Always-On With Visit Pensacola: Why Moving Beyond Seasonal Strategies Worked for This Beachside Destination

Nicole Stacey shares why always-on marketing works for Pensacola.

November 2, 2023

Visit Pensacola is the official destination organization for Pensacola, located in the sunny state of Florida. With more than 460 years of rich history, the organization is responsible for promoting everything the city has to offer—its beautiful beaches, vibrant downtown area, and diverse cultural heritage. To do this, Visit Pensacola puts a major emphasis on its digital marketing strategy with always-on marketing.

We sat down for a conversation with Nicole Stacey, vice president of destination development with Visit Pensacola. She shared why always-on marketing works so well for their digital marketing strategy, including:

  1. How they make the most of their budget
  2. How their target audiences change based on seasonality
  3. How they adjust their messaging over time

What’s your biggest marketing challenge and how does being always on help you overcome it?

The biggest disadvantage for us is our budget. We’re always fighting for more marketing dollars, so we work with the very best vendors who can stretch our dollars as far as possible. We will always be doing digital, but let’s carve out a little bit of funding to try some exciting new things and take a little bit of risk. If it’s not working, we turn it off or shift our strategy. Our budget varies throughout the year and traditionally, we don’t spend in summer, but now with ADR and occupancy and the way the world has opened back up, we have to get back in front of those travelers. It’s important to not have all of our dollars tied to one thing.

How do you break out of the stereotype of being a summer beach destination? 

The off-market season is January to April and then Labor Day to New Year, and we want travelers to come for the value during the off-season. We’re known as a family beach destination during summer but are talking to couples or empty nesters during our fall season when all of our festivals are happening. We have a lot of festivals and events, museums, and arts and culture downtown. We want you here in November and in February for Mardi Gras, and taking an always-on approach has really allowed us to talk to other audiences, such as couples or individuals.

Being always on allows us to speak to all points of the year while changing our individual targets. We can talk to winter visitors who want to drive their RV down and talk to other audiences outside of that. Seasons and rates change, and this approach helps us to address those things with a variety of audiences. The best part is we can talk to these audiences simultaneously. It’s not start and stop. We continue with our brand message while incorporating different messages, such as sustainability or LGBTQ+, which has allowed us to keep a consistent flow throughout the travel funnel. For example, we’ve seen a rise in household income with our visitors, so we can change the message but still stay consistent. You never know what stage of travel someone is in, so it makes sense to always be on. 

What would you say to another DMO that is hesitant to take an always-on approach?

My advice is that you should just do it. Everything is running 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. The beauty is you can work with your vendors and have a plan on the back end for where messaging might shift. It allows for more than just your standard plan. Travel has been made so easy and inclusivity has become such a big deal that if you’re not talking to everyone, then you’re failing. It’s efficient and allows us to keep a handle on all of the moving parts while reaching the right travelers. 

What do you love about always-on marketing?

As a traveler, I’m always thinking about my next trip and it’s really exciting to help someone make those memories. I’m a storyteller, memory maker, and travel planner, and with digital I can remind other travelers to book. With digital, you can talk to a person from start to finish, so we can get in front of them and be more real-time. 

Destination marketers around the world are capitalizing on always-on marketing, and you can be next! Learn how with our latest eBook, The Destination Marketer’s Guide to Always-On Marketing.

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