Research On Emotion In Site Selection

One of the biggest misconceptions is that emotion plays no role in the site selection decision. I have written on this subject previously.

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My experience and research suggests the more important the decision, the greater role emotion plays. Site selection is often a very high profile and costly decision for a CEO to make. As a consequence, the final decision is often made on emotion and subsequently rationalized with as many facts as possible.

Free eBook

I decided to summarize my research on emotion in site selection and share it with you.  I heard so many stories told by economic development professionals of deals they lost because of a non-data reason, that I knew my experience in the private sector with complex decision-making was replicable. I decided to document what I learned and offer it to you as a free eBook on the subject.

I also share some data from a survey of > 1,000 CEOs. The purpose of the survey was to better understand what CEOs feel is important in their deciding where to locate a business operation. It is one of the most comprehensive surveys I have read on the subject, and you may be surprised by the results.

All you need to do is click on the eBook cover below to download it.

Why Do Other Surveys Claim Emotion Has no Role?

Most surveys I have read on what is important in the site selection decision are asked of site selection consultants and not CEOs. Site selection consultants are paid to provide a factual review of the location options on a short-list. To a site selection consultant, numbers are their stock in trade and as a result viewed as what CEOs want in order to make a decision. If you want to know what is important to a CEO, you should ask a CEO.

Another reason is that surveys can only provide data on the attributes the survey designer elects to collect information on. The surveys I have read on the subject only look at rational attributes. If you don’t collect data on emotional considerations, it doesn’t mean they are not important. It simply means the survey didn’t collect data on emotional drivers. Consequently, questionnaire design has a lot to do with the results you get.

Are You Saying Rational Data Is not Important?

That is not what I am saying at all. You need a competitive rational argument for your community to even make the short list of locations under consideration. In many cases, the CEO isn’t involved until the location options have been narrowed to 2 or 3. A senior manager handles the process, or a team of managers is tasked with making a recommendation.

But, the site selection process is not a closed bid process. It is designed to ensure the project NPV for the final 2 – 3 location options is roughly equivalent. On a rational basis it doesn’t matter which option the CEO selects. The CFO is going to be happy with any choice.

I talk about this further in my post on the Three Moments of Truth.

Without a rational basis to differentiate between location options, the final decision is made on an emotional basis.

If You Are Right, What Should I Do?

A lot of what you are already doing. But, I would recommend you pay more attention to making an emotional connection with the CEO and the team making a final decision recommendation. Take some time with your EDO team and brainstorm ways you can create a positive emotional impression on the decision-maker. Be sure the CEO knows what it is really like to live and work in your community. Provide access to CEOs already doing business there. Explain to the CEO how his/her company will play a key role in creating an even better business climate. Paint a picture of how both the Company and Community will benefit going-forward.

Don’t just trust that the impressions you want to make will simply happen. You need to pre-plan and be certain the CEO is provided an opportunity where he/she has experiences to establish that impression. This is work you already know how to do. I am simply suggesting it is more important than you may have thought and may need to be prioritized higher and resourced better.


I’d love to get your feedback on the eBook. I’d also love it if you’d share stories of where emotion was the deciding factor for (or against) your community as a location choice. The more stories we can share with each other, the easier it will be to understand the research results.

If you had to explain to a CEO how your community can enable achievement of his/her personal ambitions, what would you say?

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