Branding initiative is reaching out to small businesses


December 30, 2009
LANCASTER — Despite its tagline — "Grand Resorts, Grand Adventure," the Grand branding initiative is designed to increase sales for small businesses. Northern N.H. Branding Project manager Samantha Kenney Maltais explained the concept at a Dec. 15 press round-table discussion in the Northern Community Investment Corp.'s offices in Lancaster. "The purpose of the New Hampshire Grand effort is to increase visitor activity to strengthen small businesses' sales and to create jobs," the Pittsburg native said. The Grand branding initiative is a collaborative regional marketing concept that aims to attract visitors and provide them a means to have full and pleasurable experiences in this magnificent region, Ms. Maltais emphasized.

Direct benefits for small businesses include:

• Free listings under "What to do," "Where to shop," Where to stay," and "Where to eat" on its newly launched website, www.NHGrand.com;

• Access to a Technical Assistance program designed so small businesses may receive low-cost suggestions on improving curb appeal and other helpful low-cost solutions to increase foot traffic, leading to sales;

• Special low-interest and "patient" loans designed to help a business complete these improvements.

Future opportunities include participation in a "way finding" signage and kiosk marking.

Businesses may ask to be considered for listing as a Grand Adventure or as a "Best Of…."

Or they ask to be considered as an interesting or pleasing stop in several itineraries now being written by freelance writer Lorna Colquhoun of Franconia. Five are now on the website, and itineraries will be updated and changed through the seasons.

Advertising space will also be available in four guides — Lodging, Adventures, Wine and Spa, and Certified Best of — that will be distributed in Massachusetts, southern Maine, all of New Hampshire, and Montreal, Quebec.

The concept behind the promoting the historic Grand Hotels is that no other place in America has such a concentration of historic hostelries, each of which features spectacular views, a rich history, and elegant grounds and gardens, Ms. Maltais pointed out.

Dramatic adventures are also located in Coös, including: snowmobiling on Corridor 5, ATV trails in Berlin, Success, Stratford, and Pittsburg, trips up Mt. Washington by car or van, Cog Railway, on foot, as well as skiing, hiking, or ice climbing in Tuckerman Ravine.

NCIC president and CEO Jon Freeman and NCIC vice president Cathy Conway joined in the conversation. The trio emphasized that Phase 2 — marketing — is now underway.

They all urged local business owners to look at the new website. Although it is still being tweaked, it has gotten well over 1600 hits from nearly all states and from countries around the world, from the U.K. to Chile.

The Branding project will soon be fully "optimized," so that computer users who Google or employ another search engine to enter a key word or string of words will have "www.NHGrand.com" come up on their screen. This will begin to take place 45 days after its Nov. 9 launch date.

The site will be updated four times a year, with illustrative photographs each season. All five Chambers of Commerce will have their own sites by spring.

A communication and outreach plan is now being fleshed out now, Ms. Maltais explained. The Chambers, selectmen, Rotary, Kiwanis, and other public service organizations will be on the roster. The Berlin City Council was visited on Dec. 14.

"We want people to be involved," Ms. Conway said.

"I 'secret shop,'" added Ms. Maltais. "I hate to hear a sales person tell customers that 'there's nothing to do here.'"

It is through marketing and differentiation that potential visitors will understand the ways what this area offers that northwest Maine, the Adirondacks, and Minnesota don't.

The project is funded through June 2011 and the 10-member Brand Leadership Team of community leaders and NCIC will be looking for ways to fund the effort after that.

"This is truly a collaboration," Mr. Freeman said. "No business outside the Grand Resorts has enough going on to get someone to drive up from Boston; be together we certainly do."

He also warned that in a rapidly changing world, businesses must be nimble, ready to shift to new concepts when necessary.

"Remember," Ms. Conway said, "tourism is only one piece of our economy. Think of Coös as a trade show to which visitors come; some will come here and fall in love with the area and move here and start their own businesses in order to enjoy our quality of life."

Ms. Maltais urges those with questions about how to list their business on the "NHGrand" website should telephone her at 788-2700, ext. 40, or e-mail her at Samantha@ncic.org.

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