By Sailesh Dhungana
Imagine having knowledge about the future. (more…)
By Sailesh Dhungana
Imagine having knowledge about the future. (more…)
For most communities, your best prospects are different than they were 2 years ago, and most companies are thinking differently than they were 2 years ago. So if you’re implementing your marketing strategies the same way you were 2 years ago, you should think again. You need to quickly adapt to the changing economic environment.
We are experiencing a time of tight budgets, overworked staff, and information overload. This not only applies to us as ED professionals, but also our prospects. This will change–maybe sooner or maybe later–but for the time being, how are you changing your marketing efforts to meet your goals during this time? Cost-effective marketing is a must for 2009. Here are a couple of ideas that have been discussed around the office lately:
It is becoming increasingly tough to get the attention of the decision-makers of companies. This is usually due the mass quantities of solicitation attempts throughout the day in any given corporate environment. Our partners and clients who have proven to be most successful at reaching decision-makers have gone to some lengths to infiltrate the administrative shield.
Many marketing experts will advise you that building a relationship with the gatekeeper is truly a necessary step in reaching your target. This can be done a number of ways. Routinely sending informational 2-dimensional materials such as brochures and letters followed up by a phone call is a traditional way that has worked. This is especially effective when mixed with a charming tone or when a great amount of graphic design is incorporated into the materials.
A more effective way to differentiate your materials from the rest of the information in front of the gatekeeper is to send a 3-dimensional item that may trigger an emotion. This creates a memory in the brain that can be a point of reference for a future follow-up. An idea we had for one of our clients with a strong Irish heritage was to have them send a live Shamrock to companies that are suspected of having relocation or expansion needs. Building on their branding theme, a Shamrock is directly related to the region and gives the emotional feeling of “growing.” A Shamrock is an item that will most likely not be discarded with other marketing materials. It will most likely be placed on a desk and enjoyed. The call that you make to this company is no longer cold, as you have now established a reference point.
You could even go the extra mile by sending a watering can, followed-up by a planter, followed-up by a soil and seed mixture. This adds an element of humor and eager anticipation for the next item that will definitely be memorable. The more memorable you are, the more effective your marketing can be. The outcome of this investment is well worth the minor cost incurred.
Other cost-effective things to think about:
By Patrick McConahy
If you were to put together a list of the most underpaid and underappreciated job positions out there, I think you’d find economic development professionals a very close second behind public school teachers. The amount of time, effort, and energy that goes into board meetings, site visits, pleasing this constituent, catering to the needs of that donor, listening to the community, lobbying for more funds, attending conferences, and meeting with prospects leaves very little time for much of anything else, especially attracting companies to your area. As we all know, the best way to make the economic pie in your area bigger is to build relationships and rapport with companies that would fit well in your community. But with all of the time-consuming responsibilities listed above, how do you even start?
One of the fastest growing services Whittaker Associates has been asked to offer over the past year is appointment setting. What’s appointment setting? Imagine being hand-delivered a list of dates and times where all you have to do is show up and you’ll be speaking with the key decision-makers inside recently growing companies who want to hear more about what your area has to offer. All you have to do is what economic and community development groups do best: show outsiders their cities’ strengths and assets. Instead of sending brochures to hundreds of random companies, you meet face to face with a few companies that have expressed a specific interest in your area.
Often you can control when the appointment takes place. You carve out a few days when you are free to travel and the rest is taken care of. Even better, you can use appointment-setting services to piggyback on top of other attraction efforts you already have planned. For example, if you are attending CoreNet in Atlanta this October, why not stay a few days longer and meet with key decision-makers inside Atlanta-based companies that are both desirable and feasible for your community?
Sure, you’ll come back to work facing all the economic development tasks you’re responsible for every day. But you’ll have made contact with valuable prospects and have a pipeline of prioritized companies for follow up. Appointment setting isn’t the only way to find prospective partner companies, but its value explains why so many of our clients like having an intermediary to target the companies with the best potential fit and make face-to-face visits easy.
by Dennis Burnside
Before I joined Whittaker Associates, I spent over 25 years in the commercial real estate industry. During that time I was lucky enough to represent some of the most sophisticated and successful real estate investors and developers in the country. Many are household names in the industry, while some are a bit more obscure.
Whether the real estate company I represented was large or small, national or local, with 10 or 100 years in the business, the most successful of the industry had one fundamental and common approach: a well thought-out marketing strategy and a strong commitment to executing the plan over a period of time.
