A DMO’s Guide to Attribution: Finding the Metrics that Matter

September 28, 2018

Originally published on Phocuswire on September 27, 2018, for World Tourism Day.

Most people agree that in order for a company to stay in business, you need to market it. Marketing helps position the business, bring new customers in, and extend the reach of your current customers. But can one market a location, such as a city, state, or country? That’s where your local Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) comes in.

And on this World Tourism Day, we believe it’s important to understand the role of DMOs in representing destinations and helping to develop their long-term travel and tourism strategy.

Sitting at the intersection of government and the private sector, DMOs act as the brand ambassador for anything and everything that encompasses the destination. Whereas a DMO is held to the same KPIs as many marketers, they are uniquely different. DMOs are part of the government issued organization. However, DMOs can also rely on the private sector to help increase funding. Where DMOs do look at return on ad spend (ROAS) similarly to other marketers, the main goal is increasing incremental visitation to drive economic impact for the destination.

Sojern not only looks at the search and booking trends for a destination but also looks at the overall trends that can impact a DMO.

How Digital Technologies Can Help DMOs

There’s been a massive migration from offline media to online. DMOs have historically spent the majority of their budgets offline. Based on the efficiencies that online marketing provides, DMOs are now starting to spend more online.

Through the use of online signals, DMOs can now look at traveler intent signals – gaining visibility as to where and when travelers are searching for flights and/or hotels to the destination.

Flight Search Data for Vermont from Sojern

Sojern Insight: Flight Search Data for Vermont

The job of a marketer hasn’t changed in hundreds of years – it has always been about getting in front of buyers in the moments that matter. Through data, DMOs can efficiently reach travelers in these moments. Understanding traveler intent data is key to driving efficiencies through digital technologies.

Destinations historically have not had any level of reportable attribution metrics. For example, a hotelier might run an online ad campaign with an attribution metric of 100 percent credit on a click through to book and 30 percent on a view through with a 14-day look-back window, and if you hit those metrics, the hotelier will increase their ad spend.

Attribution Metrics for DMOs

It’s only been in the past few years that DMOs have had the ability to use analytics and insights that prove attribution metrics. Today DMOs can see who they have reached through search and book signals and what type of economic impact those travelers had on the destination. DMOs can prove out the direct impact to their stakeholders through this cause and effect.

Every DMO has a particular value they place on an in-market traveler based on their daily average spend. Here’s the easy calculation we use to prove ad attribution:

  • exposed travelers x average spend per traveler (shared by the tourist board) = estimated traveler spend generated by ad
  • ROAS = = ad campaign spending ÷ estimated traveler spend generated by ad

ROAS shows the amount of traveler spending estimated to have been generated for each campaign dollar spent. This ROI is what government listens to—the economic impact of a campaign carries a ton of weight.

You will also want to look at the incremental value of ROAS. For example, we exclude the client destination among our targeting cookie pool. This way we can show real-time incrementality that is brought by advertising showing the value generated from an audience that wasn’t looking at that specific destination.

Every dollar counts, especially for DMOs. The beauty of data is proving how an ad campaign works to directly impact the economy. It provides validation for a DMO’s spend.


DMO Tourism ROAS

ROAS Equation Tourism


DMOs: Providing Inspirational Opportunities

One of the key ways that DMOs can capture the attention of travelers is by providing inspiration. We’ve seen DMOs do this in a variety of ways. For example, Visit Houston created a digital marketplace to increase awareness of all the fun Houston has to offer to leisure travelers and families. The state of Vermont runs a Twitter program, called @ThisIsVT, where they invite Vermonters to post on the handle, showcasing all that is great about the state.

Video ads are also great for capturing traveler intent through inspiration. Videos are right at the intersection of technology and personalization, so they are a perfect way to target travelers within the moments that matter.

Another tip is to focus not on the demographic data of a traveler, but instead focus on the intent of their travel. Focus on the why! DMOs can do themselves a disservice when they focus on traditional demographic targeting versus following the story data is telling. When ads are personalized with the why, DMOs can capture the right traveler early in the thought process—leading to more incremental bookings in their regions.

After you capture their intent with a wide focus on the reason they are looking to travel, you can optimize as you learn. Machine learning can be applied to help you drill down into that data—allowing a DMO to add sequential storytelling as a campaign runs. Where a Sojern data-driven campaign starts is never the same as where it ends as we combine machine learning with dedicated account management to optimize towards best results. All of this allows a DMO to make every dollar count.

Learn more about how Sojern can help DMOs here.


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About Richard Black

Richard Black is Sojern's General Manager of Tourism. With more than 20 years of experience in sales, prior to Sojern, Richard was director of advertising sales for TripAdvisor, where he quadrupled sales and expanded the team's international footprint. He's based in the greater Boston area.

Richard Black About the author

Richard Black is Sojern's General Manager of Tourism. With more than 20 years of experience in sales, prior to Sojern, Richard was director of advertising sales for TripAdvisor, where he quadrupled sales and expanded the team's international footprint. He's based in the greater Boston area.