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Investment Attraction Marketing in a Changed Environment

There is no doubt that the worldwide economic recession is increasing the challenges for Canadian economic developers. Businesses are downsizing, not expanding. Many firms are delaying the decision to relocate to avoid the immediate costs of moving a business. Tourism is down as people stay home to preserve their savings.

This, plus the advent of Web 2.0 and new Internet-based technologies, creates a need to re-examine traditional marketing strategies. Messages must address business leaders’ concerns and reflect the types of communities that site selection professionals are sourcing. Strategies and tactics must be designed to reach out to prospects using new marketing channels.

In tough times the principles of investment attraction marketing come down to distillation – a process of finding the essence of what makes a community attractive, what kinds of business investment it wants and what characteristics are being sought by its target industries – then promoting key messages in a way that brings that community to the fore.

It is essential today for municipalities to recognize that different industry sectors often require a unique set of characteristics when contemplating new business locations. Municipalities need strong and convincing messages that effectively communicate not only a competitive advantage, but also a clear value proposition to the international investor.

This is not a job for a few people working in isolation on an economic-development plan, but for the whole community.

Successful economic development marketing programs are built by establishing a shared vision for the future of a community and identifying attainable objectives. Local information gathering, strength and weaknesses analysis and communication with local stakeholders are absolutely critical. This research work helps to shape the differentiation and messaging that is then delivered to the outside world of site selectors, business investors and high-value workers.

While the following best practices always hold true, during a difficult and volatile economy they are critical to the success of economic developers:

  • Be different! Carve out specific niches. Achieve distinction with your website, and ensure that the economic development department has full control of the site.
  • Understand and meet your targeted prospects’ needs. Narrow your target audience and identify prospects clearly – sector, size, characteristics. To get a true edge on the competition, strive to not only meet, but exceed, the expectations of business leaders and site selectors. Go beyond statistics to understand what they really want and need.
  • Focus on the Internet as the number one location-search tool for businesses and site selectors. The good news is that today’s business leaders, site selection professionals and other stakeholders are welcoming lower cost electronic communications. Use outreach and collaboration tools and the website to keep them informed with adequate frequency.

The current economic turmoil demands smart economic development marketing strategies. It also provides an ideal moment for economic developers to re-evaluate their existing strategies and map them to the future of how their communities need to be marketed. Does your marketing strategy hold up?

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