Effective promotions will benefit Boundary County businesses and organizations if they are developed and implemented strategically. They must be market-driven, or targeted. They must be integrated - each promotion action taken should complement and enhance other promotion actions so that there is an overall "system" of promotions that collectively speak to the appropriate markets. Finally, promotion actions must be consistent. Consumers will be confused if the promotion strategy changes direction every few months with no consistent messages over time.
There are essentially three phases to the promotion strategy:
1. Organize for promotion
2. Implement promotion actions targeting strategic markets
3. Track and evaluate promotion effectiveness and adjust
Each of the three phases requires oversight from the Partnership with input from key players (businesses and organizations). Development and implementation of promotional image, themes and actions will require professional management by a contracted marketing/advertising agency. Implementation also will require the enthusiastic support and participation of local businesses and organizations.
Phase One, Organize for Promotion, involves formalizing a standing Promotion Committee to oversee development and implementation of the strategy. Once organized, the Committee will agree on components of the conceptual strategy, decide on an image, or "brand" for Boundary County and Bonners Ferry, meet with an advertising agency to discuss implementation details, and solicit support of local businesses and organizations.
Implementation of the promotion strategy will target strategic markets in concentric circles surrounding Bonners Ferry and Boundary County. The geographic target markets include Boundary County residents, regional residents in surrounding counties and provinces, and visitors from greater distances. Within each of these geographic markets, there are a number of important demographic sub-segments with varying needs for products and services.
Promotion actions will be identified to reach each of the target markets, and an implementation calendar and budget of actions developed. The Committee will oversee implementation, but will work with professional staff of the Partnership and the advertising agency to ensure timely and professional implementation.
Once promotion actions are implemented, they should be tracked and evaluated for effectiveness. The Committee needs to solicit volunteer assistance and participation from businesses and organizations (such as youth groups) to help track results of promotion activities, and then evaluate the return on investment over time. Results will not always be immediate - it takes time to enhance a community image and "get the word out"; however, with perseverance, strategic promotions will increase business sales in Boundary County.
Organize for Promotion
a. Formalize a Promotion Committee
The Partnership and Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce should initiate a standing Promotion Committee to oversee implementation of community marketing and promotion efforts as outlined in this plan. Volunteer members will work with the professional staff of the Partnership and a contracted marketing firm to finalize a detailed promotion plan, including themes, actions, budget, timeline and sources of funds. The Committee should include representatives from a variety of businesses and organizations in the city and county (retail, service, tourism, professional, medical, education, arts/culture, Kootenai Tribe). A sound organizational foundation will be necessary for success of the cooperative promotion program recommended in this plan. Businesses and organizations will benefit most effectively from promotion efforts by working together.
b. Agree on Conceptual Promotion Strategy
The first action of the Committee will be to review and discuss the promotion recommendations in this plan, and reach agreement on the conceptual strategy. The discussion should include examination of promotion goals, target markets and promotion actions proposed to achieve the goals (sections I3-I5). Once the Committee has agreed to the conceptual strategy, they should proceed with creation of an overall promotion image for Bonners Ferry/Boundary County, and meet with an advertising agency to discuss implementation.
c. Develop an Overall Promotion Image, or "Brand"
Consumers respond best to product promotions that include familiar themes and images (Mickey Mouse, Golden Arches, Nike "Swoosh"). Companies and organizations use brands to promote their products and services to specific segments of consumer markets. In this case, the "product" is the Bonners Ferry/Boundary County community, its businesses, services and events. Boundary County is a special place. The Promotion Committee should develop a "brand" for Bonners Ferry/Boundary County, and encourage all businesses, organizations (such as the hospital and schools) and events to use it. The brand will reinforce local citizens' pride in their community - they'll feel good about their home and want to support it. That support will include shopping in local businesses, support of schools and hospital, and participation in local events. The brand also will be used for promotions to attract visitors to the community.
The brand should be focused on the markets, both local and visitor, and "speak" to those markets both graphically and verbally. In other words, the brand should appeal to the values of Boundary County citizens and visitors, and reflect the uniqueness of the place (its niche) and its most important assets. Sidebar 4.1 describes the components of a brand.
