When Legacy Mountain Ziplines first partnered with Blend Tourism Marketing 4 years ago, they were skeptical that a marketing agency relationship would be successful in helping them grow their revenue. Little did they know that the partnership would be a key to their continued success (and incredibly rewarding for Blend, too), which earned Legacy Mountain the recognition of North America’s best zipline tour. In this post, we delve into the journey that Legacy Mountain Ziplines has taken with our team at Blend Tourism Marketing, enabling them to achieve exponential growth they never imagined possible.
How It All Started – Background and Goals
In 2019, we met one of the owners Jim from Legacy Mountain Ziplines at the ACCT conference (The Association of Challenge Course Technology) and initiated conversations about their marketing.
Their zipline course in Sevierville, Tennessee sits atop Legacy Mountain. The location is impressive, offering an exhilarating zipline experience and undoubtedly some of the finest views of the Smoky Mountains near the popular vacation spots Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
Their existing marketing and sales efforts included their reservations call desk, from which the majority of their sales came from customers who would call and book a zipline tour. They also relied on coupon books and visitor guide ads distributed across various tourism outlets. At that time, Legacy’s WIX website was outdated and de-indexed, with no online booking capabilities. Furthermore, they faced multiple challenges in staffing their phone lines, as the staff was often entry-level employees. Their phones operated 12-14 hours a day. Vacationers looking to plan their activities later in the evening had to wait until the following day to make a booking, which clearly indicated an online sales opportunity.
Legacy Mountain Ziplines’ business was highly seasonal, with most of its revenue realized during spring break and summer. Unsurprisingly, to sustain and expand revenue, the company needed to increase its customer base and develop a business that would attract guests throughout the year.
Goals & Skepticism
The owners were determined to grow their revenue, yet they hesitated to implement online bookings and add the expense of a marketing agency. Nonetheless, they agreed to give our partnership a try, and our relationship commenced with a phased approach to expanding their marketing channels.
Phase 1: 2019 – Online Sales and Seeding Advertising
During Phase 1, we established aggressive deliverables. We recognized the presence of a great product to build upon; thus our main objective was to generate online sales and implement online advertising to gauge the potential audience and test the most effective messaging.
With a launch date planned for March 12, 2019, less than a month away from our initial discussions, we immediately got to work by speaking with staff and guests and creating a functioning website and booking system through Xola. Since Legacy Mountain Ziplines was part of the Dubby’s Attractions multi-attraction brand, setting up their portfolio packages, merchandise, and photo packages proved to be complex.
Within the first month of launch, despite not having an indexed website, online sales increased from $0 to $40,000 in online bookings. By fall 2019, 30% of bookings originated from their direct website. Before the 2020 shutdowns occurred, the business had doubled its revenue within the first year of implementing online sales and advertising.
The owners were pleased with these results and recognized the potential, but after considering the fixed cost expenses, they set their sights on achieving a more profitable business scale.
Phase 2: 2020 – Scaling Advertising Efforts
Following the reopening in 2020 after the COVID shutdowns, we began new local SEO initiatives and significantly scaled our advertising efforts. We agreed to allocate 10% of revenue towards advertising. We quickly saw strong performance in the advertising funnel where consumers progressed from awareness to purchase, resulting in a strong return on ad spend.
Phase 3: 2021-2022 – Improving The Brand Experience
To achieve sustainable growth, every aspect of the customer experience at Legacy Mountain Ziplines had to be of world-class quality and flawless execution. Our partnership worked seamlessly to bring guest services, hospitality, hiring, and investment into the physical space and amenities, to be on par with the quality of the zipline tour and the outstanding views.
Legacy Mountain Ziplines Experience Before
- The course was a covered piece of concrete; the design wasn’t welcoming or attractive. The outdoor gathering area was often cold or hot, thus uncomfortable for guests.
- The course used a hand-braking system and required the use of gloves; although common for zipline courses, it was physically demanding on the staff when they needed to help visitors brake (despite the training).
- It required a lot of effort to train guests on how to use the braking system, thus reducing the overall daily capacity of the course.
A Better Brand Experience
Major Upgrades to the Physical Space
- The Welcome Center and hospitality areas were built. Guests could relax before their tour and swap stories in air-conditioned comfort or chill out on the relaxing patio in Adirondack chairs with a bonfire on cooler days.
- High-quality bathrooms were also installed, which were welcoming comforts that were not typical for a zipline course.
- To accommodate the steady increase in guests, the parking lot was expanded, as was the retail space, which was stocked with quality merchandise.
Improved Hiring Practices
- The team changed their hiring practices, integrating more staff familiar with operating ziplines, who had experience from other adventure parks. As a result, the staff had improved customer service skills to train and support visitors professionally and make their experience really fun.
- With the business now becoming significantly more deseasonalized, Legacy Mountain could keep more of their valued team employed year round.
Increased Operational Efficiencies
- To reduce the bottlenecks in the tour, a new check-in process was developed, which utilized iPads and digital waivers to speed up check-ins and reduce wait times.
- The team purchased upgraded vans to transport guests comfortably from the Welcome Center up the mountain to the start of the course.
Course Efficiency and Safety
Significant course enhancements were made to make the course even safer and streamline operations.
- Full body harnesses and automatic braking eliminated the use of gloves, making the course safer, although it did impact the speed of the lines.
- With the core brand proposition of offering the best views of the Smokies, we were completely comfortable that having the fastest lines was no longer something we could claim. Yet, we still offered the longest and highest lines with spectacular views for every guest.
- Legacy Mountain Ziplines doubled its revenue in Phase 3 compared to its performance in Phase 2 and continued to scale advertising, especially on Facebook and YouTube.
- Strong return on ad spend performance continued, and online bookings now delivered 70% of their bookings!
- Remarkably, the business was no longer a one-season business, and revenue during the shoulder season quadrupled.
Phase 4: 2023 – Elevating The Brand Identity
This year was the time to ensure that Legacy’s branding and website best reflected who they are and how they evolved. A more relevant identity was created, with logo design and copy that best represented what Legacy Mountain Ziplines promises to guests each and every time they visit. With this new brand identity, the website underwent a major overhaul in design with some functional improvements to bring it up to date.
How This Client / Agency Relationship Works
In the beginning, the owners weren’t sold on working with a marketing agency, but after years of working together, this relationship flourished into a strong foundation of trust. We now support them across product development, staff training, media, advertising, branding, strategy and more. The more you let your agency understand your business completely, the better their performance can be. Blend invested time being on the course, talking to staff, delving into operations, and understanding what is most important to their customers.
Today, Legacy Mountain Ziplines and Blend don’t have to spend any time discussing contracts, costs, or scope changes. We focus our conversations on solving problems, improving their business and the tour experience.
Find more about how Blend Tourism Marketing supports Tours, Activities, and Attractions clients.