History Smiths
Because history matters. Including yours.


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Is Your Business Located in a Historical Community and Do You

Want Real “History Cred” to Retain and Attract Customers?

I hear this all the time from friends who own businesses in historical communities, and not just from those companies that are part of the cultural tourism mix.

Frankly, as a historian and cultural tourism professional, I appreciate their concern and I respect their desire to “do more” with local history.

But having authentic historical information embedded in a brand is not just as simple as adding “founded in 1920” to marketing materials, or “proud to be a member of the historic X community.” The businesses I know want to be a respected part of their historical community as well as their business community.

Hopefully, you do as well.

But how do you get there? Business owners are not usually historians, nor do they have the time to do thorough research themselves even with the guidance of a trained researcher. Marketing departments and companies don’t usually have “historians in residence” to add to the value of what they propose to their clients.

And yet, embedding history — your own and your community’s — into your marketing and branding materials can be a powerful “arrow” in your marketing “quiver.”

Here’s what we know:

• People who live in historical communities LOVE their local history.

• People who are culturally engaged tend to be well educated and well off. These are good customers to have!

• People are hungry for authentic experiences. They are increasingly sick to death of the homogenization, the “malling,” or the “chain storing” of America. Incorporating history — your own and your community’s — into your corporate culture and marketing activities will set you apart. If your business caters to visitors, incorporating local history into as many “touch points” as possible only makes sense! Cultural tourists are big business.

• People are turning away from big banks, large companies, and mega malls toward local institutions and their downtown. You can capitalize on this trend by embracing your local history, for residents and visitors alike.

• History “says” stature, class, and integrity to customers. That's not a bad reputation for your business to have!

• Every business wants to achieve an emotional connection with its customers. Embracing and supporting your local history will go a long way toward achieving that goal.

But then, we go back to how. What, exactly, should you do? How do you — or your marketing people — even begin to find the information you need? How can you use this fuzzy thing called “history” in practical ways for your business?

Think about doing a “history audit!”

It’s similar to a customer service audit, where you examine every customer “touch point” in your business. Your logo and tag line. Your print materials. Your website. How your telephone is answered. How people are responded to. How people are greeted when they enter your business — and even before they enter. What your décor looks like. And the list goes on.

You want every customer touch point to reflect your brand identity. When something is amiss, customers notice and you undermine your credibility. You could have the most gorgeous marketing materials in your industry, but if people are treated rudely….

But you already know this.

A history audit would involve the following steps.

• Decide you want to work with a historian to investigate the history that is authentically part of your business — your own history and how your business connects with your town’s historical themes (for example, maritime history and a seafood restaurant). By taking this route, you will immediately expand your customer base by connecting with your local historical society, museum, library, and historic sites. Each one has hundreds of members and patrons, and there are ways each one can let their constituencies know about your project. And keep in mind that history is fluid. New information surfaces all the time. You want current, authentic information, and not a rehash of the same stories that have been told forever.

• With the historian’s information in hand, review your customer touch points with the historian and your marketing people to decide where history could be embedded. Review your marketing materials and website — do they include anything about your business’s history? The town’s history? Why you are there? That you are proud to be a member of your historical community and support local preservation efforts?

Look at your exterior design, your interior design, the restrooms, function room — where are the opportunities for history? The answers could be subtle and visual or more extensive depending on your situation.

• Once you have remodeled your business historically, why not host an event to show off what you did? Co-host the event with your historical society or museum, and you will really impress customers. Offer something from your business that evening (a discount, coupon, free drink) for anyone who joins the historical society or makes a donation. In the future, you could host or co-sponsor lectures with them that have a tie-in with your business’s history (win-win). You want to keep the relationship going, and so should they.

You get the idea.

By initiating a historical investigation, implementing your findings, and celebrating with the historical community, you will forge lasting friendships with hundreds of people (and everyone they know) who will appreciate your efforts.

Frankly, you will also be providing real leadership in your community, because most businesses simply write checks to support historical causes. They do not develop this level of relationship, which can only benefit everyone involved for years to come.

Meanwhile, all of those happy residents will love you and your business. If you cater to visitors who have been promised an authentic experience over the other nameless competitors (think Union Oyster House in Boston versus a chain restaurant), they will be delighted, return, tell their friends, blog, Facebook, Tweet, who knows?

So…think “history audit.” Another arrow in your quiver of marketing tools!


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.

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• 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!

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