Chamber of Commerce speaker challenges business owners to put themselves in their customers' shoes.

An expert summarized his marketing advice to Pratt business people in one sentence: Put yourself in your customers' shoes and make sure they fit. He threw in some technical jargon: Dopeler effect — the tendency of stupid ideas to seem intelligent when they come at you rapidly — and SWOT analysis — every year, take a look at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Richard Smalley, marketing manager for Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, spoke from a tourism perspective at the Pratt Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting Thursday night. Chamber Executive Director Jan Scarbrough noted, however, that his remarks could apply to many businesses.

The goal in marketing tourism is to get more people to come to an area and stay longer. Smalley's map showed that about as many inquiries about Kansas tourism come from surrounding states as from within. Hunting and fishing permits reveal that residents of Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas find Kansas attractive enough to visit — and spend money.

There is more interest in sight-doing than sight-seeing. Food is important, and the frequent question is "where do the locals eat?" Local eateries will usually win out over chain restaurants, he noted. Another question is "what else is there to do here?" making it important that businesses partner with each other.

In recent years, people tend to take more and shorter trips, Smalley said, averaging four leisure trips a year, 46 percent of them on the weekend and 30 percent within a 50-mile radius from home. Forty-five percent of trips are taken to visit family.

When people inquire about Kansas opportunities, they say they're interested in historic trails, driving tours and scenic byways, zoos, western heritage, parks, lakes and rivers, and Native American heritage. What visitors actually do, however, is shop.

Tourism generates $5.4 billion and employs 123,000 people in Kansas. To get a share, "you gotta have a website," Smlley advised, and it has to be up to date, answer questions about the business or the town and include attractive photography.

Social networking has changed the speed by which news travels.

"People spread awesome," Smalley said. "They will let people know they had an awesome time in Pratt. They will also tell if they had a horrible time."

Poll: What type of business would be a good fit for the vacant buildings in downtown Pratt?

I'd like to see the coffee shop come back. I'm missing my coffee.— Dakota Holtgrieve

A men's clothing store. Or a children's clothing store. — Kevin Hamm

Hmmm. Why is this so hard? Maybe an antique store. — Bruce Pinkall

Anything retail. (For example) more clothing stores bring more clothing shoppers. — Porter Loomis

An ice cream parlor, right across from the Barron. With two lanes for bowling. — Lynn Perez