July 01, 2015
Case Study

Email Marketing: Visit Detroit achieves 46% of yearly email newsletter subscriber goal in eight days

SUMMARY: It's easy to feel like your voice is lost in the overly crowded world of social media. However, Visit Detroit, the social media brand name of Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, saw the grand opening of the area's new aquarium, SEA LIFE Michigan, as an opportunity to stand out.

Learn how the brand used eight days, 27 Facebook and Twitter posts, one contest and no paid advertising to add 74% of the 1,872 consumers who entered the brand's giveaway to its emailing list.
by Kayla Cobb, Reporter


For this campaign, Visit Detroit teamed up with SEA LIFE Michigan to take a social media plunge.

Visit Detroit is the name that the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau uses to brand itself on the Internet and social media. Specifically, Visit Detroit promotes destinations for the city, and, at the time, SEA LIFE Michigan was one of the newest attractions to the metro area. SEA LIFE Michigan is an internationally-recognized aquarium located within the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, which is within the demographic that Visit Detroit covers.

"We promote [Visit Detroit] to two different audiences: the convention or meetings audience and the leisure audience. To give you an idea, SEA LIFE Michigan is an attraction in metro Detroit," Dan Fuoco, Interactive Marketing Manager, Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, said.

For this particular campaign with SEA LIFE Michigan, Visit Detroit wanted to focus on attracting that second leisure audience from the city. "We also want visitors from outside the region to come and experience Detroit to showcase all the different, unique attractions that we have," he added.


Visit Detroit wanted the grand opening of the aquarium to make a splash, but it wanted to do so in the most cost effective way possible.

At the beginning of 2015, one of Visit Detroit's goals was to gain 3,000 email newsletter subscribers by the end of the year. The team thought that the campaign used to promote the aquarium could also be an opportunity to increase subscribers because of the similarities between SEA LIFE Michigan's targeted demographic and one of Visit Detroit's main emailing audiences.

A large segment of the brand's email newsletters focuses on its leisure audience — subscribers both in the city and the surrounding areas who are interested in attractions and events happening in metro Detroit. This leisure emailing list focuses primarily on that second customer base Visit Detroit targets.

"Visit Detorit is a tourism bureau and our target audience is visitors. Our newsletter offers a range of quality visitor interests and attractions, so growing that database only further spreads the word of Detroit, America’s great comeback city," he said.


A cost effective solution for the promotion of SEA LIFE Michigan and the expansion of Visit Detroit's leisure list came in the form of a social media giveaway campaign.

Visit Detroit already had a platform for hosting contests and giveaways that had proven to be successful in the past, so a giveaway seemed natural, and social media allowed the team to run an aggressive campaign without paid advertising.

In addition to building attention for SEA LIFE's grand opening, this campaign had the added benefit of serving as an opportunity to rapidly grow Visit Detroit's emailing list, which, at the time, was about 10,000 subscribers.

Learn how, in just eight days, Visit Detroit was able to gain 46% of the brand's email newsletter subscription goal without utilizing paid advertising.

Step #1. Determine promotional campaign type

According to Fuoco, the key to this campaign's success in both promoting the aquarium and driving those customers to subscribe to the email newsletter lies in all of the planning that was done beneath the surface.

Visit Detroit already had some experience with running contests and giveaways and decided that for the aquarium’s grand opening, it was important to leverage the lessons learned from these experiences and popular social media platforms to grow the email list.

A giveaway also seemed like an excellent opportunity to really showcase the experience of SEA LIFE Michigan.

"Since this was a grand opening, we thought a giveaway would serve two purposes: interest in the promotion and interest in the product," he said.

Fuoco said the team used Facebook as the base for the campaign, given the success of running giveaways this way in the past. Due to these past campaigns, customers were used to interacting with Visit Detroit giveaways on Facebook.

The campaign was also promoted through Twitter as well.

Step #2. Choose giveaway prizes

A challenge in any giveaway is determining what prize will be attractive to consumers.

It's important to have a prize that is not overly costly for the company but is valuable enough to the consumer to warrant them taking the time and effort to enter. For Fuoco, there was another important factor at play that heavily influenced the prizes that were chosen.

Fuoco wanted to give away prizes for this campaign that represented the experience of Detroit and SEA LIFE Michigan. He likened the team's selection of prizes to companies giving away sample products.

"Samples help build brands while at the same time ease anxieties for customers," he said. "We decided to use that same philosophy but on a grander scale. Instead of giving away a portion of the tour or experience to many, we wanted to give away the entire experience to one winner and three friends. This helped create value for the prize."

The full list of prizes were:
  • Family four-pack to SEA LIFE Michigan, which included:

    • Four individual tickets

    • Four behind-the-scenes tour tickets

    • One souvenir guidebook

    • Two gifts from the retail store

  • $100 Great Lakes Crossing Outlets gift card

  • Dinner for four at the Rainforest café

These prizes were featured prominently on the SEA LIFE Michigan entry page.

