Every community wants to grow. But not every community knows how.

Every community wants the kind of growth that creates a strong tax base to finance new infrastructure and provide new services expected by residents. If you don’t, people will move to communities that do — and then the decline in your community will snowball. A drop in your economy and population decreases your tax base and leads to higher taxes and lower services. Even if you are hoping your community can simply hold its own in terms of population and economy, you must market your community to at least replace the population and businesses that will inevitably be lost. 

But you must market your community with precision. Marketing today goes far beyond buying an advertisement that names your community, its slogan, and its contact information. You can no longer effectively market using pamphlets because people don’t pick them up like they used to. Even if you do get those pamphlets into people’s hands, you can’t be sure they’re in the hands of those interested in your community. Many communities turn to online media like Facebook with the hope of being more effective, but even Facebook isn’t what it used to be. The average age of Facebook users is over 40 and rising quickly. It also uses an algorithm that means your posts don’t show in users’ feeds unless you pay, and the value in that for community marketing strategies is minimal if it isn’t done properly.

Communities need smarter marketing strategies if they want to be successful. Before you consider spending money to market your community, ask yourself a few key questions: What makes your community unique? What is it you are selling to potential new residents and new businesses? Once you know what it is you are selling, ask yourself another question: What segment of the population would be open to buying what is offered by your community? These few questions alone will allow you to focus your resources on a target audience that will maximize results for your limited budget. 

When it comes to marketing, effective does not necessarily mean expensive. A great deal of the marketing of your community can be accomplished without any budget whatsoever. We often forget we have a built-in base of salespeople who can assist us, and themselves, at every turn: our resident population. Consider a community with a population of 1,000 residents that is working on a marketing strategy. The average North American knows about 600 people. That community would potentially have an audience of 600,000. If we remove people already resident in the community, duplicates, family members, and factor for demographics and age we still get a factor of 20. That means the community of 1,000 members collectively knows about 20,000 unique people with whom they can share the story of their community. 

Focusing on internal marketing strategies such as this turns the entire community into brand ambassadors and community salespeople. All that’s needed is to provide residents with positive messages and details about the community. And turn them loose. If only 0.5% of those 20,000 folks consider the community as a place to live or open a business, that is potentially 100 new people in the community (who will also bring their families), which would be a boom to many of our towns.

Every community is trying to attract more people and businesses, and some spend a lot of money on marketing. Good campaigns that use precious dollars as effectively as possible should start with marketing to those already in your community, leveraging the people you know. It is a modest but important first step. You will get a positive message out to your own citizens, and you won’t have spent valuable resources on brochures no one will see.