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Innovative Ways to Market Your Community

Although marketing is an essential long-range strategy for helping a community to be viable and grow, many small communities lack the expertise and resources to mount a successful marketing campaign, according to a recent Rural Research Report from the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at Western Illinois University.

The report, "Innovative Ways to Market Your Community," by Ross Ament, president of Ament Associates Inc., presents several basic implementation strategies and brief examples of communities and regions that have succeeded in attracting new businesses by using a marketing approach.

With the proliferation and popularity of Internet-based marketing technology, community leaders are tempted to create websites and/or social media vehicles before engaging in planning for the selection of the appropriate marketing strategy. Selecting marketing and promotional techniques can be likened to moving through an abundant food buffet -- the choices are endless, so the participant tends to take a little of everything and not really engage deeply in anything. In creating a marketing plan, community leaders first need to identify what makes their area unique or what will attract visitors, new residents, or businesses. One frame of reference through which to view this process involves tourism and examining how even overnight visitors might play a role.

For example, if visitors have a great experience, the positive message they convey to friends, family and business contacts at home could persuade others to visit, too. This is an example of buzz marketing or word-of-mouth marketing. Buzz marketing is often overlooked as a strategy to be pursued with a defined plan of action. Word-of-mouth marketing succeeds because: (1) it is believable; (2) it is self-reinforcing; and (3) it is self-spreading. The foundation or essence of today's popular social media involves people talking or "buzzing" about something they have experienced, such as a destination.

A great visitor experience does not just happen overnight, however. Instead, it involves careful planning, identifying the community's brand, and partnering with local organizations, regional and state groups. Buzz marketing can be cost-effective compared with other promotional choices. However, using tourism as an example, it is important to narrow down which tourism segments best apply to your community. For example, agriculture tourism is one popular market segment.

Successful marketing of communities and regions can be accomplished using traditional methods, or communities can look for creative means to set them apart from competitors. These creative means do not always have to include expensive investments. The important first step is to create or update a marketing plan, including community assessment of the current and desired situation.

You can obtain a copy of the report by contacting IIRA at the phone number below or by downloading the PDF file at

Western Illinois University is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity institution. For more information about the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, see If you care to comment about this column, contact Timothy Collins at (800) 526-9943 or

Timothy Collins | Newswise Science News
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