Downtown Bonners Ferry needs to develop its own identity as the social, civic and cultural center of the county. In order to position itself as a unique commercial and civic district, Downtown could use the logo developed for the community as a whole, but add the word "Downtown" to it for use in Downtown promotions and events. Downtown even may want to develop a special slogan. Use of a Downtown image that is complementary to the overall brand will help identify Downtown as a unique place, while still retaining continuity in community-wide promotions. All Downtown businesses and organizations should use the Downtown image in their individual and cooperative promotions, to ensure that consumers receive a clear and consistent message about the place and its benefits.
d. Meet with an Ad Agency: Develop Detailed Action Plan & Budget
Effective promotion strategies require expertise. A marketing and advertising professional understands promotion principles, and how to balance various strategies to create a comprehensive promotion program. A marketing/advertising agency can advise, create, implement and oversee a successful promotion program cost-effectively. The Promotion Committee should meet with an advertising agency to discuss the conceptual promotion strategy and ask them to develop a detailed proposal for an annual promotion program. The proposal should include themes, design ideas, campaign components (brochures, ads, mailing, Internet, billboards, etc.), timeline and estimated budget (with cost options).
e. Obtain Support for Promotion from Businesses, Organizations
When the Committee has reviewed agency proposals, and made preliminary decisions on action, they need to gain support of local businesses and organizations. In 1999, Boundary County retail and service businesses cumulatively spent approximately $750,000 on advertising (based on 1%-3% of gross sales, depending on the business category). If businesses are presented with a high-quality, comprehensive promotion program for the community, and they invest only 10% of their annual advertising budget to support it, the cooperative marketing budget would be $75,000 (15% would exceed $112,000). A budget of $75,000 - $100,000 (or more) could create an effective promotion program. If done well, it would be more effective than the sum of all current advertising by individual businesses.
To be successful in soliciting commitments, Committee members will need to be prepared and persuasive. The advertising agency can assist by giving a formal presentation at a Chamber general membership meeting, and providing effective information materials about the program. Businesses should be approached to participate by committing to invest: this is not a donation - it is an investment from which they can expect a monetary return in the form of increased business. Monetary commitments are necessary for the success of the program, but "in-kind" support also can be helpful (labor or materials, distribution assistance, etc.).
An important component of the promotion program is a formal mechanism for tracking and measuring results. Businesses should be told up front how the results will be measured, and what role they need to play in helping to measure results (e.g., tracking customer traffic, sales, etc.). Once the promotion program implementation has begun, the Committee will need to maintain regular communication with partners and supporters to solicit feedback on the impact of the program.
Promote to Local Residents
This section and the following ones provide suggested promotion goals, target markets, themes and actions focused on building business from local and regional residents and tourists. The Promotion Committee will prioritize and refine this list as they develop a detailed annual promotion program.
Local Resident Promotion Goals:
* Build awareness of planned community improvements, goods and services available locally
* Enhance the image of Boundary County and Bonners Ferry
* Reduce retail leakage from Boundary County (increase local spending)
* Attract new local customers through promotion
* Create excitement ("buzz") and build momentum
City & County residents: families, youth, seniors, cultural and religious groups, "natives"/"newcomers", Downtown workers
* "Big Things Are Happening!"
* Convenience of Doing Business Locally
* More Than Meets the Eye (large variety of products/services available)
* Social Benefits: Personal Service, Friendly People, Meet Friends
a. Create Awareness Piece for Planned Community Improvements
Inform county and city residents of plans for Downtown, South Hill, industrial development/job creation, river walk and cultural center through a direct mail newsletter or newspaper insert containing "Today" and "Coming Soon" photos (before/after) as presented in this document. Use the promotion piece also to list upcoming events, meetings and other ways for citizens to become involved. As implementation efforts progress, create follow-up promotion pieces to celebrate successes and give updates on further improvements.
b. Develop Rack Brochures About Local Goods & Services
Many residents do not realize the quantity and variety of goods and services that are available locally. An inexpensive series of topical 3-fold rack brochures (produced on a PC to be updated and copied regularly) would help citizens and visitors to know what is available. Potential brochure topics include:
* Dining & Entertainment (restaurants, bars, regular ongoing activities such as movies, pool, bowling, music, etc.)
* Shopping Guide (retail stores listed by category)
* Auto Services (sales, service, repair, etc.)
* Business Services (printing, copying, fax, computer, etc.)
* Professional Services (legal, financial, medical, etc.)
