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An Opportunity to Reach Out – Loudly?
March 10, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
There is a saying that all publicity is good marketing.
I am not so sure about that. But if the glass is half full, there has been a lot of "buzz" lately on local and regional marketing.
In Saranac Lake, the chamber is trying to redefine its mission and what does that mean related to its role in marketing? The Village of Saranac Lake is active in local promotion. A broad based group has come together to try to make sense of this marketing matrix of multiple counties, towns and villages and have formed a tourism council. The Tourism Council has proposed a more regional effort and if it makes sense to work with the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) who already promotes half of the Saranac Lake area. Municipal officials have asked Franklin County to match their support.
Tupper Lake has hired a new “event coordinator and have also asked Franklin County for assistance.
Finally, Franklin and Essex County have discussed implementing or expanding an occupancy tax. This has raised the issue of what each county’s marketing strategy will be in the future. In Franklin County this has led to good questions on how it will operate and how does this match up with the plan put forward previously by the chambers?
Half Full or Empty?
In the glass is half empty view, some may argue this is once again an example of the "Balkanization" of the Adirondacks. Though the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council covers most of the region, is an Adirondack Park marketing plan needed? Is this the reason individual communities believe they should take the lead in marketing? As multiple communities create their own effort does that lead to a natural conflict among them as they scratch for funding, expertise and resources?
If the glass is half full, others may point out that there seems to be a genuine interest right from the Governor on down to promote the area. It has led to a more involved and broader discussion on how to market ourselves. With this increased discussion comes a greater awareness and potentially a more informed decision, these optimistic folks would point out.
So what does all this mean for the role of the chambers, village efforts, the towns, counties, ROOST and local community organizations? Does that mean they are overlapping, perhaps redundant and should be eliminated? Or does it suggest we need all of these efforts?
It may depend on how you look at the glass as being half empty or full…
Understanding the Beast
Before we answer this question, we may need to consider two other factors:
1. Changing Tourism. How you market to today's tourist has become quite a complicated beast. Creating and maintaining a website, staying on top of search engines, the constant need to find new "content," blogs, mobile applications, online reservation systems, links, are just a few of the components.
Determining who your target market is, research, analyzing results, monitoring and follow-up are other factors to consider.
It is not uncommon for one single tourism property to have multiple marketing resources on staff and still contract out to specialists. What does that mean for our community-wide efforts that are often searching for resources, expertise and money?
2. Is All Marketing the Same? Is visitor marketing the same as promoting local events? Where does our retail and professional businesses fit in all of this? There may be no simple answer to this except to say that there is a whole lot of effort that goes into each one of these marketing strategies.
Complicating matters further, is that each of these "marketing" tasks can be aimed at very different "customers." An effort to put together a "package" to attract visitors to paddle here for a few days may be different from sponsoring a “local event.”
Organizing and staging an event is another story.
I do not have the room to detail here that then there is the issue of different kinds of media from radio and print to on-line and PR....
It may all come down to what is the intended result? Who is the target audience?
Is not “marketing all of the above? If it is, can one community or one organization do it all? Are some of the goals of "marketing" so different that you need diverse resources and expertise?
Yell Loudly & Effectively? Is it possible to create a coordinated regional framework for all of this marketing?
Does it make sense to consider the local chambers as an event organizer and coordinator of local marketing?
Could those events that wanted to solicit "visitors" become the target of county and regional marketing efforts whose goals are bringing in - visitors? In turn, can the expertise of these county and regional marketing organizations be helpful in suggesting how to promote local events?
If individual communities in the Tri-lakes cannot pull together sufficient resources for an "event coordinator" can they share?
Is it possible for the Tourism Council - an effort aimed at bringing all of the marketing groups together - to consider a forum for a Tri-lakes initiative?
There is much excitement in the spring air about marketing. If the glass is half empty it may lead to further divisiveness. If it is half full, this awareness of the need to promote ourselves may lead to an opportunity to yell loudly "We are here!" – in all spheres of marketing.
And that is perhaps the crux of this conversation: there are many layers to marketing that have different objectives and thus different strategies. But, do they need to work together – to maximize a return on investment – for all of us?
One Regional Platform? We may need to do this to raise our own voice above the real competition, which is other mountain resort "regions" around the world. The question is: should this be a regional effort and one that includes events, packaging with lodging, restaurants and retail businesses and to not forgetting that our non-tourism businesses need promotion partners as well?
To do this may require one platform of all of our partners.
It may also require a system of checks and balances to ensure community objectives are met, maintained and evaluated. Businesses need to have a return on investment for marketing. So should any community or regional promotional effort.
So, is the glass half full or empty?
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