I really like the idea of selling your commercial district with specifics. You know your community inside and out. But everyone else does not. You can tell people that Main Street Wherever is a "great place to live, work, and play," but what does that really mean? It means nothing. It doesn't motivate anyone to act. They need details and you have to paint the picture for them.
The Downtown Frederick Partnership (Md.) worked with Frederick Tourism to put a nice ad in the Washington Post
magazine promoting holiday shopping in downtown Frederick. Most of the
readership is probably within an hour drive. It called out five items
for sale and where you can get them downtown, with three food options
(two restaurants and one bakery), and one salon. (I might advise against
promoting service businesses when doing your regional ad only because
you'll get more bank for your buck telling people in December how you
will meet their holiday shopping needs. They probably already get their
haircut at the salon down the street.) The ad tells the reader: we have 150+ shops and 45+ restaurants, so you can have a great day enjoying our town while crossing some names off the shopping list.
What are the really cool things that people can buy in your district - does anyone sell hard to find items handmade/one-of-a-kind stuff? What is the most outrageous dessert in your town? Does your coffee shop have a cool latte flavor? Best sandwich? Sit down with some friends, volunteers, colleagues, and think of a few superlatives for your local business. Pretend like you need superlatives for a downtown yearbook. Think about what really sets your town apart and think in specifics.
With those specifics in hand, sell it. Sell the idea that your district is a "great place to live, work, and play," or in this case, eat, drink, shop, and play.
This can help capture the attention of people living near downtown for years but who never walked over to see how things have changed. It also works to attract regional visitors. If you tell me, a prospective visitor, five cool specifics that appeal to me, I immediately have five reasons to make the trip to your district.
You can do this through an ad with a regional newspaper or tailor your list to meet the needs of target groups (for example, parents looking for children-oriented outings) and look for bloggers and writers who might be interested in this information. Using this information for your enewsletter and social media is nice, but it is preaching to the choir and going to lead to converting new customers.