Marketing Georgetown

This month, the Georgetowner has an interesting piece about the internal skirmishes at the Georgetown BID over the proper approach to improve the business climate in Georgetown. According to the article, two camps emerged over the $5 million budget in particular:

Few disagreed that marketing is essential to Georgetown’s business campaign. The line in the sand is drawn, however, over how exactly these funds should be appropriated. The resulting skirmish looks microcosmically like a Congressional budgetary war, with one side advocating greater revenue, the other more judicious spending of present funds.

By the end of the meeting, it would appear the first side carried the day; by strawpoll the group decided to reconsidered (upward)  the tax assessment structure.

While they are considering their marketing budget and strategy GM has one suggestion for the BID: Update your webpage and initiate an integrated advertising campaign.

Right now the BID runs GeorgetownDC.com, which has a listing for each business with some basic information. Plus it has an events calendar, but it’s not exactly comprehensive. It’s mostly just the Blues Alley and CAG calendar.

The BID’s website is fine upon first glance. But take a gander at Alexandria’s version and compare it to Georgetown’s. It’s not even a close comparison. Alexandria’s is much slicker and stylish. More importantly, it has several factors more information than Georgetown’s. They even have a specialty page just for weddings in Alexandria. Compared to Alexandria’s, Georgetown’s is a barely glorified business directory.

Moreover, Alexandria (through Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association) has incorporated a uniform brand across its website and public advertising. Incorporating swirling old-timey type with a smokey red color scheme and well selected photography, the marketing communicates Alexandria’s strengths: history with a vibrant commercial and entertainment district. Georgetown’s communicates that there are a bunch of stores here, but it’s pretty interchangeable with the website for an outlet mall. It doesn’t really communicate Georgetown’s history, vibrancy, or variety. And when’s the last time you even saw an ad for Georgetown anywhere throughout the region?

The thing is, most people in the DC area already have a pretty well-formed opinion of Georgetown. But unfortunately it is often one-dimensional. A successful advertising campaign could put forward the lesser known gems of Georgetown. It could be a chance for Georgetown to re-introduce itself to a population that sees it primarily as an outdoor mall full of chains and loutish fratboys.

How many DC residents haven’t heard about the new waterfront yet? How many don’t realize we’ve got three different rare or niche bookstores? How many haven’t even been to Dumbarton Oaks?

A well organized marketing campaign could change that and increase business as a result.

Just a thought…

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Marketing Georgetown

  1. SSC

    Thank you for highlighting the Georgetown BID website’s weaknesses. The website, overhauled relatively recently, fails to do justice to the many assets abound in Georgetown. Aside from strengthening the brand image, the site could really benefit from providing OpenTable links for area dining establishments, utilizing a more interactive mapping tool like that used on the Wormley Row website, and also maximizing parking and transit information (ala nextbus) to improve functionality.

  2. I second SSC’s suggestions. It is bizarre, given the intelligence of the people who live and work in the village, that we do not do a better job of marketing our community’s assets beyond the chain stores and drinking establishments. At least the old BID web site had a semi-decent presentation on Georgetown’s history, including photos. And the use of the term “Georgetown’s Bidness”, while well-intentioned humor, just makes us look cheesy.

  3. SSC

    Thank you, William. Georgetown BID’s lackluster website reflects the BID’s lack of identity and confidence because of the growing competition Georgetown now faces from Alexandria, Crystal City, and most importantly, rapidly gentrifying sections of the District. For many years, Georgetown benefitted from being the District’s shopping/dining/imbibing center. But with the rise of 14th & U et al, Georgetown’s share of these markets has seen a precipitous decline, a decline that has only hastened during these harsh economic times. What’s more Georgetown’s geographic inconveniences – cumbersome (at best) metro access, paucity of easily and cheaply accessed parking, etc – are now being perceived as distinct disadvantages. The time for resting on Georgetown’s laurels has passed. The time for cementing a new identity out of the BID’s competitive advantages is now. Stop diluting the attractions with transparent gimmicks and start giving the area’s genteel decline a hardhitting strategic remedy that builds on the past, accounts for today’s challenges, and lays a resilient foundation for a better tomorrow.

    As an aside, listing each of the establishments’ Zagat ratings on the BID website would also enhance functionality.

  4. The Zagat’s rating info is a very good idea. The problem is: who would do it? Clearly no one at BID makes a regular effort of maintaining the site.

    Moreover, the business listings themselves do nothing to help the visitor. It continues to list businesses that are no longer operating (e.g. CD Warehouse, which closed months ago.) And incredibly random and poor alphabetizing/categorizing plagues the site. One section is partially alphabetical on the drop-down menus, but the next is not. For example, a visitor might not think there are any Chinese restaurants in Georgetown because on the at-first-glance alphabetical “Cuisine” drop-down menu on the BID site, “Chinese” comes after “Seafood” but before “Sushi”. In the “Shopping” drop-down menu, “Boutique” comes after “Women’s”.

    Moreover, there are no descriptions of what some of the businesses are. If I am from Denmark and visiting Georgetown for the first time, do I know what a CVS is? Is it so hard for BID to write something like “24 Hour Pharmacy and Convenience Store for the Wisconsin Avenue location”? It’s one line.

    How would our viking visitor know what Ching Ching Cha is? It’s listed under “Specialty Shopping”. Unfortunately, there is no indication as to what the specialty is: do they carry Asian restaurant supplies? Is it a shop selling imported silk robes and wall hangings?

    No one can tell that it is a Chinese tea house that happens to sell loose tea and tea service wares. It is not listed under either “Dining”, although one can eat everything from soup to rice to vegetables here, in addition to drinking tea; nor “Gourmet”, even though it has more in common with Dean & Deluca than it does with “Cowboy Western Wear”, the next listing beneath it on the “Specialty Shopping” page.

    In any case, having a BID is why the local merchants pay into it. They are being sorely let down by this site.

  5. Pingback: BID Sticks With a Good Thing «

  6. Pingback: Branding Georgetown | The Georgetown Metropolitan

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