How an Economic Development Marketing Funnel Drives FDI & Business Attraction
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How an Economic Development Marketing Funnel Drives FDI & Business Attraction

By: Dave Parsell. Reposted with Permission from Local Intel Economic Development.

This is the second of a multi-part series into the most important element of your economic development website by Localintel.

In this second installment of the series, we shift our focus to the Marketing and Business Development Funnel for economic developers. We will dig into what a Economic Development Marketing Funnel is, why it can help you attract more businesses to your community and how you can use it to close more deals.  

Who should read this article? If foreign direct investment (FDI), business attraction or business development are important elements of your economic development strategy, then you should keep reading. 

What is the Marketing and Business Development Funnel?

The Marketing and Business Development Funnel depicts the journey that a site selector or corporate executive takes when assessing new locations. The journey typically begins with an initial evaluation, that identifies your community as a prospect, and it culminates with a decision as to whether your location meets the necessary criteria for investment. Understanding the nature of a structured decision-making process is imperative for economic developers that want to get the inside track and win more deals. 

The concept of a macro to micro funnel is used by successful businesses in all industries as a means of ensuring a consistent and repeatable marketing and sales process.  

With some minor modifications, the funnel can be a valuable concept for economic developers who want to:

  1. Get the attention of site selectors,
  2. Nurture stronger relationships with them, and 
  3. Attract more investment to your community.

The first step for economic developers is to fill their Marketing and Business Development Funnel by attracting the attention of site selectors, location advisors and corporate executives who can be referred to collectively as “leads”. The goal is then to retain these leads throughout the subsequent funnel stages to the point where they end up deciding your community is the best location for their business. 

Marketing & Business Development Funnel for Economic Developers

Moving a site selector through the funnel entails a step by step approach that is strategically designed to increase awareness and educate leads about your location’s advantages, assets, and opportunities.

Success at any level of the funnel is a win that can be leveraged, and it means the site selector will progress down to the next level and closer to a decision. As the funnel narrows you will inevitably see some of your leads lose interest and drop off, however, the percentage of lost leads can be offset by implementing improvements to the stages where you are the weakest. This will lead to a greater conversion rate and more favorable decisions. 

Why an Economic Development Marketing Funnel Matters

The Marketing and Business Development Funnel can help you increase engagement with site selectors and attract more businesses to you community. Other benefits of the funnel include:

  • The funnel helps you identify the criteria that guides site selectors, and corporate executives, to better understand what they are looking for at each stage of their location selection journey.
  • It helps you deliver the right information at the right time. Location advisors and corporate executives ask different questions at different stages of the site selection process. Understanding the funnel will significantly increase your chances of providing site selectors with the information they need at each stage. This will in turn will increase the chances of capturing their attention and addressing any concerns they may have.
  • Understanding the funnel helps you identify why some leads drop out and to determine the tactics required to increase the number of site selectors going from one stage to the next.
  • It helps you understand why your community may not be right for some leads. This valuable insight allows you to become laser focused on the more qualified leads which will save time, effort and money – and lead to higher win rate going forward. 
  • Applying the Marketing and Business Development Funnel gives you an immediate edge over your competitors that are not dedicating the time and resources to leveraging it.

What are the stages of an Economic Development Marketing Funnel?

The Marketing and Business Development Funnel for economic developers consists of 3 stages – the Awareness Stage, Consideration Stage and Due Diligence Stage.

Marketing & Business Development Funnel for Economic Developers

Stage 1: Awareness

The awareness stage begins when you get the attention of the site selectors, corporate executives, investors, and businesses you are trying to attract. This stage is critical because it’s where they are first introduced to the strengths and advantages of your location. It’s also the stage where you can start building the case around what sets you apart from competing communities.

To do this stage well, economic developers must understand the mindset of a person at the start of a site selection process. What are their needs? How do they undertake research? What questions are they asking? What matters most? What is most likely to grab their attention? Here’s a selection of articles that will help answer these questions:

At this stage your job as an economic developer revolves around being helpful, getting attention and sparking curiosity, rather than providing detailed data or being overly sales driven. You should be focusing on showcasing your communities unique selling proposition (USP) to encourage site selectors to go to the next stage of the funnel. 

Having a brief and compelling elevator pitch for your location is key but just as important is the ability to effectively convey that message through your marketing materials. I explain what it takes to create a persuasive elevator pitch in part 1 of this series

The Elevator Pitch for Economic Developers - Introducing your location quickly & compellingly. An elevator pitch is a brief and persuasive narrative that you use to spark interest in your location. They should be relevant, memorable, and succinct. They also need to explain your location's advantages and what makes it unique. Your elevator pitch should be clearly state why your community is the right place for businesses to locate and expand. The "Why Us," "Our Advantages" or "Locate Here" section of your economic development website is the best place to make an elevator pitch.

There are many ways to reach your target audience and build awareness of your location. The 2020 edition of Development Counsellors International’s Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing identified the most effective ways to market to location advisors and corporate executives as:

  • Media relations/publicity
  • Social media
  • E-newsletters/e-marketing
  • Advertising (TV, print, digital, etc.)
  • Trade shows
  • Hosting special events 
  • Planned visits to corporate executives
  • Physical mail (brochures/gift boxes)
  • Telephone outreach

The outcome you want in this stage: You attract the attention of site selectors, spark their curiosity and drive them to your website. 

