If it feels like Capitol Hill’s Chamber of Commerce has been on the site a lot lately, it has. A new strategy to partner on events as a way to bring new customers to the Hill has interim executive director Michael Wells in the middle of a lot of the kinds of things CHS covers.
“We need more bodies in the stores,” Wells told CHS. “We’re doing events that physically produce that.”
Monday night’s Spirit of the Hill dinner is the Chamber’s annual fundraiser and award ceremony. This year’s Spirit of the Hill recipient? Broadway Building developer Michael Malone. In only its second year, the dinner is not that far removed from the way the Chamber used to operate: a lot of eggs in one basket and a lot of work for a not always clear return on investment.
But in an effort to better deploy the $2.6 million in business mitigation budget Sound Transit is on the hook for as light rail construction continues through 2016, the Chamber is trying to be more nimble — and direct — with its plans.
The first example of the new events strategy was the teaming of the Chamber with Molly Moon’s on the Mobile City promotion in August. Wells said that though attendance was lighter than organizers had hoped, the event was an example of the kinds of things the Chamber and its Broadway Improvement Association branch can do in partnership with Hill businesses. Wells wouldn’t say exactly how much was kicked in for the Mobile City event but that it was in the thousands, not hundreds of dollars.
Mobile City was a good enough learning experience but Wells expects the next Chamber effort around boosting Capitol Hill’s already vibrant Halloween celebration will be more effective. The Chamber-backed weekend will include a haunted house — Blood Manor will be fittingly housed in an empty retail space on Broadway — and a family costume parade in Cal Anderson Park.
“Some of the merchants have been frustrated,” Wells said about the Chamber’s use of mitigation funds thus far. “Thousands of dollars will now be going into events.”
The Chamber’s work with the business mitigation funds are an interesting illustration of the challenge of trying to creatively deploy a large amount of money to help the widest breadth of businesses possible. One strategy was to educate. Last spring, the Chamber worked with Sound Transit on a series of seminars for Hill business owners. Feedback was mostly positive Wells said and, while there were challenges in making time to attend the classes, Wells thinks there will be more education opportunities again in coming months.
Another area of investment has been the Chamber’s YourCapitolHill Web site touted as
a CHS killer a Web 2.0-styled marketing site for the Hill. The end product of a +$30,000 marketing and branding effort, the site is a mostly quiet brochure site with information about the Hill and a directory of businesses. Wells said the site — approved by his predecessor who resigned in May — has not been a failure but he has heard the call from member businesses and non-members that the Hill needs to do more to drum up real business.
That means for every new era effort like Twitter classes for business owners and fancy new Web sites, you’ll see some old fashioned Hill promotion like holiday events and sales. “We’re focused on marketing in a different way,” Wells said. “That might mean doing some things that are familiar.”