John A. Newby
Most local communities fail when it comes to marketing and branding. They spend thousands of valuable dollars and/or resources on websites built by out-of-town companies, they conduct Facebook and social media campaigns, they promote themselves in magazines created by out-of-town entities, they purchase lists of residents and businesses , and pay consultants to guide them through the marketing and branding maze of options.
None of the above options are necessarily bad, but do they yield the best fruit? I am reminded of a sermon I heard years ago; it was titled “Good, Better & Best.” The point of the sermon might be appropriate for a community or business. While the above options can be GOOD and necessary at times, are there BETTER solutions? And finally, what are the BEST solutions for your community or business?
Working with media companies, businesses, and communities, I have come to realize there are many good options. Some are better than others, but what are the best solutions? Let’s look at three options many communities and businesses overlook. These potential solutions stretch dollars or possibly eliminate marketing expenses while improving overall exposure.
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First, don’t rely on outside advertising products. Produce your own. While producing a magazine for local communities may seem daunting, marketing today is all about exposure and working together. If your town is too small, work with nearby towns and establish your own regional marketing and branding network. While you may compete with those communities in some areas, working together on regional marketing will work wonders for everyone. There are reasons CVS builds next to Walgreens and reasons Burger King and McDonalds go hand-in-hand on street corners. Rising water in a harbor (region) raises all the ships, regardless of the size, in the harbor. The theme of a regional product should be attractive to potential residents, but disguised as a tourism magazine for potential visitors.
Secondly, many communities promote themselves on Facebook and other social media platforms thinking they have done their job. Nothing is further from the truth. Yes, social media can be a piece of your overall marketing puzzle, but if that is all you do, you are missing the long-term pieces that spell success. In today’s world, data is king. They who own the data, own the market. Don’t be outdone by Facebook, Instagram, Google and all the national competitors out to own your market. With the data tools available today, even the smallest communities can not only compete in the list and data arena, they can and should own their markets.
Thirdly, treat your community, business, or chamber website as the eyes into the heart and soul of your community or business. I’ve seen websites that are so outdated that no one even bothers to visit the site after the first visit. Your website should scream vibrancy, enthusiasm, attractions, and so much more. I have seen communities with literally dozens of event calendars, what better way to confuse and frustrate not just potential tourists, but those living in the community. There is no excuse in today’s world of technology for this situation. Every community should have a central calendar that everyone in the community is aware of and is able to utilize.
I could go on far beyond three items, but space limits this column. To sum up, marketing and branding isn’t difficult, but it does require planning, executing, and thinking outside-the-box. Marketing and branding need not be an expense item, it can even generate a few dollars along the way.
Far too many communities and businesses settle for just being good. Some even strive to be better than good. There is no reason to settle for being GOOD or BETTER, reach for the stars and be the BEST version of yourself. To be the best, it takes thinking bigger than in the past. It takes convincing the local community to step out of their comfort zone of good and better and reaching for the best things many thought unattainable. Remember, there will always be many saying it can’t be done, they are being interrupted by those getting it done.
John Newby, Pineville, MO. is a nationally recognized publisher, community, business & media consultant, and speaker. He authors “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” a column appearing in 50+ communities. The founder of Truly-Local, dedicated to assisting communities create excitement, energy, and combining synergies with local media to become more vibrant and competitive. His email is: info@Truly-Localllc.com.