Much of what makes Delta County unique and wonderful is the six, very different, very distinct communities that make up the county. Each has something different to offer both residents and visitors; each has something wholly their own. But marketing those six different communities, bringing into the county that outside tourism dollar? That's a tougher job than you'd think.
The Delta County Tourism Cabinet, along with Kelli Hepler, the county's tourism coordinator, have risen to that challenge. Working with a consultant, which was funded by a grant by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (COEDIT), who surveyed leaders in each of the six communities, the tourism cabinet learned that while we're all individualized and unique, there are a couple of things we all value. "We sat down with the consultant to answer the question, what are the most important parts of tourism in Delta County? What are the big picture things, the things that will make the biggest impact?" Hepler said. "And as different as our communities are, we all came up with pretty much the same things." Each community identified that promoting the arts and creative outlets, our agricultural resources, and our access to and use of public lands are the most important things to promote in national and international venues. Another piece of the marketing includes promoting the uniqueness of this geographical area, where a visitor can play in a canyon at 4,000 feet in elevation, and then just 40 minutes later, be in the mountains at 10,000 feet, Hepler said.
COEDIT initiated the process with Delta County a couple of years ago, and since then the cabinet has been working to create a unified strategic marketing plan, as well as rebranding the county's tourism message with a new logo. That process was funded with a technical assistance grant; Delta County was just one of two areas statewide to receive that funding.
COEDIT and the tourism cabinet are again partnering to tackle this project, and this time, assistance is coming in the form of a second grant, in the amount of $7,500 for implementation of the marketing action steps the cabinet has developed; that grant amounts to nearly 10 percent of the cabinet's annual overall budget. The plan, called Blueprint 2.0, lays out exactly how a tourism cabinet operating on a shoestring budget can effectively market Delta County on an international level. "We told the consultant that we needed a plan that is very doable with the lack of funding and personnel that we have," Hepler said.
Thankfully, the latest ideas behind international tourism marketing includes a lot of user-generated content, which can be less expensive to implement. What that looks like for Delta County is inclusion in a variety of user posts on social media platforms. A great example is the current "Moose on the Loose" promotion happening through the 28th. Along the Hwy. 65 corridor and in downtown Cedaredge, businesses are displaying a wooden cutout of a moose. Travelers stop at the businesses and take a selfie of each moose, which they then post to the Grand Mesa Scenic Byways Facebook page. The cabinet has implemented a software program where those user-created photos and posts can be implemented on the cabinet's own social media outlets. "It creates a rich, full, comprehensive product," Hepler said.
Plus, when you have one person who is in charge of marketing an event or a tourist destination online, the information can quickly become stale, Hepler said. For instance, if she were to post 100 percent of the content, that means 100 percent of the content has Hepler's voice, and will likely appeal to someone in her own demographic. "User-generated content is all the rage, because it's not generic content. It's real, honest and sincere. We get to showcase a lot of different voices," she said. Additionally, utilizing user-created content frees up the cabinet members to concentrate on other projects. "It helps us out in so many different ways," she said. "We really like these products."
The $7,500 grant is also funding, in part, the creation of a digital media campaign, which will include commercial-length videos, shorter clips and photo images that can be used in marketing. A video production company that specializes in this type of digital marketing has been retained to create the media. Once those images and clips are completed, the cabinet will embark on a media blitz, targeting specific communities in specific states around the country, as well as specific regions of Australia, Germany and Japan -- three countries from which this area sees a ton of visitors, Hepler explained (they like our cowboy/Western culture).
The cabinet is also working with another production company, which travels around the world seeking out indigenous recipes and food, and highlighting a local chef. "They're all about preserving an area's way of life, its culture, its history and its spirituality as it connects with food," she said. The company is interested in possibly showcasing foods from the North Fork, and the cabinet is in negotiations with them now. Hepler and another volunteer also recently returned from a slow foods expo, where Delta County farms and food producers were showcased.
The idea behind all this work is to get the six Delta County communities all on the same page, as far as marketing goes. "All of us getting on the same page has been really cool, and we're going to keep moving in that direction," she said. There is still plenty of work to be done, however.
The cabinet is working on enhancing internal marketing, hoping to make sure folks in Hotchkiss know what's going on in Cedaredge, or folks in Delta knowing what's going on in Crawford. "We need to get people within Delta County talking to one another more," she said. "We want this to be a regular, ongoing conversation, where we can help each other cross-promote one another."
The cabinet also plans to apply for a $25,000 matching grant from the Colorado Tourism Office, which, if granted, will be used to help market Delta County internationally.