When Matt Polstein, owner of the New England Outdoor Center (NEOC), was in college, he jumped at the opportunity to start a whitewater rafting business in Maine. “I convinced my parents to let me take a year off from college to start a rafting business and I never went back.” 

Little did he know, 42 years later, that business would evolve into a full-fledged hospitality business. “Our hospitality business has grown to be 20 times that of our rafting business,” said Matt. 

Constant Contact Customer: Matt Polstein, owner of New England Outdoor Center (NEOC)
Matt Polstein, Owner, New England Outdoor Center Image Source: Matt Polstein

After years of explosive growth, NEOC is now looking to continue growing, stabilize their operations, increase bookings during their off season, and foster lasting customer connections. They leverage Constant Contact as a key tool to help reach these goals. 

Connecting with the right audience

The NEOC now boasts 21 houses, a microbrewery, a pizzeria, and an event center. In addition to these amenities, they offer guided wildlife tours and outdoor adventures depending on the season. Prior to using Constant Contact, NEOC relied on printed mailers, but it became both cost prohibitive and time consuming. 

“We had always struggled for space to pick what’s important to show and how you’re gonna show it. With email now, we can pack a lot more information into something without overwhelming people in a way that lets us target different audiences,” said Matt.

Constant Contact Customer: Brewery patio at New England Outdoor Center
Brewery at New England Outdoor Center. Image Source: New England Outdoor Center

Because of their wide variety of offerings, there are multiple audiences NEOC has to target with different content. For example, they provide information for guests currently staying on property, share booking and activity offers to entice new guests, and conduct recruitment outreach to potential employees. This makes reaching the right audience with the right messages and services a necessary complexity. Not to mention, with the recent opening of their new event space in 2023, NEOC is expanding their reach to attract and engage a brand new target audience: weddings. This requires them to grow their wedding list alongside their existing segments. By leveraging email segmentation, they are able to tailor their content, information, and offerings to each of their different audiences.

“[Our audiences] are vastly different — our summertime market tends to be much more nature focused, soft recreationist and then the winter market with snowmobiling is a more aggressive, motorized clientele. It’s easy to create products to put in front of them again largely through social media, paid internet advertising, and direct email campaigns that target those folks.”

Constant Contact Customer: New England Outdoor Center event center
The New England Outdoor Center’s new event center. Image Source: New England Outdoor Center

Increasing productivity and engagement with email templates

To help keep their audience engaged, Tallie Martin, NEOC’s Marketing Manager, crafts emails in a newsletter format with a blend of testimonials, service offerings, menu updates, and upcoming events and activities. Tallie leverages the customizable email templates from Constant Contact to help spark creativity and ensure brand consistency, reinforcing NEOC’s  unique style and voice with every message sent. 

Constant Contact Customer: Tallie Martin, Marketing Manager for New England Outdoor Center
Tallie Martin, Marketing Manager for New England Outdoor Center Image Source: New England Outdoor Center

“[Templates] are nice because they’re similar to how AI helps us; it gets the creative juices flowing. I can just drop a different color and change the background pattern and move stuff up and down.”

Building loyalty with list growth

Recognizing the pivotal role their email list plays in their outreach, NEOC has long relied on it as an essential part of their marketing efforts. “Our email list has always been important to us and we grow it by capturing anybody that stays with us, anybody that engages in any activity with us,” said Matt. 

Focusing on list growth helped them amass a list of over 19,000 interested and engaged customers and prospects. This steady growth has allowed them to cultivate meaningful connections through targeted email campaigns and has yielded great returns.

“We’ve watched the statistics of who opens and digs deep into our e-mailings and we know that bookings are generated after we do an email. We wouldn’t keep doing it if it wasn’t generating real dollars on the revenue side, and it is,” said Matt. 

While their main method of growing their list currently is to collect emails via traditional paper waivers and upload them to their Constant Contact account, they are in the process of transitioning to digital waivers. This will allow them to streamline their list growth process and enhance their ability to quickly categorize and segment their customers. 

NEOC also utilizes their social media as a way to grow their list. They have a sign-up form using Linktree in their social media bios and a popup form on their website, allowing them to continue nurturing the relationships started on social media or Google search via email.

“The people who are on our list are purchasing or buying into an experience quickly. They trust us now that they have seen it on a social media post and then get an email,” explains Tallie.

Using data to inform decision making

NEOC continues to keep an active, engaged, and happy audience by leveraging the reporting data provided by Constant Contact to inform their decision-making when it comes to their email marketing. 

Tallie uses the heatmap feature within Constant Contact to further understand how NEOC’s audiences are engaging with their emails and makes adjustments to their email layout and CTAs as needed. 

“[The heatmap] is their mouse flow; it’s what they’re hovering over, thinking about, clicking into, and how long they spend on it. That to me is people giving me feedback without me having to ask for it. And it informs where I strategically place stuff.”

Closely monitoring key metrics such as their click-through rate, email opens, and unsubscribes has provided them valuable insight into their audience’s behavior and preferences. Based on this information, they make changes to their copy, subject lines, target audience, and more to continually optimize existing and future sends. 

Achieving rapid success

Constant Contact Customer: New England Outdoor Center. View of Mt. Katahdin
View of Mt. Katahdin at the New England Outdoor Center. Image Source: New England Outdoor Center

NEOC’s 42 successful years are a testament to their unwavering passion for the Maine outdoors and their adaptability in an ever-evolving marketing landscape. By utilizing Constant Contact, NEOC has been able to rapidly grow their business, consistently connect with their audience, and effectively share their resort with a broader community, ensuring that the little slice of paradise they’ve built is experienced by many. 

Matt Polstein, owner of New England Outdoor Center, Constant Contact customer trading card
New England Outdoor Center Constant Contact customer trading card