Fighting for your Economic Development Marketing Budget


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Despite fierce competition among communities for the same “hot” sectors and a shrinking pool of skilled workers, it seems that winning support for marketing activities is getting tougher instead of easier.

Marketing can be tough to conceptualize, difficult to measure, and is usually the first on the chopping block when it’s time to reduce spending. This white paper will examine these challenges and provide concrete responses and strategies for addressing them.

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Fighting for your Economic Development Marketing Budget

  1. 1. Hands Off My Marketing Budget!How to fight for your economic developmentmarketing programCurrent issues foreconomic development professionalsEDAC / ACDEMarketing and CommunicationsWhite Paper SeriesJune 2010
  2. 2. It’s a difficult time to be aneconomic development marketer.Despite fierce competition among communities for the same“hot” sectors and a shrinking pool of skilled workers, it seemsthat winning support for marketing activities is getting tougherinstead of easier. For example, how often have you heardthese phrases at budget time?“I don’t really understand what we are trying to accomplishwith our marketing activities.”“How do we justify a budget for something like marketingwhen there are so many cuts taking place across the board?”“I just can’t get behind spending money on something wecan’t measure.”If you’ve ever fought for marketing dollars, you knowthese concerns all too well. Marketing can be tough toconceptualize, difficult to measure, and is usually the first onthe chopping block when it’s time to reduce spending. Thiswhite paper will examine each of these challenges and provideconcrete responses and strategies for addressing them.
  3. 3. Challenge #1:“I don’t really understand what we are trying to accomplish withour marketing activities.” Response: Present a comprehensive marketing plan that has a clear line of sight to overall economic development goals.Let’s face it: Sometimes marketing happens A good marketing plan should be an extension ofreactively. A time-sensitive advertising opportunity the overall economic development strategy. Forin a site selection magazine, a councilor asking each economic development goal, examine what“why we aren’t on that twitter thing yet?”, or a marketing activities could support achieving it.summer festival requesting city sponsorship are You’ll find that almost every one of your goals willthe kinds of things that can cause marketing need some communication component in orderinitiatives to be fairly ad-hoc. While it is important to be successful (e.g. what good is developing ato maintain some flexibility in order to take property database or tax incentive program if youadvantage of opportunities as they arise, it don’t tell people about it?) Use these connectionsis equally important to be able to answer the to show exactly how marketing will support youquestion: “Does this opportunity fit with our in accomplishing your economic developmentstrategic marketing objectives?” strategy. (e.g. increase traffic to the new property database by 25%, achieve 100 business sign-upsIt sounds simple, but defining what we are trying for the incentive program).to accomplish with marketing is one of the mostoverlooked aspects of presenting a plan. Most ofus are great at describing the types of activities wewill undertake, and the associated budgets andtimelines that result. But we often fail to connectthe dots with WHY we are carrying out theseactivities.
  4. 4. Challenge #2:“How do we justify a budget for something like marketing whenthere are so many cuts taking place across the board?” Response: Demonstrate that more cautious economic climates present competitive advantages for those that choose to spend instead of cut.Marketing is perceived as a “nice to have”, When it comes to the Canadian economicespecially in leaner economic times. When development profession, a recent survey foundfaced with tough decisions about where to cut, a widening gap between EDOs that chosemarketing is usually first in line before programs to increase or decrease marketing spendingthat are seen as more critical to economic during the economically tumultuous conditionsdevelopment health. But this view may be of 2009. According to the study, 62% of thoseshortsighted. that increased their marketing spending in 2009 planned to continue increased spending in 2010.Research shows that companies that consistently In contrast, only 25% of those that cut back inadvertise even during more conservative economic 2009 planned to increase 2010 spending. Almosttimes perform better in the long run. A McGraw- 30% of 2009 decreasers planned to furtherHill Research study looking at 600 companies from decrease budgets in 2010.31980 to 1985 found that those businesses whichchose to maintain or raise their level of advertising According to the Place Marketing Group:expenditures during the 1981 and 1982 recessionhad significantly higher sales after the economy “While some EDOs see little choice but to slashrecovered. Specifically, companies that advertised marketing spending, it is a step that risks a lossaggressively during the recession had sales of future growth opportunities. Experts agree that256% higher than those that did not continue to those who maintain spending often emerge theadvertise.1 strongest when things pick up. Cuts in marketing will show the most and help the least.” 4In fact, this is a unique opportunity that is notavailable in a healthier economy. As reflected The reality is that even under the bleakestin a Kellogg School of Management study, economic conditions, clients and customers don’tincreasing advertising spending during economic stop making decisions. Given their own budgetexpansion often yields no improvement in market challenges, these decisions are likely being madeshare, because 80% of your competitors are with greater discernment and consideration. Foralso increasing their spending. Conversely, the economic developers, this means that droppingAssociation of National Advertisers found that at out of the race of promoting your municipalityleast half of businesses reduce their adverting to save money in the short term puts you at aspend during an economic downturn.2 disadvantage compared to peers who choose to maintain marketing and communication efforts.
