Tips From the Road: Differentiate Your Community

Posted by Ben Wright on Aug 16, 2009 9:43:52 PM

Low cost, experiential ways to differentiate your community when touring prospects

After a two week stretch of travel that took me to Wisconsin, Indiana, Seattle and Atlanta, I am left thinking about the most memorable elements of my trip. And, more often than not, it is the little, unexpected things that make my list.

On a family trip to Wisconsin, despite staying on the shores of Lake Michigan in a fantastic lake house with friends, the thing I will remember most was the tiny “Holland Days” Dutch festival in the small town of Cedar Grove. Sure, “Holland Days” had the standard face painting, bungee trampolines and other kid-friendly fare, but it also had Oliebollen, the Dutch version of a doughnut, and a cavalcade of Brett Favre jerseys that reminded me that I was in rural Wisconsin, not anywhere else. (He’s retired!)

On a work trip to Indianapolis, though time was tight between meetings, we took special care to question the concierge for great restaurant recommendations, then completely disregarded them when it was clear that they were recommending the standard tourist joints. Instead, we used Yelp ( and went to a local joint called Café Patachou – a great choice in Indianapolis. Their made-to-order omelets were healthy and tasty, with tons of ingredients to choose from and the best coffee this side of the University District in Seattle.

When we headed to Muncie, Indiana to talk with local chamber and economic development officials, we got the grand tour – our hosts knew everyone in Muncie’s fantastic downtown and they took us to the best place around, Vera Mae’s. Probably the most art-inspired lunch spot I have been to in any city in the world (the second most was at the Museum Café at the Julie Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in Auburn, Alabama – yes, Alabama!)

So what does that mean to those of you that are touring prospects through your community? Four things:

  1. Remember to leave room for introducing prospects to the local color of your community.
  2. Skip the chain restaurants and hotels. Though your local places may not have all the choices or amenities, they at least will be remembered.
  3. Take prospects to the places you love. There is a reason you love them and your passion will show.
  4. If you are lacking in inspiration, use community tools like Yelp or Trip Advisor to be a tourist in your own community – you will be glad you did.

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