Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Million Dollar Question: How Do We Market Our Community to Site Selectors?

By Bob Ady, Ady International

Of all the questions I get asked each year, the question of how to market to site selectors is always in the top two or three. Why is this question a perennial favorite? The proportion of searches done by site selection firms is increasing. By my estimate, 30-40% of all site searches today are done by outside site selection firms, and the bigger the project, the more likely this is the case. Although these firms may seem like a pretty big universe given the power they exert over the site selection process, quite the contrary is true. There are probably only about 50 or so site selection firms which do the lion's share of the projects.

So we have a situation where there are relatively few site selection firms and literally thousands of community, regional, state, and other economic development organizations, such as utilities vying for their attention. While that may sound daunting, remember that site selection firms need the economic development organizations as much as the economic development organizations need them. A successful location project requires an effective relationship between the two.

So, how do economic development organizations reach these firms, or do they wait and hope that the consulting firms find them? I know of no progressive economic development organization that does not have site location firms as an integral part of its business attraction strategy.

There are three primary approaches for achieving this goal. First and most important are personal meetings with the consulting firm. Not necessarily the principal, but the individual consultants that are the project managers. Preferably this should be in the site selector's office, but events and conferences are other effective venues.

Another effective approach in creating top-of-mind awareness for your community is through the use of e- mail to individuals in the consulting firm. Focus on what site selectors want to know, not just what you want to push. Key among the information in the e-mail should be new plants locating and new buildings/sites becoming available.

Finally, your website offers the first portal to your community. It may not offer the advantages of a personal meeting but the majority of site searches start with data gathered from your website. Make sure it is easy to find and loaded with the type of information site selectors need. And make sure the strengths of your community or region come through loud and clear, to help make your community worth remembering.

It seems pretty straightforward, but relatively few economic development organizations are consistently good at establishing and maintaining ongoing relationships with site selection consultants. It may well be one of your marketing activities with the greatest return on investment if you follow the simple rules of thumb I've outlined here.

Explore Buffalo Niagara attracts 30 executives, foreign officials

About 30 executives and officials from around the world are expected to attend the three-day Explore Buffalo Niagara 2007 economic development forum that begins Wednesday.

The turnout of primarily foreign officials and executives is the payoff from the 1,500 invitations that were sent this spring to top business officials offering them a personalized look at what the Buffalo Niagara region can offer their companies.

“For this being the first time this has ever been done in this country, I think it’s a success,” said David A. Roll, the Western New York chapter manager for the National Electrical Contractors Association, who is serving as the initiative’s chairman.

Organizers declined to say exactly who is expected to attend the forum, citing the possibility that last-minute travel changes and business demands could alter some participants’ plans. But they range from a Chinese shoe manufacturer and an executive from a Japanese sake business to a group of officials from Buffalo’s sister city in Tver, Russia. Read more here.

EDC says marketing study not worthwhile

An $18,000 marketing study conducted for Jackson County by consultants from Texas fell short of what the firm promised, according to members of the Jackson County Economic Development Commission.

So the economic development commission is asking for its money back.

“It was a very canned report,” said Chris Matheson, an attorney on the EDC board. “It looks like you could probably substitute the name of any number of communities for the name of ours.”
The consulting firm analyzes a community’s demographics and determines what businesses would be a good fit for the community. The results? Applebee’s, Dairy Queen, Belk’s, Hallmark store, Sally’s Beauty Supply, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Hibbet Sporting Goods, Staples, Target and Tractor Supply.

Rick Fulton, the chairman of the EDC, said the group wasn’t impressed and doesn’t agree with the results. Fulton isn’t sure how much luck Jackson County would have recruiting some of the businesses Buxton recommends, such as the Belk’s for example. Fulton said consultants can be convincing when giving their pitch, but don’t always deliver.

The consultants pitched their services to the EDC in fall of 2005. They said they would analyze the county’s demographics “utilizing a variety of parameters.” Buxton used words like “psychographics”, claiming they analyze the lifestyle characteristics of the community to determine what businesses the population could support but was currently lacking. Read more here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Place Branding for the Economic Developer: AE Weighs in on the ‘Big Debate'

Place branding is a hot topic within the economic development community, and rightly so. In a world where marketers typically have ‘one shot’ to instantly get the attention of -- or introduce themselves to -- site selectors, consultants, tourists, potential workforce, and their own constituents, having and presenting a cohesive and enticing community identity has profound conscious and subconscious impact.

When the topic of place branding is debated in public and private forums, typically two factions become the primary contenders: The economic development practitioner faced with limited marketing resources but that first and foremost ‘need to get their [city, region, state, country]’s name out there’ vs. The marketing consultant that argues that a brand is not simply a logo and a tagline, but rather a collective of perceptions, messages, and mechanisms that a logo just happens to be a part of.

The former, in many cases, ultimately just wants to hire a graphic designer to create a visual identity that grabs the attention of target audiences and is popular among local decision makers and business constituents. The latter wants to analyze the region’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, competition, resources, and character in order to present a promise and vision statement that ultimately will impact how the community presents itself internally and externally.
AngelouEconomics’ (AE) perspective sits exactly in the middle. The fact is AE has unique perspective because we provide place branding services to economic development practitioners and place marketing consultancy to marketing firms based on unique client need. Having often been asked our stance in ‘this debate,’ it has always been our contention that both factions are correct –- only if they achieve an effective end-result.

And, to us, the end-result resides in a criterion of four parts: Read more here.

How Public Relations Changes Minds

Public relations changes minds in the process of deliveringwhat business, non-profit and association managers need more than almost anything else - the kind of key stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving theirmanagerial objectives.

It happens when the right kind of public relations alters individual perception, thus doing something positive aboutthe behaviors of those outside folks that MOST affect amanager’s organization.

Minds end up changed when managers follow a blueprintsomething like this: people act on their own perception of the facts before them, which leads to predictable behaviors about which something can be done. When we create, change or reinforce that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action the very people whose behaviors affect the organization the most, the public relations mission is usually accomplished. Read more here.