Economic Development Marketing Messages Require Specificity

Fluff statements no longer cut it

By: Jim Walton


Back in 2007, when we started Brand Acceleration, economic development marketing and branding was much more basic. When we developed a website or brochure, it was common practice in the industry to use vague phrases like “We’re Open for Business,” “We have plenty of water,” and “This is a great place to do business and raise a family;” however, there is a huge shift taking place in economic development marketing. Site consultants, corporate executives, and real estate professionals now have much higher expectations and are looking for more detail and verifiable facts.

The food industry, for example, uses vast amounts of water each day. If food processing is on your target industry list, you need to know in detail what your water capacity is. Simply saying, “We can handle just about anything you throw at us” is a quick way to be taken out of consideration. Food industry representatives are going to want to know your excess available capacity, pipe sizes, and wastewater capacity.

A deadly practice is the use of statements that are either not true or just can’t be proven. For example, we were once conducting discovery sessions in which a number of community leaders told us about how affordable the water was. “We have really cheap water” was a phrase used repeatedly. This is something we heard in several meetings over the course of days. But, on our last day in the area, we were with a group of about twenty community leaders and the “cheap water” statement came up again. One the fly, a Brand Acceleration staffer, using her iPad, did a bit of impromptu research. Just as a site consultant would do, she looked up their water prices and found that this community’s water was 7% more expensive than the national average. Apparently, they were all saying the same thing, but no one had actually confirmed this claim. As is often the case, one person says something, someone else repeats it, and eventually everyone takes it as a fact without knowing if it’s 100% accurate. The point is that the information needs to be detailed and accurate; otherwise your community may be discredited and taken off the list.

I know it is sometimes tempting to believe that if you can just whet the prospects appetite with a very brief slice of information, you can sell your community when they call for more information. As good as that sounds, there is a very strong chance that if you don’t offer detailed information on your website or brochures, you will never get that phone call. Economic development marketing is not for the faint of heart. Your best chance of getting on and staying on the list is to provide as much information as possible. Details about utilities, workforce, education, and your sites and buildings should be as complete as possible. .

These, and other, examples are why we are so passionate about our ongoing program to meet, know, and interview corporate executives and consultants. It’s crucial to know exactly what they want and how their needs and expectations are changing. This is why we do a very thorough discovery visit when we take on a new EDO client. It is very important for us, and our client, to gather a thorough list of strengths, weaknesses, and details that help us present a solid case for jobs and investment in their community.

If you would ever like to share ideas and discuss how we can put our knowledge and insights to work for you, please feel free to contact me. It would be an honor.

Have a great week.