In the open discussion session at the RuralX Summit, I put forward the topic of serving multiple small towns. People from extension, regional banks, county-wide organizations and state-wide organizations all sat down to talk about the challenges and to make suggestions of what works when you have a lot of small towns to serve.
Here are some of the things we talked about:
1. Visiting town boards and town halls used to be a good way to find out what’s going on and support small towns. It seems town boards and town halls are no longer the center of action or activity.
Where is the center of action now?
2. Talking to local businesses and giving them brochures about your services is a good way to send brochures straight to the trash.
What would be better topics talk to businesses about?
3. If you happen to have a program that aligns with an issue one particular town cares about, that works. But it is largely a matter of luck.
How can you make that happen more often?
4. Local influencers can help you find out what is going on. Newspaper publishers can be good sources. If loans are your primary service, then bankers are good influences.
Where do you find influencers who matter to your services?
5. Small towns have no paid staff. The Chamber of Commerce is all volunteer, the town administration may even be all volunteer, or maybe there isn’t a town government at all.
Who can you work with?
6. It builds more trust when you get on your customers’ or clients’ turf. But your travel budget keeps shrinking, your work load keeps expanding.
How can you find time and money to travel?
7. Because you have so few staff yourself with so few rural connections in small towns, the big cities end up the priorities.
How do you stop this vicious cycle?
8. You’d be shocked at all the little side businesses and under-the-radar businesses that go unnoticed in rural places.
How do you find those little businesses?
And that is just the first half of the list! Deb and I are thinking through these issues and the other 8 challenges from the discussion as we develop a project specifically to help people who serve multiple small towns. Want to know more about it? Sign up here.
Do you have ideas for addressing these challenges? Hit reply and share!
Keep shaping the future of your town,
PS – I’ll be sharing the entire list of 16 issues with our Serving Multiple Towns group next week.