Imagine you are a young professional living along the front range, fighting traffic, dealing with crime, and trying to make sure your children are being adequately educated. Imagine further that you have the skills and ability to do your work anywhere in the world, and you decide that a small town is the perfect place to work, raise your family, and build a life of contentment and peace.
Or, imagine you and your family live in another state and you would like to take them on a little vacation that includes visiting historical sites and enjoying active outdoor recreation.
The question the young professional who wants to move to a small town will ask is, “Where should we move?” Similarly, the vacationer will ask, “Where should we go?”
Well, dear readers, those certainly are important questions requiring information. Information about the schools, health services, recreation, religion options, housing, internet connectivity, things to do, places to visit, places to stay, and the necessities for living a good life including access to a grocery store, selection of restaurants, the ability to buy the basic necessities, and an active community with an assortment of things to do.
According to an analysis conducted by marketing experts from Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI), information is something Eads isn’t sharing very well.
Late last year, we reported that Eads was one of six communities who received a grant from Downtown Colorado, Inc. that would be used to evaluate our digital footprint and some things the community could do to improve the way we approach the outside world.
First, DCI came to Eads and talked with a collection of business people and others from various organizations who had plenty to say about Eads and their digital marketing endeavors. The consensus was that Eads and the surrounding county and area has the great potential to be that ‘nice place to live’ or that ‘nice place to visit.’ But, according to the local voices in the meeting, no one is working together to put the same collective voice out. In a nutshell, these locals are proud of their community, but frustrated having little time and knowledge on how to better tell the world, “We’re here! And we’re a pretty great town!”
After evaluating what the people in Eads said about their marketing practices, DCI then committed to a digital, or online, audit of Eads whereby they tried to find that “information” referred to in the intro of this article.
Below are the “Great Eight” things DCI found out about Eads, and the “Six to Fix” they suggest the people and businesses of Eads embrace and try to do:
Eight great things about Eads
1. Eads has newly built and significant historical sites nearby.
2. US Highway 287 and State Highway 96 both go through the center of downtown Eads. Take advantage of these major connections with wayfinding for other features of the area. Roadside parks and kiosks (with CDOT) are being built in Haswell, Towner, at the Sand Creek Massacre, and for the Prairie Horizons Bicycle Trail. Did you know that just west of Eads is the Center Point for the Great American Bicycle Trail? The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) offers grants for signage to assist with this.
3. Several outdoor sites reference Eads as a central location for recreation trips to the Eastern Plains. They include bird and wildlife habitats by Jackson’s Pond. The Great Plains Reservoir is only 10-15 miles from Eads and offers easy access to camping and water recreation.
4. Eads has space to grow in the downtown which can be hard to find in other nearby areas.
5. The cost of living and housing are much lower in Eads than the statewide average. There are opportunities for lower costs of living and operating a business. Eads is affordable, has space to fill, and is eager to draw people in. Healthcare and childcare are huge assets which should be marketed more.
6. The Kiowa County Fairgrounds are in the northwest corner of Eads. Having this facility can help draw regional events to the Town, as well as provide a reason for state and local newspapers to write articles about the events and the locale. Coordinate these with other Town projects for maximum impact.
7. There is a good mix of locally-owned businesses and franchises in Eads across the service industry, restaurants, entertainment, and retail. However, the Chamber doesn’t have many active members and the Economic Development does a lot of the Chamber’s duties
8. Eads is an easy day trip from Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo and if people understand what they could do in Eads it is much more enticing to make that journey. Tell your story of the authentic experience and itinerary of activities you would do in Eads. There’s a great golf course, a wonderful movie and production theater, and a unique coffee house/fitness center. Take advantage of the active high school students using them for creative ideas and energetic marketing. Have a campaign about what you love about Eads, and then tie it back into things that might be drawing people to the area.
Six to Fix: Next Steps for Eads
1. There’s no clear, dominant voice to represent the town. What is the town’s brand? Branding the Town and promoting a message requires drilling down on a few things that Eads is most proud of. Eads has plenty of unique and charming qualities to build a brand upon: it’s authentic, safe, friendly, and great for families. Maybe it’s the “Modern Mayberry” with a long history and strong traditions.
2. Better website design will allow for easier citizen access to information, better community representation and engagement, and a stronger draw for tourists. Give everyone easier access to what’s happening in the town. Encourage stakeholders to like and share information regularly on their own social media channels as a coordinated effort. Pick one central site for information online as well as in your town center. When you share a story, have each of the active social media sites focus on it to garner more attention. Come up with a community hashtag(s) and encourage appropriate social media posts to include the hashtag(s).
3. Promote the low cost of living in Eads to help bring in commuters. Take advantage of the Mayberry-esque qualities of Eads -- small-town and wholesome, a true community. Students are proud to go to school and be a part of the Eagles.
4. Let more compelling images tell the story of Eads. Hold a photo competition to capture the fun that Eads has to offer.
5. Connect with regional Eastern Colorado communities within the common drive-shed to reach more customers. Take advantage of the Colorado Tourism Office grant connecting communities and include Kiowa, Crowley, Otero, Baca, Bent, Prowers. You might be able to use this process to brand your town. Populate your information and businesses at Colorado.com.
6. Connect the town assets to statewide business development resources.
After evaluating Eads and offering up some easy and practical solutions for getting the town on the Colorado map, the DCI marketing people went a little deeper into the weeds to describe Current Conditions for Digital Marketing, Top Ideas for Action Steps, and Ways to Sustain the Steps Taken.
There is still a lot of helpful and interesting information that DCI has described in this grant report. Next week, we will dive into those weeds and describe how Eads looks from the inside, how it looks from the outside, and how we dress Eads for success as we move into the future.
Stay tuned to find out who DCI thinks we should be working directly with….some are here already….some need to be invited.