We can learn a lot about small business marketing from the Alaska village of Talkeetna, which is about a two and a half hour drive up from Anchorage. With an area of less than 50 square miles and a population that fluctuates from 700 – 1,000, depending on the season, they seem to keep town hopping all year long. Some say this is the town that the TV series Northern Exposure was modeled after. If it wasn’t, it sure could have been.
Not sure if the town’s small businesses discuss their marketing together, but what happens seems to benefit all the businesses in town.
Attracting visitors with creative events is what they do best. The summer is easy. The railroad brings in tourist from cruise ships that stay in a lodge in town, and another lodge that is about an hour north. Tourists descend from the train and load onto buses that transport them to their lodging. But many stay in town for lunch, or grabbing a plane ride around Mt. McKinley, or floating on the rivers. Like I said, summer is easy. But even then the town comes up with other reasons to keep those visitors in town a little bit longer. On Friday evenings there is music in the park, and on weekends local artists gather under tents to sell their wares.
While the summer months may be easy, the winter months, which are October through April, are a bit more of a challenge. Marketing gets a bit more creative and non-traditional.
When you think of winter in Alaska, you might think of snow and the Aurora. But this village thinks on another level – people. Bring people together to share good times that are not the same old thing.
In December they host the Wilderness Woman Competition, which draws in people from all over the world. Bed and Breakfasts fill up, bars fill up, and restaurants fill up. You meet people around the bonfire burning in the middle of town. Since this is held in the dark days of winter, the bars fill up early. That night, the Talkeetna Bachelor Ball draws in even more visitors which bid on local talent. A weekend you do not want to miss. And the revenue from this weekend surely helps the local businesses through the month of December.
Other creative marketing events are scattered around the calendar. This weekend is St. Patrick’s Day, and we were hoping to head to Talkeetna for the weekend, but found out the Oosik Classic is going on – a ski event that draws in hundreds of skiers. No room at the inn for us. They did not stop there. Since this is St. Patrick’s Day weekend, there is beer tasting at the local Roadhouse, and I am sure plenty of green beer at the other bars and restaurants in town.
So what can your small business do to keep things rolling all year long? Let’s get creative. The buying public needs a change. Something exciting to get their brain juices flowing. Make them say WOW! I need to go there and do that. Share some of your ideas here.
Great article. I always love hearing about Alaska, America’s most enterprising state.
I’m in ecommerce (among other things), so the fourth quarter is huge. The challenge is to keep sales going all year around. To that end, we have email lists where we offer special coupon deals and discounts as well as news and light entertainment. Since our list members can see we don’t offer the special deals onsite, they are loyal. I was going through list records recently and was shocked to see how many people are still on our lists from when we started. And they still open our emails.
Email marketing is powerful.