How To Market a Small Town in America or UK
Marketing a town or region is very similar to marketing any other product or service. You have to start by defining the product and the audience, then determine where the audience hang out and the messages that will attract them. But You Have a Marketing Advantage I Will Explain Later.
I was intrigued when Deborah asked for my advice, and ideas, on how to attract people to visit, and do business in, Grenada, Mississippi. In fact, I was so intrigued that I got carried away with answering and wrote far more than I intended!
Starting With The Basics
Before starting this project I needed to understand the basics.
Grenada is just off Interstate 55 about 100 miles north of Jackson and 100 miles south of Memphis. There are three universities within 60 miles. So the area we can reasonably expect people to visit from would be at least 110-mile radius, and Deborah was keen to put a good focus on Memphis.
In one sense Grenada is very much like thousands of other small towns in America. But it does have a few things that made it stand out for me. Checking out Gerenada on Wikipedia showed me that it is actually listed as a city, with a population of around 13,000 at the 2010 census. So it’s very similar in size to the small town I live in in the UK; Sidmouth, Devon, with a population of around 12,000. Somehow that made it feel a lot closer to me and easier to understand.
And like my town, Grenada has a lot of history and an illustrious list of notable residents, past and present. I was especially intrigued to see that Magic Sam and Magic Slim had been brought up in Grenada. Armed with that news I’m listening to Magic Sam as I type this page. (Magic Sam was an American Chicago Blues musician/songwriter who learnt to play after listening to Muddy Waters records).
In the UK we use the Blue Plaque system to highlight the locations people lived. It’s something that could work in Grenada. There are 64 in my small town.
But it doesn’t end there. Grenada is history-rich; civil war history-rich. Plus I know it is a farming area that has a history of growing cotton (there used to be 400 local cotton farmers – guess how many there are now?), peanuts, corn, soybeans and pecans. And on the back of its farming and growing, there’s a farmers market which started to give me a clue as to some of the area’s problems. The LocalHarvest website lists the Grenada farmers market but the last update was in 2012 and is indicative of the dearth of online information about the area.
And The local Chamber of Commerce is similar. Its message seems to be that “Greater Grenada is a place where the good life is greater” but gives no detail about the area except the schools are good (show me an area that doesn’t claim this). There was a mention on this site of the Farmers Market .. a post that Deborah had added in 2013, but no one else seems to have bothered since and one person can’t do everything.
I had high hopes of the Grenada Commons YouTube site .. but the last upload I could see was five years ago.
Worse still, for days I couldn’t find a website for the airport. There’s an old wiki page and a Facebook page that’s not been updated since 2017. And on Google My Business (GMB) there isn’t a single review!
Website Problems That Don’t Help Marketing
Eventually, I found the visitgrenadms website. Sadly it didn’t inspire me. The fact it took so much finding is part of the reason. But my concern is compounded by the fact it is an http site and not an https site. So Google doesn’t see it as a secure site and pushes it down the search results.
In addition to this, and the lack of interesting content, it is technically a very poor site. Its using WordPress version 4.9.8. The latest version is 5.4.1. So its old, insecure and not regularly serviced. Ironically this update could be automated, it takes a few seconds .. but no one has set it up to do this. I would be asking the designer why?
I could talk more about the lack of SEO on this and other sites. The lack of optimised meta tags, plugins that have not been updated and could easily be hacked, the lack of really basic practices that would raise the sites and Grenada up the search engine results. Most of these tactics are free and it’s sad to see how the town is missing golden opportunities.
Sadly, all the websites I could find about Grenada lacked depth and any reason to visit beyond thin rhetoric.
Sell the Sizzle
If Grenada is to develop tourism and inward investment it needs to show the public why they should visit. It needs to sell the sizzle, not the sausage.
Regards visitors, the market Deborah and I discussed was over the 50’s travellers’ niche. They have higher levels of disposable income and the ability to spend locally. Specifically, there’s the opportunity to focus on attracting those interested in music, history, the outdoors (especially with Grenada Lake on the doorstep), plus cultural and creative activities. But these need to be highly visible if anyone is to visit.
