by Cody Howell, senior vice president, Buxton
No matter what role you hold with a local government, if you are involved in the process of attracting new businesses, you are a marketer. To recruit the best businesses – particularly retailers – for residents, it is crucial to market your community effectively. This blog shares some of the basics of a solid marketing strategy that can strengthen a community’s business and retail attraction efforts.
Positioning Your Community
The first step in developing a marketing strategy is to truly understand the community. When you know it, you can effectively describe it to potential businesses. You also know what types of retailers and other businesses would be a great fit for the local market.
How do you go about getting this information? First, you can interview people that live in your community. How do they describe the community? What themes emerge? Second, look at data on your community to have nonbiased, quantitative research to show potential businesses.
Making Allies and Networking
New business attraction does not happen in a vacuum; you have to identify your allies and network to make the connections that will result in a deal. Allies can be grouped into three major categories: developers and brokers, local property owners, and local business owners.
Another group to connect with is local franchisees. Identify those individuals who have shown that they can successfully run a business, as they might be willing to invest in another business.
The most important thing to remember in lead generation is this: Quality is better than quantity. It is better to talk to one retailer that is a great fit for your community, rather than going after 10 retailers that aren’t likely to consider your community.
Begin by creating a list of retailers you think are the right fit. After identifying this list, it is time to begin contacting these businesses. This can be a long and time-consuming process, so don’t get discouraged. It might be possible to delegate part of the workload to city staff members who can help with scheduling calls and sending emails.
Another way to network and make connections is by attending regional International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) events. To yield the best results, be prepared, set meetings, and followup with your contacts to build long-term relationships.
Creating Winning Marketing Collateral
Marketing collateral is how prospective businesses are told about the opportunities in a community. It encompasses a wide variety of formats, from such traditional materials as brochures to digital communication that include websites and social media.
Great marketing collateral uses consistent branding across all materials. Using a uniform look that reflects a community’s identity will present a community as polished and professional. Make sure consistent fonts, colors, and even key phrases/taglines are used.
Another important thing to remember is that pictures are often worth a thousand words. Help prospective businesses visualize opportunities by showing pictures or renderings of available properties, and even include property details when available.
The Bottom Line
Marketing your community to prospective businesses does not have to be complicated, but it does require having a solid plan and developing the tools to help execute that plan.
To learn more tips on how to further develop your community’s marketing strategy, register to attend the live webinar “Marketing Tips to Draw Businesses to Your Community,” hosted by ICMA on March 21, 2018.
Buxton is a long-time ICMA strategic partner committed to aiding communities in their economic development activities.
Related Resources from ICMA
- Incentives for Business Attraction and Retention - This article discusses types of incentives for business attraction and retention in the context of debates about their cost-effectiveness.
- Why Small Business Matters - This PM magazine article explains why small businesses are important as an economic engine for local governments.
- 3 Tips for Leveraging Real Estate Trends to Attract Retailers - This blog post explains how real estate trends can be used to attract retailers to your community.