Who Is Your Target Audience?


Typically this question gets a quick knee-jerk response. “We focus on talking to CEOs”, is generally the prevailing answer. But, is that the best answer to the question?

I thought it would be helpful to expand on a previous post and share some insights into the CEO target audience for you to consider as you put together your community’s marketing plan. Insight that I hope will cause you to either rethink your WHO selection, or refine it a bit further. In either case, you’ll be in a better position for success moving forward.


I have reported on the DCI national survey of CEOs previously. This is a great source report to better understand how CEOs approach the site selection process. The 2011 survey is the sixth in a series, so a longitudinal look at the data is possible. I really appreciate Andy Levine and the team at DCI for investing in generating these data and making the study results available to the profession at no cost. It is a wonderful service and show of DCI’s commitment to helping economic development professionals make informed choices. The 2011 survey had 322 respondents, so in aggregate the statistics should be a fairly reliable.

Industry peers and articles in print media continue to be the primary source of CEO information about your community’s business climate. In 2011, travel declined dramatically as a source of information. Likely reflecting the tightening of travel budgets given the current global economic conditions. These data suggest your communications plan should have a strong public relations component in order to help ensure your message is received.

If you want to reach these executives, it helps to know which newspapers and magazines they read the most. The Wall Street Journal was reported as far and away the most read publication (82.1%) with daily newspapers coming second (39.3%). The online version of the Wall Street Journal also was cited most frequently (23.3%) followed by economic development agency websites (18.6%). Net, no matter if you look at print or online, the Wall Street Journal is far and away your best vehicle choice. Although moving from print to online media appears to result is a significant drop in CEO reach that needs to be taken into account. Every other vehicle option is a distant runner-up, including the New York Times.

CEOs feel planned visits and your website are the two most effective marketing techniques for delivering your community’s message to them. Most of the time, I am cautious when interpreting self-reported perceptions on what tactics actually influence choice. It has been my experience that decision makers are rarely aware of what really does influence their choice. In this case though, the data are consistent with what I would have expected, so I feel more comfortable citing them. I think a very strong case can be made that these two tactical options should be supported in any community’s marketing plan.

The data that has consistently struck me the strongest in the DCI study is from the question of first contact with economic development organizations. These data are particularly enlightening for small communities, although they are meaningful no matter what your community size or economic development budget.


I put the sentence in headline type so you’d take a little extra time to let the implications of the data sink in. If your strategy (for whatever reason) is anything short of aggressively identifying and pursuing promising capital investment leads, then you will only be competing for a share of the 24% of opportunities where a short list has not been developed in advance. The data were collected based on answers to the question “generally, at what stage in the site selection search would you first contact site selection organizations?”. You may have a tendency to think the data reflect only capital attraction opportunities. I believe that would be a mistake. I believe it also reflects capital expansion investment opportunities and suggests companies in your own backyard may make a short list decision without every contacting you to talk about it. What is the probability your community will be on that short list for a pending expansion? I think you’d be wrong to believe the answer is anywhere close to 100%, you may be lucky if it is 50% (my own gut feel).


Given the tight budgets we operate with in economic development, it may make sense to bring additional clarity to your WHO definition as it relates to CEOs. Advertising the Wall Street Journal is not an inexpensive proposition. Even advertising on the Wall Street Journal online requires a significant budget. The reality is your community is unlikely to practically be targeting 100% of CEOs unless you have the Wall Street journal in your media mix. So, there is a practical opportunity to be more precise in defining the subset of CEOs you actually are targeting just by looking at your communication channel choices. In my opinion, this is an exercise worth doing. Increased clarity in WHO you are actually targeting will help drive better choices in communication channels and tactics to use. Refining your definition on the basis of industries of interest is another effective way to drive additional clarity.

Remember, your target needs to be exposed to your message no less that 9 times if you want it to break through the clutter and stick in his/her mind. The more clarity you can bring to your WHO definition, the better tactical choices you will make in your communication plan so the minimum 9 exposures can actually be delivered. It is not about getting more money; it is about investing the money you have wisely. When you really look hard at the costs, for many small communities the only real option for marketing your community is partnering with a regional effort where the cost of reaching your target WHO can be amortized across a number of EDOs.

You can find additional guidance on targeting HERE.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Does your community have a tight definition of your WHO target? If yes, how has it translated into better choices in your communication plan? I’d love to have you share both positive and negative experiences. Do you believe clarity in your WHO definition is worth the effort, or an exercise in describing the proverbial ‘number of angels dancing on the head of a pin’? Does your community participate in a Regional communication plan? How has this worked for you?

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