Susan Rader is a one-woman show at the Franklin County Visitors Center. When she joined this community owned travel center in Kansas, she inherited the paid digital content program offered by the Kansas Office of Tourism & Travel powered by Destination Travel Network. A program that is getting the small county (population 25,733) referral clicks to their website, www.franklincountyks.com
“I’m based at the County Visitor Information Center in Ottawa, KS, where people always ask, ‘what is the fastest way to get through the state’,” she laughs.
All joking aside, Susan’s main goal is to keep people in Franklin County, Kansas. Her budget is derived from the transient guest tax collected by the local hotels. If guests don’t stay overnight, she has less and less in her budget to use to market her communities.
As a designated travel information center, Susan works directly with the state of Kansas, keeping visitor statistics including where they’re traveling from and age of travelers. Since she is already an active partner with the Kansas Office of Tourism & Travel, she recognized it was a natural fit to take advantage of the opportunities they provide on TravelKS.com, the state’s official tourism website.
Franklin County has a well-rounded campaign that includes the Spotlight Text Link that places the DMO on nearly every page of the website, plus page specific placements to reach targeted demographics. These include a Page Sponsor on the History & Heritage page, and three Header Images, one each on Farm & Ranch Experiences, Sports & Recreation/Cycling, and Parks and Nature/Trails.
The results are impressive. From April 2018 through April 2019, the Parks and Nature/Trails and Sports & Recreation/Cycling placements delivered an average of 1.77% and 1.74% click-through rate (CTR) respectively, well above the Google Ad Network’s 0.46% CTR average for digital display ads.
While Susan is thrilled with the results, she thinks she knows why her small community is getting so much interest. It’s the 117 mile long Flint Hills Nature Trail. The biking and walking trail officially became part of the state’s park system last June. Kansas Governor Jeff Coyler was on hand to sign the official bill in Ottawa. Governor Coyler was also there to celebrate the largest receipt of a Kansas Attraction Development Grant that was awarded to the City to create Legacy Square. Located at the intersection of the Prairie Spirit Trail and the Flint Hills Trail; the only place in Kansas where two trails intersect, this addition will increase tourism in the community.
“This is a really big deal for us. The grant funds are being used to build a covered pavilion and outdoor multi use space,” explains Susan. “As a result we already have a new bike shop in town and a new bike event is in the works.”
Cyclists are nothing new in Kansas. Susan meets many riders at the visitor’s center. Some of the more memorable include a group who traveled through Ottawa and camped in Lawrence, KS, on their way to Seattle, WA. And Ottawa has hosted MIT students multiple times as they ride across the United States providing outreach to underprivileged kids to teach them science. Now that there is development underway, there are more opportunities to capture cycle enthusiasts and Susan is already hard at work.
“The bike trails are wonderful, but if the riders don’t have anything to do in town afterward they’ll just go home,” she says. “I’m working with an Ottawa University college professor as a consultant to host free marketing workshops for our community. Small town businesses tend to do the same things over and over. It’s just not that way anymore, we have to roll with the times,” she says.
And Susan is rolling with it! Even though she does not come from a marketing background, she understands the importance of advertising. Preferring not to put all of her eggs in one basket, she diversifies her marketing spend with traditional print mediums and digital.
“We have to market to all different types of visitors, who are all looking for different things. I print brochures and they’re one and done. With the digital content, we can change our messaging or images if the placement isn’t performing to make it work,” she explains. “Travel Kansas has an online travel brochure, too. It’s cost effective so I’m encouraging local businesses to take advantage of that opportunity.”
When asked about DTN specifically, she recommends the paid digital content program. Not only for the ease of updates to the placements, but also for the friendly assistance provided by the staff.
Looking ahead, Susan has a lot to promote! Ottawa, KS, is hosting the Sunflower State Rail Trails: Day of Learning & Networking meeting. The event featuring the Sunflower Foundation is designed to encourage statewide networking to trail communities to bring beneficial growth to all in the State by encouraging healthy activities.
“In addition to bringing in tax revenue, we are looking at how these trails make us a healthier community and a better place to live. That’s what will entice new businesses to move to our community; that’s a plus,” she adds.
You can learn more about Franklin County, KS, online and keep up-to-date on happenings by liking Franklin County Visitors Center on Facebook at VisitOttawaKansas.
The Kansas Office of Tourism & Travel is charged with encouraging the traveling public to visit and travel within Kansas by promoting and developing the recreational, historic, and natural advantages of the state and its facilities. The Division's marketing efforts are focused on domestic leisure travelers, travel writers, motor coach tour operators, and the international travel community. Learn more at TravekKS.com, and follow Travel KS on Facebook and Twitter, and Kansas Tourism on YouTube and Instagram.