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New Hamburg Marketing Committee Meeting

Minutes taken by Nigel Gordijk.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012. 10:15 a.m. Meeting held at The Waterlot.


  • Roger Cowie (JohnBear Chevrolet Pontiac Buick and GMC Trucks Ltd)
  • Nick Cressman (Puddicombe House)
  • Theresa Dietrich (Sun Life Financial)
  • Bill Fleming (Sobeys)
  • Karolyn Fournier (Colour Paradise)
  • Cheryl Gordijk (New Hamburg Board of Trade staff member)
  • Nigel Gordijk (Common Sense Design; marketing director of the New Hamburg Board of Trade)
  • Dave Heyer (Heritage Pet & Garden)
  • Kathie Jordan (Kathie Jordan Design)
  • Bill MacKay (MacKay Emergency Management Consulting Inc.; Stonecroft resident)
  • John Ross (Stonecroft resident)
  • Chris Spotswood (ABsolute Fitness & Personal Training)
  • Steve Wagler (Josslin Insurance; vice-president of the New Hamburg Board of Trade)


  • Who’s our target market?
  • Why do they shop here?
  • What are their interests, attitudes and opinions?
  • How do we reach the target market?
  • Why do locals choose to shop out of town?
    For example, they may lack knowledge about what’s here, local retailers might have higher prices than box stores, and they might not be aware of how local businesses contribute to the community. The last item is probably more poignant at this time of year, because if our businesses don’t thrive we can’t afford to give back.
  • What should the Board of Trade be doing on your behalf to improve commerce in New Hamburg?
  • How do we maintain commercial momentum throughout the year, not just during major events?
  • How do we address the needs of service providers, and not just retailers?

Discussion Points

People often choose to shop at chain stores because they know what to expect from them; familiarity guides expectation.

Bill Fleming: While small stores might not be able to compete based on price, they can lead with customer service. The New Hamburg Sobeys is in competition with its larger sister store at The Boardwalk, but Bill and his staff strive to build relationships with their own customers. That personal relationship makes a difference, as it allows the local store to anticipate its regular customers’ needs.

New Hamburg Sobeys also strives to be different from its out-of-town competitors by stocking locally-sourced products, such as those from Pfennings’ Organic Farm.

Bill MacKay: Reviewing the New Hamburg Facebook page, Bill observed that there are pictures of buildings, but not people. This emphasizes the place, but not its residents. (This Facebook page is generated via content from Wikipedia, and was not created by the Board of Trade.) Bill advocates being more focussed with out social media activities because it propagates and allows us to spread “word of mouth” in an online environment.

Karolyn Fournier: We need to ensure that people have proper training in how to use social media effectively and appropriately. Posts on Facebook and Twitter represent businesses, and not necessarily the person who is typing the words. Also, too much information can become “white noise”. Messages need to be timely and relevant.

Theresa Dietrich: People buy from people. We need to build connections outside of the business community, and demonstrate the advantages of living in a small town. A website about New Hamburg shouldn’t be a Board of Trade-branded site; that puts people off. At the moment, all we do at the Board of Trade is to meet each other. We need to meet our neighbours downtown in a friendly environment, rather than in just a business one. It’s easier to do business with friends than with strangers. What about holding a fun local event? How do we get the message out?

Roger Cowie: We should appeal to peoples’ emotions. We need to continue to support each others’ businesses.

Ladies’ Night was a successful and well-attended event, which had good publicity and promotion. Spring Fling was less successful, perhaps because its publicity was left too late. Some people only became aware of it a couple of days beforehand.

Rather than events that last for a few hours, what about longer ones, like the three-day event in Uptown Waterloo? Perhaps we could have a “passport” that offers discounts and/or prizes the more often it’s used? That might encourage people to get out and meet those who are running local businesses.

Is there a way of highlighting individual businesses and the people who run them? This would draw attention to the personalities behind the local businesses, and allow people to “meet” them; for example, a businessperson’s profile in print or on a website.

Word of mouth recommendations are a major source of new and continued business for many.

It was suggested that we use local realtors to help spread the word about what’s available in New Hamburg, but this will only go so far. Many people who move here – from say, Kitchener or Toronto – will have used a realtor who is close to their former location. At the moment, you need to be here to learn more. We need to have more information available online.

Bill Fleming: Perhaps change needs to be more fundamental than just marketing. The town of Cobourg, ON invested heavily in beautification, and an area of it was marketed as “The Village”. (There might have been a Trillium Foundation grant to assist with the renovations.)

Does New Hamburg also need some form of tagline that succinctly sums up the town?

We should foster our image as a warm-hearted, friendly place to visit, with a message on a sign towards the edge of town: “Thank you for shopping in New Hamburg”.

