Seeing this article, I’ve been saying this forever and felt at times I’m talking to a brick wall. I even talk to our school children in classrooms when given the chance too. Travel Backroads online directory is just one way I have put actions to my words. I’ve made listing in my Directory so affordable and still I don’t think people “understand.” It’s about seeing the “big” picture here.
Part of the reason I started Travel Backroads is for this very reason. I have blogged about it on my website, I’ve even written articles on it for my job as an economic development director. It’s not just the backroads nor is my Directory just for the backroads. It’s for all those local businesses, stores, specialty foods, and more.
But hit a store like Herbergers and everyone feels it. Now the fight has become even bigger and we’re staring a giant in the face. Now it’s a race to save some of these stores that took business away from our small towns to begin with. We’re going to lose some favorite stores because were buying online, taxes aren’t being paid, dollars are going away. (hoping this changes with our state government to tax us when buying more online.)
Now I begin to wonder is what we’re doing FUTILE?? My starting a directory to help small communities on the highway‘s and byways or downtown cities because theyre independently small businesses, is it a waste of time?
I think I can picture what those early businesses in the 1900’s felt when our country was getting established. How they must have felt when the larger community took their business away and they had to close up shop.
What does the future hold? What do you envision? Use our stores just for items we run out of? We’re fighting to keep a certain lifestyle from being eradicated. What does the future hold for all sizes of communities? It’s coming folks, it’s here and it’s changing.
Have you thought about your role in this?
By Katy Kassian
Long before co-promotion became a buzzword, we were doing it. Most of us were. It is a means of staying relevant and sustainable in even the worst of times and in the most remote of locations. Did I mention FREE??? Or nearly Free??
Twenty plus years ago we purchased a restaurant sight-unseen-on-a-handshake at a football game. Yes- that is a true story.
Most of you know that drumming up business in a very small town, off the beaten path, takes creativity and tenacity. We began co-promoting right away. Our reasons were many; to make more money, to raise awareness, to make advertising more affordable, to get people off the interstate, and on to our little highway and to utilize all the assets our bitty town had. Remember- this is before the advent of social media.
We co-pro’d with our neighbors at the little hotel. They had their brochures at our cafe, and we had menus in every room. We constantly advertised together and did many creative promotions- targeting everyone from travelers to truckers.
We co-pro’d with neighboring towns. Our nearest towns had bitty populations- 29, 300 and 175. That is only 600 combined (including our town) in a hundred mile stretch. Each of these towns cafes, (and not much else) and we all had kids- so we began a summer of “cafe racing” We rotated going to each town and having go cart races in front of each cafe.
We co-pro’d with the bitty video store. Dinner and a (rental) Movie promotions. We let customers drop their movies off with us if they were in town early.
Our version of Redneck Revenue was a little unorthodox, but it did was it was intended to do. It also highlighted what cooperation and collaboration can do.
Fast forward 20+ years. We are now in North Dakota. Again- miles from anywhere. We have co-pro’d with MoJo Roast Coffees, Inner Flair Fashions and others- All of them over 100 hundred miles from me. Even in other states. Thanks to the internet and UPS, anything is possible these days! One of my favorite projects was working with MoJo Roast to design and brand custom gift bags for “Dakota Fred” Hurt of Gold Rush fame (on Discovery channel)
What can I say?
Need more inspiration? How about a limo service pairing with a retirement home to offer discounted rides to shopping and appointments? It is a way to stay busy during slow times, and a limo ride would be fun!
How about a local farmer/gardener pairing with a spa- they could sell fresh fruits and veggies to the spa to make into smoothies for their customers.
A B&B or lodge co-promoting with a florist. The florist could provide a weekly centerpiece in exchange for the B&B recommending the florist for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays etc.
A bank and a coffee shop- The bank could offer a ‘free’ coffee card to to the coffee shop to new customers and the coffee shop could in turn promote the offer.
A local contractor could co-promote with the wedding planner to offer discounted services to newlyweds on their fixer-upper.
So~How many things can you think of?? Get creative. Think outside the box. Work together.
Everybody wins when you work together.
Katy "Kate" Kassian is a rural and small town consultant with Tait and Kate Consulting. She and her partner Annette are passionate about helping small towns and local businesses thrive. Drawing on a combined 50+ years of experience, Tait and Kate showcase "whole town" salesmanship and customer service, hidden assets, co-promotions and more. Katy and her family farm is in central North Dakota and is also the owner of Buffalo Gals Mercantile.