Since joining Whittaker Associates, I have met many economic development professionals and notice the same element in the most successful groups: like those ultra-astute real estate developers, successful communities and economic development organizations approach the business of retention and attraction with the same strategic and committed philosophy. They are careful to establish and maintain a creative, clear, and consistent message that creates easy-to-remember branding.
Here at Whittaker Associates we are in the process of updating and rethinking our approach to marketing ourselves. I thought it might be instructive to share our outline for change with our readers. An effective marketing strategy contains many of the same elements, whether you are in economic development, real estate, or business intelligence consulting.
We’re thinking hard about our
1. Vision - the fundamental message we want to articulate
2. Brand – how we want the audience to describe us
3. Situation Analysis – our current conditions, our market analysis, historical factors, our competitive analysis, and our microenvironment
4. Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats and Opportunities – both internal and external
5. Marketing Strategy – who is our target (to attract and retain), what are our tactics, what do we need in the way of market research
6. Action Items – what are our milestones, team structure, and team roles
7. Budget – what does a ROI analysis reveal
8. Communication – what is our reporting structure, how do we review performance
9. Contingency Planning – how do we plan for the unexpected
If any of these points seem worth addressing in your marketing strategy, feel free to adapt them. Taking the time to establish or reinvent your strategy is a strategic decision in itself, and is bound to strengthen your approach to whatever business you pursue. If Whittaker Associates can provide help in this area, contact us – we want you to have a marketing strategy that will focus your organization and help you succeed.
by Joel Burgess
Maybe you have already had this question:
I have a list of prospects. Is there a way to prioritize my prospects, allowing me to better focus my marketing efforts and more efficiently manage time, money, and other resources?
Whittaker Associates has your answer.
Whittaker is rolling out an innovative Targeted Company Predictive Model. The Targeted Company Predictive Model is a powerful tool that identifies and ranks the companies with the highest probability to relocate or expand into any particular geographic area.
So How does it work?
The first step in the process is to identify companies that have recently located to your area (in the last 3-5 years). Whittaker interviews these companies and based, in part, on the information obtained, we determine the factors that triggered those companies to relocate or expand to your area. Then by cross-referencing and establishing common denominators between the determining factors of your area’s new companies and companies that show the greatest promise to relocate or expand, a matrix of variables is formed. Our current matrix ranks high-growth companies based upon their correlation with 41 variables (19 industry factors and 22 company factors).
Each variable is assigned a numerical score, based on the direct causal effect it has on the likelihood of a company’s decision to relocate or expand. If a company exhibits the variable, a tic or mark is placed in the matrix under that variable for that particular company. The idea is to establish a Weighted Total. The weighted total is the sum of all the values of the 41 variables that a particular company exhibits. The higher the weighted total the greater the likelihood of a relocation or expansion.
An example output:
|850||Cell Genesys, Inc.|
|805||Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC|
The Predictive Model accounts for the time sensitivity of the information provided, given the dynamic nature of today’s businesses. The Predictive Model can be updated to re-rank companies, reflecting any known changes that occur within the targeted companies or within industry trends.
In addition, the Predictive Model can be tailored to meet your specific needs in two ways: by adjusting the variables or the variable weights based on the importance they have in influencing a company to relocate or expand into your community.
As with all our lists, company records contain address, telephone, business description, sales and employment numbers, SIC codes, up to four contacts and titles, and when available, fax numbers, websites, recent articles, and company locations.
by Cory Koch
While much has already been written about prospecting, I hope this article presents new light on the importance of gaining access to decision-makers for you. Despite what you may have heard in the past, most prospecting is a waste of time. You may be shocked to hear this, but you have to keep in mind that your sales force needs to be in front of qualified decision-makers to sell your organization’s solutions. Until they reach that position, they are wasting valuable time and energy talking to the wrong people.
John Patterson, the founder of National Cash Register, wrote about “prospecting” as early as 1873 and, since that time, it has become a time-honored approach to gaining access to decision-makers. Prospecting turns out to be a waste of time, however, because the sales day is limited. Your sales force has only eight hours a day to prospect for new business while at the same time trying to serve their existing customer base.
You might describe prospecting as searching for someone to sell to. Most of us, however, don’t start prospecting until sales are low and business is down. A more effective way of gaining access to new business is to make a constant effort to establish relationships with all potential and desirable suspects in all markets – all the time, even when times are good. This is where Whittaker Associates can assist you in setting up systems that make consistent, effective prospecting easier.
Ineffective prospecting is almost certainly a waste of time because of the low return on the time and effort invested. No matter how much time your executives spend chasing down sales leads and making cold calls, they know their odds of actually getting through to somebody immediately are slim, at best.
