As marketers, we are often challenged by assignments where we have to re-brand a commodity product or breathe new life into a service everyone simply takes for granted.
Also as marketers, we know it doesn’t matter what we think. What matters is the sum impression our target audience has about our company’s product. Every interaction at each customer touch point reinforces the power of our company’s brand.
At Greater Rochester Enterprise Inc., our assignment is equally challenging. We’re selling the nine-county Greater Rochester region with attributes such as our highly skilled work force, world-class universities, and research and development facilities. At every interaction with our target audience, senior business executives and site selectors, we must make the Rochester brand stand out against hundreds of other communities around the country.
Our target audience holds the power to decide whether Rochester gets on the short list to receive multimillion-dollar capital investments and new jobs.
Know your customer
A critical lesson we’ve learned along the way is to know your customer. Don’t make assumptions about what motivates their buying behavior. A focus group of one is never a good idea. Through both primary and secondary research, we’ve learned that in economic development the Internet plays a huge role in the way communities are selected for projects.
Just like other industries, the Internet has dramatically increased the speed with which information can be shared with clients and prospects. In the world of economic development, what once required days to compile now can be completed with a few clicks of a mouse. An astounding 80 percent of the initial site selection screening-the culling of a list of hundreds of communities to just a few-is done remotely via the Internet before a site selector ever visits a community.
Based on this insight, we have shifted all of our traditional paid advertising to Web-based cost-per-click advertising, e-mail blasts and search engine optimization tactics. Not only are we effectively playing where the target is, we now have instantaneous feedback on which messages are prompting people to take action and visit our site, call us or send us a request for a proposal.
We’ve seen the number of unique visitors to GRE’s Web site, www.RochesterBiz.com, steadily increase by 50 percent over the last two years while the budget remained steady. When we launched our new online mapping system during the fourth quarter of last year, we sent e-mail blasts to site selectors around the country. Within a few days, we could see a 25 percent response. And, the company that hosts this portion of our site noted that we had become one of the top 10 sites within their stable of more than 100 Web sites. We’re always tracking our activity to make sure we’re generating results.
Be brand ambassadors
Make sure your employees-in this case Rochesterians-are touting the benefits of the region. The power of the brand comes from the inside out.
I know site selectors often ask the locals in the convenience store or at the hotel main desk for a real, unvarnished impression of Rochester. To address the need to educate each other on the numerous business assets right in our own backyard and instill a sense of pride in our community, the GRE team created a marketing campaign, “Talk It Up Rochester,” in conjunction with Dixon Schwabl Advertising Inc., Electronic Field Productions, Democrat and Chronicle and WROC-TV 8. Since we focus our marketing budget on activity outside of the region, this local campaign was possible only after more than 90 percent of the cost was covered by significant in-kind contributions from these partners.
On our Web site, in every one of our presentations and in our marketing materials, we tout these impressive business facts about Rochester. Before I started at GRE, I had no idea that the Rochester region has a work force that generates more patents per worker than most communities. The abundance of fresh water in this region has helped attract more than 100 food and beverage manufacturers, including the production of all the Cool Whip for Kraft. With so much written about the need for alternative energy solutions, given the ever-rising gas price, it’s amazing that so much of GM’s fuel cell technology is taking place right here in Honeoye Falls. Who knew? These interesting facts, plus so many others, have fueled this local campaign.
Our campaign tends to focus more on the business aspects than the cultural aspects of our community. This is not because we don’t believe the cultural assets are exceptional. We just know from our research that they don’t motivate a business executive to expand a company here. Our aim is to deliver compelling facts that speak to the target audience and deliver to the bottom line.
While GRE does not have the extensive research budget to measure the success of our local campaign, I have received significant anecdotal feedback that the messages are breaking through. The mood is more optimistic and more open to the possibility that we can enhance the economy of this region.
During the first quarter of 2008, GRE recorded 17 new active expansion projects in our sales pipeline. This is double the number of new projects we managed a year ago. These opportunities come from meetings we’ve had with prospects at more than 30 trade and industry shows during 2007. They also come from the publicity we’ve garnered about our key industry sectors and the relationships we’ve fostered at every marketing touch point over the last several years.
While it all must remain confidential at this time, we have several extremely exciting and substantial projects under way to help expand the Greater Rochester region’s economy.
Staci Henning is the marketing director of Greater Rochester Enterprise Inc. She is responsible for all aspects of GRE’s marketing strategy and creative development, including advertising, corporate communications, Internet marketing and public relations.
04/11/08 (C) Rochester Business Journal=