Marketing a Town – (hint: If everybody else is doing it, don’t.)

Last night I sat in a meeting that seemed to drag on for hours. We discussed endlessly, with great confusion, what exactly is marketing, and how exactly should we be marketing a small town.

For the most part, I kept my mouth shut. Marketing, to me, is the story you tell. It’s the story you tell to the world of who you are and what you’ve got to offer. In the case of a small town, what’s the story we’re telling our visitors? What’s the story we’re telling the people who we’re trying to convince to move here? What’s the story our current residents are telling their friends who complain about the high-cost of city living?

If we don’t have a story to tell we’re just as boring as the next town. Now I know what you’re thinking, of course we have a story to tell. We’re a community that’s diverse and rich in history! Well hold on there buckeroo… everyone’s got a similar story.

Hang around me long enough and you’re bound to hear about the Purple Cow. Seth Godin taught me about the Purple Cow.

When you drive through the French Countryside, all you’ll see are cows, black & white cows. Momentarily, you’re enchanted by the cows. After all, you’re in France. But after three hours of seeing the same old cows, you’re bored. They’re all the same. Every cow looks identical.

But what happens if you see a purple cow? A purple cow is remarkable! You stop the car, you take photos, you spend time & money. You might even want to live near that purple cow.

How exactly do you become remarkable? Here’s what I think.

Every town has the same tourist guide. Jokers are wild – they’re all the same. Will the next retired couple looking for a weekend getaway pick up your town’s guide off the shelf? It’s the luck of the draw.

Every town has the same website.

Every town has limited funds and ability to market itself the way we’re taught to market in school, let alone remarkable marketing.

Every town is black & white.

Of course, every so often you run into a purple town.

Using the word “every” is never fair because there are always exceptions to the rule. Every is too concrete. But the simple truth? You don’t want to be part of “every.” We’re at a moment in time where another study or survey isn’t going to tell us the story. We already know the story. It’s up to us to take the story and bring it to life. It’s up to us to make sure the story is purple enough.

And if it’s not purple – well… keep driving, there’s another town a few kilometres away.