Businesses in small tourism towns need each other. Together they make their town a viable destination for visitors. And together they can help visitors feel more connected to the town.
(Remember, that feeling is one of the things people travel for. It makes them stay longer and come back more often.)
Coordinating all this togetherness is about as difficult as getting siblings to play nicely! It takes a good parent, and in the case of small towns, the “parent” is the chamber of commerce.
Chambers understand their role in marketing their town out of the area. They also do a good job of serving visitors through their visitor centers. Where they are often missing an opportunity is in turning every business in town into a visitor center annex.
Businesses are by nature competitive. And small business owners are the busiest people in the world. But they are also quick to embrace change and even cooperation when they see how it can positively affect their business success.
Cooperative marketing efforts spearheaded by a chamber take the work out of cooperation, and an educational component can help business owners see the value.
Here are some cooperative marketing ideas that any chamber can easily coordinate.
1. Get your town interlinked.
I’ve talked about this numerous times. It’s vital to a small town’s success as a destination that it is as easy to navigate around online as it is when you arrive downtown.
To make this happen, share your links list with all your member businesses. Creating the list including business names and contact info is daunting, and is probably the first roadblock to individual businesses interlinking online.
Ask each business to create a links page on their site, and include every business they think their customers would appreciate knowing about. Remind them that local services like car repair, medical and dental, gyms and hardware stores are important to visitors too.
Remind those locally focused services that a links page of visitor services helps them and helps every business in town build their online page rank with search engines.
Reward participating businesses with some kind of recognition. Create an “I’m Linked” sticker to add to their listing on your site, or recognize them in your newsletter.
2. Create visitor information outposts in every business in town.
Not every visitor goes to the chamber of commerce for information. Capture them with small displays of information in businesses all over town.
Talk to your office supply store about helping the chamber purchase those low cost plastic brochure holders.
Ask participating businesses to designate space for two or three small brochure racks in an easy to find location. Give them a list of other participating businesses, and ask them to select the two or three that they would be willing to carry materials for.
Notify the chosen businesses, and let them be responsible for supplying and restocking their brochures.
By coordinating it through the chamber, the opportunity can be spread around, by removing businesses from the list as soon as they have been chosen a predetermined number of times.
By using email, telephone and the Internet, this whole process can be coordinated without anyone having to leave the chamber office.
Here are two more ideas I’ll be talking about further in the coming weeks.
3. Educate the frontline people in every business in town.
Next week I’ll be talking about Klamath Falls, Oregon’s 10 year old, Answer People program – a great solution to this problem.
4. Reward good customer service in every business in town.
Use your visitors to help you identify and reward your customer service stars. In the coming weeks, I’ll tell you how some towns are doing this.
How is your small town chamber encouraging visitors to stay in town longer and come back more often?
Thanks to Clarity for the use of her photo.