News & Views

“Don’t Market to Consultants”- Words of Wisdom from a National Site Selection Consultant

This September, national site selection consultant (SSC) Andy Shapiro of BLS & Company was a featured speaker at DCI’s third annual Marketing Summit in Denver, CO. Speaking to a group of more than a dozen economic development marketing mavens, Andy shared a “behind-the-scenes” look at the site selection industry: where it’s been, where it’s going, and most importantly, how economic developers can better market to the SSC audience. Here a few of our favorite takeaways from his presentation:

The Marketing Summit

Andy Shapiro of BLS & Company (center), with DCI’s Marketing Summit attendees

Move Beyond the Noise:

“Don’t Market to Consultants” reads the title slide of Shapiro’s presentation. As the group of marketers balked at this proposition, Andy explained what he meant—working with SSCs is about building personal relationships, not mass marketing. Site selectors receive “seemingly endless spam” from economic development organizations, which often is not relevant or valuable to their work. Shapiro encourages marketers to “move beyond the noise” and focus their newsletters and email outreach to site selectors on news that is truly useful, such as announcements about new sites or business expansions, rather than filling their inboxes with press releases and minor rankings.

He also emphasizes that building relationships with site selectors doesn’t have to take a giant marketing plan or budget: “If you send me valuable, personalized information, I will not only appreciate it, but also probably reach out to you in the future if I need something. That doesn’t have to cost you anything. For EDOs that have limited resources, developing relationships with site selectors can be very effective.”

Branding and Website Are Key, But Consider Your Audience:

Shapiro also touched on community branding, and EDO websites as a key avenue for illustrating that branding. We as marketers know that websites are important —according to DCI’s 2014 Winning Strategies study that surveys corporate executives with site selection responsibilities, websites are the No. 1 most effective marketing technique used by economic development groups.

Shapiro, however, gave some interesting insight that many of us economic development marketers might not have considered. “All too often I visit an EDO’s website and I can tell immediately that it was designed to please their investors, not to serve any other audiences.” What Shapiro means by this, he explains, is that their messaging might not resonate with anyone outside of the region. An example he gives: “Sure, ‘Team NEO’ is a cute name for Northeast Ohio, but why don’t you just call yourselves something people will recognize—Cleveland?

Don’t create a brand to be political and please everyone,” Shapiro says, “create a brand that is effective.” Our key takeaway: highlight what matters about your region. Create a brand that reflects your key selling points, and what sets you apart from other communities. Determine how your target audiences (CEOs, site selectors, community members) perceive your region, and spend time making your website and branding work for them.

Interested in attending next year’s Marketing Summit and engaging with economic development thought leaders like Andy Shapiro? Contact Julie Curtin, DCI Executive Vice President/Partner at [email protected]

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