* Events & Recreation (event calendar with details, outdoor recreation activities, outfitters & guides, golf course, etc.)
c. Implement Publicity Campaign
Regular publicity about "What's Happening" will build and maintain momentum as project implementation moves forward. Activities like press releases, ribbon-cuttings, media interviews and community web site bulletins/e-mailings will keep citizens informed of progress (e.g., "Big Things are Happening in Downtown Bonners Ferry!"), and encourage them to "come and see for themselves."
d. Promote the Community Brand
The community brand (logo and slogan) should be distributed to local businesses and organizations to use in all of their promotions. Examples of cooperative uses for the brand are:
* Shopping bags with the brand and list of local retail businesses
* Seasonal and event banners to hang Downtown and on South Hill
* Image/theme advertising for the community, Downtown, etc.
* Specialty give-away items such as pens, key chains, etc., and souvenir items sold in stores and at the visitor center (t-shirts, hats, post cards)
e. Create Theme Events to Build Business Community-Wide
Theme events provide residents a "reason" to do business locally - they create something special to do and encourage social interaction. The list of possible themes or events is endless; however, any events that are planned should be market-driven - targeted to specific customer segments. Theme events do not have to be major productions. They can be as simple as a sidewalk chalk art activity for kids. The goal is to generate excitement, involvement, and most importantly, business sales. Events must be planned to encourage business sales - not detract from them. Examples of theme events are the following:
* Boundary County Dine-Around: restaurants provide sample-size portions of specialties. Attendees buy tickets, go from restaurant to restaurant to sample the foods, or gather in one place where restaurants set up booths. Restaurants that are located some distance from Bonners Ferry could set up temporary "restaurants" in town, or partner with another restaurant.
* Teen Days: job shadowing, dance/social (street dance Downtown), teen fair in Georgia Mae Plaza (booths, music, food, outdoor movie)
* Senior Specials: mid-week or morning promotions, combine with service or health-related activities (blood pressure checks, etc. - co-op with hospital), workshops and social activities related to businesses (senior book club, investment club, etc.)
* Spring "Spruce-Up": promotions built around all aspects of improving home/garden (cleaning, lawn, furnishings, paint, fix-up), personal appearance (hair, nails, wardrobe), auto (purchase, tune-up, repair), family future (financial, legal wills/trusts, household budget) and health (diet, exercise, medical/dental, spiritual). "Community Spruce-Up" could be a 5 or 6-week series of community improvement, each week focusing on a different theme. The Partnership could begin by offering to haul yard waste, unwanted items, etc. for cash or donation to the needy.
* "Back-to-School Checklist": mailer or large ad with items listed by category, along with business locations to find them
* "Village Christmas": events, roasted chestnuts, gift list ads (item/place by category - "Gifts for Him", "Gifts Under $20", etc.)
* Farmers' Market: Saturdays, expand to other days, with entertainment
* Music on the Plaza: invite local musicians (youth, seniors, etc.) to play for "Brown Bag Lunches", "Live After Five" one day per week in Summer, etc.
* Grandparents/Grandkids Day: organized activities, plus shopping time
* Cultural Celebrations: celebrate together: Kootenai Tribe Pow Wow, Hispanic holidays (Mexican Independence Day - Sept. 16, Revolution Day - Nov. 20, Flag Day - Feb. 24 and Cinco de Mayo - May 5). Other cultural events include arts festivals, dinner theater, etc.
* Kids' Activities: parade, treasure hunt, Santa, art contest/display, sidewalk chalk art, theme competitions, etc.
* Winter Blues-Beaters: local residents stay close to home in winter due to weather and road conditions. Target locals with themes to beat winter doldrums: January "Beach Party", Snow Festival, etc.
* "Neighborhood Shopping" for South Hill: focus on youth, neighborhood residents, walking for health (after sidewalks installed)
* VFR (Visiting Friends & Relatives) Campaign: ask residents to invite friends and relatives by submitting names to Chamber to mail visitor packets. Resident is entered in drawing to win trip for winner and guests
* Coupon Books: encourage patronage of local businesses with coupon books provided to locals, VFR, tourists - hotels, outfitters
f. Enhance the Web Site to Promote Local Products & Services
Bonners Ferry has a web site which provides information to potential visitors, plus a list of Chamber members. The addition of a searchable database of goods/services available locally, and some web-based events to increase site traffic, would promote businesses more effectively. Perhaps BFHS students could work with site hosting firm Keokee Creative Group to update, maintain and create marketing programs for the site.
