By Jim Bruckbauer

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:

Be noticeable.

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:

  • How much will you PAY a potential prospect to visit your town or have a 1-hour meeting with you?  How about a $100 donation to a designated charity of the prospect’s choice?
  • Attract more visitors to your website by setting up a Scavenger Hunt, where the participants are asked questions about your community.  Establish a prize, such as an iPod, for the winner.
  • Hire a seasonal intern from a local university to develop a complete Web 2.0 marketing campaign.  Social media outlets like YouTube and Facebook are literally free ways to market not only to current executives, but up-and-coming future executives.  (Very proactive communities are targeting Millennials and younger on Facebook.)
  • Are you promoting your local banks, which were not as affected by the mortgage crisis and still have lending power?  Companies are looking for this.
  • Your best prospects may have changed without you knowing.  We’re very interested in discussing marketing ideas.  We’re also very interested in assisting our clients in discovering which industries are shifting in this economic time.  If you’d like to join the conversation, call us.