The Little Idea: Broadcast Your Local Knowledge

Duluth’s landmark Aerial Lift Bridge spans the port city’s ship canal, and serves as its unofficial welcome sign.  (   Flickr/Sharon Mollerus   )

Duluth’s landmark Aerial Lift Bridge spans the port city’s ship canal, and serves as its unofficial welcome sign. (Flickr/Sharon Mollerus)

Sell your destination and give the best advice—both online and in person—to earn visitors’ business

Words by Peter Koch

World Wide Welcome Mat
If you Google “best bike trails Duluth” or “Duluth Traverse” or, heck, even “fat bike Duluth,” one of the top results is BikeDuluth.com. When you click on it—and you will, if you’re Average Joe Traveler, who’s heard good things about the Minnesota city and wants to see the Gold-Level IMBA Ride Center for himself—the homepage that loads displays “Duluth Area Cycling Guide” across the top (even above the menu bar), and, in somewhat smaller print just below, “Brought to you by the friendly folks at the Ski Hut • theskihut.com • 218-724-8525”.

To the right is the iconic, 64-year-old Ski Hut logo. “We made that,” Ski Hut owner Scott Neustel says of the free, Wordpress-hosted website, letting go a mischievous laugh.

Despite what you’re thinking, the website is more than a thinly veiled advertisement. In fact, it’s exactly what it purports to be—a super detailed, earnest and, ultimately, useful insider’s guide to local riding options, from tarmac to trail to packed snow. It also covers dining, lodging, gear shops (even linking to competing bike shops), and weather. “The whole idea,” says Neustel, “is we just want people to come here, because it’s not easy to get to Duluth.”

You can bet when they get there, though, that they also know who the local experts are. It’s such a simple, obvious idea—to harness SEO like that, and establish yourself as the local experts—that every destination shop should be doing it.

Publishing—and updating—maps and guidebooks to Fruita’s extensive local trail networks has helped establish Over the Edge as the region’s go-to experts.  (OTE Sports)

Publishing—and updating—maps and guidebooks to Fruita’s extensive local trail networks has helped establish Over the Edge as the region’s go-to experts. (OTE Sports)

Put Yourself on the Map
In a similar vein, Over the Edge Sports Fruita publishes local guidebooks, as well as updates and maintains the most detailed local trail maps. On the “Trails” section of their website, the shop declares: “…we take pride in helping our visitors have the best rides of their lives. We gladly give trail advice and will help you, whether you make a purchase with us or not. We DO offer the best maps in the area and, despite online maps and phone apps, our in-store advice with an updated map often saves people from making terrible decisions about their rides. For example…Thinking of riding the Edge Loop in March? We’ll talk you out of it and save you from dragging your bike through endless miles of gumbo mud. It’s what we do, trust us and we’ll steer you to the best trails, considering conditions, season and your ability level.”

This Welcome Center approach has turned Over the Edge into the town’s point-of-contact and ambassador for every cyclist who comes to play in the dirt, dispensing cheap trail maps and boatloads of free ride advice (not to mention beers) while offering high-quality service. Founder Troy Rarick describes the approach as “honoring your people.” “When a person walks in the door,” he says, “that’s one of our people. We just take care of them in whatever way they need. It may be telling them where to get sushi, it may be telling them where to ride, and it may be putting a new fork on their bike. Honor your people, make it awesome to be in your store, and customers will honor you by giving you their business.”