MRPC News Release

For immediate release
Nov. 20, 2015

For more information, contact
Connie Willman or Lyle Thomas at (573) 265-2993




Naturally Meramec Consortium discusses marketing strategies



ST. JAMES, Mo.— Marketing is a critical component of any successful business, and members of the Naturally Meramec Consortium (NMC) learned about marketing plans and marketing tools available to help attract customers and sell products, during the Oct. 20 meeting at Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC).

Bonnie Prigge, executive director of MRPC and formerly the organization's marketing and communications director presented the information. Additionally, consortium members saw the results of an informal survey of tourism and visitor centers in the region. Lyle Thomas of MRPC shared information about who was visiting the region, the reason for their visits and what kinds of activities they were interested in seeing.

“The marketing discussion prompted consortium members to think about the importance of a marketing plan, including identification of their target markets, offering some direction for limited resources and time,” said Connie Willman of MRPC who is coordinating the Naturally Meramec project. “Discussion of specific data gathered from local tourism/visitors bureaus offered insight into who is currently visiting and spending dollars and, more importantly, who is not. This will guide the businesses and the consortium when determining actual and potential markets.”

NMC members present included Nancy and Mike Herald, Sacred Fire Farms; Angie Parrett, ByDesign Media; Jim Sample, Meramec Bison Farm; Ron and Marie Selfors, Sustainable Ozarks Partnership; Tom Blanchford, Cool Cow Cheese; Brenda Story, Blue Hill Company LLC; JoAnn Crumpler, JoAnn Crumpler Photography; Cathy Davidson, Missouri Enterprise; Chuck and Jane Held, The Nutty Pig Farm; Beth Wiles, Pulaski County Tourism; Steve Vogt, city of Belle; Greg Harris, Missouri Rock Island Trail; Phyllis Hannon, Nature’s Organic Haven; Dale Ridder, Ridder Farm; Joan Strong, Osage County Agritourism/Lucas Farms; Larkin Busby, DL Farms; and Trish and Jeff Voss, Belmont Vineyards.

Prigge presented marketing basics and reviewed steps on how to develop a marketing plan to NMC members.

“Collective marketing will be a key component of the Naturally Meramec Consortium, so starting discussions on marketing basics is the first step in that direction,” Prigge said.

Also as part of the marketing theme, Thomas presented information he gathered from Cuba, Hermann, Pulaski County, Rolla, St. James and Salem area chambers of commerce and visitors’ centers. Visitor centers serve as a destination marketing organization for a county to assist and provide information to travelers.

“Many small business owners are going at this alone and don’t realize what else is going on in their area,” Thomas said.

Thomas encouraged NMC members to use the centers and chambers as resources as they are already established in their communities and encountering visitors. By researching information about visitors already coming to the area, businesses can design a better marketing plan.

“I asked visitors centers and chambers of commerce about the number of annual visitors to their offices, where visitors were from, what types of activities were sought and inquired about centers’ interactions online,” Thomas said.

Bringing in travelers isn’t the only factor to creating more business. Thomas explained the three-hour rule and how it keeps travelers in communities.

“This rule states that for every hour a tourist travels, you need at least four hours of activities and recreation available,” Thomas said.

Studies have shown tourists who spend 12 hours in the area will likely spend the night, eat a meal and take part in a few more activities before they depart, benefiting restaurants, lodging, additional businesses and attractions and the community or county. Farmers Markets and event marketing also provide exposure for area businesses.

Centers thought their region’s biggest weaknesses included lack of retail shopping, communication between businesses and local governments, alignment of common goals, diversified attractions, indoor and all season activities, networking between communities and businesses, inadequate signage of attractions and late marketing efforts.

Following the presentations, Willman distributed a survey to establish baseline data on consortium members in order to gauge the success of the NMC program.

“As the consortium works to market its members, the data will be used to determine existing and potential markets and how to expand those markets,” Willman said.

At the end of the meeting, NMC members networked and enjoyed refreshments from Meramec Bison Farm, Nature’s Organic Haven, Blue Hill Company, LLC, DL Farms and M&T Farm with Earth-friendly tableware, provided by Earth-To-Go.

The next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 15 at MRPC.

Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. A professional staff of 24, directed by the MRPC board, offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.

To keep up with the latest Naturally Meramec news and events, visit NMC on facebook at www.facebook.com/NaturallyMeramec.

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