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Orange needs to set a $1 million advertising budget

Orange needs to set a $1 million advertising budget

When are cities like Orange going to start applying basic business principles when it comes to marketing themselves?

For as long as I’ve been in business and can remember, about 50 years at least, cities like Orange have followed the same marketing and advertising routine as every other similar city, and in my judgement, they still have it wrong. Not completely wrong, but certainly nowhere near right, that’s for sure.

Let me explain.

First thing to be said is that Orange needs to operate just like a business. However you look at it, running Orange should be no different to running any other business and the same basic principles should apply. That’s simply not happening, and in my view, there’s absolutely no valid reason why it shouldn’t. If we did, we’d not only be protecting our City better against negative market forces, but we’d also be the envy of similar Cities right across Australia.

So, where’s the problem.

The problem is with the way we do our marketing, and always have. We’re only partly doing the job that needs to be done. Let me use a typical small business situation to explain what I mean.

Blind Freddy knows that what keeps a business in business, is customers. While ever a business has enough customers to stay in front, there’s no problem. However, when customers start to drop off, the business has two choices – to do nothing and hope it passes, or to think up ways to replenish or replace the lost customers. An astute business operator takes the second option and looks for ways to attract, or bring in, new customers to replace the lost ones. The business operator who does nothing, will slowly but surely go out of business, that is unless the reasons for the loss of customers is clearly considered a temporary situation or one that won’t get any worse. Sadly, in today’s business environment, there’s little to suggest things will change for the better anytime soon.

Orange (the City) faces the same situation but on a much bigger scale and in my view, it will take a City approach to replace the customers businesses in Orange are currently losing to online shopping or other places. Individual businesses will fight the good fight, but there’s only so much they can do given the resources they would have. It is highly doubtful that any sort of campaign or marketing strategy will convince locals to stop shopping online or elsewhere, just the same way as the previous Buy Australian campaigns had minimal effect. Good sense says most people will always favour a product that is thought to be cheaper or better, no matter who sells it.

Trying to change the attitude or habits of locals would be a futile exercise. The easier and more sensible thing to do is to try and replace the lost customers. That is to say, for example, if 10% of the money that should or could be spent at local Orange businesses is now going elsewhere, we need to replace that money from another source, and that other source is people who otherwise don’t shop here, new customers if you prefer. Those new customers are people we can encourage more to come to Orange more often or people who currently shop elsewhere, such as in Bathurst, Dubbo, Cowra, Mudgee etc.

In that, I’m not talking about those people who many would say “you’re talking about tourists are you?” The answer is yes and no. Yes, they are tourists in one sense, but no in the sense that they are not the tourists that most people regard as tourists. That’s a bit complicated to explain so I won’t do that here. What needs to be understood is this – if we as a City, adopt the basic business principle of replacing lost customers (or spending) by trying to attract new customers from areas where we don’t normally get them from, we’ll go a long way towards keeping our local business community and economy healthy. If we don’t, the only outcome we can expect is for the slow decline to continue and seeing more businesses downsizing or closing and putting more people out of work.

Sounds terribly depressing I know, but that’s basic business and all I’m trying to say is we can fight the inevitable if we’re prepared to apply the same commitment as any good business owner would, facing a similar scenario.

Harvey Norman, Bunnings and the like follow this principle, they spend millions each year in advertising and marketing to ensure they maintain the number of customers they need to keep trading profitably. In my professional opinion, Orange City Council needs to adopt a similar marketing approach and set aside a million dollars a year to keep local cash registers ticking away. This in addition to anything they are currently doing in the traditional tourism area.

More also needs to be done, like establishing an attraction, like the Mt Canobolas Mountain Bike Facility, that will bring a constant stream of regular visitors to Orange in the same way Taronga Western Plains Zoo does for Dubbo, but that’s a story for another day.

For now, though, let’s start talking about what we can do right now to replace the customers we’re slowly losing to online shopping and elsewhere. Doing nothing is definitely not the answer!

Photo Credit: Troy Pearson

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