I enjoy traveling. I enjoy visiting other places, meeting people who live there and experiencing the culture. But, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. I get a different perspective when I travel. I work at bringing ideas home with me.

The principles of towns and cities are similar. Infrastructure. City services. Population. Entertainment. Commerce. Industry. Speaking in generalities, there’s not much difference. These are all important points for any town or city.

The same can be said for products and services. Take two products that are similar in nature, and in general terms, they aren’t very different. That’s where marketing comes into play.

In marketing, it is important to find a unique selling proposition for the product or service.

One unique selling proposition for Tupelo is that we’re home to the birthplace of Elvis Presley. That is certainly a selling point that cannot be replicated. But, that’s not the only selling point to Tupelo when comparing it to other locations.

So look at Tupelo, which I choose because I live and work here. We have a vibrant downtown. I have visited other places that also have a vibrant downtown. So, in your mind, what makes Downtown Tupelo different from other towns you’ve visited? Ask someone what they think. Do you come up with similar answers?

I attended the first concert at the BancorpSouth Arena. I was also there for other big names like the Eagles. Sure, other towns like Memphis can claim this too, but I didn’t have to drive two hours to see the concert.

Other towns have zoos. But do they have a buffalo park? Other towns have museums. What items in our museums do you think differentiates us from others?

The unique selling proposition is what lures in the prospect, but it is the experience with the product or service that hooks them. And for travel and tourism, that experience is summed up with one word: hospitality.

Mississippi is the Hospitality State. I can go anywhere in Mississippi and say “Hello” to a stranger and the majority of the time I will get a “Hello” back. That doesn’t happen everywhere. It’s not that other places aren’t courteous, but courteousness is part of our culture. I’ve also found that rural communities are more open and immediately friendly that urban communities.

Mississippi is a hidden jewel. Yes, we still have issues to work through, but for the most part, those who visit Mississippi enjoy their visit. I’ve lost count of the number of people who said to me they were concerned about their visit or move to Mississippi until they came here. They planned to stay a few years, and now they’ve retired here. Mississippi, and the South, has a huge stigma to get over. We’re not always as we are portrayed on TV. We have to constantly tell our story and find the hook to get visitors to come.

So you may have a product or service to offer. How is it different from your competitor with the product or service that is most similar to you? What is your unique selling proposition? How do you handle the customer once they’ve shown interest? Can you offer more than just a price difference? What do you do to engage your customer? As you can see, these marketing questions also translate into the travel, tourism and hospitality industry.

Ty robinson is president and COO of Robinson and Associates, a Tupelo-based marketing, advertising and public relations agency.

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