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Local Marketing: Who’s On First, (no, I can’t be) Second?

May 27, 2011 - Ernest Hohmeyer
Yin and Yang

There is a great opportunity: For the first time our rural communities and small businesses can reach the world.

There is a great problem: There are too many ways to reach the world.

In this world that seems to be moving more rapidly every day are 2 additional realities that may influence us locally.

First, you can’t do it all – and it’s not just the marketing part. With declining resources, a muddling economy and rapidly changing customer habits that can change in an instant flamed by the instant chatter of social media, you may need to prioritize the highest needs of your most dominate customers. Other services or products may have to take a back seat or be eliminated.

If local residents were given a choice between an initiative that significantly reduces taxes and one that produces business promotional materials, what would their answer be?

If the local chamber had to offer a choice because of declining resources between government liaison work, a visitor’s guide or providing support to events - what would their customers choose?

Does that mean that all this work has to stop? Absolutely not, in fact these are wonderful initiatives. But in this world of declining resources or a tax base that can’t keep up with costs, are other resources available perhaps with specific skills and strengths to accomplish these goals?

Are economic initiatives better suited for a volunteer Saranac Lake Local Development Corporation or the AEDC, Franklin or Essex County all of whom have an LDC? Is the Plattsburgh Chamber which seems to have a passion for political events more appropriate for these types of activities or could our own leaders sponsor legislative breakfasts?

What is Our Community?

Oh yes, I know we have to protect our local interests. But what does that mean anyway? What exactly is our community? Are they defined solely by village, town and county lines? In terms of attracting any real significant major employers, we have to act as a region, not a political boundary. Even if you put the entire Tri-lakes together in a seamless business development effort, all of our resources combined pale compared to our neighbors in terms of accessibility, infrastructure, and labor force among others.

On top of declining resources and a muddling economy is the second reality of information overload. We want more and as we get it we are tuning more of it out.

What does this opportunity and challenge mean to our community groups and organizations attempting to tell the world we are here? If you believe the new literature such as The New Marketing & PR by Scott we have discussed over the last several weeks, you need to clearly understand what he calls your “customer personas,” and influence them by “content rich” and captivating information. You need to understand how to attract them through marketing you can control like your web site and how you can join what he calls “customer channels” like ads on their Facebook pages, not yours.

Finally, in the new social media world, paying attention to what your customers are saying after they experience your product can be just as important as before they purchase. Wikonomics talks about the new world of “citizen journalists” where there are also “advocates” and “critics.” Events & the New Marketing

So here we are small communities where in large part volunteers are responsible for creating, planning, promoting and carrying out events.

We have the challenge of facing all the work involved and raising sponsors. Most of us have a good sense of traditional marketing; fewer have the capability or the time to deal with all the on-line media opportunities – what has been branded as the new marketing. We are struggling to take advantage of this great opportunity that requires content rich web sites, Facebook, blogs, and links – and that is only our media channels.

Now, as we have learned over the last several weeks, we need to participate in our potential customer channels such as their Facebook pages. In this daunting new marketing world we must understand our customer and prioritize our efforts to reach them. We can’t do it all and we don’t have the time or the money.

Our new enemy is also the proverbial bouncer – not the guy at the bar at the end of some of our meetings but that ill conceived marketing that get folks to your site but since they are not the right customer they leave without interest.

In the context of the new marketing and declining resources is it all necessary? Do we need what are nearly a dozen chamber and tourism offices that overlap our area?

New Priorities?

Is it possible to consider a “coherent voice for the brand or support the relationship building that customers have come to expect in a hyper connected world” that is discussed in an Harvard Business Review article “Why You Need a New-media ‘Ringmaster”?

If you take the Tri-lakes as an example, each of the communities has groups that put on events. Typically they fall in the categories of arts, outdoor recreation, family oriented events and sports.

Could the chambers/tourism offices be more involved in helping to create a marketing plan for these types of events? This could range from customer profiling, suggested target market areas, types of new media venues, SEO and customer media channels like FaceBook.

In other words, could an “Event Assistance kit” that targets 2 or 3 of these similar events like arts and outdoor recreation be put together as a guide?

Furthermore, instead of each of these organizations having their own web site and the cost of updating and maintaining them and each having their own visitor guides and collateral material, could limited resources be focused on providing new marketing assistance like “rich editorial content” on these activities?

Do we need you need an information manager?

It is required now to know how to choose, when to play and what to say.

It all starts with understanding your customer. In a further quote from “Why You Need a New-Media Ringmaster” by Patrick Spenner qualities include “an ear for stories that will play well, an instinct for developing external relationships, and a holistic sense of the enterprise’s communication priorities.”

The role of our chambers/tourism offices are important ones.

Wouldn’t it be great though if we could coordinate individual events by our communities, with county, regional and state efforts? Why on the one hand are we partnering with Malone but not with the Franklin County when it comes to the proposed bed tax? Why are we not attempting to leverage bed tax funds with County matching funds, the region and I Love NY? Even Essex County that takes in hundreds of thousands of dollars is leveraging their summer campaign with the region according to Jim McKenna of ROOST. Yes, you heard that right: even Lake Placid is leveraging their efforts with the region.

Let’s Get Together?

Perhaps there is a need for these organizations to be independent.

I wonder though if it might be worthwhile if we could get everyone together at least in terms of marketing and that includes the two counties, the region and I Love NY. Are there ways to take more advantage of the new marketing and create what Spenner calls “an appreciation for speaking with one brand voice, and understanding of how to best allocate marketing investments across touch points, and knowledge of techniques for measuring marketing effectiveness?”

Is it time to create a “ringmaster” that Spenner identifies as a “catalyst for change, and an orchestrator who, by championing social technologies, will help you deliver the greatest show on earth – or whatever may be your own brand promise?”

What do you think?


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