Three Marketing Ideas for Attracting Urban Visitors To Your Small Town.

by Joanne Steele on December 10, 2009

Today, we’ll give you 3 ideas for attracting urban visitors that you, along with other business or your chamber, could begin to implement immediately.

You don’t need to wait until you’ve create a complete Regional Flavor Strategy for your community or region to start implementing some of the great ideas included in the 5 Regional Flavor Principles.

1. Maps and trails that attract specific niches.

A stop on the Longest Yard Sale Route

A stop on the Longest Yard Sale Route

Whether you’re an antique or quilt shop, or a location for great birding or water sports, by grouping all businesses or activities from a similar niche and creating a map, you become a destination for enthusiasts. It takes a cluster to become a niche destination, so to succeed your competitors become your collaborators. Sometimes you’ll have to look beyond the boundaries of your small town or rural county to find those partner businesses (check out the Grinder’s Switch example below).

With the Internet, maps can be created, posted online and linked all over the place for great results.

In Columbia Falls, Montana, US, having two antique stores was nice. When the third opened, and they started marketing collaboratively, they became a destination.

When I was visiting Tennessee, US, in October, I picked up a map online of artists and craftsmen holding their annual open studio tour east of Nashville. The map took us through several small towns where we shopped and ate.

Grinder’s Switch Winery in Hickman County, Tennessee connected with THREE other wineries between rural Hickman County and Nashville to form the Natchez Trace Wine Trail.

Highway 127 is home to The Longest Yard Sale in the World, now over 600 miles long, passing through 5 states. It purportedly started in rural DeKalb County Alabama.

Years ago before the Internet, as County Tourism Director I created a backroads map for “doing dirt” in Siskiyou County. My husband and I spent a weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area delivering copies of that map to every car dealer selling 4-wheel drive vehicles! The map included ads for lodging and dining, and the results were amazing.

Turn competitors into collaborators and create a map.

2. Create an area passport or ticket.ticket

If you want people to move throughout your town or region, give them a fun reason to do so.

Check out the concept at Our Journeys, a four-county collaboration in Colorado, US.

The idea is to identify key places in the area you want people to visit. List them on the ticket or passport, give visitors a logical map for getting to each place and a way to gather a stamp to prove they stopped.

The Colorado people have visitors send in their completed tickets to be included in a drawing. For a small local passport program, you could have small gifts like an area pin or a post card as a gift to be collected at the Chamber of Commerce office.

The idea is to provide visitors a fun incentive to see more of your rural community.  All materials should provide clear information about services and shopping. After all, the reason for any of these activities is to support local businesses.

3. Become a Geocaching destination.

geocacheYou may be unaware of how huge this phenomenon is! There are caches all over the world, and with the advent of cheap gps units, geocaching has become a popular travel pastime. Cruise lines are cashing in on the phenomenom and so can you.

To become known as a geocaching destination, you just need to market what is already out in your surrounding countryside. Go to and type in your zip code to see how many caches are hidden nearby.

Geocaching is a form of hide and seek. Geocachers hide “treasures” primarily on public lands and note and publish their gps locations. Seekers hunt for the treasure using the gps coordinates to help. When they find the cache, they sign the logbook and return the cache for the next treasure hunter.

To learn more go to

To market to geocachers:

Create a geocaching page on your web site with a link to the area on listing the caches in your area. Include services with special discounts for geocachers coming in and showing their gps units.

Have a place on your web site where geocachers can comment on their searches in your area and post their successes.

Create and maintain a printed list of geocaches in your area to pass out in your business or visitors bureau office.

Host a geocaching event – again, check out to learn how this might be possible.

Invite urban geocachers and give them great reasons to choose your area to go geocaching.

Now, give us YOUR ideas for bringing in those urban customers and keeping them returning season after season.

1 RV Sales December 10, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Great information and a very interesting website. I am truly passionate about rural development/substantiation. The rural life and rural areas are true treasures, you just have to be a little more creative to find all of the gems. It looks like you have some great insights.

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