’re evolving their advertising products and as they get more video focused, we’ve gotten very focused on video and video content as a way to reach our customers in again, a very meaningful way. So one of the things we’re doing this year is we’re using video when we’re using the Facebook canvas features to test out this summer in our summer marketing campaign as a way to reach families and families with children to encourage them to come to Atlanta and take advantage of some of the family-friendly things that we have while the kids are out of school.
Adam: [00:07:02] I love that. It’s great that you’re staying not only up to date with what’s happening with Google and Facebook, but it sounds like you’re really trying to stay ahead of the curve. Whereas I feel like a lot of marketers, a lot of nonprofit marketers, in particular, are trying to stay kind of on or maybe a little behind the curve, but I think if you can stay ahead, you can get a lot further in front and you can do a lot more good and possibly really even leverage your, budget’s a little better because you’re sort of one step ahead of everybody else.
William: [00:07:29] Well, our chief marketing officer, Andrew Wilson is very adept at technology and understanding technology in the marketing space and we have an excellent marketing staff that is constantly challenging the paradigm and I think particularly now with so much disruption going on in the marketing space that’s how you have to approach it every day. You have to understand the new things that are coming on board, the new platforms and opportunities and you’ve got to keep pushing that envelope or you’re going to get left behind.
Adam: [00:08:00] That’s right, that’s right and you have to dedicate the time to research and understand these things as they’re ever evolving. We can’t just sit back and just assume that what worked yesterday is going to work today because I mean as you said, Facebook has changed dramatically. Google’s changed dramatically even in recent months and we have to adapt with that.
William: [00:08:18] Absolutely.
Adam: [00:08:20] That’s fantastic. So last question then related to digital marketing, can you tell me something that you’re excited about?
William: [00:08:27] Oh, I love this question because there are so many great things that we’re excited about. We’ve really been getting involved in again, virtual reality and so we’re one of three or four destinations in the country that are using virtual reality technology to reach our customers and so a good example of that would be we now have virtual tours of places like the Georgia World Congress Center, which is a very popular place for conventions. The Georgia Aquarium, which is a great place for events and things and so if you’re a meeting planner on the West Coast you might be interested in to coming to Atlanta, but you might not have been here before and it’s expensive to fly here just to see if you want to do an event in our city. So now we have the opportunity with virtual reality to take them into the convention center and we can set up the rooms in different ways so they can kind of see the setups. They can get a sense of the distance in between rooms and things like that and then through our ATL 360, which is on our website, you can then step back from the congress center and literally walk around the city and be able to see the close proximity to attractions and restaurants and hotels that are close to the convention center. So it really gives us an excellent sales tool to bring to life all of the wonderful features that Atlanta has to customers who can’t get here. I mean obviously our preference is to be able to walk people here and let them walk around the city and see everything, but you just don’t always have that luxury and so technology has really allowed us to close the gap and I think over the next five years, virtual reality and augmented reality are really going to play an important role in selling destinations.
Adam: [00:10:23] Yeah, I totally agree. I mean to your point, why book a flight and come and stay overnight when you can just put on a VR headset and walk through the whole thing and then have an eighty five/90% feeling like you were actually there and maybe 95% feeling like you’re actually there, you know.
William: [00:10:42] Well, and I think that’s going to even be important for leisure tourists as well because so many times your vacation comes down to a couple of different cities and you probably haven’t been to those cities before and so you’re trying to figure out what you want to do and you’re always wondering if it’s going to be worth it, right? And so to be able to kind of test drive some of these attractions and the ease of getting around in a city is really going to better inform your decision and create an opportunity for you to make a really good decision so that when you get there, you’re going to have a very rich experience that you and your family are going to be able to enjoy.
Adam: [00:11:20] Yeah, that’s fantastic I’ve never even thought of that, but you’re right I’ve never been to certain cities. I’m looking at going there later this year with my family, if I can put on a VR headset and take a little virtual tour and really understand, okay, how far really is it? I mean, because you look at it on a map and say, okay, well this is two miles away, this is one mile away, but then when you can actually walk the path in virtual reality you begin to realize, oh, this is much further away than it felt like or it’s not further away, it’s closer or whatever. So that’s really amazing.
William: [00:11:47] Yeah and so much of travel when you get on the ground is just the details of the experience. Like you say, how easy is it to get through the airport? How easy is it get to my hotel? Where are the attractions and the restaurants and places that I want to go to in proximity to where I’m going to be staying? And, again, we’ve sort of seen this evolve. It used to be word of mouth, “Hey, I went here, these are the places I went. They were great.” Then we got to internet technology where you could put pictures up, you could put maps up, you can begin to sort of understand the proximity of everything and now we’re moving into a realm where you can really begin to experience those things and at least get a taste of what your vacation is going to be like.
