UACES Facebook Creating Jobs by Adding Love to Your Community – Part III
CED Blog

Creating Jobs by Adding Love to Your Community – Part III

by Mark Peterson, Professor - February 5, 2018

I know this sounds like a fluff title, but in this article you will see one of the most powerful ways to make your community, organization, or business stand out, and attract people, money and jobs. Part I of this series described multiple small businesses that arose next to a national park, while Part II of this series included the Price Value Curve and how adding value to the assets of your community, organization, or business draws people and customers to your community. It also allows you to charge higher prices. Moving from non-differentiated commodities to products and services, to packages, to experiences, to love is a path to more value and jobs. 

Tourism Example: Consider visitors coming to your community, staying in an inexpensive hotel, eating at fast food restaurants (because your other restaurants close early), and renting a boat to go fishing. Contrast this with visitors going to a neighboring community for a tourism package that includes staying at a bed and breakfast (or Airbnb), eating at a really nice restaurant, enjoying an eco-tour and guided fishing expedition the next day, and ending their stay with a visit to a local artist to have their portraits painted. Which community is going to thrive in the long run?

Local Foods Example: Consider the contrast between buying tomatoes in a grocery store (a commodity) vs. purchasing heritage tomatoes at a farmers’ market during a music festival, at which time you and your love ride around in a horse-drawn carriage with a bottle of champagne, and a violinist in the back of the carriage playing your favorite music. 

Retail Example: Your retail store sells many products also sold be big box stores. It is a very competitive business, based primarily on price. So adding value to your products through extraordinary service and other benefits could give you a competitive edge over your competitors. You have the opportunity to know and understand your customer and his/her needs better than any large discount retailer.

How much are people willing to pay for an experience they will never forget? Do you want to compete with every other community or business on the basis of the lowest price, or do you want to do something so extraordinary that people will go home and tell all of their friends and relatives?

The ultimate on the Price Value Curve is Love, which are those products, services, and experiences that we fall in love with. Think of some incredible experience you had – a place you stayed, a restaurant, a family vacation, or service you received that just knocked your socks off – this is the power of love. It touched your soul, and you experienced personal delight that is uncommon in our life experience.

The Power of Love – Raving Fans

When your community, organization, or business achieves this with your visitors, two things happen:

  • Price becomes less important, and your visitors will pay more, a lot more, because you have touched their soul. Disney World is an example, and people pay $3,744 for a 7 day vacation for a family of four to go there.
  • Because you touched them on a personal level, they not only want to come back again, but they will tell all of their friends and neighbors about this incredible experience. They could become raving fans and become your greatest sales people! Wow Meter

Take a look at this WOW meter – when people visit your community, event, or business, what do they experience?  Where would they rate their experience on the WOW meter?

Just as raving fans return and bring their friends, so can disgruntled customers do real damage to a business.  Consider the couple who had a lousy experience at your restaurant: not only will not be coming back (5 times over the course of a year x 2 people), but they will also tell their friends (10 friends x 5 times), and will go on-line to give your restaurant a terrible review (200 visitors). You have just lost 355 meals!  It would have been better to have given them their meals for free, coupons for free meals, and a box of chocolates!

Branding and Becoming Part of Their Identity

If your community has an attractive and compelling brand – a logo and tagline that expresses who you are and what you promise to the world, it is easier for your visitors and citizens to relate to and remember your community. Every good brand has a brand promise, so it is important for you to deliver on your brand or you will never see them again. Actually, in the digital era, you probably will never see them in the first place, as on-line reviews of your community tell the world that you promise a lot and don’t deliver on your promise.

Brand Example: Heber Springs AR has adopted the brand “Spectacular by Nature”. This is a compelling brand and builds on the natural assets in the area – a beautiful lake, river, and  wooded hills. It also has a second meaning, implying that if you visit Heber Springs, you will have a spectacular experience because the community and its people are spectacular; it is their nature. Now that is a brand promise!Heber Springs Spectacular by nature logo

                                                                                                         https://www.cityofhebersprings.com/

It may even become part of their identity – of who they are. Harley Davidson motorcycles is a great example.  Many Harley riders wear Harley Davidson t-shirts and jackets, because being a Harley rider is an expression of who they are – tough, rugged, independent, and mobile. How would you like to have visitors to your community or business so excited about what you offer that they wear clothing with your brand on it, advertising you to the world? I Love New York brand and t-shirts is another example.

Forming an On-Line Community

Another dimension of love is the formation and nurturing of an on-line community, using digital tools such as social media. A few examples:

  • My home town of Stanton, Iowa (pop. 637) has a homecoming event every five years to welcome people back to the community for a weekend of fun activities and remembrances. Between these five year events, they use Facebok and an e-newsletter to keep people informed of activities, and invite them to participate and support them. This greater Stanton community includes people who used to live there, property owners, and anyone else who has some connection to the community.
  • King Arthur Flour company creates an on-line community in which their customers share recipes, tips, and stories of baking with their flour, with part of the profits going to worthy causes.
  • Harley Davidson supports the development of Harley Davidson clubs in local communities around the nation. What a great marketing tool!

