Strategic Marketing for Economic Developers

“Have I got a deal for you!”

By: Jim Walton

“It’ll be distributed statewide.” It sounded so impressive. A business publication was calling every economic developer and chamber of commerce in the state, soliciting advertising from anyone gullible enough to fall for this all-too-common pitch. “Statewide” conjured up the notion that every business in the state would see their ad. Fortunately, one economic developer called us to see what we thought of the offer.

After a bit of investigation, we found that the plan was to print a short run of magazines and distribute a small bundle to every economic development and chamber office in the state. The sad discovery was that not one magazine was to be mailed to target businesses. It would be entirely up to the EDOs and chambers to hand them out or mail them. Was it really “statewide” distribution? Yes. Was it a worthwhile advertising investment? Probably not.

This happens every day. Media sales people call economic developers with a hot deal, but they must make a decision right now. Maybe it’s a special statewide issue or an offer of cheap remnant space. While these may sometimes have value, we strongly recommend the development of a well-thought-out strategic marketing and media plan that will serve as a platform for determining the value of such offers.

For example

Let’s assume you have determined that your community assets and workforce are perfect for the food industry. You may have abundant and affordable water, outstanding transportation assets, food-focused education and training programs, and an active food industry cluster. With this in mind, it would make perfect sense to develop a strategic plan to grow your brand in the minds of food industry leaders and site consultants.

Such a plan may include print and online advertising positioned in and around food-related editorial, an email campaign focused on food industry decision makers, or even activities at food industry trade shows and conferences. Such a highly-targeted effort makes far more sense than a cheap ad that fills remnant space.

You must resist

The old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” is certainly true in the fire sale approach mentioned above. Cheap ad space is cheap for a reason, but it may not be in your best interest. With a written strategic marketing and media plan in place, you should be able to resist these “”special” offers and remain focused on your plan to grow your community’s brand within your target industries.

At Brand Acceleration, we work with communities and our business allies, helping communities identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT), matching them with target industries, and then developing a thorough plan to reach key decision makers with an effective message that moves audiences to action. Then, and only then, can we (the economic developer and our marketing strategists) feel confident that we are spending precious and limited marketing dollars where they can be most effective. Anything less is just wishful thinking and wasteful.

To learn more about our services, visit our website. We’d love to be part of your team.

Have a wonderful and successful week,


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