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Do We Know Who We Are As A Community?
November 28, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
Sometimes the obvious is not so – obvious.
This dichotomy may be getting worse for 4 reasons:
1. We Know – Do You?
In our crazed world of over-communication, we find ourselves saying the same message over and over again on various media platforms: whether it is trying to promote what our community is to today’s visitor or simply getting the word out on a Holiday special.
We say the same thing so often, we assume everyone knows what we are talking about.
2. Have You Asked?
The classic mistake: it’s not important what you think you are - it’s about your customer’s perception of who you are.
But we may not fully take into consideration that everyone else is on information overload as well. What is the adage: “You need to be in their face all the time for them to remember you”?
This is not as simple as it may sound. Perform this “marketing reminder” too many times and they may tune you out. Don’t do this enough and they may forget about you.
3. Too Much Choice.
There is simply too much choice out there today. Whether it is buying a television, finding a pair of skis or marketing your community as a “winter destination,” there are way too many options for you to choose from.
4. The Next Greatest Thing
Are we trapped in our technology world with the thinking that it always has to be the “next newest thing”? Whether it is our appetite for the latest laptop with all the bells and whistles, understanding the latest technology or marketing our community or business, we seem to always want to say something new. It may stem from the fact that today we are told that marketing is all about “content rich sites” and constantly updating your information.
Overlooking the Basics?
In doing all of this, we may overlook the basics.
Strategy + Business magazine, reviews what they consider are the “best business books” for the year. They ran an article on “Strategy – Asking the Right Questions” by Phil Rosenzweig.” His opening line is interesting: “This year’s best business books on strategy are notable primarily for what they’re not.” He goes on: “They’re not about finding the next new thing… Instead, the best strategy books of the year emphasize basic principles that should never be far from the mind of the practitioner.”
Often, a partnership between people, businesses or communities is successful if:
A) They each have something to bring to the table B) There is something to gain by all parties from the partnership.
When this relationship is one-sided, or there is not a vested interest, a partnership may not last very long.
This may also be true about community development.
Due to the small size of our communities, it is vital that we work together. Finding common ground to develop regional marketing strategies for example, is a way for us to at least say “hello” on the travel destination highway. Even if the entire Adirondack Park were to create a uniform marketing message, we still would have a hard time competing with other mountain resort destinations in Vermont, Colorado or Canada.
However, the obvious should not escape us.
Our Individual Assets
While we share a “common way of life,” heritage and economic climate, in order for anything “regional” to work, the assets of our individual communities must be viewed as an important contributor.
In other words, we must believe that the diverse assets of our individual communities can be woven together to brand ourselves as a destination. Lake Placid has its Olympic venues, Saranac Lake the arts and Tupper Lake, a natural center for natural and outdoor recreation. Holding this pie together, we share common themes of this place we call the Adirondack Park - or simply put - our mountains and water.
Diversity is Key?
There needs to be a balance between regional branding and individual community promotion.
While each of our communities may know what we have to offer, we should not assume the other communities do. There may need to be a process of awareness and education about what we can bring to the table.
For example, there is a growing recognition of the importance of the arts.
Do other communities share this excitement?
We should not assume that they do. Just as we have talked about the need to continually reaffirm your message in today’s congested information highway, we may need to do the same here.
Each of our communities should determine in partnership with the “marketing experts” what our key messages should be.
There may be some thinking that it is our mountains and water that draws people here. Our arts, history and shopping may be secondary – it is something that they do once they’ve made up their mind they want to travel here.
There may be some truth to this.
However, there are many successful communities that have developed themselves as world renowned arts destinations.
But first we may need to tell our “arts story” to our own community and our neighbors.
Do we really know how important the arts are in our community? How many arts businesses are there anyways? What is “our” definition of the arts? Is it only the fine and performing arts? Or does it include other “arts” such as culinary?
A Community Business Plan
If we believe that the strength of our regional promotional strategies is our individual communities, then each of us may need to put that information together.
Again, taking the arts as an example, we may need an “Arts Community Business Plan”:
• Economic Profile on our existing “arts” businesses including a definition of “arts.” • Impact on art events. Who spends on what arts? • Who is the arts customer? Where are they from? • What could an “arts destination” look like? • Working with our arts businesses, can we create a formal arts industry recruitment effort?
To start this off does not need to be complicated or expensive. There is a tremendous amount of data that is out there from our existing businesses as well as regional, state and national information on the “arts.”
We may need only to take the first step and that is to recognize that while it may be obvious to all of us about the importance of the arts, we really have not defined what that means.
Have we really talked about the potential it has to be one of the cogs of promoting our region as a destination? Have we done this in a way that our marketing experts can understand?
Speaking “Their” Language
After all, is this not what good marketing is all about, getting your message out there in a way that our customer understands? Have we forgotten that our own community and promotional organizations are also our customers? Have we talked their language?
This is just an example. The bigger picture is that our individual communities should not assume that everyone understands who we are and what we want our role to be in this “regional partnership.”
It may be up to our individual communities to deliver that message.
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