The 7 Deadly Sins of Community Marketing

Notes from Business Retention & Expansion International Webinar


  • Nearly all communities in North America were founded on either transportaion or natural resources, as such are currently looking for their “Second Act.”
  • 30,000 states, provinces, counties, districts, cities, towns and villages in North America…All competing for tax dollars, jobs, and a piece of the economic development pie
  • “Drowing” in a marketing overload where by 97% of all community-based marketing is ineffective
  • We are now exposed to 5,000 marketing messages a day

Deadly Sins

Deadly Sin #1:  Trying to be all things to all people

  • Ask yourself if you have ever gone anywhere because they had something for everyone?
  • Too many communities and businesses stuck in “group hug or membership mentalitiy”
  • Cannot be all things to all people to win in today’s marketing efforts
  • To win, you must narrow your focus which you must stick to with the highest determination and confidence on what makes you different or clearly better
  • MUST jettison the generic
  • The Rule
    • Don’t be all things to all people.  Promote the primary lure.  Find your niche and promote it like crazy.
  • The narrower the focus, the stronger your success will be
  • Something for everyone will result in mediocrity and ultimate failure.  Memberships can kill your marketing efforts.
  • “Better to be a big fish in a small pond, than a small fish in a big pond!”

Deadly Sin #1.5:  Using Focus Groups

  • Cannot do branding by public consent.  Build brand on feasibility, not just local sentiment.
  • Focus groups are never the way to build a brand
  • Creative services usually don’t get it
  • Cute and/or cleaver rarely works

Deadly Sin #2:  Telling the World Who Instead of Why

  • Remember to always ask:
    • Does it make you want to go there?
    • Does it close the sale?
  • Why should I visit, buy or invest?
  • Importance in preceding order:
    • Why
    • Who
    • Where
    • What
  • Tell me WHY I should choose you, then WHO you are, WHAT you’ve got, and finally WHERE you’re located

Deadly Sin #3:  Boring Ads and Headlines

  • Stand out from the crowd and grab attention
  • 5 times as many people read the headline as those who read the body
    • 80 cents of marketing dollar spent on headline
  • Evoke Emotion, make a statement, and hit an emotional spot
    • This will create top-of-mind-awareness (TOMA) and a call to action
  • Top three inches of a brochure are critical and must promote the experience
  • Use bold fonts
  • Yellow on a dark background grabs viewers the best

Deadly Sin #4:  Selling Place Before Experience or Opportunity

  • Promote experiences first, place second and outline the difference
  • Overall, visitors don’t care about regions, counties, districts, cities or towns
  • Interactivity, not passive things to look at
  • Focus on people not places
  • Processional Photos
    • People
    • Evoke emotion
    • Forget boundaries
  • Video is the best way, but again must show difference or clearly show superiority
  • “Sell the rapids, not the river”
  • For economic development:
    • Sell the experience or opportunity not land, building or infrastructure
  • Forget boundaries!

Deadly Sin #5:  Missing a Call to Action

  • “It’s Showtime!  What are you doing this weekend?” – Call to Action
  • People more than place
  • Shopping and Dining as a brand?
    • Walnut Creek, U.S., pop. 60,000: over $1 Billion in revenues from shopping and dining

Deadly Sin #6:  Spending More on Collateral than on the Web

  • 90% of North Americans have access to the internet
    • Of those, 94% use internet to decided travel, live, work, establish business
  • On internet searches we type experience first, place secon
    • E.g. Car shows near Toronto
  • 86% of internet searchers don’t go past the 2nd page of results
  • 70% of advertisers are frustrated with their planning via web
    • Why?  Busy promoting physical attributes over experience
  • Search engine optimization should include opportunities
  • Provide specifics over generalities
  • Web is the #1 marketing priority but needs to be good enough to close the sale
  • 88% of destination marketing and economic development organizations spend more on printed materials rather than on the web
  • Recommended budget:
    • 45% internet
    • 20% public relations media brand building
    • 20% advertising to drive people to your website
    • 10% on collateral print materials
    • 5% outdoor, tradeshows etc.

Deadly Sin #7:  Being Everywhere Yet No Where

  • Repetition gets results
  • In the age of speciality, marketing needs to go for niche markets
  • Better to have ads in the same spots over and over again
    • E.g. Promoting amazing scenic drives in 2 or 3 car and driving enthusiasts magazines
  • Jettison the generic and find your niche
  • Tell why and get the attention
  • A bi-product of marketing for the people is the committee that compromises and kills a potential marketing home run
  • In the end you MUST deliver on the promise

Conclusion and Discussion

  • Sell the opportunity and where to find it and be specific!
  • Membership Challenge
    • CEO typically spend 80% of their time dealing with membership and fundrasing, and 20% on getting businesses involved
  • Tourism is your door
    • Investors come first as a visitor
  • E-Newsletters are good; however need to have relevant importance; otherwise you will have a hard time getting 5% of viewers to actually read
  • Can promote multiple angles but an overall theme should be present
    • Secondary branding should be geared towards overall theme and niche
  • For changing leadership and focu groups’ perceptions, best efforts should focus on grass roots rather than top-down and narrow focuses