An often cited rule in business claims that the three secrets of success are location, location, location. But there are places which are not ideally situated and which are yet able to beat the odds.
Belfast, Maine, for example.
Belfast’s stately homes and brick buildings were constructed in the 19th century with wealth from shipbuilding and maritime commerce. When these industries faded in the 20th century, the town survived by turning its waterfront into a home for poultry, sardine, and potato processing plants. Then, with the decline of manufacturing, it turned to tourism, until in 1962 Route 1, Maine’s coastal highway, was rerouted west of downtown.
It felt like a death blow, but Belfast was once again able to reinvent itself. It understood that the bypass actually had the benefit of preserving the city’s historic character and relaxed, small-town feel, and since the 1980s this hidden gem near the top of Penobscot Bay has enjoyed a rebirth as an arts and cultural center, attracting visitors (like me) who are willing to go a little out of their way to experience its authenticity.
Keeping the spotlight on the positive enabled them to come up with innovative ways to grow.
The shipyards, which occupy the former site of the Stinson Sardine Cannery, features hoists capable of lifting 485 tons for servicing super yachts with masts half a football field long and names like Net Worth and Desiree. Nestled among them, in a nondescript, dark-shingled building, is a barbeque place I’d heard about on a previous visit but couldn’t find. I came across it accidentally this time while taking an early morning walk.
Because it faces the water instead of Front Street, where other restaurants are more visible, its location is not the best, but it has come up with an ingenious way to compensate. When they fire up the big black smoker by the entrance, they turn on the giant fan which stands next to it. The aroma of barbecue wafts all over town, and people find their way to the restaurant by following their noses (the owner calls this the “Bugs Bunny effect”).
Pig Out Barbecue, like the town itself, has been able to solve the location problem by putting into action a positive approach to marketing with the power to overcome obstacles. Instead of focusing on what was missing, they have instinctively applied a key principle of Appreciative Inquiry, a generative process that creates new energy.
They asked themselves two questions. First, what’s working?
For the town, it was its uniqueness. For Pig Out, it was the food, redolent with the tantalizing smell of barbecue sauce.
The second question was, how can we do more of it?
The town realized it could actually trade on its off-the-beaten-path-ness. The restaurant found a unique way of spreading the word.
Keeping the spotlight on the positive enabled them both to come up with innovative ways to grow.
Whether you’re a business owner, a work searcher or a person transitioning from one place in your life to the next, you can improve your marketing effectiveness and foster your own rebirth by asking yourself these same questions. What’s working? How can I do more of it?
Belfast also hosts a fun contra dance the first Friday of every month and welcomes all ages and abilities. A great community event!