We’re not selling Pepsi

In community promotion, we’re not selling Pepsi to billions. We’re selling communities to dozens.

Pepsi’s 2015 advertising spend was $2.4 billion dollars, which amounts to less than 4% of their $64 billion revenue. That kind of money pretty much gets you in front of anyone who eats or drinks.

That’s all of us (give or take …), so Pepsi is selling to literally everyone. It takes a lot of dollars to reach the ears, eyeballs, and hands of all seven billion of us. So actually, $0.33 spent on advertising per person is probably a decent investment.

Municipalities, on the other hand, are not selling to everyone. There’s a freedom in embracing that thought, even as you refine your focus to a razor sharp point. Municipal promotion and place-branding applies to tourism, economic development, investment attraction, and business development (a group of activities I’ll call community promotion).

If those of us in the business of community promotion aren’t selling Pepsi to billions of people, who exactly are we selling to?

Let me answer with a quick story from my home in Medicine Hat, Alberta (population 65,000, 3 hours drive from the nearest international airport).

We are a group of three, tasked with investment attraction for our city. Over the past few months we have hosted decision-makers and influencers from companies currently valued well over $100 billion dollars (That’s nine zeroes and yes I had to Google that).

How did companies like that end up in a place like Medicine Hat? In truth, they came simply because we invited them.

We know what industries we can compete in, and we know on which points Medicine Hat can compete. So we take that information and (here’s the really out-there part) we go to industry conferences. We go and shake the hands of company influencers in the spaces we can operate and we invite them to visit us.

We seldom advertise in the traditional sense (its impact is minimal, at best). We don’t reach millions, or even thousands. It wouldn’t really help us.

We understand who we are, where we can compete, and who is interested.

This isn’t a unique situation. Nearly everyone in community promotion operates in a space where they can know the first and last names of exactly who they’re selling to. At that point, it’s a case of picking up the phone or sending an email.

The truth is, every community has a competitive advantage, and that’s all it takes. There’s no need to overthink it.

Take that one advantage and go tell a company’s business development person about it. Shake a few hands and invite them to your community. Refine the message as you go. You will see results.

Think of the reaction you’ll get from an audience of dozens when you can speak directly to them instead of speaking to thousands or more.

We’re not selling Pepsi to billions. We’re selling communities to dozens. It’s a liberating thing to realize and allows you to sharpen your message to a very fine point. Match that point with the right audience and you’re in business.

It’s a simple approach, but a novel one. And it’s producing results.