View the Creative Sample

Click here to see the full version of this creative sample

Step #3. Incorporate an email newsletter sign-up option

Once the parameters of the campaign were discussed and set up, Visit Detroit had to find a way to connect the giveaway to its leisure emailing list. The team found the best way to do this was to present a sign-up for the emailing list in the giveaway application page.

"After the user filled out standard postal address information, we had two pre-selected check boxes under that field: a box for '18 years or older acknowledgement' and a 'newsletter subscription' check box," Fuoco added.

View the Creative Sample

Click here to see the full version of this creative sample

Having the option to sign up for Visit Detroit's email newsletter act as an opt-out rather than an opt-in helped the brand gain the high results that it did, he explained.

Fuoco added, "the easier you make the process for the user, the higher the chance you’ll get your desired results."

Customers are more likely to skip over the "sign up for the newsletter" box in their rush to get through the process. Having this box pre-checked means that those who want it have an easier path and those that don’t can simply unselect it.

Step #4. Decide the length and build out the campaign in advance

It was imperative for the team to decide the right length of time for the campaign to run. A lot of thought was put into choosing eight days as opposed to any other length of time. The campaign started January 14 and ended on January 22.

"It’s hard to grab and keep someone’s attention in the social media space, so when you’ve got it, you want to make sure you relay your message and get them to interact," Fuoco said. "Having a campaign run longer than 12 days typically is overkill in this world. We decided on eight days to make sure we were relaying the message but not losing attention."

Visit Detroit also had to walk the thin social media line of posting enough to engage with its audience without flooding fans' accounts. This was especially important because the campaign ran on both Facebook and Twitter.

"Oversaturation was a concern, too, because the campaign ran the message on two platforms multiple times, so we were careful to monitor the audience comments and respond accordingly," he said.

Because these social media posts often utilized the same creatives and messages, Fuoco had to be conscious of when he added certain posts to Facebook and Twitter.

In order to avoid sharing posts that were too similar, Fuoco planned all of the campaign's posts in advance to run during different times of the day with different text.

For example, here's a shark-focused post that was featured on Facebook:

View the Creative Sample

Click here to see the full version of this creative sample

And here's the Twitter post that features the same graphic:

View the Creative Sample

Click here to see the full version of this creative sample

"In total, there were 27 posts, and that's Facebook and Twitter," Fuoco said.

Step #4. Track engagement

Once the campaign launched, Fuoco largely let the brand's 27 shared posts carry the effort. Visit Detroit did utilize, "retweets with comments encouraging people to enter or commending them for doing so," he said. Those engagement acts took place once or twice a day.

Engagement was measured by several factors, including how many people commented on the posts, how many people liked Visit Detroit's Facebook page, how many times these posts were shared and, obviously, how many people entered the giveaway.

Out of the two platforms promoting the giveaway, Facebook turned out to be the most influential. From this effort, Fuoco learned how engaged Visit Detroit's audience was on this particular social media channel.

"The Facebook impressions were 3,751, which is telling me that … there was more traffic on Facebook," Fuoco said. "But it seems to me it was more genuine traffic because people were interacting and commenting more. The impressions weren't necessarily as large as comments and the other parts of this — comments and shares."


The most exciting metric for the Visit Detroit team was the increase in subscribers to the brand's leisure newsletter.

"For us, the best part of that 1,872 was that 1,396 opted in to subscribe to our newsletter," Fuoco said. That means over 74% of the people who entered the giveaway signed up for the brand's newsletter.

According to him, "this newsletter subscriber rate that we had — the 1,396 — … it's actually part of our goal for the year to get 3,000 subscribers for the year. In January, we came out with 1,396, which meant that we were 46% to our goal in the first month of the year."

Fuoco joked about the results, saying "my boss didn't like it. He was hoping that I would go a little slower."

From this eight-day campaign, Visit Detroit experienced an average engagement increase of 125% for Twitter and a total of 261 page likes on Facebook, which averages out to about 32 likes each day of the contest.
The full list of results included:




  • 3,751 impressions

  • 116 tweets

  • 554,882 users reached

Giveaway page
  • 7,210 visits

  • 1,872 entries

  • 1,396 subscribers to Visit Detroit's newsletter

When asked what his advice is to companies looking to implement a giveaway, Fuoco empathized the importance of preparation.

"Between preparation and knowing — not necessarily knowing your product but knowing the specifics of the campaign. Knowing where you want to go and at what date you want to end it. Those kinds of specifics are really key in having a successful campaign," he said.

"A lot of people just put something up there, hope for the best and it doesn't work out because there's no preparation. There's no timeline of events. There's no organization. If you have those aspects of a campaign, you tend to see great results," he concluded.

Creative Samples

  1. Giveaway entry page

  2. Pre-selected boxes

  3. Facebook post

  4. Twitter post


Visit Detroit, Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau

Woobox, Visit Detroit's contest platform

SEA LIFE Michigan

Identity PR, SEA LIFE Michigan's PR agency

Related Resources

Email Marketing: Ecommerce company expands email program and increases revenue 384%

Social Media Marketing: Viral sweepstakes targeting moms grows Facebook audience 4,488%

Email Marketing Charts: How to effectively build your email list

Marketing Research Chart: Most effective email list building tactics

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