North Dakota had the eighth-lowest tourism budget among the 46 states reporting figures to the U.S. Travel Association in fiscal year 2013-2014, spending nearly $6 million. The state which spent the most that year was Hawaii with $82 million, Delaware spent the least at just over $2 million. With a small budget and competing destinations surrounding North Dakota, the tourism division has to make the most effective use of its money. With the help of research, the state is able to find out what brings people to North Dakota and what media they consume. According to the department, it appears to be paying off: visitation increased 22% between 2011 and 2013.
“It’s really just trying to take all that information and trying to lay it all over on top of each other, and make sure the most important things rise to the top,” said North Dakota Tourism Division Director Sara Otte Coleman. “The bottom line is most of the efforts we put in we want to be able to measure.”
North Dakota is planning a $3.3 million media buy in 2016, with 78% of that being spent on ads in the U.S. and another 15% to Canada. Roughly 6% will be spent on niche advertising. Their advertising will be targeting Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois for the U.S. markets, and Manitoba and Saskatchewan in Canada.
The tourism department plans on using print, TV, and digital media including email marketing. Targeted digital media such as email allows North Dakota to engage specific audiences while they’re online, and recent studies show email is the preferred method for consumers wanting to receive news and promotions from brands (MarketingSherpa). An example of how research helps shape the state’s marketing, is the decision to focus on families in nearby states and provinces, because most of North Dakota’s out-of-state visitors travel by car.
“We need to be very strategic about our media buys in order to make that as effective as possible,” said Heather LeMoine, Marketing Manager at the North Dakota tourism office.
How effective has their marketing been recently? Longwoods International, a research firm contracted by North Dakota, said in a 2014 report that visitors spent $94 for every advertising dollar spent. Meanwhile, the report also said the North Dakota ad campaign in U.S. markets generated 1.1 million incremental trips that would have not otherwise taken place, bringing in more than $200 million in visitor spending and nearly $16 million in state and local taxes.