Considering hiring marketing expert with admissions tax fund
By Kendra Walker
As Mt. Crested Butte looks for ways to attract visitors and differentiate itself from the town of Crested Butte, the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council is considering setting aside a portion of its admissions tax fund for a future marketing plan and/or hiring a marketing professional.
During a work session on September 15, the council discussed ideas for marketing Mt. Crested Butte, and will continue the discussion in the coming months as they narrow down their goals.
Though the town would plan to put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) at some point, mayor Janet Farmer has been communicating with four businesses that have expressed interest in helping the town with its marketing, including Travel Crested Butte, Clarkson Concepts, Buttery Agency and Air Sense Creative Lab. Scott Clarkson of Clarkson Concepts and Travel Crested Butte’s Josh Futterman called into the work session to answer the council’s questions and offer their marketing perspective.
When asked about his experience in distinguishing Crested Butte from Mt. Crested Butte, Clarkson explained Gunnison, Crested Butte, Mt. Crested Butte and even Almont get lumped together when guests are looking to visit the area. “The distinction [between the towns] occurs more once you’re here,” he said, explaining that most visitors don’t even realize there are two towns in the north end of the valley until they get here and start looking at different activities and places to go.
“From a social standpoint it would be important to have that distinction so you know when it’s appropriate to be a part of the greater Crested Butte region and when it makes sense to be more specifically Mt. Crested Butte.”
Futterman agreed, saying, “It does get a little bit more difficult to parse that out because Crested Butte is the key word that they’re searching for.”
“I don’t really care how people find out about Mt. Crested Butte, if we use the Crested Butte anchor,” said council member Roman Kolodziej. “What matters for us is when they’re trying to decide on booking a hotel room or come up for an event, we want them to target Mt. Crested Butte.”
“Thankfully Mt. Crested Butte is the bed base for the majority of rooms, so you already have an advantage there,” said Clarkson. “People are, for the most part, going to be staying up here,” he said, likening the Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte relationship to Telluride and Mountain Village.
Town identity, inclusivity and events
“I’m not excited about promoting Mt. Crested Butte as a ski area… I think our identity needs to be about our town, not our town as a ski area,” said council member Dwayne Lehnertz, noting Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory’s presence, access to trails and the water quality in Mt. Crested Butte as assets that also draw in visitors.
“I do think that our very first priority needs to be to create our story or figure out what the image we want to be of Mt. Crested Butte,” said council member Lauren Koelliker. “We want to be different from the town of Crested Butte, but other than the ski resort right now we don’t have a lot going on. We’ll need to spend some time developing that vision. It makes sense to me to start with creating our identity and figuring out what we want that to be. I think it would be great if we had a bunch more businesses up here and a more vibrant community but I don’t know if the town council can really build that.”
“One of the pieces that we all got into discussion about is we may have to try to draw in businesses here to create something to attract people to the town besides the things you can do outdoors,” said Farmer.
“But are we talking about promoting things that are actually occurring in town that are under-promoted?” asked Kolodziej. “I’d like us to maybe consider what we’re actually producing and how we want to promote it rather than try to differentiate ourselves from the town of Crested Butte. We need to take a realistic look of what we are and promote it.”
“In the short term, we could put out an RFQ and get someone who is a professional marketer to help with those events in Mt. Crested Butte,” said Koelliker, referring to annual events such as Light Up Night and the Fourth of July fireworks. “It’s something we always do, something people always enjoy who are staying in Mt. Crested Butte.”
She continued, “The chamber is always coming to us for that. Does it have to be an official grant request if it’s something that we’re going to do every year? In my opinion it’s not appropriate for the grant process because they’re staples that occur in our town every year.”
The council seemed to agree on the kind of visitor they’d like to attract to Mt. Crested Butte, as well as how to find a way to bring in more inclusive events. “What I want is to bring that sustainable tourism-type person to our town and making sure everything we do for marketing keeps that sustainable piece in mind,” said council member Nicholas Kempin. “I’d like to be a model for the valley. I’d like to get people who treat our land better and spend more money while they’re here.
“From what I’m hearing from [the council], yes it’s partly to bring more people to Mt. Crested Butte but it’s also to bring the right people, the sustainable people, here and maybe expanding the number of events that we have up here, and to tie in to the people of color,” said Farmer.
“We have to ask ourselves, are people not coming back because we’re not inclusive enough or because we don’t have the amenities here?” said Kolodziej, referring to the Brotherhood of Skiers coming here nearly 10 years ago, as well as gay ski week. The council expressed interest in working with Crested Butte Mountain Resort to bring back those types of inclusive events.
“The Town Council is not going to be planning events, that’s not our role,” said Koelliker. “Just to be clear, I’m not proposing to plan and host our own event. I think we need to hire a professional that can work with the groups planning Mt. Crested Butte events, that can help with social media, run paid ads, awareness campaigns, etc. It’s part of the job description to help us come up with that.”
Council member Steve Morris suggested starting out with getting social media channels up and running, possibly targeting historic posts and media about the town, to avoid deviating into Crested Butte businesses.
Koelliker offered to compile a list from the night’s discussion of short-term and long-term ideas, and then put together a drafted job description or RFP/RFQ. The council will continue brainstorming in the coming months, and anticipates being able to start implementing something more concrete next spring or summer.