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Advertising to Charlottesville’s Transient Population

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.

Winning With A Unique Customer Experience

Today I visited a prospective partner and they began to share their standard process for welcoming a new patient to their practice.  This experience included a tour of their office, introductions and a small gift bag.   Small things, but even these little differences can make all the difference.  Today business owners are continuing to look for new ways to differentiate themselves and outshine the competition through an enhanced customer experience.

This reminded me of an article I read recently entitled, “Consumers Just Want to Have Fun” which originally appeared in August’s edition of STORES Magazine.  Excerpts and the link to the full article are below.

“Since consumers can now find what they want through so many more channels, the fresh, new, authentic, unique experience will be the one that wins.”

‘Recreational retail’ transforms staid shopping experiences into memory-makers

Sean Selby doesn’t look at rock climbing as simply exercise — but then, he doesn’t look at retail buildings as spaces to just buy and sell, either. ” READ HERE

Telling the STORY of your Brand

Telling your story and how that story truly relates to customers from THEIR point of view is truly the quintessential element in successfully marketing your business.  And your story has nothing to do with your “friendly staff” or your “great prices” or your “convenient location.”

Your brand story is ultimately what people think and perceive about you when they hear your name or consider your business.  Deborah Shane of Small Biz Trends explains that your story “is a complete picture of the facts, feelings and interpretations, which are shared about your business by you, your customers, your community and the public in general.

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She elaborates further by noting that to effectively convey your brand story you need to focus on the following:

1- Be simple & specific

2- Tap into emotions

3- Focus on your specific truth

4- Use first-hand real examples

5- Make it relatable

Read the full post:  What is Brand Storytelling