g. Encourage Business-to-Business Cross-Promotion
For Bonners Ferry/Boundary County to reduce the amount of retail leakage from the community, local businesses need to support each other - including their competition. They need to know which products and services are provided by other businesses, and direct customers there if they do not offer what the customer needs. Businesses even could set up displays of products/services in each others' businesses, or "adopt a vacant storefront" Downtown and set up displays. Additionally, the Chamber should sponsor a "familiarization tour" for visitor center volunteers and hotel desk clerks to do a walking/driving tour of local attractions and businesses.
h. Encourage Citizen Participation in Improvements
Citizens will spend more money locally if they have an investment in the community. Local residents can participate in improvements by helping construct the river walk, painting a building for the farmers' market, planting trees/flowers, and buying engraved bricks for a sidewalk strip or plaza. Volunteer involvement also promotes a sense of community.
Promote to Resident Regional Markets
Regional Resident Promotion Goals:
* Encourage more frequent visitation
* Create "Weekend Getaways" or "Mid-Week Getaways"
* Extend the duration of day trips or overnight trips
* Increase spending (net revenue gain to county)
* Neighboring counties
* Surrounding states & provinces
*( "To" travelers (destination) and "Thru" (pass-through) regional resident travelers
* Something unique/special in Boundary County
* Convenience (next door, nearby, "just down the road")
* Friendly service, appreciate your business, Canadian at par
a. Create Weekend & Mid-Week Getaway Packages
Encourage this market to visit more frequently and stay one or two nights by packaging rooms, meals and activities (golf, Refuge tour, theater/event, guided recreation, shopping, etc.).
b. Link to Regional Promotions (e.g., "Do The Loop")
Participate in regional promotions sponsored by The International Selkirk Loop, NITA and others.
c. Target Regional Residents for Major Retail Events
Boundary County is "just next door" to these markets, so promotions for local residents (previous section) can be expanded in reach to target neighboring counties and provinces when events would be of particular interest to them. Events such as the farmers' market, cultural celebrations, dine-around, etc. would entice regional residents. Mail lists of visitors could be compiled for follow-up mailings to entice repeat visits during slow months.
* Canadian at Par Week/Month: slow times of year might be targeted to offer limited community-wide "Canadian At Par" events to draw visitors.
Promote to Tourist Markets
Tourist Promotion Goals:
* Extend Length of Stay (LOS) of existing visitors
* Increase average spending
* Capture more pass-through travelers
* Enhance/diversify tourism activities and attractions
* Leisure Travelers
* Heritage/Cultural Visitors
* Commercial Travelers
* Beautiful scenery, mountain setting, river amenity
* Fun activities - things to see and do
* Friendly people, good service, visitors welcome
* Idaho's International Gateway
a. Assist Potential Visitors During Trip Planning Stage
Promotion to visitors begins during their trip planning, when they contact travel information resources such as state and regional tourism organizations (e.g., NITA, Loop), AAA, magazines, travel agents and the Internet. Boundary County needs to be included/linked with updated information for travelers.
The Promotion Committee can assist and oversee this process, but volunteers have limited time. The Partnership staff, advertising agency and perhaps a BFHS class need to ensure that appropriate contacts are made. They can be assisted by staff from the Loop, NITA, Idaho Department of Commerce and others who are promoting regional tourism. Essential components of trip planning are the following:
* Internet sites and links: Bonners Ferry, Selkirk Loop, NITA, IDOC
* Visitor Guide to Boundary County
* Visitor Information Center (VIC )
* Selkirk Loop ("Do The Loop"): Bonners Ferry rack cards placed in brochure racks around Loop
* NITA: regional advertising, trade shows, rack cards around N. Idaho
* Tour operator and travel agent familiarization tours
* Media kits and familiarization tours for travel writers
* For pass-through travelers: billboards to draw visitors into town (esp. Hwy 2 to/from Canada and Glacier Park), enhanced entrances, wayfinding signs
b. Promote Local Attractions and Activities
Once visitors have arrived, they need good maps and information about area attractions, events and activities:
* "50 Things to See and Do in Boundary County": golf, museum, Wildlife Refuge, river walk, cultural center, Downtown historic walking tour, farm tours, packages with outfitters, shopping, dining, etc.
* Maps and Visitor Guide
* Opportunities to book guided activities (raft trips, hiking, etc.)
