Defining Your WHO Target

The First Step in the Four Step Process for building a brand is to identify the strategic target audience that will be the most productive to pursue for sustainable capital investment and resultant job growth.

The cost of capital attraction continues to rise while most economic development organization’s budgets fall. This places extra pressure on making certain your community brand building efforts are both effective and efficient. Consequently, it is imperative you focus on CEOs (and key influences) with the highest potential to make a capital investment in your community and don’t waste funds on pursuing low probability leads.

In my experience, most economic development organizations do not spend enough time in defining WHO to pursue. And, even if they do make a decision, they often ignore it to chase the “latest and greatest” capital attraction opportunity suggested by a community leader or showcased in one of the economic development journals. Given the lack of discipline in WHO definition, it isn’t surprising every community seems to be chasing capital investment from the biotechnology and alternative energy industries.

How do I know I have a good WHO definition?

Given the importance of getting this right, it is important you ensure your WHO definition makes sense and is sufficient to deliver the growth your community is seeking. To help you determine how good your WHO definition is, I’ve compiled a list of 12 Power Questions you should answer to pressure test your choices. I would suggest creating a team of your community leaders to help you answer the questions. It will help ensure you evaluate your WHO definition more thoroughly.

12 Power Questions

Do you understand the key drivers of business success for companies in the industries you’ve selected as your strategic target?

What benefits does your community deliver that uniquely and adequately address those key drivers?

Which companies in the strategic industries you’ve selected represent the best potential (prime prospect group) for considering your community for a capital investment?

Do you know how to reach your target with messaging?

Would narrowing or broadening your strategic target definition be helpful to meeting your economic development objectives?

If you make realistic assumptions regarding success, is the WHO target you’ve chosen to pursue sufficient to deliver your community’s job growth targets?

Do you have a strategy to pursue entrepreneurs in the industries you’ve targeted?

Do you have the resources in your community to nurture mid-sized and large company success?

What is the current image of your community in the minds of CEOs in your strategic target industries?

What would the desired identity be for your community to become the ideal location choice for CEOs in your target industries?

What are the gaps between your community’s image and desired identity?

What initiatives (asset creation, infrastructure investment, public policy reform) that will help your community achieve its desired identity?


Remember, every choice includes a decision of what you are NOT going to do. If your WHO definition does not exclude targets, then you’ve not done a good enough job. Keep working on refining your WHO target definition.

Your Thoughts?

How clear is your WHO definition? Can you explain to a stranger WHO you are trying to explain your community promise to? Does your WHO definition help you make choices in your communication plan? Does your community leadership embrace the WHO choices you’ve made?

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