Influence over Numbers

Two things happened to me today (three if you count the dance move I did on a patch of ice in the middle of Third Street).

First, on my morning walk to work I listened to an excellent Design Matters podcast interview with Seth Godin. Seth and host Debbie Millman spent some time discussing the difference between your followers and your influence, with Seth commenting that he’s “not in the numbers business, but in the changing people business.” What he means is that you can have thousands of followers but little real-world influence. That point stuck with me, as it’s something that my colleagues and I have been discussing since I joined Invest Medicine Hat last year.

The second thing that happened was the New York Times published an insightful article about my city. In it, the author highlighted Medicine Hat’s early manufacturing boom, spurred on by inexpensive natural gas, and early city leaders’ decision to retain mineral rights instead of selling them to a private entity. Later on, in the 1970s, Medicine Hat’s petrochemical sector boomed. Along the way, a mattress factory exploded (Read the passage in the article – it’s fantastic).

As I’ve written before, economic development isn’t something that needs huge social media numbers to be successful. In this world, marketing success is in our ability to positively influence others. The team I’m on does our very best to continuously deliver well-written, well-researched content that highlights our community’s business assets. The goal is to encourage investment into our small, sunny little city. We’re not shy about our end game, but we take the rose-coloured glasses off and present real information related to the areas we can compete in.

Today’s New York Times article is an example of influence in action. It highlights all the same things we have been talking about and sharing over the past year. Our message is being heard by a small group of influencers, community leaders, and business leaders in Medicine Hat and across the country. That message is being carried and shared as far up the line as New York City. If I had to guess, I’d say that the combination of good content and being clear about our agenda has helped us gain trust and influence.

When it comes to marketing, I certainly lean towards Seth’s philosophy over the get-big-numbers crowd. Sure, it’s harder to quantify than impressions and click-throughs but 27,000 Facebook followers doesn’t matter if you’re unable to teach anyone something new.

Quentin Randall is a place-marketing specialist currently working with Invest Medicine Hat to attract investment to the small Canadian city. His tourism branding work lead to the establishment of Medicine Hat’s destination marketing organization.