“We just wanted to be here.” That is an answer we hear more and more when we ask companies why they located where they did. We are finding that in many communities the number one reason companies located there was a ‘personal connection’ to the area, not traditional cost factors. It is not surprising given that more companies are not tied to a geographic location, especially small businesses. The personal connection to the community could be that they grew up there, vacationed or spent time at a summer camp, or have family or friends that moved to the area. So how do you market to make a personal connection? Alleghany County, NC has figured it out.
Alleghany County economic developer Dale Caveny created the blog Absolutely Alleghany. It connects you to the community and the people there. Alleghany County does not have traditional industrial location assets like highways, infrastructure, and prepared sites. What it does have is people who are passionate about the community – and the gorgeous backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We are often told in strategic planning sessions that the community’s top asset is “our people.” We’ve heard it often enough to know that it is not a unique asset. However, Dale Caveny is marketing Alleghany County’s people by telling their stories, the stories of community heroes and champions, to create personal connections to a place you will want to visit or move to. Many of our client communities struggle with negativity. A simple blog can combat negative rhetoric and perceptions by highlighting the good things that are happening.
Why we love this blog:
- Tells their story through the lives of people
- Has unique content, specific to the community
- Gives you a sense of what the community is really like
- Has a positive message highlighting not only businesses but people that are making a difference
- Is totally authentic
Another example of marketing with a personal connection is one of our favorite websites, Petaluma, CA, who does it through a simple but effective website. The website was an IEDC award winner in 2015. What we like about this site is that it makes you want to go to Petaluma. The images are authentic, and the stories are engaging. Check out the ‘How We Live’ section under the ‘Living’ tab. It is like Petaluma is selling a state of mind.
Do businesses move to your community because of a personal connection? To find out, survey your businesses and ask them why they located there. You may be surprised to find that their personal connections to the area outweighed traditional cost factors. Incorporate this information into your small business development and marketing programs. As you are reviewing and updating your marketing materials and website, ask yourself: are we making a personal connection with our images and content?
Finally, we’ll leave with you one of our favorite quotes from one of our favorite economic developers:
“Tell your story, tell it so often that others begin to tell it for you.” – Karlisa Parker, Director, Chester County Economic Development, SC