A better way to get the attention of potential customers is to use a combination of permission marketing, database management, and tele-contacting activity.
Note that I refer to the activity of using the phone to develop new business as tele-contacting, not telemarketing. Telemarketing is another approach to business development that produces neither consistent nor predictable results. Tele-contacting, on the other hand, is the method of qualifying prospective customers by using a compiled and detailed profile of their companies and trying to identify their current and future needs.
Once you have profiled an account and qualified the opportunity as a prospect, you should consider launching an automated process of maintaining contact with those decision-makers. This is where I would suggest taking a look at our interactive system named WALT.
Once you eliminate the need for your sales force to prospect, your organization will begin to benefit in many ways. First, morale will improve dramatically. Second, the combination of consistent tele-contacting activity and database profiling will provide your company with a very powerful and strategic weapon: the ability to compete for business opportunities as the company’s “status” changes.
Look at the amount of time your sales force spends prospecting, and calculate how much every hour of sales time is worth, not only to them but also to your entire organization. Once you’ve determined the value of their selling time, the cost of traditional prospecting will be obvious – it is expensive and ineffective. Despite the fact that it hasn’t changed much in more than 120 years, prospecting is vital to any business. At the same time, your salespeople need to spend their days in more valuable and productive ways than traditional prospecting. Regardless of what happens to our local and national economies, success in these changing times depends on predictable help and profitable results. Whether you obtain your targeted profile information in-house or from a research company, continually maintaining top-of-mind awareness with all desirable decision-makers is the first step toward ensuring your success.
by Cory Koch
Today, nobody seems to be around to answer the phone. You spend time cold-calling, and all you get are voice-mail messages. You know people don’t bother calling back if they think it’s a sales call.
Because I kept running into this situation, I decided I had to leave a voice-mail message that would encourage prospects to call back. I obtained my best results by leaving a message that shows interest in their company by asking a question about their future corporate goals. My message goes something like this:
“Good day. My name is Cory Koch and I am calling you from Whittaker Associates, an economic development partner of the city of Holland , Michigan. We are extremely interested in your company and wondered whether we could have a moment of your time. Can you tell me more about your company?”
Most prospects can’t resist the opportunity to talk about their favorite thing, their company, so they call me back. Now I’ve made contact. My next task is to build rapport. I ask several questions about their company: what they do and how they do it. I never start talking about our company unless they ask. I keep the focus on the prospects. By the end of the conversation, one of three things has happened:
Turning Your Promotional Pieces into an Appointment
When you initiate a telephone sales call, it is important to remember that your prospect is not as prepared for this conversation as you are. Before you called, the decision-maker was doing something: working, conducting a meeting, reading, or meeting with a client. His or her mind is still involved in that activity. Thus, your call is an interruption.
In the first 60 seconds of the call, you need to get the prospect’s mind away from whatever he or she was doing before you called and generate enough interest in your call so the prospect will want to stay on the line.
Below are some techniques you can use to turn many of your literature follow-up calls into appointments:
by Cory Koch
Separate suspects from prospects.
Too many advertising dollars and too much time are spent on people who are not responding to your marketing efforts. Unless your lead-generation advertising weeds these people out, it’s not working effectively. The media you select, the offers you make, your creative strategy, and even your tone all play key roles in drawing out high potential prospects and screening out suspects.
Sell the next step harder than you sell your community.
Your whole objective of lead-generation marketing is to focus on the sales process, not to finalize it. Initially your direct mail or e-mail should push for action on the next step: sending for more information, a free sample, or a free analysis. Once you have qualified prospects, you can concentrate on a full presentation of your benefits, features, and applications.
Once is not enough.
Give suspects more than a single time to qualify their status. No matter how clear your direct-mail package or email may be, your target may miss it the first time around. Give prospects multiple opportunities to respond to your offer.
This will involve getting additional information out to follow up with your prior marketing piece. The more you narrow your market, the more time you have to spend on each prospect.
Support your mail.
Direct mail is still your best business-to-business lead program. If you decide to try mail, support it. If your mail package is an expensive, dimensional one, announce its arrival with a teaser package, e-mail blast or print ad. If the mailing is relatively small, think about leaving a voice-mail message with the recipient. After the mailing drops, follow it up with telemarketing, a quick mail reminder or an e-mail.
Support your sales force, distributors and wholesalers.
Make sure they have full information on your marketing efforts–sample packages, copies of the print ads and e-mail messages. Keep them posted on results. An exciting “sell in” can be as important to your success as anything else you do.
