Destination Madison’s Data-Led Marketing Makeover With Zartico

Great destination marketing goes beyond having compelling content. The most effective campaigns use data-led insights to ensure the right content reaches the right audience at the right time.

Destination Madison’s mission is to generate an economic impact in the Wisconsin capital through tourism by inspiring visitors to love the city. In 2023, the organization stepped up its content marketing game by hiring a senior content strategist and embarking on an effort to develop a data-led plan for 2024.

According to Destination Madison’s Project & Data Manager Hannah Gott, the team was already producing lots of great content but wanted a clearer picture of what was driving website traffic, what wasn’t working, and how to target their campaigns more effectively based on visitor behavior. They used insights from the Zartico Destination Operating System® (ZDOS®) to revamp their strategy and inform their decision-making, setting themselves up for success in the year ahead.

Diving deep into the data

Step one of the strategic overhaul was a deep dive into the Zartico data to determine the who, what, when, and why of Madison’s top markets. Hannah looked at the data both seasonally and in terms of visitor behavior, breaking it down by overnight visitation and average spend.

She also used the results of a 2023 Consumer Behavior Survey, comparing what visitors self-reported doing in Madison to the Zartico data showing what they were actually doing. She analyzed the most common visitors and most valuable visits to determine the similarities and differences between them. “I created a Venn diagram, and looked at the middle to define our visitors,” Hannah says.

Some of what she learned was unsurprising — the top four market areas stayed consistent throughout the year. The five through 10 spots, however, were revealed to be ripe targets for an enhanced marketing push and an updated strategy.

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Hannah also parsed through Zartico data related to average visitor spending and percentage of total visitor spending for each market area. The data uncovered markets with high visitor spend but low percentage — meaning people who come less often, but spend more when they do. “That’s where I really dove into the origin market data and looked at our direct flight markets to see where the opportunities were,” Hannah says.

From ZDOS® insights, Hannah learned that what was driving web traffic to the Destination Madison website were the events page, the region’s Madison By Bike trail, and most of all anything that highlighted outdoor recreation, retail, and food.


Crafting an insightful yearlong plan

Prior to this marketing makeover, Destination Madison worked off of seasonal or monthly content plans. The absence of a larger vision put pressure on the team to deliver results without a solid strategy. 

Armed with Zartico’s data-led insights, the Destination Madison team was — for the first time — able to put together a comprehensive plan for the full year, including social media, paid media, the wider internet, PR, and content creators. “We created this great content plan, and we were focused on quality visits,” Hannah explains.

A new element of the strategy was to develop signature stories emphasizing areas where deep-dive data pointed to high spend and visitation: outdoor recreation, retail, and food. It was also an opportunity to highlight things the team thought were great about Madison, such as the art scene, the beautiful natural assets, and the culture of sustainability.

The signature stories are data-infused slide decks that the whole Destination Madison team — marketing, PR, sales, partnership, and services — has access to and is encouraged to know and share. “In those decks, there are slides that back up everything with the data and give everybody quick headlines and paragraphs about why these are important stories to Madison,” Hannah explains. The goal is for everyone to be on the same page about the stories they’re telling — with the confidence of knowing that it’s all backed by data

Beyond the slide deck, the signature stories also inform Destination Madison’s partnership strategies. “We’re a member-based organization, so recruiting partners that align with these [high-spend areas] means it’s going to be a lot easier to make content about them,” Hannah says.

Rallying around the data

With the 2024 content plan in place, Destination Madison rallied around the data, using a KPI tracking dashboard that Hannah updates monthly to track and share KPIs across teams.

Tied to year-end goals, the indicators reveal a clear picture of the plan’s progress in real time — what’s working and what isn’t. Monthly tracking allows the team to maintain flexibility and make adjustments as the data reveals new trends and opportunities.

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Destination Madison’s key KPIs are website views, social impressions, and overnight stays. The ZDOS® data showed that there were a lot of day-trippers, and moving that needle — getting people to stay longer and spend more — emerged as a priority of the new strategy.

The 2023 origin market data also suggested advertising to direct flight markets, and Zartico provided additional insight on how best to do so at different times of year for each location — based on what visitors do when they’re in Madison — in order to tailor the ad experience and landing page.

The new normal: Data first

The marketing team is under a lot less stress now that Destination Madison’s 2024 content plan is well underway. They now receive insights from high-level Zartico trends on a monthly basis as more and more data gets shared company-wide.

According to Hannah, Zartico data made a huge difference in the work Destination Madison does and informs all its decisions across the organization. When it comes to discussions about seasonal or holiday content, paid campaigns, direct flight markets, or just about anything, the first step is to look at the data. 

As the team begins to plan for 2025, they are already mapping out a similar process for the upcoming year, armed with ZDOS® insights and guided by the same question: What does the data say?

Zartico’s data science team transforms massive-scale data into tools that destination organizations and airports use to create stronger communities. To learn how data science can help you realize new possibilities for your community, book a demo.