Deborah also mentioned the Get Away to Mississippi Mayberry idea. Most Brits will not understand the term, Mississippi Mayberry, as it is based around a fictional community in American sitcoms. Though the fictional Mayberry was based in North Carolina the Mississippi Mayberry idea is already well established with many Mississippi towns across the State claiming to be like Mayberry.
My Question Number One would be why do you want to do what plenty of other towns in the State are already doing? It seems counterproductive. Surely it’s better to be unique and stand for something that matters to you and is only available through you?
Question 2. So what about commerce? Is there an inward investment opportunity that will bring visitors with it?
I have a few ideas that could be shared on inward investment at another time but they need a bit more research. My question here is why isn’t the Chamber of Commerce putting more about inward investment on its website?
How To Market a Small Town: How to Stand Out From The Crowd
If you want to stand out as different you have to be different. Grenada has some advantages here. Look at the list of notable people listed on Wikipedia. Sportspeople, musicians and plenty of politicians.
And Grenada is listed, at least peripherally, on sites such as Active Times as part of the Mississippi winter scenic drive .. but you have to scroll a long way down the page to find it. And of course, that doesn’t make it different. It doesn’t really make it stand out.
Places that really stand out have to do so for the unusual, the bizarre, the picturesque etc. And even picturesque is claimed by so many places. So let’s look at some examples of strange, unusual places that have created their own unique proposition.
The ones I know best are from my part of the world. The UK. But they serve as exemplars.
How To Market a Small Town With Peas!
The village of Witcham is found if you keep going once you’ve reached nowhere. It’s in the depths of the Fens of Cambridgeshire but far from the world-famous university town of Cambridge. Leave Cambridge and travel to the cathedral at Ely, then keep driving towards the horizon. Eventually, you come to Witcham and its 429 inhabitants.
Witcham isn’t big, but it punches way above its weight. For the last 49 years, Witcham has held the World Pea Shooting Championships each year. It’s yet to become an Olympic sport but it’s on the world map and attracts international competitors. In fact, it’s been won by an American twice!
And if you think Pea shooting is weird, try Welly Wanging. Upperthong in Yorkshire holds the Welly Wanging World Championships, though several places hold regular events.
And we shouldn’t forget the sport of Bog Snorkelling Not forgetting mountain bike bog snorkelling and the Bog Snorkelling triathlon.
All these events attract people from far and wide and some have lasted 50 years, so are sustainable.
Sadly its too late for Grenada to get in on the act with these sports but you might think of something else that could become a world championship and attract tourists several times a year, putting Grenada on the map.
More Thoughts on How To Market a Small Town, Such as Grenada
Having looked at all the assets that Grenada can tap into I’m thinking about another G … Glastonbury. In 1970 Michael Eavis launched the Glastonbury Festival in the UK and attracted 1500 people.
Today Glastonbury attracts an international lineup and 150,000 tickets are sold in a few hours of being released. Michael Eavis didn’t start as a music entrepreneur. He farmed cows! But he started Glastonbury after visiting a local blues festival.
And Grenada is music rich. So why not emulate Glastonbury with its own unique of music event?
Before deciding on the genre, let’s look at the town music heritage.
Music in Grenada
Grenada’s music heritage goes back many generations but let’s start with modern-day Grenada. Charlie Worsham was born in Grenada in 1985 and his music is Covid Ready and Quarantined!
Going back a few years Eddie “Chank” Willis (June 3, 1936 – August 20, 2018) was an American soul musician who made a cool sound. “An Anonymous Legend” indeed.
And how about free jazz legend Frank Wright, also from Grenada.
And Walter Davis of Ashes in my Whiskey fame. Another Grenadian
Magic Music in Grenada
All the guys playing above are sound choices. Bit what if we add some additional Magic?