Cheryl Gordijk: Part of the problem is that there are limited services available locally at the weekend and on Mondays, when many stores are shut. If someone needs to fill a prescription or pick up other pharmaceutical-related items, there’s nowhere in New Hamburg that is open on Sunday. This forces people to head to Kitchener, where they can visit Shoppers Drug Mart. Big stores like this – including Wal-Mart – offer pharmacy services, as well as stocking many food items and gifts. If people need to leave town for one thing, they’re likely to shop at other nearby stores at the same time. This means that we’re losing out across several shopping sectors.

Is there a way to welcome new residents to town? There is a “welcome wagon”, but it isn’t consistently run. Residential subdivision, Stonecroft, gives all new homebuyers its own welcome basket, which contains several free samples – from Oak Grove Cheese, for example – plus gift certificates for several local merchants (Expressway Ford, ABsolute Fitness, MeMe’s, etc). That’s a great introduction for many newcomers.

Closing comments from around the table:

  • The issue appears to be threefold – educate local residents, brand New Hamburg as a place in which to do business, and create excitement. (Nick Cressman)
  • What are we trying to accomplish on an ongoing basis? (Bill MacKay)
  • Providing personal customer service should be our point of difference. (Dave Heyer)
  • We need to educate our staff on how best to represent us. (Chris Spotswood)

Nigel Gordijk: From this meeting, we’ll be establishing an ongoing marketing committee that will discuss how best to market New Hamburg. Although it is useful to meet face-to-face occasionally, most discussions will be conducted via email or an online forum. Details will follow.

Additional Notes

Some people were unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting, or wanted to share more ideas before or after the event. These are shared below.

Nick Cressman

Rebranding of New Hamburg for the Tourist Market Segment

  • New Hamburg “The German Block”
    This would be a very expensive endeavour as the long-term goal would be to have signage in English and German. A financial grant would most likely need to be provided in order to make this happen. This would give us a marketing niche that would allow us to get on par with some of the smaller tourist towns, especially with Stratford and St Jacobs being so close.
  • Historical Banner Campaign
    Purchasing banners to hang on street lamps and help with the short-term sign issue. A campaign like this should be a revenue generator long-term, by selling business sponsorship. A while ago I did a model of this concept for the executive and presented it, it didn’t go anywhere. I think the financial estimates were year 1 profit of $2,200 and with the 5-year profit exceeding $10,000 on an annual basis. The cycle would be on a 5-year basis as the banners have a lifespan. This should help accomplish 2 things: (a) Help with funds to market downtown New Hamburg; (b) Also increase awareness.
  • Facebook Campaign
    The current Facebook campaign at Puddicombe House is costing us $.62 per click from most of our online advertising; this is considered good value. We are able to market to a younger audience and target an audience in Wilmot Township to support the “Buy Local” aspect. The only problem is creating high-quality content on a regular basis and having somebody act as a voice that has a strong understanding of social media. 
  • Co-Branded Marketing
    Advertising the New Hamburg Brand collectively as a marketing co-op. We currently participate in several marketing co-operatives that have buy-in opportunities. Several newspapers already offer this but they lack the brand building for New Hamburg at the current moment; i.e. having them go to a common landing site, such as the Board of Trade sites.

Ideas for the New Hamburg brand

“New Hamburg: Waterloo Region’s Trendiest Neighbourhood”

  • Reason behind the wording: New Hamburg’s current locals still connect with other locals. Including Waterloo Region allows us to be a part of something bigger and allows former residents of Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge a connection to our community.
  • Trendy: we are not old-fashioned just because we are a small town.
  • “Neighbourhood” allows people to take ownership and feel a part of something.

Kathryn Ritz

One point I like to make about shopping locally is that small town merchants CARE. We need every customer to be a satisfied and happy one. Each customer matters. Word spreads!

Also, local merchants give back to the community by being involved in service clubs, sponsoring community events, helping make our community a better place to live.

Last year I wrote a letter to the [Independent’s] editor after the wedding issue came out. It was written that young couples could save money by buying their invitations online. I just could not let that one go. My letter was not published but I was told if I want to we can advertise in the next wedding issue.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Letter to the Editor:

Recently I read in the New Hamburg Independent that couples can save money on their wedding invitations by buying them on the Internet. That got me thinking... it really is possible to buy almost anything online.

Often the transaction turns out just fine. However at Ritz Printing Inc., we have had opportunity to correct jobs for people when something they ordered from the Internet was not right. (The small print on the sales agreement states that the product may not be exactly as shown. Oh well.)

Many years ago an astute accountant gave us some advice.

“Price, service, quality: pick two because you can't give all three.”

That’s a statement worth considering. I really believe that service is one area where our local merchants excel. We care. And we really appreciate your business.

Being in business in a small community is a wonderful experience as customers are friends and friends are customers. We are all in this together. Local business people support sports groups, service clubs, and many other efforts to make our community better. When you spend your dollars locally, you are contributing to more than just a purchase. You are helping to keep our local economy strong, to employ your neighbours and to make our community the place you want it to be.

