Resorter of The Year: Tips for Success

With the digital age and our ability to modify and update just about anything, it is not often you get the raw, unedited transcript from connections like customer interviews.

However, with the sheer honesty, Kim Jamtgaard gave our editor, Caitlin Lilly, during an interview this spring, we just had to publish these answers as they stood!

Kim Jamtgaard and her husband Jay purchased the Wildwood Resort in 1999. Since then, they have braved the jump into the digital age and the tremendous leap to working with Art Unlimited as their digital marketing partner. From a small, seasonal resort to a year-round Minnesota paradise, Kim and Jay have celebrated successes, learned from their experiences, and embraced change to make the resort they dreamed of a reality.

Our editor, Caitlin, caught up with Kim to revisit Wildwood’s business marketing journey from 1999 to present day. We’ve provided the raw, unedited transcript of this interview in hopes of preserving and relaying Kim’s genuine honesty about her business’s marketing journey and her experiences working with a marketing agency:  

Kim and Caitlin

Caitlin Lilly: Kim, you recently won “Resorter of the Year.” Congratulations! What does this award mean for Wildwood Resort?

Kim Jamtgaard: It’s an honor. We’ve been a part of the Community of Minnesota Resorts for 19 years and believe in the organization 100%. Its motto is “Resorters Helping Resorters” and that’s exactly what the members of the CMR do. So we’re proud to have been acknowledged by a group of people we admire.

Lilly: Has your resort clientele changed over the years?

Jamtgaard: Definitely! When we purchased in 1999 the clientele was family-oriented, but activity revolved around fishing. Everyone fished. Today’s clientele is still family-oriented, but the activities and interests of our guests have broadened.

Most families fish, but fishing isn’t usually the main focus of the vacation anymore. There’s more interest in family recreation on the beach: tubing, water-skiing, as well as more interest in area attractions like the Forest History Center, Children’s Discovery Museum, biking trails, and other natural attractions. Families are more likely now to stay with us and travel on day trips to Duluth or go see the Mississippi Headwaters.

Lilly: What was your marketing strategy at the beginning of the Wildwood Resort timeline?

Jamtgaard: We didn’t have one. We had no idea what we were doing. We just tried to learn the business and treat our guests well.

Lilly: At what point in business did you decide that you would need to partner with a marketing agency?

Jamtgaard: Not soon enough! Most resorters are “do-it-yourself” people, so I learned and developed our first website myself. In the early 2000s, I started working for a local web developer and that’s when I learned the value of paying for expertise!

Lilly: Did you have any fears about collaborating with a marketing agency?

Jamtgaard: Not fears, exactly. But you need a good level of trust with your agency from the start. The technical nature of the digital world means we have no idea whether or not the marketing agency is doing everything they can or not.  It’s a hard thing to measure from our seat unless we keep our communication line open on both sides.

Lilly: What made you choose Art Unlimited?

Jamtgaard: Anna [Art Unlimited’s CEO] pitched a new website to Visit Grand Rapids and I liked her directness. She exuded confidence, was obviously very knowledgeable, and gave a stronger presentation than the company we were with at the time. It was obvious to me right away that we needed to make a change to Art Unlimited from our then-provider.

Lilly: How has digital marketing impacted your business model?

Jamtgaard: I’m not sure we can answer “how much” because digital marketing is the only marketing we do at this point. We’ve shifted our entire marketing focus to digital marketing, so it’s pretty much everything to us at this stage.

Lilly: What advice would you give to someone within your industry who is wondering if they should start working with a digital marketing agency?

Jamtgaard: Contact Art Unlimited and have a conversation! I’ve said this many times to resorters and other business owners we meet! “Digital marketing” is so much bigger than just click-through-rates and “Likes.” You need an agency that understands the entire gamut of digital marketing and how it ties into your message, your presence on the web, and social media. You need an agency that stays on top of trends, anticipates problems and is a full partner. We have that with Art Unlimited.

Lilly: Have you seen business growth into new areas and customers?

Jamtgaard: Yes. It takes time to move into new segments of travel because you have to identify what customers want and then find a way to offer it. Most of all, you have to have an agency that knows (or will learn) how to give you a presence in those new markets.

Lilly: What has been the most successful growth channel you have used in digital marketing so far? Social, website, etc.?

Jamtgaard: We’ve been doing this for a while now, so I feel a little “old school” saying this, but our website is the single most important marketing piece we have. It conveys the old-fashioned “Who, What, Where, When & How,” and it’s all online so people can shop their own timeline from their home.  

People can learn about a stay at Wildwood, check availability, and make a reservation without ever talking to us. Driving people to our website is what all of our social/digital marketing is geared toward, so I’d say ongoing investment in our website is the most important marketing we can do.

Lilly: In your opinion, what is the something you must do to make your relationship with a marketing agency successful?

Jamtgaard: Communicate and participate. I get great advice during my quarterly meetings with my Art Unlimited account manager, but it’s up to me to then take the information and advice Anna gives me and put it into action. We also must keep an eye on our website ourselves to make sure that it represents us as we want to be represented and gives up-to-date information to potential guests. Only we can determine if our website is accurate, so we have to actively work on that. It has to be a partnership to be successful.

Lilly: What is your favorite part of working with Art Unlimited?

Jamtgaard: Anna, of course! She’s the best.

— End Transcript —

Ready to Learn More?

We hope that Kim’s experience transitioning Wildwood Resort from the traditional to digital marketing can give insight into how a tourism or hospitality business can collaborate effectively with a marketing partner to grow and connect with their current audience base, while cultivating more. These efforts, combined with clear communication, are a powerful force for moving a business forward.  

If you have any questions about how tourism-based business can maintain a positive, forward-moving relationship, please contact us today!