Holistic Place Marketing Planning

Ed Burghard

“Synergy is the highest activity in all of life.”

Stephen Covey

Since we are all starting to finalize our community marketing plans for 2014, I thought I’d share my experience with holistic planning in product and corporate branding as a way to help you create even more effective programming. In a world of shrinking budgets and increasing competition for capital investment, it is extremely important your marketing plan works as hard as possible to effectively promote your community as an ideal location choice. The key to ensuring the highest probability of success is the design and execution of a “holistic” marketing effort.

Holistic marketing is a concept that product and corporate Brand managers apply in their work. The objective of any holistic marketing plan is to increase the effectiveness of your investment in communication.

I like the following as a working definition – “An insight informed communication idea that is executed synergistically across relevant touch points, designed to maximize the idea’s impact on a chosen target audience’s behavior.”

Let’s look at each key component a little closer:

  • An insight informed communication idea – It is important you are in touch with your target audience and understand how they make/influence capital investment decisions. The strongest insight you can have is a competitively superior understanding of their specific needs. This allows you to better position your location’s assets for consideration. There is a world of difference between knowing a potential investor is interested in information about logistics, and understanding the role logistic expense plays in the total delivered cost of an investor’s product or service. Seek to understand the why behind ever what.
  • Executed synergistically – Every promotional execution helps to reinforce communication of the idea. If a capital investor reads about or hears about your location, the story is consistent regardless of the source. Tactics that stand alone are eliminated from the plan. Synergy in messaging dramatically amplified the volume of your message improving the odds it is actually heard.
  • Relevant touch points – Touch points are media channels where your target goes for information. If a channel does not reach your target, then you should not be investing a dime in trying to leverage it to communicate your message. It is a complete waste of money. You might think the selection of relevant touch points should be obvious, but often it is clouded with politics. The choice of trade shows to attend, magazines to advertise in, and lately social media to maintain a presence in are all fraught with examples where promotional investment choices are made without a rigorous assessment if the specific target audience being focused on will ever be reached in reasonable numbers. I often hear the reason as “If we have no presence our lack of participation will be noticed.” But, if it is not a venue that the people you really want to hear your message participate in, who cares?
  • Impact on a chosen target group’s behavior – If your communication idea will not directly or indirectly increase the probability of job creation, then you should think long and hard before committing limited funds to support it. Exhibiting at a trade show because a leader in your community thinks it is a good idea, is not in-and-of itself a strong enough reason to do so. The goal of any place marketing plan is to encourage capital investment and job creation. Every tactical choice you make should be made with that goal in mind.

So what does a strong holistic marketing plan look like?

  • It builds on your community’s promise for the long term as well as delivering any business climate improvement news.
  • The communication idea is inspirational, meaningful and distinctive for the target audience.
  • The media selections are efficient and capable of delivering measurable results.
  • The communication creates an emotional connection.
  • There are no “one-off” executions.
  • The thread of continuity in messaging is clear to everybody.
  • The communication plan reflects thoughtful choices and is not attempting to do everything or satisfy everybody involved in the decision process.

How can I tell if I have a holistic marketing plan?

One simple way is to make a copy of all the promotional material your Organization creates and lay each out on a table top for your team and leadership to assess. Score every element on the basis of consistency with your community promise, synergy within the mix, relevancy for your target audience. After summarizing the feedback, eliminate those tactics that score low and redeploy the resources to support higher scoring tactics. Table top reviews are an amazingly simple, yet powerful way to drive for a holistic approach to your marketing plan.

Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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