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Want to Stand Out? Avoid these 3 Marketing Missteps

Posted on by Rebecca Mead

I had the fortunate opportunity to design and develop the website for the State’s response to the Amazon “HQ2” RFP. Working with the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, CERC, Adams and Knight, and representatives from the two regions – Greater Hartford and Stamford – the website came to life in just under three weeks, debuting during Governor Malloy’s press conference on the Connecticut effort on October 19th.

After the ctisprime.com website was live, I began looking at other communities and economic development organizations “best practices” – both here in Connecticut and across the country – and the approaches taken to economic development marketing. 

After viewing the websites and social media accounts of 18 municipalities, six states, and eight economic development organizations, I was surprised to find that the size of the entity, and the presumed budget spending, did not correlate with success in conveying why, as a business owner, one should consider locating in their municipality or region.What I found wasn’t surprising – but approaches varied wildly.  Overall, I found three common themes:

The Affliction of “Same-itis”

Sound familiar? "We're business-friendly, have a highly-educated workforce, and a high quality standard of living." Granted companies looking to invest are going to want to see data to prove those statements, but if I'm considering you as a place to relocate, start or grow a business, I’d like to see what really makes you unique. The economic development marketers that do it well answered three key questions:

  • Why/how are you different?
  • Why should I care?
  • Why/how will it benefit my business?

 

Indecisive vs. Focused

Along the same vein as “same-itis,” a number of cities and states jump on the “you too” train – trying to be everything to everyone, and in doing so, really short-change themselves. Communities that presented a focused, strategic direction for their economic development efforts, and demonstrated how they answer the needs of target industries as well as the supporting businesses, also recognized the value of their websites as lead generators. Incorporating industry specific language and data, as well as compelling calls to action, and, in many cases, technology to support interactivity and a proactive response to visitors from members of the business development team.

 

Me or WE?

Recently wrote about the me-focused marketing that is so prevalent in all industries – and sadly, it’s alive (and well?) in so many economic development websites and social media efforts. But as a former boss told me, “you can’t be a prophet in your own land.” What others say about you holds more meaning than what you say about yourself. Smart economic development marketers build strong relationships with the local business leaders, and leverage those relationships creating ambassadors – online and off. These leaders are the conduit to referrals to their suppliers and vendors, and possible new expansion opportunities.

Regardless of how the sites were designed, or the frequency and style of social media posts, the “winners” consistently presented their unique value proposition in words, images, and video weaving in the answers to the three basic questions: why is your town/city/state different, why should I as a business owner care, and what about your location will benefit my business.

Kristi Sullivan, VP of Marketing for CERC, recently cohosted a webinar with CERC’s VP of Municipal Services, Courtney Hendricson on Municipal Marketing. It was a value-packed 30-minute webinar with insights into how to avoid marketing missteps while maximizing budgets and managing resources. Watch the recording here.