Visit Foley is the official tourism marketing arm of the city of Foley, Alabama. The tourism marketing department is a department under the city’s general budget. When VF hired a full-time marketing director, one of the first orders of business was a new website, since the existing website did not employ a consumer-facing side that enhanced visitation. GMS was selected to provide creative branding assistance, develop a site, assist with marketing plan development, and launch social media management. We’ve worked with Visit Foley for seven years now, growing site visitation by double digits year-over-year as well as social media followership and engagement. In addition, we are embarking on the development of a new city website for all city departments and services.
While Visit Foley’s marketing director had final authority over our work, she believes in soliciting input and consensus from various stakeholders. Foley is a small, southern city that is home to a wide range of viewpoints. GMS met with each city department head, interviewing them regarding their perspectives on city website issues, how to enhance and grow tourism for the city, what to include on a visitor-facing website, how to engage both visitors and locals alike, etc. Compiling these written and audio records, and combining them with collages created by three separate groups of Foley residents who attended creative branding sessions, provided GMS with the input needed to map out an overall plan and scope of work.
Visit Foley needed an easy-to-use CMS as well as a database-driven site. Ultimately, GMS developed their CRM from scratch and their site using a WordPress customized theme. Many of the site’s sections are fed by a database of listings content that Visit Foley self-manages. As new tourism-oriented businesses open in Foley, the staff is able to upload, update, change, etc., with an intuitive, layperson-friendly tool.
Our methodology for this project followed that of similar endeavors with the additional layer needed given that we were creating from scratch. GMS and Visit Foley spent six weeks mapping out listings needs and fields, creating a highly searchable site based on relevant features of the various industry partner business types. We trained and coached VF staff to gather the information via in-person and phone contact, and assisted with the data gathering and compilation as well.
The methodology also included user testing and numerous approval levels in order to ensure public buy-in for the site and its expense. The test site was also opened to various department heads for review and input.
Visit Foley’s definition of success includes measuring site traffic and site behavior, as well as the relationship between site use and social media management. Monthly reports and quarterly reviews are part of our ongoing relationship, as well as ongoing recommendations on performance improvements VF can undertake. This do-it-yourself organization works with budget limitations and time constraints found in any small marketing organization. GMS is considered a key marketing partner and is adept and working within their desired parameters.