January 20, 2010
Case Study

Integrated SMS, Social and Email Promo Capitalizes on Weather Event: 5 Steps

SUMMARY: If your business suffers when bad weather hits, here’s a case study to show how a rapid-response, multichannel campaign can lessen the impact.

See how a hotel and casino marketer took news of a major snow storm and turned it into a ski package offer that kept customers booking rooms. Includes the SMS, email and social media messages they used to spread the word.

Chad Hallert, Director, Ecommerce, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno, diligently watches weather forecasts. He and his team know that demand for rooms in their luxury hotel and casino can sway with the winds.

In early December 2009, the team got word that a storm was about to drop several feet of snow in the mountains just west of Reno -- and about a foot in their area. Since many Eldorado customers come from nearby California, the storm had the potential to drastically cut hotel bookings.

"One problem we have is that travel demand fluctuates dramatically, and other variables like the weather are really tough," Hallert says.

They met and planned how to turn the snowstorm from a threat into an opportunity. With the weather bearing down on them, they needed to start working immediately.


The team created a package of discounted hotel rooms and lift tickets to nearby ski areas, along with other perks. They promoted the offer as soon as the storm cleared, to lure skiers and snowboarders up to the fresh powder.

Here are the steps they followed:

Step #1. Craft a relevant offer

The team knew the storm would stop many Californians from traveling to Reno. Skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, however, would likely be more inclined to make the trip, especially if the team made a compelling offer.

The team secured a bulk rate on ski passes to a nearby resort and passed the discount on to customers. For $69 customers would get:
o Two lift tickets to a nearby ski resort
o One night in the hotel
o $10 food credit per person
o $5 beverage credit per person

The team allowed customers to customize the offer by adding more days in the hotel or buying fewer or more lift tickets.

Step #2. Drive search traffic to website offer

The team purchased pay-per-click advertising in major search engines to promote the offer. Targeted keywords included phrases related to ski packages and the team’s brand terms.

They also added the offer to the following areas of their website:

- Homepage

The team’s homepage is dominated by a cycle of images that highlight special offers. The team created a large image of two skiers and the text "Ski Tahoe Play Reno!" and "Packages starting from $69."

- Events page

The team also included a link on their "Events and Things to Do" page. The link led to a page that featured the same image as the homepage, without mentioning the $69 rate. The page featured:
o A phone number to check rates and book a room
o An online form to check rates
o A link to an online booking engine
o Links to resort information

- Special offers

The team included an image of a skier and a one-sentence description of the offer on their special offers page. They also included a button labeled "book now," which led to the team’s booking engine.

Step #3. Send a well-timed SMS message

The team wanted to promote the offer in a channel that would have an immediate impact.

"Our problem is that to get an email out to our database when it snows like this and to have them open it in a timely manner to impact the next few days when we need to help occupancy for the hotel -- it isn’t feasible," Hallert says.

The team spent most of 2009 building a list of SMS alert subscribers and decided to first promote the offer to that list.

They crafted the following message to promote a two-night, $99 version of the ski and stay package:

"Eldorado: There’s a foot of fresh powder in the mountains & what better way to celebrate than a ski/snowboard package for $99! Call [phone number] today, ski tomorrow"

They sent the message "right when the snow changed, the weather cleared and the sun came up. It was the moment you could start thinking about skiing," Hallert says.

Step #4. Promote in social channels

The team also maintains fans and followers in Facebook and Twitter. They sent updates to their profiles about three days after sending the SMS message, Hallert says.

The message they posted to Facebook (see creative samples) included:
o Description of the weather and the offer
o Phone number to call
o Link to website to learn more

The message they posted to Twitter:

"Let it snow! There’s over a foot of fresh powder in the mountains and we're offering a Ski/Board Package from $69 [URL]"

The shortened URL sent visitors to the team’s website to learn more about the offer.

Step #5. Send email

While other channels have quicker response times, the team knew their email list would provide the most impact. This is due, in part, because the list is several times larger than the team's SMS and social databases.

The team sent an email promoting the packages one week after sending the SMS message. The email included:
o Messaging similar to the Facebook update
o Description of the offer
o Mention that packages were available from $69
o Phone number to call to book
o "Book now" button to book via the website

"We’ve tried standalone offers with mobile, social and email...when you break them up into pieces, nothing really competes with email, and the other two don't look as valuable as they are," Hallert says. "But what we found really valuable is this synergy."

- The team sold 28% more ski packages in December than the rest of 2009 combined, Hallert says.

- Since the team used in-house resources and low-cost channels for the effort, ROI was about 1,200% for the campaign.

- They used Web analytics and custom phone numbers to monitor performance. The campaign's revenue via channel broke down as:
o Email: 56%
o Website: 25%
o Mobile: 14%
o Social: 5%

"It had great ROI," Hallert says. "I was very happy with it. We had pretty moderate goals going into it, so I was happy to see it move the needle."

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from Eldorado Hotel’s Email, Social and SMS campaign:

Lyris Inc.: Provided the platform for the team's integrated messaging

Eldorado on Twitter

Eldorado on Facebook

Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno

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