Made For You: How Discover Kalamazoo Supports Local Businesses with CrowdRiff

December 15, 2020 Julia Manoukian

What started as an idea for a t-shirt quickly unfolded into a larger campaign. 

Discover Kalamazoo’s Made For You campaign, which kicked off in June, is all about getting people to explore their backyards, reconnect with the city, and go on road trips as they feel more comfortable. 

“Whatever you’re searching for, Kalamazoo is made for you,” says Dana Wagner, Director of Marketing and Communications, Discover Kalamazoo. “Whether you're a craft beer or wine lover, a foodie, if you love the arts or sports, in Kalamazoo, it's all a unique experience tailored for you."

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Bringing tourism partners together

When the campaign was just an idea, Dana says it was important to have representation from all their tourism industry partners. They brought together people from the hotel industry, attractions, entertainment venues, restaurants, breweries, and even downtown development organizations.

They knew health and safety messaging was already being done well. “We needed a positive message,” says Dana. “We needed a message that all of our partners could get behind.”

They worked with a local artist, Mike Klok from Stuffed Brain Studio to bring the idea to life. He came up with the “Made for You” tagline.

Working with Discover Kalamazoo, he also created a map representing all areas of the county, as well as posters, social media graphics, and window decals. 

The map helped show residents there were other areas besides downtown Kalamazoo to explore. Users can click on an area to learn more, and see custom itineraries and user-generated content for each corner of Kalamazoo.

Dana says the campaign allowed them to expand their offerings on the site and create more content within those areas to connect people with. 

Using CrowdRiff to get visuals from the community

Discover Kalamazoo has been using CrowdRiff to source and get the rights to UGC for the past five years, but only recently did they start using Collector

Alyssa Seedorff, Digital Communications Manager, Discover Kalamazoo, was curious about the tool. She tested it with a contest to source photos for the cover of their latest travel guide. After discovering it was “super easy and seamless to use,” she ran another contest to raise awareness for the Made For You campaign.

They encouraged people to submit photos enjoying Kalamazoo, whatever that looked like. 

“Because we weren’t super strict on what kind of photos we wanted, it’s been really neat to see the variety we’ve gotten. People of all ages and backgrounds are submitting photos of all different types of activities,” says Dana. 

The photo contest was a success. Since starting at the end of August, they’ve gathered 420 images. 

They feature the photos:

  • On the Made For You web page in a CrowdRiff gallery
  • At the top of every page showing different areas of the county
  • In blog posts 

“That’s what I think is really beautiful about the photo contest—it’s going to be instrumental for our future marketing,” says Dana. “We now have a whole gallery of great photos we can not only use on the website and social, but also in future marketing as people become more comfortable with traveling or doing road trips to places they haven’t heard of before like Kalamazoo.” 

Getting the word out

Social ads helped promote the campaign and photo contest. For the first 3-4 weeks, they targeted a 25-mile radius around Kalamazoo trying to get people to submit photos locally. 

Then they expanded that to a 100-mile radius that included Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Indiana, and the entire state of Michigan. From their advertising they saw:

  • 3.2 million impressions of the Kalamazoo Made For You campaign
  • 35,000 link clicks
  • 10,000 engagements with people sharing, reacting, and commenting on Facebook and Instagram 

The promotion also helped boost overall web traffic. Dana says she knew traffic was going to be down this year with fewer people traveling, so the campaign helped make up some of that ground: they’re only down 8% compared to last year. 

“Had we not had this campaign, we wouldn’t be anywhere as close to where we are now,” Dana says. 

Doubling down on digital 

Like many destination marketers this year, the team says they couldn’t rely on success in terms of how many meetings or sports events they hosted, or how many new travelers they brought in. 

Instead, they looked at how leisure travelers and locals were engaging with their website and social media channels. 

“If people locally haven’t explored what’s in the backyard, this was the year for us to connect with them. That’s where more of our content and marketing was driven towards—how they can support local businesses,” says Dana.

Alyssa says finding the right balance between promotion and getting people the information they need will continue to be a challenge in 2021. “That’s the hardest thing right now. We don’t know what this time next year will look like.” 

Dana says the shift has prompted them to rethink the mediums they’re using for marketing. “For certain campaigns, no longer can we rely on putting up a static billboard or a print piece. The minute you print something it could be outdated.”

Because it’s more agile, they’ve decided to focus more on digital marketing in 2021. 

“Hopefully that means that things will be more easily updated and we’re going to have better information out there for people,” says Dana.

CrowdRiff’s commitment to innovation

There’s a lot Alyssa loves about CrowdRiff—to name a few, the platform’s overall look, its UGC sourcing capabilities, and search functionality (similar photos, image quality and size, and hashtags, specifically). 

Beyond the platform, she appreciates that on a quarterly basis she can bounce around ideas with her customer success manager. She’s always curious about what other DMOs are doing, and she says many of her ideas are sparked by what other CrowdRiff customers are doing. 

She also loves how the CrowdRiff team is making constant improvements and updates to the platform. “It functions and looks so different than it did when we first started using it,” she says. 

“It’s such a great tool. I honestly feel like it’s priceless.”

Header image credit: @brittandkin

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About the author

Julia Manoukian

Julia Manoukian is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at CrowdRiff. A former journalist, she has helped several Toronto startups raise their thought leadership profiles and scale their content efforts to influence revenue. She's passionate about storytelling, traveling, and tech.

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