Friday, August 23, 2013

Your Marketing Is Not About You

Always take the outsider’s position

For many years of my career, I was in the media business. Having run a newspaper and then a radio network, I was always struck by the number of advertisers who would run ads in media that THEY liked, rather than where the audience was. With no understanding of how to select and measure media, they often selected media based on their own preferences.  Like NPR? That's fine, but if you want to reach a mass market of 18-25-year-old soft drink consumers, that’s not the place to do it.

Similarly, the way ads are developed is directly related to the audience. Writing, photo selection, and copy are carefully crafted to resonate with the audience. Ads selling to 12-year-olds are dramatically different than those selling to retirees.

When developing marketing messages for communities, we also have to carefully consider the needs of the audiences. As much as we'd each like to think that our marketing efforts are all about how wonderful our place is, that's really not the case. The truth is that everything we do and say should be based on the needs and expectations of target audiences.

Inside-Out Marketing
A very common approach to place marketing is to gather the team together and ask this question, “What do we want to say?” At that point, the discussion may include topics such as workforce, available buildings, education, and quality of life. These are all great points. For a web site, the group may also want to point out that their county is ranked number three in the state for soybean production, or that the area was once a staging site for a famous civil war infantry. It may even be the birthplace of a famous poet. A few of these items are interesting but the real question that must be asked is “Will any of these be important to a site selector considering bringing a jobs project to the area?” The people on the inside (inside the community) may find these things important, but they may not be important to an economic development project.

Outside-In Marketing
From the outside, meaning outside the area or even outside the country, other factors may be more important. To a site selector in New York or a C-Suite Executive in Shanghai, the focus will likely be elsewhere.

Sure, sites and buildings, workforce, and education data will be important, but they need and expect very deep information about topics that will help them move their project forward and keep your community on the list. In response to that need for detailed data, Brand Acceleration developed the Economic Dashboard, a web site add-on tool that provides broad-based economic and workforce data, making it easy for a web visitor to find up-to-date information.

Through numerous surveys, interviews, and face-to-face conversations with key audiences, we’ve learned a lot about what these people want and don’t want to see. I’m talking about detailed information about everything from the photos they like to see to the words used in copy. Our findings are so deep that we not only know which web pages are most important, but we can accurately predict their page-to-page path once they visit a web site. Knowing this helps us develop a web site that meets visitor expectations.

What about Quality of Life?
I received a call one day from an EDO director who had just attended a meeting where a panelist suggested that he doesn’t care about an area’s quality of life. “Do we even need a Quality of Life page,” he asked? So, we launched an effort to dig into this topic. Out of a list of sixteen potential web site pages, Quality of Life was ranked number fifteen. However! This is big. When we dug deeper, we found that once a community makes it to short-list status, the QOL page becomes very important to the management team and trailing family considering relocating to your area. So, we dug even deeper to learn how the trailing spouse uses an EDO web site. Once a short-list is established, the trailing spouse will visit your web site and immediately begin forming opinions about your community. Photos of the shopping district without cars and shoppers, playgrounds and parks without playing children, or a high school football field showing no football game do more harm than good. If important information is missing, or if the photos are just plain ugly, he or she may kill the deal by saying, “I’m not going to live in that ugly place!” Boom, you’re off the list. Other community web sites, such as the Chamber of Commerce, Schools, and Visitor’s Bureau, can also make or break a deal.

What’s the point?
The point of all this is to say that everything you show, say, and do should be seen through the eyes of the audience. What do they want to see? What information do they need? Which wording helps? Which photos are best? During a site visit, who should attend? What role should each person play? What do visitors want to see and do?

As you move into the planning of your marketing and communications, always do so as if you were the audience, looking in. Say what they want you to say and show what they want to see.

Apple founder Steve Jobs once said "You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology - not the other way around." I think he had it right.

Want to share a story? I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share your thoughts and personal experiences below.

Have a great week and I’ll see you soon,

Jim Walton
Brand Acceleration, Inc.
Branding // Marketing Communications // Public Relations
Indianapolis: 317.536.6255
Charlotte: 704:230:0394
Atlanta: 404.474.7980
Fax: 317.222.1425
Cell: 317.523.7380

Brand Acceleration is a full-service marketing communications, brand management and public relations firm with a focus on economic development, architecture, engineering and construction.


1 comment :

  1. Fantastic and so profound to use commercial real estate as the example. It is not often these are discussed in the same conversation and it is so vital to our marketing and our thinking!