Don’t make it TOO easy to reply…
…if you want more QUALIFIED leads. Checking off a single box on a reply card and putting it in an outbound mail pickup may not make a prospect. Simply asking prospects to hit “Reply” to your e-mail may not qualify them, either. Ask your prospects to fill in just a few lines of information and you’ll increase the quality of your response without damaging quantity.
Let your prospects tell you how serious they are.
Allow several options on your response form–ranging from “Have your representative call me immediately” to “No interest now. Call me in six months.” Even the “no interest now” respondents are prospects.
Unless your objective is to drive prospects to your web site, it’s unlikely that self-mailers or postcards are going to work for you. Yes, they’re cheaper to produce, but the cost in lost opportunities is huge. In mailing to certain market segments, you need an envelope that indicates one-to-one correspondence. Words like “Important,” “Confidential,” “New” or even “First Class Mail” can kill one-to-one perception. In most market segments, think of your envelope as a billboard for what’s inside. Use sizes that will stand out in the mail. Test a strong offer or powerful benefit statement as teaser copy.
Plan separate creative strategies and offers for different levels of decision-makers.
Even if you’re prospecting within a specific industry, your copy, offer and sometimes graphics must change to fit the objective of your communication. The simple approach you make to a real estate contact may not work in addressing the CEO. And the CEO’s possible interest in your product/service will differ from the CFO’s.
Test a survey approach, particularly with suspects.
If it’s carefully structured, a questionnaire mailing can help you learn more about your target audience and how to approach it with follow-up efforts. Surveys engage interest as they begin selling. If they’re kept short, surveys can work in e-mail efforts as well.
Throw away the concept of response percentage.
If your market universe is 1,000, a 2% response rate is totally insufficient. Standard direct mail will not suffice. Your direct mail must be an “event in the mail box.” That may involve creating and mailing hand-assembled cartons, sending out videos, or delivering a series of premiums by courier. On the other hand, in working with very large universes (or with a very small sales force), a 2% response may mean you haven’t done a very good job of pre-qualifying prospects.
Use testimonials and case histories.
Aside from the credibility they inspire, testimonials provide the prospect with applications and usage guidance. Include testimonials which emphasize how companies were rewarded by finding out more when they were prospects.
When in doubt, play it straight.
Humor and cuteness can cut through clutter in a business environment. However, if you have the slightest doubt about how the message will be received, play it safe and use a strong statement of benefits to break through.
Include a “keeper” in your mailings…
…particularly if you’re planning only one mailing. We all want response immediately, but in most cases 98% of recipients have no need to respond at the moment. Give them something to remember you by after the “advertising” portion of your mailing has been discarded. It could be anything from a wallet-size calendar or tips for saving time or improving energy to a pad of post-it notes with your company’s name on it.
Use premiums with caution.
The right premium increases response to your lead-generation efforts, and may even lower your cost per response. It also maintains conversions to appointments and sales. But overemphasizing the premium can bring you response from “freebie junkies.” Select premiums with obvious value, but not enough value to be a bribe.
Test response lists.
Even though you’re not selling directly through the mail, you should be testing your response lists against the compiled lists you may be using. Proven willingness to open and respond to direct mail and e-mail solicitations is as important in lead generation as it is in direct selling.
Transform gatekeepers into advocates.
If you’re mailing to upper management types, be aware that most of their mail is still screened by administrative assistants. To get your message on top of the pile (instead of in the circular file), address a message to the screeners explaining why the VIP should see your communication.
by Pete Julius
Need to improve the success of your marketing program? I hope that all of you answered yes to this question. Every organization needs to improve, no matter how much success it has experienced. A tremendous amount of increased competition from new, low-cost locations around the world has been generated in this age of globalization. This forces economic development agencies to become smarter with their marketing efforts. Below is a list of things that can help give you a successful marketing program, or at least improve your results.
Leadership - It all starts with solid leadership. Make sure the leader of your organization is going to be able to build trust with all internal and external team members, plan for future growth, successfully implement all objectives and strategies, monitor progress and most of all, lead your organization to new heights. Your leader should have experience, a well-established reputation and a proven track record, and be a people-person who is suited for the position. Take the time to find the right person for the job. Just don’t accept a person because he or she was the best one who applied for the position. First understand the mission and vision of your organization, then find the right person to lead the charge. Also, keep in mind that this “ideal leader” may come with a price tag. If you are really serious and committed, then you may have to shell out some bucks to get the right person.
