Throughout the year, we've spoken to hundreds of economic developers, whether by way of presentation, webinar, lunch, or pitch. And we've offered thousands of pieces of advice along the way, all in the name of making communities great. It's really what we're passionate about, and we're confident many of you would attest to this very point. Nothing we say or do lacks genuine thought or interest in the people we call clients, partners, colleagues, and friends, and with that, we're back with more counsel. Here are 11 things economic developers can do to energize their efforts heading into 2017.
1. INVEST IN DIGITAL MARKETING. Digital marketing is the practice that continues to shape the industry and will for years to come. Learn what it is and the specific ways it can help your EDO.
2. TRY CROWDSOURCING FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. Discover new avenues of private funding, as public funding continues to decrease. (It's currently about a 70/30 private/public split.)
3. NETWORK WITH AN OFFER and make the most out of tradeshows, summits, and other in-person events. While digital initiatives should lie at the forefront of your marketing strategy, never discount the value of a handshake, and don't pass up an opportunity to break bread with a new professional contact.
4. MAKE YOUR WEBSITE SHINE. Invest your marketing dollars into making this "first point of entry" something you're truly proud of, and something that wows. If nothing else, this should be at the top of your list. As an economic developer, you can no longer stand to have a website that doesn't serve your audiences.
5. DEVELOP A PARTNERSHIP PLAN. Work with local, regional, and state partners. At the end of the day, goals and aspirations for a thriving community are a shared vision, so collaborate whenever possible.
6. FINESSE YOUR RFP RESPONSE PROCESS AND PACKAGE. Winning a big (or small) deal comes down to your place and what it offers vs. the next guy down the road, so know how to position your community and talk about its assets. Be your best salesperson and lobbyist.
7. SUPERCHARGE YOUR COMMUNITY'S DATA. If you've been doing the same thing for years, but have yet to experience positive ROI, turn your program on its head. Try something different. And convince your staff and stakeholders that change is needed.
8. CURATE BETTER CASE STUDIES. Find your cheerleaders. Whether existing companies, residents, visitors, regional partners, or a combination of all, leverage these advocates, and use them to help promote your community.
9. WORK ON YOUR PERSONAL BRAND. As economic developers, all we have are our communities and our reputations. How do you communicate both? Ask yourself: Are you trustworthy? Are you approachable? Are you available and responsive? Is your pitch great? Are you consistent?
10. BUILD A MARKETING METRICS DASHBOARD. Metrics drive outcomes, so keep score. Know what you're doing, and if it's working. Transparency leads to accountability, and accountability leads to staff awareness and activity. And more activity bears more fruit.
11. TAKE MORE VIDEO OF YOUR COMMUNITY, AND IF YOU CAN, PROFESSIONALIZE IT. Video is taking the marketing world by storm, and even though it has yet to really penetrate economic development, it will. According to Adelie Studios, video on a landing page can increase conversions by 80% or more.
If you haven't listened to us all year, we encourage you to heed our advice and implement at least three new tactics in the new year. And remember, this list isn't exhaustive. There are other ways you can be better next year than you were this year, but these 11 are sure to give you a good start. And if you're one of the many who will pursue #1, take the time to read our annual white paper: The Road to Economic Development Marketing Reinvention. It's a solid base to your digital marketing knowledge bank.