Strategic Marketing and Communications Plan for The Village of Hastings

I was at the meeting at the Civic Center tonight, to listen to Karen Stinson of In 2 Marketing, Lynn Phillips, Economic Development Officer of the Municipality of Trent Hills, Hector MacMillan, Mayor of Trent Hills and a few others.

Here’s the skinny. The marketing plan is a 5,000 foot view of what needs to be done. The Municipality is going to put some money and resources into trying to help Hastings get through this by purchasing some advertising on radio, in newspapers and maybe with signage (though they are hoping a federal agency will pick up the tab for that). But if you are a small business owner looking for someone to tell you how you can get through this, then “…THE MARKETING OF THE VILLAGE OF HASTINGS AND TRENT HILLS AREA IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ENTIRE BUSINESS COMMUNITY.” (Direct quote from the marketing plan, including bolding and capitals). It’s up to you my friends.

The marketing plan has some generic advice, like provide excellent customer service, think outside the box, and cooperate with other businesses, but it’s a little thin on what you personally can do to make sure your specific business will survive. Fair enough. That is not what it was supposed to do. Karen suggested it was going to provide a detailed roadmap but I would suggest it is more of a tourist brochure…hitting some of the highlights, making suggestions of points of interest, and providing a few pictures.

The truth is, as always, the success of any business is going to rest squarely on the shoulders of the owner and employees. [To be continued]

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Certainly Ms Stinson did a credible job of pointing to things like staging special events, sending out press releases, creating a local web site (or focusing on the existing Chambers of Commerce website), and creating a newsletter (or using the existing newsletter “What’s Up  Hastings”, put out each month by Loraine Wilson), having a community calendar (like the one on the Chambers website) and engaging in promotion of all events to ensure word goes out. A lot of this has to do with driving more business to Hastings in the months before the bridge closes. All of it would tend to have a longer term effect, also increasing business in the months (summer) after the bridge re-opens.

There were also some suggestions for creating graphics, or a logo for the town that would appear in all advertising, tying things together into a coordinate whole. As one participant in last nights meeting expressed it, “It would give someone seeing an advertisement the recognition of having seen the brand before.” Generally a good thing.

I guess I was a little disappointed in how thin the help was for local businesses. It’s alright to tell them they need to get websites and to engage in social media more, but if they don’t know how to do it, or are faced with the upfront costs and then no understanding of how these tools should be used…?

And all of the other initiatives mentioned. Who does all of that – the press releases, updating the calendar, serving as front person for the special event coordination, placing the ads, doing the research to find out exactly who the target market is and how best to reach them? That could easily turn into a full time job for somebody. Dennis Savery, our Chamber president already has a full time job. I don’t see Lynn Phillips focusing THAT much energy on Hastings, to the detriment of her other responsibilities for Trent Hills.

I suggested to Lynn that Trent Hills should look to hiring a summer (four months) Co-op student from some local colleges marketing program. Should be able to find someone for $700 a week, or about $10,000.00 for the summer, maybe less. In addition to coordinating all of these initiatives, this person could be actively commenting on blogs, posting in forums, commenting on Facebook pages, writing articles for tourist sites, creating content for the local website (Chamber or otherwise) and helping local businesses perform marketing surveys, collect email addresses and a ton of other stuff I can think of just off the top of my head that would effectively use the Internet to generate interest and attract visitors.

I was also disappointed that there seemed to be little suggestion of using Facebook or Google advertising media. If you didn’t know it, using either of those channels, you can target advertising very narrowly. For the fishing tourist, you could create ads that were only seen on the computer screens of men between the ages of 30 and 55, who owned a boat, earned over $50,000 a year, who’s primary recreational activity was fishing and who lived within 70 miles of Hastings, north of Highway Seven. That is pretty targeted advertising.

Likewise, you could target retired couples who loved antiques, flea markets and auctions and who preferred to stay at bed and breakfast establishments in locations near the water.  (Well, maybe not quite that specific, but pretty close). And you would only have to pay for the advertising is someone clicked on your ad to find out more about your offer. Your offer could be a free 20 page booklet that outlined antique stores, flea markets, auction halls and bed and breakfast establishments near Hastings. The booklet could also include a calendar of events, information about restaurants, rental cottages and a list of all notable destinations of interest.

Money spent on that kind of campaign, at the rate of 20 cents for each interested ad reader might be more effective than $20,000.00 worth of radio advertising. Of course, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A mere $5,000.00 on Facebook advertising would ensure 25,000 views of the ad. and maybe 6 or 7,000 downloads of your tourist booklet, which people could freely share with friends. the booklet could have links right to websites built into it and could be read on peoples computers, smart phones and tablets.

Where is the brainstorming committee that could be collecting all of these ideas and then deciding which ones to implement. I think it is time for the Chamber to step up. I guess I will have to call Mr. Savery.