Website promoting Greensboro flops in first month

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by Eric Ginsburg
The only tangible measurement of a $30,000 campaign to promote Greensboro is a set of disappointing and “terrible” numbers indicating web traffic to a new digital marketing site.

When the city of Greensboro, economic development group Action Greensboro and the Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau teamed up on a joint marketing campaign in Delta Sky magazine’s June 2015 issue, they knew most of the results would be intangible.
The goal from the outset was to get in front of millions of readers across the country as well as internationally, and to promote Greensboro with ads and paid editorial content to attract individuals and businesses to relocate to — or at the very least, visit — the city. But the only metric, other than anecdotes, that can be used to judge the monthlong ad’s success is traffic to a new marketing website.
A two-page ad, featuring locals smiling at the Woolworth’s lunch counter at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum downtown, directed readers to a new website — thisisgreensboro.com — that could provide additional information on Greensboro and accurately track readership.
During the entire month of June, thisisgreensboro.com received a total of 1,668 page views from just 562 users. The ad was supposed to reach an estimated 5.5 million Delta Sky readers.
And the majority of those users likely weren’t Delta Sky readers; 54 percent of the June page views came from people in Greensboro, particularly in the first few days of the month after media stories on the ad buy in Triad City Beat and on a few local TV stations, city spokesperson Donnie Turlington said.
Turlington, who worked on the ad campaign and whose team created the website, isn’t impressed.
“I’m disappointed overall in the number of pageviews, but at the same time when you’re just doing an ad in a magazine and you’re counting on folks to go to a website based on that ad, you have to temper your expectations,” he said.
More than half the views originated in Greensboro even though the goal of the ad was to reach a national or international audience. Charlotte ranked second with 3.9 percent of the views. Atlanta, with just over 2 percent, accounted for the next largest amount of views, trailed slightly by Winston-Salem and High Point.
“We wanted this ad to spread the message beyond our borders,” Turlington said, adding that it achieved that but “maybe not on the scale we wanted to.”
The bounce rate — a number that measures whether readers click to a second page once they are on the website — of 52.4 percent is “terrible,” Turlington said. Users spent an average of two minutes on the website, according to web analytic data provided by Wildfire, the Winston-Salem-based advertising agency that handles the website.
Amy Scott, director of marketing for the visitors bureau, said the site stats “weren’t anything spectacular.”
“I know that the numbers aren’t really terrific but we did nothing else to drive traffic to the site other than Delta Sky,” she said. “My goal was always to focus outside of Guilford County, really outside of the state, so the Delta Sky [ad] was really perfect for me.”
Cecelia Thompson, the executive director of Action Greensboro, emphasized that traffic to the website was never the main thrust of the advertising buy, describing it as a secondary benefit.
“I don’t think that we should base the success on those numbers because that was listed once in an ad,” she said. “We invested in the number of readers and riders of Delta. We never had a large expectation of people going to thisisgreensboro.com. We didn’t spend that money to promote that website.”
The website was only listed once, at the bottom of a two-page ad spread, as part of a several page section in the magazine celebrating Greensboro. But other than individual anecdotes about people seeing the section of Delta Sky, there are no other hard numbers by which to judge the $30,000 campaign’s success.
A contest to win free Delta tickets to Greensboro for the National Folk Festival in September drew more than 600 applicants, only one or two of which were from North Carolina, Scott said. But it is unclear how many people accessed the contest through thisisgreensboro.com — the three partnering organizations, Delta Sky and Visit NC all promoted it on their websites, too.
Scott, Turlington and Thompson agree that the ad buy and the website can only be successful if carried out in conjunction with a broader, unified effort to market the city. There are already plans for a Facebook ad campaign aimed at promoting the website to locals, who Turlington said are best positioned to push it out and “tell or story as more a part of a whole.” Later, the ads would flip and predominantly target people outside the city’s borders.
The group is also planning ad buys on Pandora in Raleigh and Charlotte as test markets, Turlington said. The total spending for both efforts will be under $40,000, with half of the money coming from the city and half from the CVB. Fall ads in print publications like Business North Carolina and Business Journals for other cities in the state may be part of the equation too, he said.
The three organizations are still figuring out how to align their different missions and where they can collaborate, Scott said, and another intangible outcome of the Delta Sky effort is the increased working relationship between them.
Thompson said it “moves the needle in terms of working together,” provided more cohesive messaging and was “certainly a great opportunity to showcase what’s going on in Greensboro.” And while Action Greensboro will continue to collaborate, it is also continuing with efforts to market the city by contracting with RLF Communications to spread “good news about Greensboro.” The latest component: a welcome packet for journalists flooding the Wyndham golf tournament highlighting what is new in town and providing restaurant recommendations so that the city takes advantage of the influx of outsiders.

  • Doug Copeland

    The measure of success for a campaign like this ( I saw it in Delta Sky magazine) should never be the number of clicks. We’re not asking people to make an instantaneous purchase order to register, we’re simply trying to build the brand. Greensboro and the Piedmont Triad do an insufficient amount of advertising already and should be encouraged to do more. I hope this article and the results will not be a deterrent to that.

  • Umm… You could have a link to said website in your article about the website. I see it is mentioned somewhere down in the third graph- why not hyperlink?

  • Christian Yorkshire

    Missed this discussion on the original print date but this truly captures the mindset of those guiding GSO; and it is sad and out dated. So Delta (not US Air or AA which are the larger servers to PTI) in a print magazine that few people (especially executives, entrepreneurs, or post grads) ever read, for a single month. They would have gotten more publicity going to Time Square, throwing out the money, and saying “this is from Greensboro”. If the City really wants to move forward it needs to move away from dated market strategies.