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.