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.