356 Corporate Executives Share Insights On What Works in Place Marketing

How do executive decision makers learn about specific business locations? What are the best marketing tactics for economic development organizations to engage in to build a favorable image with this important audience?

Winning Strategies Cover

In 1996, Development Counsellors International set out to provide the economic development community with a unique opportunity: a chance to hear from its target audience. With a comprehensive survey of corporate executives with site selection responsibilities, DCI sought to understand best practices in marketing places by going directly to the “customer” of the economic development world.

Since its inception, A View from Corporate America: Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing has become a valuable and highly regarded resource among economic development professionals. Now in its seventh iteration, Winning Strategies has expanded upon its original form to include questions on international business climates, as well as to provide an updated snapshot of corporate America in 2014.

Best and Worst Places for Business

DCI’s “Rating of the States” has consistently received intense attention from both the news media and the economic development community.

Tax climate, pro-business environment and incentives are among those factors associated with winning states.

This year, in order to broaden the scope of our study, we also gauged executives’ perceptions of non-U.S. locations as candidates for their company’s potential international expansion.

To determine U.S. state rankings, we asked survey respondents to name three states perceived as having the most favorable business climates in the United States. We also asked the same audience to select the three states they perceive as having the least favorable business climates among the 50 states.

The Top Five

1. Texas 49.7%
2. Florida 18.1%
3. Georgia and North Carolina (Tie) 17.6%
4. South Carolina 12.6%
5. Tennessee 11.6%

 The Bottom Five

50.  California 74%
49.  New York 42%
48.  Illinois 34%
47.  New Jersey 16%
46.  Massachusetts 11%

In 2014, for the first time, DCI expanded on the previous questions to include international business climates.  We asked executives to indicate which countries they believe offer the strongest international investment opportunities for their company if they plan to explore this option in the next three years.

Countries with the Strongest International Investment Opportunities

1.China 30%
2. United Kingdom 22%
3. Germany 20%
4. India 17%
5. Brazil 14%

Best Marketing Techniques for Reaching Corporate Executives with your Business Message

Since 1996, the Winning Strategies survey has asked respondents to rate the effectiveness of seven conventional marketing techniques used by economic development groups. Respondents rated each technique (advertising, direct mail, Internet/website, media relations/publicity, hosting special events, planned visits to corporate executives, telemarketing and trade shows) on a 1 to 5 scale, where 1 equals “poor” and 5 equals “excellent.”

The “customer” agrees: the Internet has become an increasingly effective marketing tool for economic development organizations.

Most Effective Marketing Tactics for Economic Developers Chart

View the full PowerPoint presentation, given during International Economic Development Council’s Annual Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

Methodology and Audience

In 2014, Development Counsellors International conducted a survey of corporate executives with site selection responsibilities to determine the “customer’s perspective” on the most effective strategies and techniques in economic development marketing. It was the seventh iteration of this survey since 1996 to determine changes in the perceptions of corporate decision makers in the United States.

A total of 356 responses were received from corporate executives and location advisors – the largest number in the survey’s history.

The survey audience consisted of executives at a random selection of U.S. companies with direct site selection responsibilities and was heavily weighted toward the following business titles: Chief Executive Officer, President, Chief Financial Officer and Vice President. The sample was augmented with an additional survey audience of more than 300 location advisors/consultants.

Starting in 2008, the survey has been conducted completely online. Respondents were contacted via email and invited to participate in the survey. A hyperlink to access the online questionnaire was provided and the
choice of a $10 Starbucks card or a $10 iTunes card was offered for participation. A copy of the questionnaire and email invitation can be found in Appendix A.

In all, 356 responses were received. Respondents were categorized as large company executives, midsize company executives and location advisors. In some instances, respondents are compared in two, rather than three groups: corporate executives and location advisors. For other questions, the data was split between respondents in different age groups.

Demographic information about the respondent pool can be found in Appendix D. All surveys were edited for completeness and the responses to open-ended questions were coded.