  5. 5. Challenge #3:“I just can’t get behind spending money on something wecan’t measure.” Response: Include a comprehensive measurement strategy that focuses on analysis and implications.There’s no magic bullet here. Marketing is a really Ensure that your marketing approach takeshard thing to measure – especially for something advantage of technology where possible, and takewith as many complexities and extraneous the time to become versed in email metrics, socialinfluencers as economic development. But that media measures and website analytics so that youdoesn’t mean our profession gets a pass on this are able to determine pre-marketing baselines andvery important challenge. Although it may not set goals for various marketing efforts. Tools likealways be an exact science, there are strategies Google Analytics and Facebook fan page reportsand tools that can help us answer questions about are free and can provide a breadth of informationthe effectiveness of our marketing efforts. Not only to build a case for marketing in your organization. Ifdoes this help us build a case for our marketing the mere mention of these technology tools makesprograms, but it also helps us be better marketers, your eyes glaze over, enlist a professional who canwhich in turn makes us better economic help you develop a measurement strategy that isdevelopers. So let’s look at some measurement grounded in your overall economic developmentstrategies that can be applied to economic objectives. These tools are out there and theydevelopment marketing. can offer a great deal of credibility to marketing skeptics in your organization, so use them!Embrace technology Set clear goals and measuresOne of the most obvious advantages of our currentpenchant for technology and electronic forms of Earlier in the white paper we talked about themarketing (in addition to their lower costs) is that importance of linking marketing tactics withthey are highly measurable compared to more economic development strategy. The same is truetraditional means of promoting our communities. for measurement – it must correspond to whatWe know who is opening our emails, what we are trying to accomplish from an economiccontent on our website is most popular, and what development standpoint. For example, if ourpercentage of people register for our events. We economic development goal is to increase listingscan send two different campaigns simultaneously in our property database, then the marketingand see which one is more effective to help us efforts to do so should be measured against thattweak our approach in the future. We can look at specific goal.friends, followers, retweets and share of voice insocial media circles. All of this data can form the Decide precisely what you will measure at thebasis of rich reporting and analysis to bolster the outset before you begin any marketing tactics andcase for your marketing programs. determine goals for your marketing efforts that line up with your economic development strategy. Knowing what you will measure and the impact you hope to achieve will ensure that marketing programs are taken more seriously because your are able to demonstrate strategic outcomes.
  6. 6. Correlation is okay too It may be as simple as a “how did you hear of us?” or as complicated as setting up specific urls andUnless we are in a scientific laboratory, it is pretty dedicated campaigns, but following a site visitordifficult to definitively prove causation. In the to a tangible result is well worth the time and effortreal world, we may suspect that x caused y, but it takes. Use your analysis to hypothesize whatsince c, d and e happened as well it is impossible might work better next time and try it out. Whatto say. When it comes to measuring economic did you learn? How can you further tweak yourdevelopment marketing, we’ve got c, d, e and efforts? Flat reports and raw numbers will do littlepretty much the whole alphabet to contend with. to strengthen your case for marketing. Analysis,But the more we do x, and the more we see y, we can testing and recommendations should be built intobe pretty certain that the correlative relationship is your plan, not done as an afterthought. Ensurea meaningful result for our marketing efforts. that you have the time and resources accounted for in your marketing strategy to make meaningThe key is learning to accept correlative from your results.relationships as valid and strengthening them bydemonstrating the relationship repeatedly overtime. If you launch a big social media campaign at The bottom linethe same time the economy picks up it’s tough tosay what caused the increased interest from skilled Now that you are armed with these strategies andknowledge workers looking to relocate. But if you responses, the common challenges raised at thelaunch a similar campaign during more stable beginning of this white paper shouldn’t be causetimes and see an increase again, the correlative for concern. To succeed:relationship strengthens and it’s more reasonableto suggest that it was the effectiveness of your 1) Help naysayers to see marketing’s relationshipsocial media marketing efforts that caused the to your economic development goals;increased interest. There’s nothing wrong with 2) Provide evidence that spending during leanercorrelation as a measure, especially if you can times provides a long-term advantage; andrepeat the results over time. 3) Ensure that measurement is a critical component of your strategy.Analyze, test, learn and recommend. These steps will greatly increase your chance of preserving your marketing program budget yearFollowers, fans, hits, clicks… simply reporting over year. Despite the challenges presented tothese numbers holds little merit for demonstrating us we know marketing is critical to our work asthe true effectiveness of marketing in achieving economic developers. It’s our job to demonstrateyour economic development goals. Marketing why to the decision-makers around us.will only be taken seriously if we take thetime to crunch these numbers and presentmeaningful conclusions and recommendationsto our decision-makers. Look at the data you’vecollected – what does it mean for the economic About the Authordevelopment strategy your community is trying On Three Communication Design Inc. is a creative agency specializingto realize? So you got 1,000 facebook fans this in promoting places not products. For more information and insight, visityear… so what? Did it result in new investment? them at www.onthree.caDid you see an increase in numbers attending or read the blog at events? Updates to your business directory?Requests for corporate visits?
  7. 7. Endnotes1 Knowledge@Wharton. “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Don’t Skimp on Their Ad Budgets” November2008., Accessed January 2009.2 My Creative Team. “Tough Times Call for Tough Marketers”. December 2008., Accessed January 2009.3 On Three Communication Design. 2009 Canadian Economic Development Marketing Survey., Accessed May 2010.4 Place Marketing Group. “Survey Says EDOs feeling the effect of the recession”. July 29, 2009, Accessed May 2010.About this White Paper SeriesEDAC is pleased to bring our members this White Paper series as a resource to enhance your communicationsactivities. Please visit the publications section of to view past papers in the series. White papers planned for2010 include: Hands of my Marketing Budget! - How to fight for your economic development programs Selling small: Marketing strategies for smaller communities Email marketing for economic developers So, did it work? – How to measure marketing effectiveness The future of social media for economic development