Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Coming back for more in Estes Park, Colorado

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 9, 2007

manonrock.jpg I am a member of the BrandingWire posse, a group of 12 bloggers who, once a month, take on one common branding challenge.  Last month, we tackled branding for a coffee house.  For this month’s BrandingWire excursion, we are taking our cup of coffee to Estes Park, Colorado.  Here is a little bit of information about Estes Park, in case you have never been there:

Estes Park has been a tourist attraction for over 100-years, even before the founding of Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes borders the RMNP and has used the slogan, “Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park” for some fifty years at least.

It is nestled in a high-mountain valley with spectacular mountain vistas. The area teams with wildlife (deer and elk saunter through the town’s side streets summer and winter). As a tourist town, Estes has acquired a cadre of attractions other than the outdoor hiking, fishing, horseback riding and sightseeing. There are go-carts, an aerial tramway, hayrides and other family-oriented activities.  (You can read more about Estes Park in the brief for BrandingWire put together by member Martin Jelsema, former Estes Park retailer and “native”.

According to the town of Estes Park, there are four types of people who come to visit:

  • Day trippers (mostly from the “front range” cities of Denver, Ft. Collins, and other close areas)
  • Travelers (just passing through, these folk stop for a day or two to gas up, replenish supplies, and camp)
  • Conventioneers (in town for a particular meeting or event, such as the many horse shows or the Scandinavian Festival)
  • Destination vacationers (usually families that come for a week-long vacation)

 The town would like to increase their tax base, which will help enhance life for both residents and visitors alike.  Tourism is the currently considered to be the best way to increase the revenues.  Now for the questions: Which visitors to focus on?  Can you please everyone?

Oh, one last detail: repeat visitors to Estes Park tend to spend quite a bit more money than first-time visitors, as their stays are longer.  According to the town’s annual stakeholder report, repeat visitors stay 7.3 days, compared to only 3.9 days for a first-time visitor!  The Customers Rock! approach to helping Estes Park is to increase the tax base by converting more first-time visitors to loyal Estes Park vacationers.

How do we get people to come back for more?  We make sure we are relevant in our messaging and we create a fabulous customer experience.  This applies across all visitor types!

Relevant Messaging

In order for Estes Park to have the most relevant messaging, we need to understand why people come back to this beautiful town.  There are key reasons why people leave their home and go somewhere else for a day or a week.  Messaging should help visitors understand how Estes Park meets their needs.  I would want to ask return visitors what brings them back.  Those who come year after year may have special insights to share!

From my experience, these are the types of visitor “needs” that are met by places like Estes Park:

  • I need peace and quiet: I want to get away from it all and get in touch with nature.
  • I need thrills and adventure: I want to break out of my boring environment and do something exciting and maybe a bit risky!
  • I want to make a memory with my family: The kids are growing up, and I want to have special family trips they will remember for a lifetime.  Maybe they will even bring their own kids one day…
  • I am just here for business, but I want to see the area: If this place is good, maybe I will bring my family back here sometime!
  • I just need to fill up my car and my stomach: Perhaps I will come back another time, or at least recommend it to someone else.
  • I need a place to retire someday: I am thinking about where I want to spend my next years, and I want to find a place that meets my needs.

The people in the “visitor segments” will most likely have these needs underlying their outside “behaviors”.  I would recommend looking at creating “segments” based on these visitor needs, rather than the visitor types outlined earlier.  Once Estes Park understands the needs of their return visitors, they can begin to tweak their current messaging to show how their town meets those needs. 

The town website for visitors could be broken up into a few key areas, allowing potential and returning visitors to find experiences that help meet their vacation needs.  Here is a site for Estes Park that starts to do something similar.  In their What to Do section, they break out areas such as Be Adventurous, Take it Easy, With the Kids, helping visitors easily find the activities that are right for them.  The main Estes Park site can use the understanding of their returning visitors’ needs to craft an outstanding web experience before a new visitor even sets foot into town!

Create a Fabulous Customer Experience

Finally, in order to create return visitors, the customer experience must shine.  This means hiring people with great customer service skills, keeping the town maintained, and making each tourist touchpoint a great interaction.  A location on the website where visitors can share their experiences and review the businesses could help to highlight those establishments who treat their customers well – and keep customers coming back for more.

