How we did it: Merlin hits target for first time in 7 years

What does it take to build a strategy that ensures your business hits its targets?

Merlin Events is the events and entertainment division of Merlin Entertainments, the operator of a number of visitor attractions including the London Eye, Madame Tussauds and the Sea Life Centre London Aquarium.

In 2018, Merlin approached us to talk about building a new marketing strategy and delivering the digital aspects of the strategy. While they already had some skills and resources in-house within their own sales and marketing team, they had identified a need for performance based digital marketing.

Our solution was to develop a strategy that played on the strengths of Merlin’s current plans to launch digital brand awareness and lead generation campaigns and a digital PR campaign. Merlin’s attractions already had household name status, but they weren’t known as a place to hold events. Our objective was to generate awareness of Merlin’s attractions as venues for events to help them develop first port of call status; to become a regularly considered place for events. Our second objective was to put Merlin’s attractions in front of people who were actively looking to rent unique spaces for their events or wanted to attend unique events like those hosted at Merlin. Our objective was to ensure Merlin was found when people were looking for things to do in their target area but not necessarily looking for Merlin themselves.

Where we started

At Patch we like to start with the end in mind, so we naturally began with their income targets and worked backward to define the amount of activity required to achieve targets. By developing a thorough understanding of their buyer personas and their typical customer purchase journey we defined where their customers and prospective customers spend their time online, where they go for inspiration, to source information and to form an opinion and using this information we were able to define an advertising and search marketing plan that put Merlin in the right place at the right time.

By analysing their past marketing and sales data we identified what activity had previously delivered growth and from there we were able to develop a road map outlining what we were targeting, what we were expecting and how it needed to perform in order to hit KPIs, stay on that road map and hit objectives. It resulted in a thorough plan that outlined what the client could expect from their campaigns, when they could expect it and how we’d be monitoring performance along the way.

One thing we feel passionately about at Patch is that to build an effective, relevant strategy you really have to get to know the client. From the beginning we spent a lot of time learning about Merlin Events; their goals, their products, USPs, threats, opportunities, strengths, weaknesses, as well as getting to know the members of the team. This let us understand them in-depth; to know where best to position them in the market so they’d stand out, and what actions would be required if they wanted to hit their KPI’s and targets for the year.

We agreed upon a digital plan for one year covering the following activities:

  • Creative concepts and campaign curation
  • Copywriting and ad design
  • Facebook advertising
  • Instagram advertising
  • LinkedIn advertising and LinkedIn messaging campaigns
  • Google display network targeting users based on keyword targeting
  • Re-marketing to visitors of Merlin website
  • Social media community management of their key community channels: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Blog and graphical content production to support an inbound marketing strategy
  • Advertising planning and management to deliver the best value on their bought media from digital publishers and track performance
  • Digital PR to deliver exposure in target press and earn backlinks from high scoring news domains to support their SEO plans 

What we did

The strategy was designed to ensure we didn’t waste the sales team’s time so our focus was acquiring highly qualified web traffic and leads. It took the in-house team’s strengths into account and made the most of the resource they had, whilst we simultaneously worked with them to fulfil the activity we were delivering and reporting on our KPIs and targets in line with their KPIs and targets.

There was a focus on short-lead generation alongside long-term brand building to deliver leads in the short term but also develop longer term brand positions that could be supported organically (and allow them to reduce their agency and advertising spend).

An important part of the campaign’s success lay on planning and managing large-scale, multi-channel engagement campaigns every three months to regularly have new, exciting, interesting and engaging content for our audiences and campaigns. One of those campaigns was a Road Show with a Marilyn Monroe lookalike to promote Madame Tussauds. Running alongside that was ongoing seasonal brand messaging and sales, with ad and product messaging targeted to different audience segments.

The result

The year we worked together Merlin Events hit (well exceeded, actually) their income targets for the first time in seven years. At every step of the way we reported against the KPIs and targets laid out in our original forecast so through the year Merlin had absolute confidence we were on the right track to reaching their goals.

The numbers

  • An additional 9,959 qualified website visitors as a direct result of our advertising campaigns
  • Over 1.6 million ad impressions over all platforms
  • A campaign record advert click-through-rate of 67.3%
  • A 253% increase in contacts and enquiries tracked through the website

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