Stage 2: Consideration

This stage is where the real work begins. You’ve got the attention of location advisors and corporate executives. Now you have to keep it and enhance engagement until they are ready to short-list your location and/or connect with you in person. 

What happens when a site selector lands on your website?

As we discussed in Part 1 of the series, you have very little time to engage a person and keep them from leaving your website. Research has found that people simply won’t stay on your website for long unless they find a reason to do so – and this needs to happen very quickly. 

When a site selector first lands on your website they are in the early phases of research, which likely means comparing different locations and creating a shortlist. As such, your immediate priority is to communicate your location’s advantages in the “Why Us” section of your website. This “Why Us” narrative needs to be easy to find, relevant and engaging. Let’s dig into this a little more.

Easy to find: 

The “Why Us” section of your website should be the first thing people see when they get to your website. When users land on a website, their eye path starts from the upper-left corner and moves down and right from there. That is why leading economic development websites add the “Why Us” button on the left-hand side of their website menu.

visual examples of "Why Us" sections on economic development websites

Relevant: 

The “Why Us” section of your website should address the core criteria that most site selectors are looking for during the initial stages of their research. This will be your elevator pitch.

This is not the time or place to start with highly detailed demographic data or inventories of available properties. This information is valuable, but it usually belongs in the next stage of the funnel when site selectors have shortlisted your location and are undertaking deeper analysis.  

Engaging: 

Using too much text to explain your location advantages is not engaging. In fact, it is the quickest way to get people to leave your website. Other turnoffs for website visitors include long lists, large tables and crowded pages. 

Remember, the primary purpose of your website is to promote your location advantages, make a site selector’s short list and generate a lead – not to answer every question you think a site selector may have. 

The most effective way to engage site selectors in the “Why Us” section of your website is to use succinct videos and a new technique pioneered by Localintel called Location Advantages Marketing.

Location Advantages Marketing include: interactive visualizations to drive engagement, up to date data to promote your strengths, and plug-and-play for easy website integration.

In the next installment of this series, I will explain how to include a powerful “Why Us” section in your website. 

The outcome you want in this stage: You keep the attention of site selectors on your website, promote your location advantages and get shortlisted and/or contacted by them.

Stage 3: Assist

Great news – in this stage your location is has been short-listed by a site selector and they are ready to undertake more detailed analysis as part of their due diligence. Your goal is to assist them with the information they need to build certainty, increase trust and feel confident in deciding that your community is the right location for their business. The type of information that site selectors find useful at this stage includes:

  • Incentives
  • Demographic data
  • Available sites and properties
  • Labor force analytics
  • Consumer expenditure and trade area analysis
  • Industry clusters and supply chains

Don’t worry if your organization doesn’t have all this information readily available. Location advisors and corporate executives can often get much of this information through their own means. 

“It is typical for consultants to get 90 percent of the information they need through databases and websites. The remaining information comes from the community much later in the process.”

International Economic Development Council – Knowledge is Power: Working Effectively with Site Selectors.

The outcome you want in this stage: You provide site selectors with the information they need to decide that your community is the right location for them.

Why You Need to Optimize Your Economic Development Marketing Funnel

I’ll tell you something you probably already know. Site selectors have a lot of options. Of course, you want them to pick your location, but it is a very competitive process. Consequently, you need to promote your location effectively and sell it efficiently. 

Without a tight, optimized Marketing and Business Development Funnel you are not providing what site selector want when they want it. This increases the chances of your location missing out on new job-creating opportunities. There are many ways to optimize your Marketing and Business Development Funnel. So many in fact that we will dedicate a future article to discuss it further. 

Key Takeaways

The 5 main points for you to take away from this article are:

  1. The Marketing and Business Development Funnel depicts the typical journey that a site selector or corporate executive goes through. The stages within the funnel progress from initial awareness through the diligence process and hopefully to a decision that your location is the right place for their business to locate.
  2. The goal of the funnel is to get as many leads as possible into the top, move them down through the funnel and successfully convert them into new deals and job-creating businesses in your community.
  3. The awareness stage of the funnel will help you attract the attention of site selectors, spark their curiosity and drive them to your website.
  4. The consideration stage of the funnel will help you keep the attention of site selectors on your website, promote your location advantages and get shortlisted and/or contacted by them.
  5. The assist stage of the funnel will ensure you provide site selectors with the information they need to decide that your community is the right location for them.

Ultimately, the Marketing and Business Development Funnel is about building relationships and when it comes to site selection, building strong relationships is the key to success. Understanding the needs of site selectors and having a relationship building mindset will enable you to promote your location more effectively and convince more job-creating businesses to set up in your community. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Please reach out to me directly at [email protected] if you would like to discuss it further. 

About Localintel Economic Development:

Localintel makes online economic development tools that hundreds of organizations have added to their existing or new website to promote their community’s advantages. Our clients range from small rural villages through to Texas Economic Development Corporation, Enterprise Florida, British Columbia Government, Washington DC Economic Partnership, Invest Ottawa, Calgary Economic Development, Winnipeg Economic Development and the cities of Seattle, Cleveland, Fort Lauderdale and Tulsa.

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