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Advertising to Charlottesville’s Transient Population

advertising Businesses in charlottesville, tourism, university of virginia, students, young professionals

Whether its the hippest, happiest, healthiest, most exciting or one of the best cities for entrepreneurs, Charlottesville has much to offer “locals” as well as its multitude of annual visitors.

Awards and Recognition for Charlottesville from charlottesville.org website
Awards and Recognition for Charlottesville from charlottesville.org website

Every year local businesses advertising in Charlottesville, Albemarle and surrounding counties experience an influx of prospective customers that are not familiar with their brand.  Considering why people are coming and who they are, can inform how a local business may choose to advertise in this transient marketplace.

They’re Coming to Charlottesville

The University of Virginia

Increase in new enrollment from www.virginia.edu/facts
Increase in new enrollment www.virginia.edu/facts

Residents in Charlottesville and local businesses no doubt are aware of the fact that the University of Virginia brings new students, graduate students, faculty and staff into the area each year.  The ebb and flow each semester can be felt anecdotally as anyone driving up and down US 29 can clearly see.  Charlottesville’s population of over 46,000 adds over 15,600 undergraduate students, and over 6,300 graduate students throughout the school year and these students change and are increasing every year providing a steady stream of newcomers into the local market.

 Healthcare – Top Hospital in Virginia

Another contributor to local visitors, The University of Virginia Health Systems, is nationally ranked in the “Best Hospitals” and “Best Children’s Hospitals” by U.S. News across many specialty care services.   They are also listed as the #1 Hospital in Virginia serving more than 840,000 outpatient visitors in 2015 alone.  Needless to say this is another catalyst for visitors to the area.  Not only the patients but friends and family will also visit the area due to the healthcare services provided.

Central Virginia Tourism – Historical Locations, Vineyards and Changing Leaves

Local businesses are also aware that tourism brings in the visitors however, the growth of tourism and actual numbers may be surprising.  In 2015, the greater Charlottesville area experienced almost $1B in revenue from tourism according to a recent article in The Daily Progress.  And according to Forbes.com, over 500,000 people visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello each year.  This is just one, albeit the most famous one, of three nearby homes to former U.S. presidents with Montpelier and Ash Lawn also drawing their fair share of tourists.

Agritourism, wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries are gaining popularity throughout the region with the young professional and other crowds.  Thousands line Skyline Drive every year to take in the majestic beauty as fall begins in the Shenandoah Valley.

Fall foliage alond Skyline Drive
Fall foliage along Skyline Drive

Also, concerts, festivals and other shows continuously bring new visitors to the local market.  The LOCKN’ festival alone had over 30,000 in attendance this year in neighboring Nelson County.

The fact remains that whether by VW van or jet airliner, large numbers of people are traveling to this area throughout the year.  In fact, The Daily Progress article states that, “according to the CHO website, the airport has seen a 63 percent increase in passenger traffic from 2008 to 2015, with 549,521 traveling through the airport in 2015.”

How Does This Influence Advertising A Local Business?

There are many reasons for the growth and dramatic change in the local demographic throughout the year in Charlottesville.  This ever-changing base of potential customers presents unique challenges to the local business and entrepreneur.  Some traditional approaches to advertising may not be as effective.

For example a business that invests in building a brand to a static population, though continuing to invest in feeding the top of the funnel, may be able to shift dollars away from branding and over to other tactics including promotions and discounts, retargeting and customer loyalty.  They may even rely more on word-of-mouth referrals.  The business may also be able to leverage past experiences and proven channels to consistently market the business in a stable and effective way.  In reality, they may even be tempted to rest on their laurels and just do that what they have always done since it continues to work.  For this business, perhaps nothing more is needed in order to maintain a profitable enterprise.

In a dynamic environment, the business owner must remain vigilant in order to be successful.  A transient customer base may require additional branding efforts as new people need to be introduced to your business, product or service daily.  Also, each attraction to the area brings a different demographic.  The millennial University of Virginia student will have different interests, needs, and behaviors than a retired historical sight-seer or an international patient’s family.  Wise advertisers will keep in mind seasonality, locations, audiences, and interests within the local market in order to be the most effective.  Proven methods from the past may need to be revisited with each entering class to the University.

Where to advertise will continue to evolve.  What local radio stations or other traditional media will visitors most likely be exposed to while in the area?  What print resources are these visitors picking up and reading?  What is your digital strategy?  Are you considering more mobile advertising as smartphones and tablets are much more likely to be used than desktops for entertainment, content consumption and researching local businesses by the visiting population?  Having an awareness of the local economy and changing customer base provides business owners the information they can use to develop the most successful advertising plan.

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