Support & determination from community - Your community marketing efforts must have support from the entire economic development organization, elected officials, non-elected city and county officials, business leaders, volunteers and anyone else who may play a role in promoting your community. More importantly, you must do what you can to reduce the level of political bickering that exists within the local and area political system. Fighting between political entities does nothing more than create more problems and significantly reduces the chances of success. This is especially true for regional organizations and those communities insistent upon looking out for themselves. Globalization has changed the traditional methods of economic development: communities must learn to cooperate and work together to compete. As globalization continues to grow, communities will get smaller and smaller. Corporate real estate executives now have more options for their next facility, which makes marketing your communities much more difficult, especially if yours is a rural community.
SWOT & Focus – Before you can even begin to think about recruiting and retaining businesses, you must have knowledge of your community. One of the easiest things that can be done is to conduct a SWOT analysis. This assessment is designed to help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The SWOT analysis will help you to identify your competitive advantage. In this age of globalization and increased competition, it is imperative that you understand your position and how you can market yourself against your competition. Too many times we have we seen communities target growing industries simply because they are active, without considering how that particular industry would fit in their community. We have seen too many organizations waste money targeting industries that they don’t stand a chance of targeting. Luck does exist, but success is far greater when you understand your position and market your position effectively.
Innovative, customized strategies - You need to develop marketing strategies that are both innovative and customized. This is especially true for small communities, whose innovative strategies that will make them stand out from other communities. Host a conference or seminar within one of your targeted industries, develop sister-city partnerships with foreign countries, recruit talent instead of companies, or even buy a company within one of your targeted industries and build on that base. Whatever the strategy, communities must do something that is different from the ordinary to stand out from their competition. This process will involve the same marketing tactics (i.e. direct-mail campaigns, catering to site selectors and brokers, media placement, etc.), but the implementation may be different. One common practice is to implement an innovative strategy that had been successfully implemented by another community. The problem with this approach is that the best practices are not a “one size fits all” strategy. Best practices are good to use, but they must be tailored to your community.
Clear, accurate messages – Once you know your position and have developed your innovative strategies, make sure that you communicate clear and accurate messages about your community. Make sure that you do not mislead your target companies: it will only bring about disaster. You run the risk of attracting companies poorly suited to your community. As a result you could successfully attract a company that closes its doors a few years down the road because the community did not deliver what it promised. Where does that leave you? Right back where you started.trying to attract businesses to your community to generate jobs for the unemployed. More importantly, that ridiculous stunt will be remembered by the company that you fooled, other prospective companies, site selectors and real estate brokers.
Measure, evaluate, adjust – How can you improve anything that you do not measure? Improvement is always needed. Even the best need to improve. You must first establish a set of marketing measurements, monitor them on a consistent basis, and fine tune.
What is Intellectual Property (IP)? How is it valued and protected? Why should you care? And once you figure out what it is, what are you going to do about it?
Intellectual property is the intangible know-how that resides in the minds of the individuals within an organization. It is the knowledge that has been accumulated through learning. It is acquired through experimentation, observation, and teaching. It can result from the combined effort of hundreds of researchers with multi-million-dollar research programs, or the discoveries of a lone individual.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers states in a recent report (http://www.buildingipvalue.com/) that intellectual property has become one of the key corporate assets of the 21st century. It is through copyright, trademarks and patents that corporations attempt to secure these increasingly important assets. The factors of production have become land (sometimes), labor, capital and intellectual property. Over half the value of today’s Fortune 500 companies is in their intellectual property.
One of the challenges with intellectual property rights is that it is up to the holder of those rights to defend them. While this may not be a challenge to large corporations with battalions of attorneys, it could be a formable obstacle for a small firm with limited resources.
The know-how of the companies within your area is a critical component of their ability to create wealth and provide jobs and pay taxes. With over 80% of businesses having fewer than 10 employees, one can begin to see the challenge. One of the ways in which small firms attempt to protect themselves is through employee non-compete and non-disclosure agreements. However, in some states such as California, non-compete agreements are illegal.
The ultimate answer to protecting intellectual property for small and large firms lies in knowledge-worker equity. We all do what is in our own best self-interest. Giving employees virtual or actual ownership is key to encouraging them to secure and maintain the intellectual property of the company out of self-interest.
So what can and should the economic development professional do about intellectual property? For one thing, we can become informed about it and help educate the business community on how to develop and secure intellectual property. Next, we can work with the financial services companies to help them better understand the nature of intangible assets and how they can be valued as an asset of the company.
Isn’t it interesting that equipment, buildings and physical objects are considered assets on the balance sheet, while the employees in whose minds 50% of the wealth of a company resides are considered an expense? It’s up to us to help develop new business models that enable companies to capitalize this important asset.