History Smiths
Because history matters. Including yours.


Your Subtitle text

The Business of History: What it is, and How it Can

Benefit Your Business or Historical Organization

These days, when people ask me what I do, instead of rattling off the numerous services and products I provide, I simply say, “I am in the business of history.”

Eyes glaze over.

“What does that mean?,” my inquirer asks.

“Well, it can mean many things,” I respond. “But what it boils down to is using history as an effective marketing tool for businesses, communities, and organizations, and making sure that those who “do” history are marketing themselves effectively.”

The fact is, people are interested in history. Look no further than David McCullough’s predictably huge book sales or at Ken Burns’ consistently vast television audience.

The challenge for those of us who “do” history is to present our stories in engaging ways — to make them relevant and fun.

The challenge for businesses, communities, and organizations that are trying to grow and thrive during “these challenging economic times,” is to find new ways to reach their markets.

I submit that history is an untapped marketing tool, and that’s where I can help.


Because of my “street cred” in history as an independent scholar and published author, whatever I provide for my clients is grounded in documented research. We create historical content, and apply it to existing and new marketing efforts.

The “products” we create together could take the form of a special event, display, walking tour, video, audio, website section, publication, media placements – the possibilities go on and on.


The results? You will add prestigious value to your brand, to your reputation. You will gain the approval and interest of existing customers, and you will attract new ones because you will stand out from the crowd.

Fans of history tend to be well educated and well off. That’s not a bad customer to have!


I recently worked with the Town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, to plan and promote their 375th anniversary. The yearlong celebration engaged residents and visitors alike. We were able to start re-branding Ipswich as “America’s Colonial Town” because of its early architecture — more colonial houses than any other town in America. You’d better believe that Ipswich’s cultural attractions, restaurants, and downtown businesses — all of whom participated in some way — saw a boost to their bottom lines! Tourism was up from spring through fall, and people spent money.

Another project involved an insurance agency in Salem, Massachusetts, which was celebrating its 100th anniversary. Rather than just throw a party, which would be over and done with, I researched my client’s family business and created a display, brochure, and media materials. His customers were delighted to learn his company’s story and felt emotionally attached to their insurance agency, and new customers signed up!

Still another small business story involves the manager of a cosmetics company, also in Salem. When I told her what I did, she said, “Well, that sounds fun, but it doesn’t really apply to me.” “Oh really?” I said. “What do you know about the history of women’s make-up? Women entrepreneurs in the field? Trends? Make-up in the movie industry? With the advantage of March as National Women’s History Month, what if I could get you a speaking engagement and invite all of my women’s history friends?” (As it happens, I “do” women’s history in my “other life.”) She was elated. She happens to be very knowledgeable about all of these subjects. She is also attractive, articulate, and engaging. I do believe we are about to launch her speaking career, and don’t you think she will attract a whole new wave of customers to her store?

Finally, I have been coaching historical societies throughout Massachusetts on creative ways they can promote their collections. These organizations tend to be underfunded, understaffed, and they face real challenges that can only be met these days by thinking differently. I coach them to “think like public relations professionals,” to be alert to and take advantage of opportunities that cross their path. Just one example out of dozens I give in my talk involves George Washington. Anyone who has anything in their historic house or collection about George Washington should jump all over President’s Day, I tell them. The same holds true for other presidents, of course, but Washington and Lincoln are the two most popular.  Create a special exhibit with the items, host an event, and publish text and images in the local newspapers, websites, and in your own vehicles. The response? “I had no idea they had that stuff.” “I should go.” “I should join.” “I should donate.” “I should give them some of my stuff.”

Does it work? Back to my history “street cred,” I not only work with historical societies as clients, I was the executive director of the Ipswich Historical Society and the board president  (and volunteer director) of the Sargent House Museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts. These methods work!

What about you?

Now that you are suitably intrigued about “the business of history,” let’s talk!


2010 © Bonnie Hurd Smith

History Smiths works with service-oriented businesses to use history — their own and their community's — to achieve customer loyalty, referrals, and high status. Subscribe (above, right) to our free Ezine, Connections, where we share ideas and examples of businesses embracing history to achieve business goals.

FREE AUDIO of our special report
3 Ways Your Business Can Benefit from Supporting Local History
($197 value)
just by subscribing to our weekly ezine, Connections, featuring:

• Marketing ideas, using history, you can use right
   now to attract customers and their loyalty.

• Ways you can use history to boost your
   business's reputation as a local hero.

• Proven examples of how this works.

• Inspiring stories from history!

We promise to never sell, rent, trade, or share
your email with any other organization.

First Name: