Monday, March 07, 2011

The One Indispensable Ingredient of Community Marketing

People who call me for advice credit me with having forty years of experience and not just one year repeated forty times.

I don’t officially consult but because I was involved in three destination marketing start-ups in three very different communities, two from scratch and the other from its first months of infancy, I still get calls from time to time as I did on the last leg of 12,000 miles of cross-country road tripping done during a 5 months span since I retired back in 2009.seo-spyglass

Thank goodness for Uconnect in my Jeep.

Typically these calls come from strangers including officials who want to know more about community marketing before setting up a destination marketing organization. Fortunately I can refer them to very talented friends like Bill Geist or Bill Baker.

But one question in particular has been intriguing. “If I only had resources for just one marketing activity, not a mix, what would it be? Sales? Advertising? PR? Promotion?” That’s a good one and I noodled a bit on it during my trip.

My answer is “marketing intelligence.” Typically stereotyped (not always in a good way) as research, marketing intel also includes secondary information, diagnostics, SWOTs, performance measures, analysis, and testing etc. Some are inputs, others outputs.

I can think of dozens but here are just five top-of-mind reasons, that if I started another DMO tomorrow and was restricted to only one marketing activity, it would be “intel:”

  • Intel will distill a community’s values, personality traits, distinctiveness and place-based assets, as part of its overarching brand and “story” which can be deployed to leverage the influence and power of government, university, corporate, small business and individual communications about the community.

  • Intel will inform public and private sector development decisions to optimize the experience and spending of existing visitors, justify loans and funding proposals and avoid cannibalization of “built, cultural and natural” place-based assets, things that make your community distinct give it the proverbial “there-there.”

  • Intel will isolate a database of target households, down to the county and zip code level, that will prepare a DMO for when it has more resources and will empower businesses and organizations to more effectively and efficiently harvest existing visitors.

  • Intel will give a DMO the tools to assure its community that they are worthy of additional resources and that decisions about a full marketing mix will be driven by objective data and performance rather than just opinions and protect it being buffeted by the stew of “who’s asking” sycophancy, “push and shove” lobbying or special interest influences which are commonplace in every community.

  • Intel will inform foundational planning and preparation for if or when your DMO has more resources including the prioritization of a mix of activities like PR, interactive and marketing, advertising, sales and many other activities but also testing of nomenclature, story ideas and creative that will best enable your community to lower perceptual barriers such as image and leap-frog more established competition etc.

The average proportion of marketing expenses invested in marketing intelligence across all types of organizations is 11- 12%. In community destination marketing organizations, which are just catching on, the “best practice” average is only 5%-6%.

So marketing intelligence is not only the most indispensible marketing activity, it also delivers the most significant returns on investment.

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