Sometimes it takes an outsider to see the forest for the trees.
I had the extreme pleasure of speaking to the members of the Humboldt County Community & Economic Development association in Arcata, California. For those of you that haven’t made the trek out to Humboldt County – you should. Five hours north of San Francisco, by car, or a short forty-minute flight into a darling little airport transports you into one of the most entrepreneurial small towns I’ve ever visited.
Nestled among the Redwoods, Arcata and Eureka, California are home to businesses like Los Bagels, a Jewish-Mexican bagel shop and Fire & Light, a recycled glassware company. The community is teaming with creativity and innovation. But when it came to marketing their community, finding consensus hasn’t been easy.
What makes Humboldt County unique?
The fact is, Humboldt County is unlike any other place in the world for one single reason: the Redwoods. The air is cleaner than anywhere else in the country, the water is clear and pristine, the scenery, fog and rain are all part of what make the Redwoods, Humboldt County and everyone of their businesses unique. Finding, expressing and committing to your unique value in the marketplace is the only thing that builds a powerful brand and after two days of debate, I’m confident that Los Bagels is unique because the water their bagels are boiled in is the same water that makes the Redwoods grow… it’s magnificent.
A rising tide lifts all ships
Working together, each and every Humboldt County business can help tell their unique story in the context of the Redwoods and as result build the Humboldt Made brand. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” In that vein, I’ve put together a list of ten things everyone in Humboldt County needs to start doing today to help build their community’s brand:
- Create content once a week. Every business in Humboldt County should be publishing 300 – 500 words of content every week. The assignment is simple: express what makes your business unique in the context of the Redwood forest.
- Build a daily promotion routine. Every business owner/marketer should spend a minimum of fifteen minutes a day reading your Humboldt neighbor’s content. You should be promoting it on Facebook or Twitter, or even LinkedIn. You should be emailing it to your vendors and partners or clients and customers. Imagine if everyone in the community spent a small amount of time consuming and distributing your content?
- Connect your online content to the Humboldt Made brand. Immediately, every one of the businesses in Humboldt County should create a new webpage on their site, expressing their pride in being part of the Humboldt Made brand. Linking to (and expressing your enthusiasm for) not only the Humboldt Made site, but other businesses that your consumers might really enjoy learning about.
- Structure a Humboldt Made newsroom. Assign someone to be in charge of the content production and distribution process for the Humboldt Made website. You’ll need an Editor-in-Chief and a Managing Editor (one to measure the success of the platform and one to manage the mechanics of assigning and delivering content weekly.)
- Once a month, every business should write one article to be published on the Humboldt Made website. The Humboldt Made team should manage and assign broad themes (perhaps monthly) designed to build a clear understanding of the brands that make up Humboldt County. One month, the theme might be about “The Rivers” the next it might be about “The Fog.” Tell the rest of the world how your Redwoods personify your products and services.
- Build a promotional routine for your content. As you publish your content spend at least half an hour promoting it in four ways:
- Intrapersonal – post it on a ‘group’ in Facebook or Linked In. Find a group of digital influencers and prosumers that you are getting to know and spend sometime to understand what kind of content they consume. Post your content there.
- Interpersonal – write a personal email to at least three of your business contacts – make sure you make the content relevant to them.
- Broadcast – broadcast your content on any channels you participate on (Twitter, perhaps.)
- Direct Mail – if you have a customer database, send the content to a subset of your list. Help them understand that you’re story is what makes you unique.
- Get to know your audience. As a Humboldt business, seek out the influencers in your market. Read their content, comment on their blogs. Consume everything they create. If everyone in Humboldt picks their niche, you can build a very powerful set of content consumers.
- Build a finite universe on which you’re all going to participate. The Humboldt Made team must focus their efforts on helping to build a small online universe in which the entire community is participating. Are you all on Flickr, YouTube (or Vimeo), Facebook, Twitter? If so, make sure everyone knows how to use those platforms and ensure that active participation is part of your daily, weekly and monthly routines.
- Email someone else’s content to your customers, clients or friends once a month. Every month, pick a piece of content written by another business in Humboldt County and share it with your customers. This kind of cross-promotion helps reaffirm the fact that Humboldt Made is a bigger brand with unique values that extend across brands. It also helps introduce new products and services to other’s around the world.
- Embrace the Redwoods. No matter what else you believe makes Humboldt County unique, work creatively to bring it back to the Redwoods. Remember, the Redwoods are a gateway to a deeper brand relationship with an iconic natural element that no one in the world can take away from your community. Embrace it.
I’m eager to return to Humboldt County and only hope that the entire community can embrace the Redwoods and help everyone prosper by associating their unique business to the natural wonder and beauty of their community’s biggest (literally) asset.