The big news this week was the arrival of the new Conway Visitor's Map. It turned out great and we appreciate all the positive feedback we have received. I presented it to City Council and requested input and guidance for the next printing. Every Council comment was positive, even the requested changes.Mayor Lawson was concerned that use of the Downtown Logo may mislead some to believe that the map was produced or officially endorsed by the City Government. Her request was considered and the logo in question was removed from the website and the next map will have the new one, unless of course it is sponsored by the City. Anyone with ideas on how to improve the map is encouraged to speak up.
The map concept was developed from requests of local businesses which felt that a well designed map would be an asset to the Downtown area. After hours of planning with Conway Main Street USA and brief meetings with the City of Conway, it was determined that if the businesses wanted the map they would have to produce it themselves. So I began by gathering participants, finding cut-rate printing, and recruiting a designer on a discount. ConwayJournal.com extended over $1000 credit to it's fellow business owners on nothing more than an old fashioned handshake. Downtown Conway may be on a tight budget, but even during a recession there is always a bumper crop of determination and integrity.
The first map will be a great asset, but the next one can be a huge boost for local tourism. Due to our small budget this first map will suffer a limited distribution. We have just enough to serve our current visitors and a few for outside distribution. City Council recommended that I work with the City, Conway Main Street, Conway Chamber of Commerce, and Create!Conway to produce a truly great map. I couldn't agree more. If each of these groups could come together and work with a unified effort, the map would be a huge success. Council said it does not want to pay into multiple maps, and I don't want them to either. The City should support one map, the one that best serves the interest of it's businesses and residents. I'll continue to do my best to make sure that one great map is produced.
If a cooperative effort is to be made I feel that it is best to be open about the expectations, purpose, and motives in producing this project. My vision of this project is outlined below. Your insight is welcomed and encouraged, please use the comments section below to offer any guidance you may have.
The purpose of the map is to promote tourism by attracting new visitors and maximize the visitor's experience once they have arrived.
Attract New Visitors
Distribution - We must consider producing enough to distribute to the numerous visitor center's around the area. South Carolina Visitor Centers will display these maps for free if they have them, they currently don't have any from Conway. Cooperative efforts should be made with area hotels, and local city visitor centers to help display each other's materials.
Design - The brochure/map will sit among a dozen other glossy, full color, professionally designed pieces. If our map can't attract attention it doesn't need to be produced. Cheap two color, tri-fold, 8.5 x 11 brochures are what you expect from a lawn-care service, not a charming city like Conway.
Maximize the Visit
Once our guests arrive it is important that their visit is a pleasant one. We must give them an oppurtunity to see all that we have to offer.
Participation - Conway is too small to leave off any of our assets. Every event, attraction, shop, and service that caters to visitors should be given an opportunity to appear on the map. This doesn't mean that membership driven orgs can't use this as a member benefit. They could sponsor the map for their members. This year the ad was $50 per business. If the Chamber and Main Street each sponsor $25 to their members, a business that is in both orgs would get a free ad. Everyone else would just pay the $50. I don't think that the non-membership based orgs like the City, ConwayJournal.com, or Create! should be persuading local business owners to pay memberships dues in other orgs. I'm sure a compromise can be reached, after all we are all working towards the same goal.
Description - Our guests are in an unfamiliar area and require a little encouragement in order to venture around our corners and down our alleys. We must give each destination a small amount of space on the piece to attract these visitors. Pop's Glass Station is not simply an Art Gallery, Bodega not a Housewares Retailer, and Sassy Girl not a Gift Shop. People are not compelled to drive 45 minutes to see shops, galleries, and restaurants. I guarantee that they'll come to enjoy the Rivertown Bistro, Theater of the Republic, Gentle Cycle, and more if those places are given a chance to introduce themselves.
This is a community improvement project not a big profit maker, fundraiser, or membership drive. I am committed to making sure this project does not become such. $50 per spot is less than the smallest ad in the local school yearbooks. I don't believe that I've seen a marketing opportunity in my four years on Main Street that is this inexpensive. Ownership is not an issue, I only prefer that it be a cooperative effort to produce one great marketing piece for Conway. Let's get together, get passionate about our mission,