This post is only for some of you - very specifically the some of you who live in Lake County. I realize that this is a narrow spectrum but the ideas here can be transferred anywhere in the world.
There was a competitive bid to manage our county’s marketing programs and I won it. When I did, I asked my Facebook universe for things they’d like to see the County do in marketing. Some of the answers were interesting.
Recently I was at a home improvement store and saw this light which was very clearly market “The Brightest Light in this Store.” Well I’m nuts about lighting and I have some camping plans so who could turn down a light so advertised? After all, a monster headlight could be both useful and fun.
This light is how a lot of people see the County’s marketing program. Based on some of the Facebook posts and what I’ve heard from people since earning this contract, they want me to be that big, bright light. They want all the marketing to come from a single point and eliminate the darkness that is a lack of tourism here during certain times of the year.
Until recently I ran a resort here in Lake County and one of my biggest challenges was being the only point of light marketing that resort. While we did a really good job letting people know our little slice of heaven was here, we were the lone beacon in this effort in some ways.
I write this because so many of our customers would share with me that they had been aware of my resort for many, many years but hadn’t come up because they looked around the area and saw what they perceived as a lack of things to do in the area. Once they came and finally visited, they were surprised by the number of things there actually are to do in the area.
The problem here is that our resort’s marketing was really good but that other business owners didn’t see the point of using the Internet to share the good news about their businesses. So we were like that crazy bright flashlight that I bought as the sole point of light for many people.
The better solution is to have lots of little lights all over the place. With more points of light all over the combined glow is significantly brighter and you illuminate all the corners of a room rather than one big, bright light that only lights up a portion of the space and can actually be distracting.
The other problem with the big bright light is that it leaves a lot of the space in the dark. While it may be fun to play with a big, bright light it doesn’t do an effective job of illuminating a room.
In the past year I’ve noticed a dramatic shift in how the County does their marketing to be more targeted and to use more modern tools to share the message of this area. At the resort that I ran, I noticed a significant change in both the number of people who came (there were more) and in their awareness of various things in the area.
Using contemporary tools to spread the message is effective. People who have the money to travel tend to be connected to digital services nowadays in every age group.
So while the bright light theory has a positive effect, by spreading the light out to other sources and points you get much better illumination and a nice, even glow.
This even glow is caused by the small tourism-related businesses in the area adopting modern marketing tools themselves so that their message can be heard outside the immediate area. And this is relatively simple to do.
By our businesses in the area simply doing these two easy and free steps it will go a tremendous distance to putting Lake County on the map, literally. Prospective visitors to the area will see that there are lots and lots of things to do here and plenty of great places to eat and drink.
Food and shopping are the cornerstones of travel. Would it be great if we had a zip line? Absolutely. Would we all be a little better off if some investor reopened Konocti Harbor? Yup. But even if both of those things happened we’d still be better off if people could find your business on the Internet, so that basic step will always be a cornerstone of success here and everywhere no matter what else happens.
Because right now a huge number of businesses do not have these listings claimed and it’s truly hurting tourism. When people come up and use their smart phones to search for businesses and don’t see what they’re looking for they get frustrated and return home to tell their friends “there’s nothing to do up here.” It’s a huge problem yet it’s free and easy for any business to resolve.
The other thing you can do is share good news and positive messages. The County has a tourism-related blog on www.lakecounty.com and there are some pretty neat stories that are being posted there. If more people were to share those stories with their friends on social media that, too, would go a long way toward building the Lake County brand.
Notice that at no time did I suggest that anyone spend any money or do anything really tough? I sincerely believe that if we, as a community, simply get on the free web-based visibility tools and share some of the great things about this tourism destination it will serve us incredibly well. These are the tools prospective visitors are using and all we have to do is provide the information they’re seeking. That’s it!
The County will continue to shine its really big flashlight in the direction of prospective tourists to the area but if we all take a little of this light and also spread it around, it will make a tremendous difference.
So make sure you “Like” the County’s Facebook page. Claim and update the listings for your business on Google and Yelp. And share some of the stories from Facebook on your business page with your fan base.
While the County certainly has a voice that reaches tourism we’re a very small county relative to places like Mendocino so when we all speak together to share the message about what a wonderful place Lake County is I guarantee it will be a more powerful and more widely spread message. And that’s how we’ll make this wonderful tourism destination one that is very successful.
I sure hope you decide to be a point of light. It’s a very bright idea!