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5 Big Marketing Ideas for Rural & Small Communities

Rural and small communities face different challenges than large metros, but that does not mean they can’t have a creative and effective marketing program. In a recent IEDC webinar, Development Counsellors International shared several marketing tips for “the little guys.” In case you missed it, check out five tips from the webinar below:

1. Connect with Current & Former Residents

Trevor Lee, Executive Director at Valley County Economic Development in Ord, Nebraska (population 2,112), approaches current and former residents in unique ways that are yielding results. He and his team targets seniors – both in college and in life – as a part of his goal to attract talent to the region. Here are three interesting examples:

  • One way Mr. Lee connects with former residents is by making connections with senior citizens on their own turf. He visits the local senior center, joins early bird coffee drinkers, and joins Sunday worship activities at local assisted living facilities. During these talks, Lee visits with seniors about their grandchildren and other relatives. Through these conversations, he can gather contact information about residents’ family members who live outside the region, but have an interest in returning. He then conducts targeted outreach to former residents, and he has seen some of them move back to Ord as a result.
  • Valley County Economic Development also sends college seniors a creative Valentine’s Day mailer with a USB stick of information about working and living in Valley County.

Ord, Nebraska talent attraction tactic

  • At the end of each school year, the Valley County team presents to junior and senior high school classes to increase awareness about opportunities in their hometown. They also gather contact information from students and information about their future plans.

2. Influence the Influencers

According to DCI’s Winning Strategies Survey, it is estimated that site selection consultants influence 40 percent of location decisions. Below are four ways to connect with this audience:

  • Desk-side Visits: Leverage your travel to a key market where many consultants are located, such as New York, Chicago or Atlanta, and meet with consultants at their office for a sit-down conversation about your community. These face-to-face connections will help you build better relationships so that consultants will know who to call when they have a potential project that could be a fit for your community.
  • Community Tours: Nothing beats seeing a place firsthand. Inviting site selectors and other influencers to visit your community and showcasing your greatest assets can be a powerful way to sell your community. Many communities – both large and small – conduct yearly familiarization tours. Check out eight tips for a memorable site selection consultant FAM tour here.
  • Consultant-only Events: Attending a site selection specific event, such as the Site Selectors Guild Annual Conference or Consultant Connect is also a great way to network with this group.
  • Share News (rather than newsletters): Distribute news as it happens on topics relevant to site selectors – such as expansions/relocations, key business rankings about your community or workforce news. Instead of a long e-newsletter format, which may work well for your local stakeholders, keep your email communication short by sharing a piece of relevant and timely news.

3. Tell Your Story Via the Media

Is the media talking about your community? Articles in newspapers and magazines are the second leading source influencing executives’ perceptions of a community’s business climate, according to Winning Strategies.

LA Times Salina

As you think about your community’s stories, run your ideas through the “FUEL test” to help determine if your story is newsworthy to national or regional media. FUEL stands for First, Unique, Extraordinary, Largest.

Stories in your community that truly fit this description are often worthy of national or regional media attention.

4. LinkedIn is King

Seventy-four percent of corporate executives with site selection responsibilities use LinkedIn for business. Here are three ways to take advantage of this platform:

  • Build up your connections: Make it a habit to connect with new people after an event, tradeshow or business meeting. The more connections you build, the more you can leverage those connections for introductions to potential investors or influencers via LinkedIn. We do not recommend trying to connect with people you do not know.
  • Research leads in advance of meetings/opportunities: Put on your “stalker hat” and check out prospects’ profiles in advance of a meeting. Additionally, you can use LinkedIn to research reporters in advance of pitching them. LinkedIn’s search tool allows users to find people based on location, company, industry, education and other factors.
  • Advertise to target companies: While ads can be pricier on LinkedIn than some other online platforms, they are highly targeted. LinkedIn’s advantage is it allows you to target very specific groups, titles, companies, locations, industries and more so that your ad only shows up where you specify, and you are only charged when someone clicks on the ad.

5. Wooing State and Regional Allies

Build close relationships with your state and regional economic development organizations by inviting them to visit your community every year and keeping them updated on new developments. Look for opportunities to partner on marketing missions, trade shows and special events. Additionally, find opportunities to link to their website, or ask them to link to yours, where appropriate.


Does your community use any of these tactics to combat marketing challenges? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @aboutdci.

Written By

Rachel Deloffre

Rachel Deloffre is an Account Director at DCI. Since joining the company in 2011, she has carried out strategic media relations and marketing campaigns for clients ranging from the country of Colombia, to the city of Calgary, Alberta, to the Port of Long Beach. She has also assisted in executing a talent attraction campaign for the Research Triangle region of North Carolina.

More Articles by Rachel Deloffre

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