Strategic Questions for You in Your Community

  • What do you do to really make your community extraordinary and personal for your citizens and visitors?
    • When the owner of an edamame (edible soybean) company from China visited Arkansas to scout possible locations for an edamame plant, Gary Baxter, the mayor of Mulberry, took him fishing. It was a gorgeous day, and the owner stated that this is the kind of place he would like to live, so he built the plant in Mulberry.
    • When the Arkansas Economic Development Commission board, their spouses, and senior AEDC staff met in Morrilton a few months ago, community and Conway County leaders pulled out the stops to create an extraordinary experience, including:
      • A bus tour of the community, led by Morrilton Mayor Allen Lipsmeyer and the owner of the radio station,
      • A reception at a home on Petit Jean Mountain with a spectacular view at sunset,
      • A terrific dinner at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, with the award winning Morrilton high school choir serving as the wait staff and staging a flash mob concert!
      • “We wanted them to think that if they have a prospect, they won’t be embarrassed if they send them to Conway County,” states Jerry Smith, President and CEO of the Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce and Breakthrough Solutions Partner. This is an understatement – they have set the bar high! 
    • When AEDC is contacted by a prospective manufacturing plant, do you think Conway County will be on their radar screen? By the way, the next time some important prospect or group comes to town, do you think the leaders of Morrilton and Conway County could pull it off again, even in short notice? The short answer is YES to both of these questions.
  • Does your community actively communicate with and involve external stakeholders of your community? Do you even have a list of who they are and their up-to-date contact information?  This includes people who used to live there, absentee property owners, utilities, companies with a facility in your community, state and national elected officials and agencies.
    • One of the class projects of New Vision Newport, the leadership program of Newport AR, was to create a comprehensive, up-to-date list of Newport alumni – people who at one time lived in Newport. They then use this list to keep them informed of current activities and projects, and the opportunity for them to support these projects.
  • If you own a business or are involved in an organization, what can you add to your products or services that would make them extraordinary – the love factor?
    • When a young couple purchased Ciao Restaurant in Little Rock, the husband was the chef and the wife the hostess up front. The hospitality and food was so terrific that a regular clientele developed, and the clientele even created a web page for the restaurant and started a scholarship fund for the couple’s children. What a great example of loyal customers!
    • An individual in Seattle stopped by a Nordstrom’s store to purchase a shirt, but they didn’t have the shirt in his size. The sales person learned this individual was flying to Chicago, and when the person landed at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, he was met by a Nordstrom’s person with the shirt in his size. Do you think that guy will ever buy his shirts from any other place in the future?
    • Sometimes just adding technology will do it. Several years ago I was on a flight out of Chicago and sat next to a woman and her teenage daughter.  We visited for a while, and I learned that she lost a son in the war in Iraq. She then produced a framed picture of her son in uniform from her purse that had a recording on it, in which he told his parents that he missed them and loved them. Do you think she will EVER part with this?
  • Is your community clean and beautiful?
    • Vaughn Grisham, author and community development expert from Oxford MS, asks a community: “If your community does not show that the local citizens care about it and how it looks, why should anyone else want to move there?”
    • Grisham tells how he asked an industrial site locator what he looks for in a community, and was surprised to learn that this individual always visits cemeteries in the towns he visits, stating that if a community doesn’t care about those who have died, they have little respect for the living.
  • Is your community welcoming to outsiders?
    • Businesses, families, entrepreneurs, and retirees looking for a community to move to will first visit your community’s websites and review travel websites, which will reveal a lot about your community.
    • Secondly, if they do visit your community, if they don’t feel welcome, you won’t see them again. How long does it take them to find this out? In less than two hours they can visit with the lady at your quick stop, stop by the chamber office to see what information is available, have lunch at the restaurant across the street, and read the local newspaper. 

Summary

People are on the move. They move from communities, organizations, and businesses that don’t fill their needs to communities where they do, where they feel the love. You can have all of the hard stuff – infrastructure, schools, incentives, work force, etc., but if you don’t have the soft stuff that shows you care about your community and them as visitors, they won’t come, or they won’t come back. Why should they?  How can you have extraordinary experiences when your motels are second rate and all of the cute stores on Main Street close at 6 p.m. and on weekends? In this digital era, if you are closed or don’t have a web presence, you don’t exist. 

Would your community pass The Gate Test? If a fence was built around your community and someone opened the gate, would more people come in through the gate or would more people leave? 

Remember – people don’t care how much you know about your community until they know how much you care about them.