Get more high-voltage ideas at

Other members of the BrandingWire team include: Olivier Blanchard,  Derrick Daye, Lewis Green, Ann Handley, Gavin Heaton, Martin Jelsema, Valeria Maltoni, Drew McLellan, Patrick Schaber, Kevin Dugan and Steve Woodruff.

(Photo credit: rarpia)


14 Responses to “Coming back for more in Estes Park, Colorado”

  1. Becky,

    Thank you for identifying customer/traveler needs. Often we forget to start at the beginning, and needs are either number 1 or number 2 (wants are in there someplace).

  2. Thanks, Lewis. The difference between needs and wants can be a fine line at times, but we can’t tell until we talk to our customers to find out! A solid understanding of this will help create more return customers for Estes Park, and the result will be increased length of stay and happy people. 🙂

  3. Becky:

    Yes, knowing why people return can be very powerful in establishing messages. But even more, that knowledge can be shared with residents who in their everyday association with visitors can help make the current experience “special” and memorable. Now not only do you have people motivated to come for an extended stay next year, you have evangalists who will spread the word to friends and associates back home.

    Wonderful insight.


  4. Martin, I was trying to figure out a way to tie the locals into the “fabulous customer experience”, as they are the ones most likely to give it. I love your idea of sharing the knowledge with them so they can get people to come back again! Thanks for sharing your insider’s view. 🙂

  5. I like the tie in to “the place where I want to retire”. Not everyone has the same dreams and getting to know the community and places over time can be a big seller for settling in when the active years ahead are freer of daily work commitments.

    One more thought is the young programmers, virtual workers who could be based anywhere. Boise, ID was just selected as a high-tech hot spot, for example. And attracting a younger crowd who is concerned about quality of life might fill in the gaps in the hospitality industry — family members getting part time jobs, etc.

  6. I was at Estes Park a few weeks ago (took a day trip from Boulder) and loved it. I highly suggest taking a ride through Rocky Mountain National Park, which is not too far away. It’s one of the most amazing sights I’ve seen. 🙂

  7. […] Becky Carroll […]

  8. Valeria, thank you for your thoughts. Retirees, I suppose, are the ultimate “return visitor”. Better yet, they will be bringing their friends and families there to visit them, so they can be strong influencers. Good idea to reach out to young professionals who might want to “get away from it all” (customer needs type “I need peace and quiet”). Their friends could also become repeat visitors – and I like the thought of having them help fill in the customer service gaps.

  9. Thanks for the tip on Rocky Mountain National Park! I have been there once as well, and we hiked through the woods. It was incredibly beautiful.

    Are you going back? 😉

  10. Becky – The Web site investment and segmentation would be well worthwhile. A couple of quick video pans of the views would be priceless. They could also post the videos to YouTube to try and get some additional traffic. Same goes for their photos – start an Estes Park flickr pool!

  11. Thank you for adding your ideas, Kevin! If there was a visitor-based review area on the main website, it could include videos, basic travel reviews, and photo links to flickr. That would be cool.

  12. Bill Gibeault said

    Do experience Rocky Mountain National Park and make sure to drive to the summit ! A great memory for me after attending Pine & Gilmore’s ThinkAbout Excursion in Keystone. It’s just a great place to visit and hang out. -The Esthetic realm of an experience. I liked your thinking on relevant messaging but would replace the word need with want. People want experiences today. In designing an Estes Park Website take the points mentioned as needs and place into 4 realms of experiences- Educational/Entertainment/Esthetic/Escapist………….Bill

  13. Thank you for adding your thoughts, Bill, and glad to see you at Customers Rock! I have been to RMNP but haven’t been to the summit. I am sure it is gorgeous! Wording of need vs want is not really the critical issue in my book; taking the customer’s perspective is. Too many companies lump their customers into “segments” without considering what they need (or want) from the product or service. Once needs are understood, customers can be marketed to based on those needs – and they will be much more open to the marketing as a result!

    Thanks again, Bill, for adding to the conversation.

  14. […] Coming back for more in Estes Park, Colorado about helping this destination town shine up its image […]

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