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New Ways to Get the Word Out

The economic recession is likely to cause many companies to cancel or delay decisions on business expansion and investment. Nevertheless they will remain on the lookout. When conditions improve they will remember those communities that have retained an attractive, optimistic and cooperative image through their communications.

So the need for economic development does not disappear during tough times, far from it. But cost-effective strategies and methods are required for getting the word out.

A traditional approach to investment attraction includes a heavy emphasis on publication advertising, direct mail, tele-prospecting and collateral mailing. This approach is costly, difficult to measure and time consuming to implement effectively. Today’s marketing strategies can take advantage of both tried and new Internet channels, using the Internet as a primary vehicle for image creation through the dissemination of facts, stories and anecdotes about a community – all with the intent of creating interest, thereby attracting people and businesses.

The Internet has become the number one tool for businesses and site selectors in their location search. It provides the ability to publish easily and frequently and at low cost. Announcements, events, blogs, online newsletters, business success stories, news and profiles will all help your community stand out as being a vibrant, dynamic place with a lot going on.

Here are some web-based communications channels that you should consider as part of your marketing strategy:

Podcasting

A podcast is a series of audio or video digital media files distributed over the Internet. It works by setting up a connection between a producer’s website and a subscriber’s computer or portable device so that shows can be downloaded automatically as they are produced.

Podcasting is an increasingly popular method for building a loyal audience. A typical podcast series can consist of four- to 10-minute segments on topics of interest to specifically identified business sectors. Brief interviews with local entrepreneurs can be included to provide facts, stats, comments and anecdotes. In addition to sending them to subscribers, your department can disseminate them online through podcast websites.

Video Stories

Here’s a little research exercise: Try going to www.youtube.com and typing some keywords into the search box, such as “Canadian industrial properties” or “business location opportunity.” You will see page after page of video summaries appear. Social-networking sites like this are fast becoming ubiquitous business marketing tools in the same way that the web itself became a mainstay of business in the 1990s.

Video is an excellent method for distributing entrepreneurial success stories and capturing the ambience and spirit of a business community.

E-mail Marketing

Sending promotional e-mails to site selectors is inexpensive and effective if done professionally and with care. With e-mails you can “push” your message to a chosen audience, as opposed to waiting until a viewer sees an advertisement. E-mail messages are very easy to track, so you can measure the return on your investment.

What you need to avoid, of course, is the impression that you are distributing spam. One effective technique is to require what is known as the “double opt-in” method of requiring a potential recipient to manually confirm their request for information from you. Numerous e-mail marketing companies are available to help with such issues and to assist in creating formats and templates.

Mini-CDs

Site selectors and consultants don’t have much time. If they have obtained sufficient information about your community from your website to put you on their list of prospects, consider sending a detailed package on an inexpensive mini-CD instead of in a bulky folder.

The great advantage of this method is its convenience to the recipient. A little disc is easy to store and retrieve. Most importantly for professionals in a hurry, it is searchable by topic or keyword in seconds. Site-selection consultants will tell you that potential communities are sometimes left off their short lists for clients because it is too time-consuming to find information about them.

Web 2.0

Economic-development programs should take advantage of new online social media and dissemination channels to reach target sectors and businesses. A web 2.0 program is increasingly necessary. The impact of blogs, wikis, tagging and social-networking sites is increasing every day in business life.

An ideal channel for reaching audiences in a cost-effective way, Web 2.0 makes it possible to disseminate messages, video, audio, testimonials and stories and to reach either broad or narrow audiences.

In conclusion, tough economic times require not retrenchment, but a renewed approach to economic development that stresses creativity and energetic ways to proclaim your community’s advantages.

The Internet offers new ways to get the word out – faster, cheaper and more targeted. It is clear why this channel must become the principal tool in your marketing toolbox if you need to build a modern, sophisticated image for your community – one that will be remembered when it’s time for action.

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