Grand Traverse Resort’s Triple-Threat Marketing Approach

Through its signature Barefoot Lifestyle brand, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme, Mich., has developed a marketing triple threat that’s generating buzz far beyond state lines.

The resort produces a quarterly travel television show, publishes an annual glossy magazine, and posts a weekly adventure blog written by an on-staff blogger.

By utilizing traditional and new media storytelling tools, Director of Marketing Steve Timmer says he’s able to showcase the resort, boost awareness of Michigan’s Northwoods region, and provide useful information to customers.

“It’s a win-win for the region,” he says, adding that the resort also leverages content for social media and e-mail campaigns. “We needed a consistent and compelling way to tell our story, and now we’ve got three products that complement each other and help people understand all that there is to do here.”


Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, a full-service, year-round resort with nearly 600 rooms, suites and condominiums, is located on 900 acres near Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. The resort is an independent property, allowing Timmer to take more marketing risks, including shifting from retail promotion to highlighting more vibrant vacation experiences. That has been relevant to guests, he says, particularly those looking for travel ideas. “We can be a lot more creative, but on the flip side, it’s up to us to make it happen.”

Barefoot Magazine, published each December since 2009, highlights the resort’s amenities and includes the best of northern Michigan’s activities and events. The resort prints and distributes about 35,000 copies, and the magazine is placed in guestrooms and mailed to prospective customers, such as meeting and event planners, Timmer says.

In summer 2012, after noticing an increased interest in video, Timmer developed Barefoot TV. Hosted by local celeb Jordan Carson, an entertainment correspondent at WOOD TV8 in Grand Rapids, Mich., it is streamed on the resort’s website and on an in-room guest channel. The show features visual guided tours of the resort and nearby attractions like the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

The latest marketing addition, Eric DeBoer, is the resort’s full-time Barefoot Blogger and media planner. The weekly blog, which follows an editorial calendar and incorporates video, photos, and original stories, features DeBoer—along with friends and co-workers—experiencing unique area activities such as salmon fishing in the bay, attending a summer micro brew festival, and learning how to prepare sushi with the resort’s chef in Aerie Restaurant.

The lifestyle approach has been well received, Timmer says, adding that the resort has seen a 10 percent increase in overall traffic to its website and a 15 percent increase in phone call inquiries. In addition, return website visits are up 26 percent as guests check back for new content.

“It’s definitely worth the investment,” he says. “Regardless of location, any property will need to show or entertain their visitors about the region. They need to start showing in a compelling way why that person should choose your property over your competitor down the street or in another region.”

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