Recently, a contingent of Cheboygan business owners traveled to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi Michigan to Represent Cheboygan in front of approximately 34,000 attendees at the “Ultimate Fishing Show and Outfitters Expo.” Last week’s article discussed the importance of the strong relationship between the Cheboygan Area Chamber of Commerce and the Cheboygan Area Visitors Bureau and how that relationship is key to marketing Cheboygan. This week we thought we would share with you a real life example of that partnership.
The Cheboygan Area Visitors Bureau has reserved space to represent Cheboygan at two of the largest outdoor shows in the Midwest in 2018. Each four day long show; Ultimate Fishing Show in January and Outdoorama in March draw consistently over 30,000 attendees from across Michigan and the Midwest. For the last couple years, three to four individuals from the Visitors Bureau Board of Directors go and set up a display booth presenting the Cheboygan Area as the place to go for outdoor recreation enthusiasts in Northern Michigan.
Many people may be surprised that we are attending outdoor shows and not boating shows. At first glance, I thought the same thing. But, because of the Inland Waterway and our location on Lake Huron with our close proximity to the Straits of Mackinac we are already very well known in the boating community. We have attended boating shows in the past and we will probably do some more in the future but right now our Visitors Bureau board is interested in helping to introduce a new group of people to Cheboygan. Hikers, bikers, kayakers, fishers, snowshoers, cross country skiers, snowmobilers, and ATV riders collectively form a very large group of potential new visitors to the Cheboygan Area. They are the audience at these shows and once they visit our booth they love what they hear and are very interested in visiting us to explore what we have to offer.
Many of them know us already which is a great position to be in when starting a conversation at the booth. A large number of people that stop at our booth look at the area maps that we have displayed and say something like, “my (insert random family member title) has a cabin right here.” To that statement we almost always say, “Well, that’s not too far from Cheboygan. When was the last time that you came to see us?” That is usually enough to start a conversation about what we have to offer in the area and peek their interest in exploring a little more of the surrounding area. When the conversation turns to trails, their eyes usually pop when we tell them that we have more miles of trails (land and water) than any other county in Michigan. When we show them the extensive maps that we have on the trails and then introduce them to all of our Chamber members, in the Cheboygan Today Magazine, and the amenities that are offered by those members, we can actually see the wheels of planning begin to turn in their head. I imagine that little voice saying, “Cheboygan? Wow! I’m going to have to check that place out.”
But it’s not just the visitors that we are trying to reach. Many people that we have encountered are entrepreneurs or corporate sales reps that already might have Cheboygan in their sights…or sometimes not. I had a conversation with a gentleman, at this last show, who told me that Cheboygan was in his sales territory but that he didn’t think much ever happened there. I responded back to him that he should come visit us more often because Cheboygan is quickly becoming the New Entrepreneurial Capital of Northern Michigan. He was skeptical of my statement at first but after I told him about several of our new businesses that have opened in the last year and the regional success of the Invest Cheboygan project his tone started to change and after talking for a few more minutes and providing him with a book (Cheboygan Today) full of prospects he left the booth saying “I didn’t know, I’ll have to pay more attention and come see you guys more often."
By the time the shows are over we have usually depleted our entire supply of Cheboygan Today Magazines, area trail maps and other Cheboygan information. Whether the visitors to our booth knew a lot about Cheboygan or a little, they all seemed to walk away with a new interest in our area and a new sense of “so, that’s Cheboygan…”