By the way, we are one of two local merchants who sell wedding invitations, paper and envelopes and we are happy to work with you to get exactly what you want. Just sayin’.


Kathryn Ritz


Monday, January 30, 2012

Good Morning Kathryn: Doug has sent me your “letter”. Unfortunately we will not print this as a letter.

The majority of our editorial for the Bridal section is very general. We welcome story ideas for all our specials and this one included. I will put your letter in my file and contact you next year. I agree with you on the personal touch, price and quality which is available in New Hamburg.

I also think the Board of Trade should have an advertising campaign promoting “When you spend your dollars locally, you are contributing to more than just a purchase. You are helping to keep our local economy strong, to employ your neighbours and to make our community the place you want it to be.”

Thank you for your input.

Sharon Leis, Advertising Representative


Next Steps

New Hamburg Marketing Committee

Forming a Committee

As mentioned earlier, our goal is to form a marketing committee that will oversee our ongoing activities. In the New Year, an email request to join this committee will be sent to this meeting’s attendees, as these are the locals who seem to be most engaged in this project.

Even though the New Hamburg Board of Trade will fund most – if not all – of the future marketing activities from our marketing budget, it is likely that at least some of the committee’s participants won’t actually be members of the Board of Trade. However, we will be providing the direction for the campaigns.

Committee Communication

While having face-to-face meetings can result in topics being discussed spontaneously, some people might not have the time for a regular get-together. Therefore, it might be preferable to carry out some discussions online, either via email or an online forum/discussion group. This will serve the dual purpose of forming a permanent record of everything that is talked about.

Our Message: What Should We Say, and How Do We Get People to Listen?

More than one person at the meeting suggested “branding” the town of New Hamburg, including having a tagline that summarizes what we have to offer. Our working title for this campaign – referred in emails to the Board of Trade’s general members – used the phrase “Buy Local”. This was misunderstood as being a campaign to endorse protectionism. Our aim is to encourage local residents to do more business in New Hamburg, and that’s all. The revised working title of “Choose Local” is probably more in line with what we’re trying to accomplish.

However, the term “Choose Local” is asking for the consumer to give us something; a better tagline would be one that tells people why they should choose local. For example, to paraphrase Nick Cressman’s suggestion: “New Hamburg: Welcome to Your Neighbourhood.” This is both friendly and non-commercial, so has the advantage of not seeming like a purely business-focussed initiative.

Perhaps we should have an online survey that will enable local residents and business owners to share their own suggestions. If so, this could be open to both members and non-members of the Board of Trade. A democratic approach might encourage more people to get involved.

Theresa Dietrich advised us not to brand our marketing activities with the Board of Trade’s logo. We want this to appeal to the general public, and not just fellow businesses.

At earlier Board of Trade executive meetings, we’ve discussed the possibility of revamping our directory website: If funds allow, then this could still be a worthwhile pursuit, but it shouldn’t be regarded as a quick fix. Also – as described in a written proposal for a new website – it will require the involvement of several people who are willing to moderate and manage the website, as it a more comprehensive site will be too much for one person to oversee. The Stonecroft residents’ website, for example, is looked after by a team of volunteer webmasters, who take it turns to look after its day-to-day management. Each webmaster volunteers for a week at a time, then hands over to the next person on the list. This system seems to work quite efficiently, and is certainly worth emulating if we decide to go down this route.

Producing profiles of the people behind New Hamburg’s businesses was suggested as a way to put a human face to them. As was mentioned more than once, “People buy from people”. Where would these profiles be seen? There are a few alternatives.

  • The aforementioned revamped website would be a good option because over time it would build up to become a comprehensive collection of business owner profiles.
  • The Board of Trade could sponsor a section of the printed Stonecroft Shopping Guide every month. Part of this section – which could be either the two or four centre pages, for example – would contain the profile feature.
  • A paid-for half page of the Baden Outlook.
  • An advertisement in the New Hamburg Independent, although the cost for this might be prohibitive.

The example below – from a sponsored section of a recent edition of the Toronto Star – shows the warm, friendly style of writing and photography we should be aiming for. The question-and-answer style of presentation would allow for consistency throughout all of the profiles, if all the subjects are asked the same questions.

The comments and suggestions above should be regarded as a starting point only. Opening up the discussion should elicit some ideas and suggestions that we might not be able to come up with on our own.

Theresa Dietrich suggested holding fun events downtown, which would encourage locals to come and meet the business people of New Hamburg. Again, this puts a human face to the folks who bring prosperity to our town. A team to set up such events will require separate committees to organize and manage them. This is definitely worth considering if it brings people to the downtown core throughout the year.

Chris Spotswood has mentioned at executive meetings that people often don’t realize how much our businesses give back to the community, with generosity that is only possible for as long as local residents support us. Perhaps we should think about a complimentary campaign that explains this. The waterwheel has been cited as a recognizable local symbol. With this in mind, we could have an advertisement with the headline or tagline, “What goes around, comes around.”