|The husband and wife team of Gary and Mary Cooley has produced Twin
Lakes Area tourism web sites since April of 1995. They have also been directly involved in
the sale of 57 area small resorts, either as listing and sales real estate agents, or as
consultants to owners and buyers. Mixing the resort sales experience and helping those
resort customers increase gross sales via Web marketing taught the Cooleys a great deal.
The Cooleys also conduct several commercial grade photo shoots per year of
outdoor Ozark recreation for advertising. Shoots include both digital stills and HD video.
Without great photos a tourism web site will be considerably less successful. All
of the photos you see on all 2Cooleys sites are their own works.
So how did it all start?
Back in 1994 David Rife, Gary's good friend from St. Louis,
encouraged Gary to "get involved" in this thing called the World Wide Web. Rife
was an engineer at Boeing who had used the Internet long before Al Gore invented it. Rife
told Cooley in 1994, "This is the next great technological revolution. It could
really help your real estate career." Gary was new to real estate sales in 1994 and
was looking for and edge.
Rife taught the Cooleys the basics of Web site development and Web
marketing way back in the 1994 days of Mosaic and Netscape version 1.0. (Internet Explorer
was not around in those days.) That was way before Google, way before Facebook. From
there the Cooleys are self-taught - with the help of some good magazines, books, and
consultants. They subscribe to numerous monthly travel, advertising, video, photography,
technology, and business publications. They also learn from the Web sites of these same
"With technology and American culture changing so fast there is
no other way to stay on top of change other than reading", says Mary. "You have
to constantly re-invent yourself or lose business and site readership. We take what we
learn from these sources and test it on our own sites. If it works for area tourism we
share the knowledge with our customers."
The Cooleys hire top level consultants in travel, technology,
advertising, and photography. These consultants range in price from $350 to as much as
$600 per hour. The Cooleys spend many thousands of dollars on information from top pros,
which is a lot for a Mom & Pop operation. Yet as Gary points out,
"Our resort advertisers think nothing of spending $10,000 to
$50,000 a year on remodeling cabins or buying rental boats. That's their capital
equipment. It is necessary to the success of their business. They rent those cabins or
boats out for years to come and make a repeat profit. For us the investment in information
serves the same purpose. It it just information we invest in instead of boats or cabin
interiors. But unlike a boat or a cabin, our information needs, our capital equipment,
changes every few months."
By reading, by constantly experimenting, using top consultants, and
by polling 2COOLEYS readers, the Cooleys have come to learn what works and what does not
for tourism Web promotions and resort sales. They've designed and tracked the results of
hundreds of banner ad campaigns. Yet there is always something new to learn.
Much of what the 2Cooleys learn about what works and what does not
is from the hundreds of traffic reports they have run, not only on their own sites, but
customer sites. "There is no other source of information that's more useful than web
site traffic reports. It's just plumb crazy not to follow your reports. Sure, it's not
easy to learn. But what you learn and see is well worth the effort!" says Gary.
As Mary likes to point out, "There are thousands of people who
claim to be pros. However, in our experience, many really are not, they're really just
"wanna bees". We have found that it cost less in the long run to find the true
pros, the ones who are at the top of their industry, pay their price, and learn from them.
Especially with traffic reporting! We adapt their principles to our own efforts. Those who
claim to be pros but don't have the proven real-world track record to back their claims
cost much less in terms of dollars. But they sure cost far more in mistakes and weak
results. You get what you pay for!"
The Cooleys find the higher the price a consultant charges, the more
willing those consultants are to admit their mistakes, the big mistakes they've really
learned from. Gary says, "Sure, an $2,000 consulting bill is expensive. But it never
fails - the true pros always save us far more than they cost us. This level of knowledge
is passed on to our customers after we test it on our own sites. Our level of information
is as good as, or better than, any other source - large, small, or Official. What we share
is real-world results produced right here in the Twin Lakes area."
By combining the knowledge of top pros with their own tests the
2Cooleys have developed the area's most visited tourism Web sites. 2Cooleys sites enjoy an
average combined readership of 70,000 to 75,000 unique visitors (readers) per month. Page
views run into the 300,000 to 350,000 range each month. According to published traffic
numbers for other area tourism sites, this puts the Cooleys ahead by at least a 4-to1
ratio in total monthly readers. And of course when it comes to the Web, exposure is what
Using independent respected third party sources - like Compete - it takes only a few minutes
for anyone to prove for themselves that 2Cooleys really do out-produce all other tourism
web sites combined.
Says Gary, "We are just two people with three desktop computers
(2 Windows stations and one Mac Pro station), 3 laptops (2 Windows and one Mac), and a
collection of pro digital still and video cameras, all crammed into a small home office.
All our competitors have full-size office suites with 20 or more employees. Yet we
out-produce them by a wide margin in terms of exposure and readers for the Twin Lakes area
This happens only because we specialize in tourism. It is also the
advantage of having the right knowledge. It is not just the technology, it is the people
pushing the keys. Letting one's ego drop, and listening to those who really have done it,
the true pros who have made it to the Big Time, that is our secret. And we have also
learned a great deal from several very good long-term customers."
The 2Cooleys commercial real estate activities of selling small
resorts has helped them learn a great deal about what makes a small resort successful and
what makes them fail. Over the years the 2Cooleys have helped over 130 resort owners
consider selling their operation, what price and terms to offer, and the financial
analysis of the operations. When the 2Cooleys list a small resort for sale they "pull
out all the plugs" and promote those resorts on all their sites. The purpose is to
get gross sales up as high as possible to make the operation an attractive buy. Using a
combination of banner ads, classified ads, and other web marketing efforts, 2Cooleys have
always been able to raise gross annual sales for the resorts they list for sale.
"Getting gross sales up takes strong co-operation between us and the owners",
says Mary. "It's a very co-operative thing. They have to be willing to try new
techniques in advertising. We have to listen to what they experience with their guests and
get a handle on their unique selling proposition."
Most 2Cooleys customers have been with 2Cooleys for well over 10
years running, many for over 15 years running. The Cooleys have promoted several area
resorts which have been owned and operated by two, three, and even four different owners.
They see the effect an open or closed mind can have on the same property.
In the end the 2Cooleys admit while the consultants and tourism
publications help, and while they have learned a great deal on their own, their customers
have been the richest information source of all.
See 2Cooleys Advertsing Programs