paraphrased from a quote by Philip Kotler
My 4-W model of branding starts with defining WHO you want to communicate with. Focusing your investment in communicating with people that are likely to have a genuine need for your brand promise is key to success. Budget invested in communicating with the wrong people is a drag on your marketing mix ROI. Or, as your Board of Directors would say – “It is an inefficient and ineffective use of budget dollars.”
Nobody wants to waste time, energy and budget communicating with the wrong people, so what can you do to minimize the probability of that occurring and as a consequence deliver a “bigger bang for your marketing buck”?
Three Preparatory Steps
Start with analyzing who has historically been responsive to your brand promise. In the case of economic development, take a look at the RFPs that your organization has been asked to submit over the last 5-years. Determine what the common themes are from the data set. Is there a geographic bias? What industries do the companies participate in (my suggestion is look at the 6-digit NAICS code level)? Is there a difference between the RFPs your community successfully converted to capital investments and those your community lost? Understanding WHO you have been able to attract attention/action from will help you better describe the persona of your most productive target audience.
Create an industry advisory team of private sector leaders in the NAICs industries you have identified, and get their insights. An objective look at your historical data will only take you so far. It is important to engage with private sector leaders who work in the industries where your community’s brand promise has been attention getting. Ask the team to help you better understand the dynamics of why your brand promise is appealing to the industry and if you have appropriately described the industry sub-set where your committee truly can compete effectively. The NAICS code definitions provide a general understanding, but they don’t always represent how the industry defines itself. You need to understand that definition and how it relates to the NAICS descriptions. Be transparent in your objective. Everybody wants to help you be more effective and efficient in your community branding efforts, particularly if you are using taxpayer dollars in any way. It has been my experience the team will surprise you with the amount of information they provide. Summarize what you learn and seek team builds and ultimately alignment to the driving insights described by your summary. Here is an example of what a good summary looks like – Ohio Aerospace & Business Aviation Advisory Council report.
Look forward and identify industries that are consistent with your community’s strategic development plan and represent a real potential to consider your community in their site selection process. You will want to consider adding one or two of these industries to your communication plan as a way to diversify your community’s industry portfolio. Get private sector input before making your selection. It is important you base your choice on an objective, real-world assessment of your community’s competitiveness versus other communities that have historically been successful in attracting capital investments from these industries. Building a new industry cluster in your community will take more time and cost more money than building on an existing cluster. You don’t want to waste your time chasing unicorns. Not every industry is right for your community, so be choiceful in your selection.
Now Think W.I.N.
Create a WIN target list for your community. This is a model you can use to get leadership alignment on which industries you should be communicating with.
W – Work. In this group are industries already doing business in your community that are not growing as fast as required for meaningful expansion, or at risk of relocation. Your work with companies in these industries will primarily be focused on helping remove any unintended roadblocks (infrastructure, public policy) that are impeding success.
I – Invest. These are industries you have decided have the potential for disproportionate growth. They are doing business in your community and could accelerate their growth rate with your help. You should be investing a disproportionate amount of your time and budget to achieve your economic development objectives. These are your community’s growth engine industries.
N – Nurture. These are the “look forward” industry clusters you want to build in your community. Nurture industries can drain your time and budget if you let them. Consequently, you should have tight plans of action in place and conduct frequent progress reviews to ensure against over distraction. These industry cluster represent your community’s future growth and you will need patience to help them develop successfully.
Once you have created a WIN list for your community, you are in a good position to begin working the rest of the 4-W brand-building model.
Tips To Help Get it Right
- Don’t overreach. There is a native American saying that goes – “If you chase two rabbits, you will lose the both”. This is wise council to keep in mind. While I don’t advocate focusing exclusively on a single industry, I do think many communities have the tendency to stretch resources too far. Be realistic in the number of industries you include in your WIN list.
- Do Listen. One area where communities go wrong is they use the targeting process to find data that supports the list community leaders want. That is why so many communities pursue the “flavor of the month” industry (e.g bioscience, renewables, etc.) even if their community has no true “right to win” in competing for capital investment within that industry. Go into the exercise with an open mind and open ears. Listen to your advisory teams.
- Don’t under power your investment. After going through the exercise, often communities suffer from not being sufficiently choiceful. As a result, too many industries are included in their WIN list and too little budget is available to communicate effectively. You are far better off having a shorter list that you can invest a meaningful level of budget to be competitive. Put the other industries on your parking lot list to potentially revisit when additional budget becomes available.
Private Sector Marketers – What advice do you have on effective targeting that economic development professionals might benefit from?
Public Sector Marketers – What has been your experience in targeting? Does the WIN approach seem like an approach that might be helpful?
Leave a comment with your thoughts.
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