That’s Magic Sam and Magic Slim. Two more Grenadians that made it big.
So whether you run a Magic Music event or a ‘Tween Memphis and Orleans” event there are music opportunities that could be big. And maybe its a blend of genres or several events each year as Grenada becomes a new music centre of the USA .. you have to think big!
How To Market a Small Town: Grenada’s Marketing Advantage
At the outset I said there was an advantage a town had over a single business doing its own thing. It’s simply this.
You can market as a team. There are 13,000 people able to benefit from marketing Grenada and you all have skills that can be used. It can be a group event .. though perhaps led by a few natural leaders.
And of course if the area and an event are successfully marketed everyone wins. For example, music festival visitors need to eat, and people like Deborah can use her expertise from running her four local businesses (including three catering and hospitality businesses) to get a concession to provide food and drink at the events.
And if everyone is going to be on the team Action Point One is to sort out all those thin websites and social media accounts. Make them sing and dance!
Where’s the Market for a Magic Music Event?
Just having the idea for an event to put Grenada on the map isn’t enough. Before investing, time, effort and money let’s get some facts.
What genres are popular in the US? The following isn’t definitive but is indicative. More research is needed before committing to anything but Blues scores 20%, That sounds low but think what the biggest Blues event in the US could achieve. And don’t underestimate the Magic connection.
Find more statistics at Statista
For the sake of argument let’s assume we go for a Magic Music event, where could we advertise?
Promoting Magic Music Grenada
I’ve quickly analysed 456,741 online sources including social media posts and websites to see who talks about the Blues and where they say it.
26% of them follow/share/engage (FSE) with the Blues Hall of Fame.
24% of them FSE with the American Blues Scene
22% of them FSE with Blues Magazine.
17% FSE Delta Blues
The image below shows the words and phrases they use when they share and write content.
Where are these Blues people active?
According to my research Blues fans love Facebook. Here are the results.
Using Twitter a a baseline of 100%
YouTube 26.2% No wonder there’s so much video available
So posting on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram is a possibility. As is Youtube.
Cross posting on several social media platforms is likely to be much more powerful.
How To Market a Small Town: Magic Music Venues
Glastonbury operates on one site with strict entrance security. But it’s possible to fly direct by helicopter. From my home, it’s only £4434 + VAT one way! But people do pay this amount to attend .. so its something to consider when you have an airport or even an open field nearby.
Other events operate over several events in an area. For example, Sidmouth Folk Festival, the biggest music event in my small Grenada-size town, attracts tens of thousands of people and runs in venues and on the streets. Sidmouth also has a Literary Festival and a Science Festival each year. Each event attracts thousands of people and keeps Sidmouth on the map.
The real magic to getting visitors to visit Grenada comes when we start looking at data above and cross-referencing it against the data on people that are interested in aircraft and could fly their own plane to an event.
Or those with an interest in, say blues, and birdwatching (don’t forget that the Chakchiuma Swamp has an incredible array of birdlife, especially summer migrants such as prothonotary warbler, summer tanager, white-eyed and yellow-throated vireo, northern parula, yellow-billed cuckoo & snowy egret).
Cross Reference Your Niche Markets For Sure Gold
These cross-referenced research datasets allow the town to target people that are interested in say, Blues, could fly in and have an interest in ornithology. It’s a very tight niche market that are easy to target and very profitable if you get it right.
So, for example, I’d not only sort out the websites, I’d write articles and posts for the relevant magazines and websites/blogs. I’d check out the influencers in these niches and target them and their followers. And Id repeats this for each niche market I could identify within the geographic limits I set myself. It needs a detailed plan that is meticulously followed. But the rewards are huge.
Does This Work For Any Town Or Audience?
The above was written as an example of How to Market a Small Town and used Grenada as an example. But the principles behind it work for any town, city or state. It also works for a product or service. Marketing isn’t different for each of these .. despite what many claim .. the basic principles are the same whatever the product, service, geography etc.
That’s How To Market a Small Town