Northwest Arkansas is an undisputed hot spot, attracting notice for its range of cultural opportunities, its business strength and more. Cultural draws like Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art have propelled the region to its status as a draw for tourists and new residents alike while businesses have flocked for its vibrant economic community.
But Graham Cobb isn’t just interested in only attracting tourists. He wants to build the region by through engagement and getting people and businesses to relocate to Bentonville.
The Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce is working to boost the area’s profile with a strategic influencer campaign. Cobb, the chamber president and CEO, is charged with boosting the Bentonville’s area profile, and he is aiming to do so in a big way.
“Bentonville punches above its weight class in the areas of cycling, arts and culture, culinary, health and wellness and aviation,” Cobb said. “We are a budding hub for technology and have a rich history of entrepreneurship and innovation.”
Cobb and the chamber recently launched a new influencer campaign, designed to highlight the cultural, lifestyle and business amenities that Bentonville has to offer. By engaging influencers, Cobb hopes to reach those who don’t know about the burgeoning city through curated experiences.
The chamber will be partnering with influencers in the arts/culture/music, cycling, culinary, business and the health and wellness sectors to tell the story of Bentonville and its surroundings.
“Bentonville boasts amazing events and institutions that draw globally. However, many are still unaware or misinformed when it comes to the quality of life and sense of place Bentonville offers,” Cobb said.
“Top of mind with me on the eve of the Momentary opening was just how special this was going to be. It’s globally special. I kept thinking, ‘This person should be here! She would love this!’”
Cobb and his team have been working on the influencer campaign since late January 2020, but with the onset of the pandemic, had to delay the launch. Now, they are ready to push ahead, and Cobb has built out the team at the chamber to capitalize on the influencer campaign. In July 2020, the chamber hired a new Influencer Experiences project manager.
Rachel Tucker, the Influencer Experiences project manager, oversees the project, where she researches influencers to determine their reach, engagement levels and fees in order to best amplify Bentonville. Along with Cobb, Tucker contracts with influencers and then develops and curates content for campaigns.
Working with influencers is a way of raising awareness of the region, reaching more people and attracting young businesses. But Cobb said that attracting new eyes isn’t just a matter of letting them know that Bentonville is an option – they have to show how Bentonville stacks up against the competition, how it provides “top-shelf experiences” for those looking to relocate.
“We want this to help us continue to diversify the economy, bringing in young and early scaling firms as well as established but still growing businesses,” he said.
“The highest aptitude workforce and leadership desires engaging experiences. Top shelf experiences are in close proximity to where we work, where we live and where we gather. Bentonville’s benefits are not simply tied to proximity. However, it comes down to access. In many major metros, time and cost results in an experience embargo, available primarily to the elite or the established. IN Bentonville, these world-class amenities are accessible to all. Everyone matters. Everyone is invited. As it says at The Momentary, a catalyst for this campaign, ‘You Belong Here.’”
Bentonville, for Cobb, is the next frontier for forward-looking professionals and those seeking high-quality lifestyles. While New York City and other metropolitan areas have traditionally been the destinations of choice for the upwardly-ascendant, Cobb sees his city as the new choice.
“The coasts have been over for a while now. Quality of life decays as cost of living becomes prohibitive. Layer on concerns over the pandemic and the opportunity of working anywhere becoming a scaled business practice and Bentonville’s magnet grows stronger than ever,” he said. “However, we can’t be part of the decision making process if we are not top of mind and that starts with community brand awareness.”