Thoughts about business and economic development in rural areas.


October 2008
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Archive for October 5th, 2008

The UNIQUE Factor

Sometimes we forget what makes our communities and businesses special. We get so accustomed to what we have that we either don’t notice it at all or we think that every community or business has the exact same things to offer. When we try to market ourselves we trot out the same brochure, the same webpage and the same trite phrases as everyone else. Oh, the photos and logos differ but that’s often about the extent of it. Then we wonder why our clients fail to see us as special. From their viewpoint we all end up looking pretty much the same.

Had a couple of reminders of that recently. I worked with a community center that is trying to expand its use by community members. We did a quick listing of advantages the center had to offer and I think most people were actually surprised by the length of the list.

I was also able to contribute one or two that others may have considered unique due to my experience as a trainer and speaker. The place has great acoustics and hearing a speaker is easier there than at almost any other venue in the area. That’s something I notice because of my personal background and am even more conscious of as I begin to suffer some of the hearing related issues that go with the aging process. If we hadn’t done the list would their attempts at promotion focus on what can really be quantifiable differences from the client’s perspective or would the group wind up doing the ‘same old, same old?’

Yesterday I took a drive to a nearby community that is on the Mississippi River. I stopped along the river dock and noticed an excursion boat about to take on a load of passengers. I asked if they had room for one more and after paying my fee I was off on a beautiful relaxing 2 hour river trip. Not a big deal but I’m sad to admit that I’ve lived relatively near the Mississippi for over 20 years and this is only the third time I have been on it. One of the greatest rivers in the world and I just take it for granted, rarely thinking of it as an asset to the area. The rest of the passengers were all from much farther away and were amazed to get close looks at five Bald Eagles and a falcon during our voyage. I see them all the time and I’ve forgotten what a thrill it can be.

Several years ago we had a client in from Germany. We were in the middle of the standard tour of industrial parks, buildings and communities when I asked if there was anything else we could show them. They immediately asked about the Mississippi River and whether it would be possible to see it. The river was only a half mile from where we were standing and there was a road that led out on a peninsula extending to near the center of the river and offered a stunning view. Our resulting trip out there ruined my schedule but provided our client with the most memorable part of his visit.

To them it was unique. A once in a lifetime experience. To me it was commonplace and I had never even thought to mention it. Duh! I made the mistake of not remembering to look at things from my client’s perspective.

Are you identifying the real unique factors that your business or area has to offer and more importantly, are you taking advantage of them? Or are you trying to sell the same stuff as everyone else? Guess which approach will make you unique in your client’s eyes?