Transforming Five Economic Development Marketing Tactics from “Blah” to “Ah-Hah”

 June 27, 2014

by Jordan Robinson

Looking for new business leads? Look no further than the site selection community—who have become supporters and valuable resources for economic developers looking to expand their project pipeline. So how can economic development professionals get on a site selector’s radar?

Instead of sticking to the status quo, economic development professionals need to find out how they can stand out by being useful and relevant. Being a “Youtility,” or resource, to site consultants resonated as a major theme in Consultant Connect’s recent webinar, where four national site selectors discussed best practices and pet peeves in economic development marketing.

Those that weighed in on the discussion included Don Schjeldahl, Ginovus’ Larry Gigerich, Site Selection Group’s David Brandon and Mohr Partners’ Jim Robey.

Below are five marketing tactics that were discussed during the webinar, and examples of how to keep a community’s profile top-of-mind by going from “blah” to “ah-hah!”

1. Face-to-Face Meetings

Face-to-face meeting with site selector

According to DCI’s 2011 Winning Strategies report, site selectors prefer face-to-face meetings because they lead to higher quality decision making, put a face with a name and aid in building trust.

Blah: A two hour meeting with four of your economic development colleagues and one site selector.

Ah-hah: Meeting with one to two economic development colleagues and one site selector for 30 minutes to an hour, discussing critical issues such as a community’s unique accomplishments, changes in legislation, tax laws and incentives, major developments and what’s going on to address challenges.

2. FAM ToursSite selection fam tours for economic development


FAM tours, or familiarization tours, are a great way for site selectors to gain invaluable knowledge of a region by seeing its business assets first-hand.

Blah: A four-day FAM tour, jam-packed with recreational activities.

Ah-hah: A one to two-day trip, with plenty of quality discussion with major employers, frequent breaks for consultants to check emails, and a special event that relates to the site consultant’s industry targets.

3. Advertising

Economic Development Advertising

Although advertising was ranked lower (16 percent) on the spectrum of preferred marketing tactics in DCI’s 2011 Winning Strategies report, some economic development agencies have stepped up their game by using this tactic in low-cost, creative ways to catch the attention of site selectors. Andas the digital world continues to evolve, economic development agencies are finding that using paid search advertising is helping their community’s messages spread to targeted audiences.

Blah: An ad that shouts “Do business here!” with no specific reason why.

Ah-hah: An ad focusing on a specific issue, change or improvement, may get your community noticed—if done well. For example, focusing on growth in a specific segment or long-term workforce retention is more interesting to a site selector than a general advertising message.

4. Newsletters

Economic development agency e-newsletter Wake County

Whether it’s a print distribution, a direct mailing or an e-newsletter,sharing good news about your community can be a great way for site selectors to gain a positive perception of your region.

Blah: Sending out an e-newsletter to site selectors focusing on an array of different industries, from bioscience to food manufacturing.

Ah-hah: Tailoring an e-newsletter to a select group of site selectors that focuses on their individual industry targets. The more personal and relevant it is to them, the higher chance they will keep looking for your e-newsletter in their inbox.

5. Websites

Tennessee Valley Economic Development Authority website

Having an online presence is an economic development agency’s calling card, and many times it’s a first impression of your community’s business assets.

Blah: A website with scattered navigation, a council meeting agenda dating back to the previous month, five pages on community attractions, and a call-to-action to email

A-hah: A website that’s constantly updated, with easy navigation, interesting visuals and specific information on industries, which also calls out specific contacts to email and call (i.e. contacts for property taxes and gas electricity and costs). Although having plenty of data is good too, site consultants are often “data geeks” and don’t necessarily judge a community by it. If you’re looking for economic development website inspiration, look to these three organizations that were called out as great examples from the site selector panelists: Economic Development Corporation UtahGreater Phoenix Economic Council and Tennessee Valley Economic Development.

Stay tuned for DCI’s 2014 Winning Strategies report coming out in October, for a deeper look into the perceptions of site selectors and corporate executives.

Written by Jordan Robinson

Jordan Robinson is an Account Director in the Economic Development division at DCI. Since joining the company, she has managed strategic media relations and marketing campaigns for both domestic and international clients including Charleston, Puerto Rico, Thailand and Scotland.

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