Part 2 in our series looking at how Omaha’s cultural gems band together for group marketing.

Teresa Gleason started Polecat Communications in Benson in June 2015. She loves her little office there because “Benson is like a little family.”

“Everyone knows each other and everyone looks out for each other,” she said. “I’m one of many small independent business owners here.”

This camaraderie led Benson business owners like Gleason to pool resources and take advantage of group marketing. Benson has leveraged several initiatives to help boost its brand:

  • Events
  • Partnerships
  • Group advertising

Arts, Entertainment & Dining

Anchored on the west end by The Waiting Room, one of the city’s premier music venues, Gleason credits some newer restaurants for opening Benson to a new audience. But she said live events also are a major factor.

“Benson Days and the Boo-Bash, where businesses open their doors for trick-or-treating, are both really popular.”

She also credits First Friday – a tour of art galleries — with drawing positive attention to the business district.

“First Friday is incredibly helpful, especially from an arts and entertainment perspective.” The district has also hosts the Summer and Fall Showcases for the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards.

Despite their “quirky” natures, Benson’s entrepreneurs use group marketing effectively. Even in a highly diversified neighborhood, they still work together toward a common goal – increased profits for everyone.

Partnerships – Another BID Success

One of the original business improvement districts when it was established by the city in 1977, Benson leadership revived the organization in 2010.

Former state senator Shelley Kiel provides staff support (as well as a good dose of public service experience) for current co-chairs Glenn York (Benson Podiatry) and John Larkin (Beercade, Jake’s Cigar & Spirits, St. Andrew’s Pub).

The First Friday of the month meetings at the Benson Community Center are well attended by a wide range of stakeholders and it’s where the energy for teaming up on the next initiative started.

Group advertising success

“It’s common here to not have gigantic marketing budgets, so a group of us got together to run an ad in The Reader,” she said. “If I had taken out a little ad by myself it would have been lost in the noise of all the other ads.”

Benson businesses banded together to create a “Benson” page in The Reader. A top local marketing and PR professional, Gleason and the Mint Design Group (the creative sauce behind one of Omaha’s premier international events) led the effort. The ad draws people to the neighborhood and benefits Benson businesses as a whole.

“It’s now part of a common goal,” Gleason said. “People coming here will help all of us.”

With the headline “Eat. Drink. Shop. Live. Create. Benson,” the ad also helps define Benson’s brand not only as entertainment district, but as it’s own mini-community alive with diversity and business incubation. Advertisers range from service businesses like Parlour 1887, Benson Podiatry and Benson Law to entertainment offerings like Lot 2, Beercade, Ted & Wally’s and the little gallery or retailers like Cake By The Pound and Jane’s Health Market.

“A stepping stone”

 Gleason said buying the ads as a group has been a “stepping stone” toward more cooperation among Benson business owners.

“We get a bigger bang for our buck,” she said. “The more we work together, the more we can reach people.”

They continue to brainstorm for ways to draw more attention and people without changing what’s most appealing about their neighborhood.

“Benson has a quirky nature,” Gleason said. “People kind of do their own thing. It’s a welcoming environment for the arts. Nobody wants to see it homogenized.”