* Information placed in motel rooms
* Bi-lingual brochures
* Downtown business directory signboard with map and list showing locations of businesses
c. Follow-up with Mailings and E-mailings After Stay
For a personal touch, post cards and e-mails could be sent to visitors to thank them for coming and invite them to return. The post cards or emails could be sent by the Chamber, motels, outfitters, etc. Idaho Travel Council grant funds can pay for the cost of printing, postage and labor.
Manage the Promotion Program Professionally
a. Secure Funding to Implement Promotion Program
Implementation of key elements in the promotion program outlined above will require $85,000 - $120,000 per year in funding. Grant funds can be obtained from the Idaho Travel Council Travel Promotion program, Idaho Department of Commerce Gem Community Action program, USDA-Rural Development Rural Business Enterprise program, the Economic Development Administration and the businesses themselves. During lean economic times, it is difficult to convince businesses to commit to share a portion of their advertising budget for a cooperative effort. However, with $76 million in retail leakage from Boundary County, businesses cannot afford not to act cooperatively. Efforts to reverse the trend will not succeed without cooperation, and such efforts will support business and industrial recruitment efforts to diversify the economy and create more jobs.
b. Assign Responsibilities for Implementation
The Promotion Committee will oversee implementation of the program; however, as volunteers, they cannot be expected to do all of the implementing. The Partnership's professional economic development director can assist, and a large share of the coordination can be handled by the advertising agency. Business owners and organization volunteers can help with creative ideas, organizing for events, etc. - the Committee won't be able to afford agency staff time to do everything. However, with prioritization of actions, and identification of specific goals and timelines, a comprehensive program can be implemented cost-effectively.
Track and Evaluate Results of Promotion Program
The results of promotion program efforts should be tracked and quantified in order to evaluate their effectiveness (e.g., return on investment). Examples of tracking methods are the following:
* Retail sales by category
* Hotel sales and occupancy
* Outfitter sales and guest days
* Traffic counts
* Event attendance
* Foot traffic counts (in Downtown)
* Parking space occupancy
* Visitation to attractions (Wildlife Refuge, museum, etc.)
* Number and source of phone, e-mail, mail and walk-in inquiries at the visitor center
* Business customer counts and average spending per customer
a. Decide on Tracking Methods to Use, Establish Benchmarks
The Promotion Committee should work with Partnership and ad agency staff, local businesses and organizations, and visitor center volunteers to decide which tracking methods will work best. The Committee should obtain commitments from participants, and then provide a format (printed forms or electronic format) for tracking. Businesses can report results as percentage increases rather than actual sales or customer counts to protect their privacy (overall sales figures by category are available from the Idaho Department of Commerce).
Counts of traffic, foot traffic, parking occupancy and event attendance can be conducted by youth volunteers (or juvenile offenders doing community service). Visitor center volunteers can track inquiries and walk-in visitors.
Tracking will need to be supervised by the Partnership staff, and data should be compiled and reported at least on a quarterly basis (to reflect seasons). The first year of tracking should establish benchmarks (baseline figures) against which future performance will be measured. Tracking data for many of the categories listed above is included in this document for the years 1990-1999 (and most is available in monthly or quarterly breakdowns if desired). Each subsequent year can then be tracked to see trends over time as promotions are implemented.
b. Set Up Tracking and Reporting Logistics
A central tracking database or spreadsheets should be established and maintained by the Partnership staff as it is collected from various sources. Perhaps a Chamber volunteer or high school student could assist with the data management and reports. Regular reporting of results should be made to the community, Chamber of Commerce members, to local/tribal elected officials and to tourism partners (such as Selkirk Loop, NITA, etc.).
c. Conduct Annual Consumer Survey to Gage Behaviors, Opinions
Another way to measure performance is to conduct a consumer survey of Boundary County residents and/or visitors. Volunteers could assist with a resident consumer survey which would involve brief telephone interviews of randomly-selected households. Questions would gather information about shopping habits, impressions about the community, involvement in events and activities, media which influence their buying decisions and desired products and services. A visitor survey could be conducted by periodically distributing brief questionnaires to motel guests and tourists at the visitors center. Results would help measure effectiveness of tourism promotions and consumer satisfaction with the community.
d. Evaluate Promotion Efforts and Adjust
Various promotion actions undertaken by the Committee should be evaluated for effectiveness and adjusted as necessary. Every promotion effort will not be successful the first time. When an action does not bring desired results over time, Committee members should decide its future use.