It's Spring! That means many different things to residents of Northeast Michigan: yard work, home maintenance, planting flowers, cleaning. For me, it means honing my knowledge of local attractions so I can properly serve as an unofficial tourist guide to visitors of the region this summer.
Inevitably I'll be walking through the grocery store, down the sidewalk, or stopped at a gas station when someone will stop me to ask, "What is going on around town this weekend?" Or, ask for directions to the beach or community gem like the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary's Maritime Heritage Center. Sometimes I even find myself talking with clerks and cashiers about local events and activities while they are ringing up my purchases. It's so easy to get stuck in a regular routine of work and responsibility that even we local folks need a reminder once in a while.
Being a promoter of our community certainly isn't in my job description but that doesn't make it any less my responsibility. If we all took a greater interest in our community and made a habit of talking positively about it whenever the chance arose imagine how much energy that would infuse into the environment. Word-of-mouth is still the best (and cheapest) marketing tool around. It is estimated that Facebook will reach 1 billion users this year, and Facebook is nothing more than people talking about things happening in their lives. Simple word-of-mouth spreads messages, starts revolutions, and can create lasting change.
How can you create positive word-of-mouth and help promote this community we all love? Here are a couple ideas to get you started:
Familiarize yourself with local attractions by visiting them. If you can't physically visit, check out websites. A great place to start is www.alpenacvb.com.
Get used to sprinkling your conversations with local information. "What's going on this weekend?," "Have you been to the museum's new exhibit yet?," "How about a concert in the park and then some ice cream downtown?"
Cross promoting our community within your business. Nothing impresses me more than when I see information about area activities being prominently promoted inside of our local small businesses. Is telling customers about the Brown Trout Festival while you're at the cash register going to help you sell more products? Probably not, unless you sell fishing gear. But it will give your customers a more robust experience and leave them feeling like your business cares about the community. People support businesses that think outside of themselves and offer something back to the world.
Select a local attraction or event and make it your mission to tell everyone you know about it.
Encourage out of town friends and family to visit Alpena this summer. My Mom- and Dad-in-Law own cottage rentals in the area and I love reading through visitor comments. Many people coming in from out-of-state have called Northeast Michigan a "hidden treasure," "the best place for a family vacation," and even "the best kept secret of the United States." Sometimes we really don't know how good we have it here until we see it through a visitor's eyes.
What does promoting our area through regular everyday conversations do for us? It increases appreciation for what we have to offer, encourages others to take a closer look, and fosters a greater sense of community. Tourism brings in dearly needed dollars for our local economy. Alpena and the surrounding areas are a beautiful place for vacationer's to get a real taste of America. We're all in this together. Let's start talking.
Mary Beth Stutzman's Inspiring A-Town appears bi-weekly on Tuesdays.