Adam: [00:12:37] Wow, I can’t wait for that. I’m looking forward to that. That’s amazing.
William: [00:12:42] It’s coming sooner than you think.
Adam: [00:12:44] Good, good. Well, I’m going to come down to your office check it out, it’s what I’m going to do.
William: [00:12:46] Good, we’d love to have you.
Adam: [00:12:46] Well, let me see if I can recap what we’ve learned so far here. So related to digital marketing question number one, what has worked well for you and you said that you basically segmented out the three types of people that you wanted to attract and then you created individual website portals for those people. So you’ve got atlanta.net for leisure visitors and locals that want to understand what’s going on the local scene. You’ve got atlantameetings.com for convention and visitor bureau sort of stuff for travel plant or not travel planners, but for event planners. Then you’ve got news.atlanta.net for writers about travel to try to get Atlanta more on the journalistic scene and get it written about. And you mentioned in there there’s no more one size fits all marketing and that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re not doing one size fits all. Instead, you segmented it out, it’s very specific and then you’re creating very specific campaigns around those to drive specific traffic to specific sites, which I think is really amazing. Under question number two, under what’s working well that we can learn from. You mentioned really just keeping up with the changing algorithms of Google and Facebook is really important and understanding that what we did yesterday is not necessarily what’s going to work today and so we’ve really got to stay up with trends and the current algorithms to really understand what’s working for everyone, which interestingly is one of the reasons I’m doing this podcast is because I really want a good resource for nonprofit marketers to be able to understand what’s happening without necessarily having to do a ton of research on their own, but hopefully they can sort of digest it here. You also mentioned that Facebook is great, but it is paid reach and somewhat paid to play and you mentioned that you focused on video on Facebook in particular and are having some success with that, which I think is really smart. Under question number three, what are you excited about related to digital marketing. You said virtual reality, specifically virtual reality tours where you’ve got it set up where you can tour the Georgia World Congress Center. You can also tour the city of Atlanta and that’s coming to not only event planners, but also to regular Joe’s like me that might want to go tour a city I’ve never been and decide if I want to fly my family all the way there and then hang out. So does that sound about right from our conversation? Is there anything you want to add to that?
William: [00:14:58] No, I think you’re absolutely right there. The only other piece I would add to that is that all of this ultimately connects to social media, particularly in our space where when you think about traveling, what’s the first thing you do? You ask your friends. Where have you been? Have you been anywhere interesting? Have you done anything interesting recently? And so we make a lot of use out of social media. We try to create opportunities for people to share content about a city and in fact one of the things we’ve talked about in relation to, you know our cities hosting the super bowl next year, and one of the things we’ve talked about is that we want to have these photo opportunities throughout the city so we have visitors who are here and having the Super Bowl experience, that they’ll take photos and share those photos on all the platforms so that people will know that they’re in Atlanta having a great time in Atlanta. Get an opportunity to see some of the interesting things that are going on in the city all wrapped around this gigantic event called the Super Bowl.
Adam: [00:16:02] Yeah, I love that. That’s really smart. Yeah, I look forward to seeing how that pans out. That’d be great. I’ve got to take some photos, so…
William: [00:16:11] And share them.
Adam: [00:16:11] That’s right and share them, exactly. Why else would I take photos? I want to get on Instagram and hashtag those crazy, crazy guys. So that’s great. Well, William, this was so good. I love to have you back on again sometime. Thanks so much for your time.
William: [00:16:22] Well, look, I really appreciate being on and I appreciate the opportunity to share some insights. Been in nonprofit marketing at different times in my career, it’s very important and I think again for marketers in this space as important as anywhere else to keep up with technology because it’s a great way to reduce cost and increase your reach. So I really appreciate what you’re doing for nonprofits and really appreciate the opportunity to be a part of it.
Adam: [00:16:52] Well, it’s been really great. It’s my honor. I really appreciate you being here and with that, thanks for being on and we’ll talk again soon.
William: [00:16:58] Okay, buddy, sounds great.
Adam: [00:17:03] Thanks for listening to the Good People, Good Marketing podcast. To get more resources about nonprofit digital marketing make sure to go to goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com where you can find more podcasts, blogs, and other fun resources. Also, if you want to find me, Adam, your host, you can find me on Twitter @ajwalker or on my blog @adamjwalker.com where I blog about leadership productivity, habit building, and the craziness of having five kids. Thanks for listening and tune in next time.
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