How well does your promise connect with your target? Are you connecting with your target better than your competitors are? Do you have a measurement process in place to help you answer these two questions?
If you do not, you are operating under the “blind squirrel” idiom . In my humble opinion the “blind squirrel” idiom is not what your Board of Directors has envisioned as your ideal operating style.
Below, I share a 4-step model to help you better categorize your activities and think a bit more holistically about your communication mix.
It all starts with your community (product or company) communicating your promise and it being heard by your target. Awareness is typically measured as top-of-mind recall. If your promise is both relevant and competitive, you have an opportunity to capture the attention of your target. It is important your message break through the clutter and is actually heard. Given the number of promotional messages the average person is exposed to every day (some sources estimate 5,000), this is not an easy task. It requires excellence in execution to be successful.
Your communication objective is to present a sufficiently compelling message that you stimulate interest in learning more about what your community (product or company) can offer. There is an entire discipline around creating a well-crafted message and media plan that maximizes the probability your message is heard. It is an area where professional help can be a wise investment.
Promise authenticity is paramount. Your community (product or company) must be able to deliver what your promise. That means when your target visits or reads reviews of your community, it is important to ensure the benefits you promise are evident. Experience isn’t simply a function of hands-on use. In fact, in economic development it is impractical for a capital investor to actually “try” your community as a way to get experience. Experience includes gathering a much wider range of information
Your promise needs to be authentically delivered across all major touch points. These include online and offline media. In economic development, the one touch point that gets the most attention is the familiarization tour. But, there are a number of important exposures to your community before a potential capital investor ever decides to take the time to physically evaluate your location. These include, but are not limited to, peer comments, website presence, local/national news coverage and public relations messaging. It is important the impression established at every touch point is consistent with and reinforcing of your promise. Even the imagery of your promotional material makes a difference. Pay particular attention to the chart on frequency of connection in the above touch point reference article.
This occurs in the mind of your target. It is the total impact your communication and the experience created. I often find marketers make the assumption that their target is as motivated to learn about their product (community or company) as they are to talk about it. In fact, your message is an intrusion on your target’s day and you need to work hard to effectively communicate it. You need to understand how your community is perceived and whether the promise you are making is viewed as valuable. Your targets response is determined by how they process your promise with both their left and right brain. Emotions are an important influence, even more so when the cost of the final decision is high. Nobody ever wants to be judged foolish. Consequently, you need to ensure selection of your community (product or company) is seen as a relatively low risk (or a no-brainer as one of my former Marketing Directors used to describe it). The best way to do this is be certain your communication is focused on the benefits of your promise and you provide reasons to believe that are data based.
Conversion is key. Your target needs to be convinced to invest in your community. Once invested though, it is important to ensure the promise you made is consistently realized so you can create loyalty and ideally advocacy. It is important to have a program in place that pays attention to this part of the process. Most EDOs have a good plan for trying to close the investment deal, but unfortunately retention efforts tend to be weak. You should look at retention (loyalty) as a key to attraction success. Leveraging positive, non-coerced peer recommendation is one of the more effective ways to convince a capital investor to select your location, and (in my opinion) is worth your time and energy.
As I work with communities on their branding, I find that communication is treated as a one-off event versus a sustainable and purposeful process. I always encourage EDOs to think in terms of campaigns. A one-off advertisement placed in a trade journal is a complete waste of money unless it is tied to a more comprehensive and integrated campaign. Think twice before you buy last minute advertising space in professional journals. The Journal deeply discounts the space, and the salesperson’s primary goal is to monetize it whether it is the smartest investment for your community or not. Unless it is truly part of a more comprehensive effort, my counsel is that it will not be in your best interest and will ultimately be a waste of your limited budget. You need an effective marketing communication plan to guide your investment and improve your odds of success.
Think of the challenge as a process. The 4 big steps described above need to be addressed in order for you to plan on success.
I’d love to hear about your experience and any learning you have had along the way. What have you found works to create initial awareness, as well as a positive experience, perception and disposition?
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