All too often, I see a Department of Economic Development’s information nested – or buried – within the locality’s main website. While this may seem like an acceptable approach, it doesn’t allow for the amount of content and the unique positioning that this department needs. I’ll explain why economic development branding – as well as its overall marketing strategy – needs to stand firmly on its own.
First, economic development is one of the few – if not only – organizations in local government that’s strictly business-focused. Its brand needs to present as more B2B than other departments, and that’s much different than most departments, whose role is to serve residents, visitors, etc.
Economic Development needs to lead with a style and imagery that speaks to business owners and site selectors and an overall presentation that shows them that your locality truly is business-friendly.
The same holds true for your other forms of outreach, including social media. Business decision-makers – and even their staff – are incredibly busy and a social media page that also posts about tourist attractions and public notices will dilute your impact.
Second, it requires aggressive positioning and marketing. Competition is tough and the amount of content that businesses need to make a decision can be vast. A standalone presence (including logo, tagline, and marketing strategy) is increasingly vital for your locality to compete.
This approach is no longer one taken only by major cities. Lee County, Iowa has a population of roughly 33,000 people as of the 2019 census. However, they have a distinct brand with a robust website and active, dedicated social channels. They wouldn’t have the impact they do without those assets – or that brand.
Finally, with your own economic development branding, you can customize and scale the brand experience. A great example of how this is done is seen in Marion, Iowa, where they take full advantage of a standalone presentation.
Like Lee County, they’re able to quickly and clearly present their business case, points of difference, and everything a business needs to know.
There is so much more you can do with the right economic development branding that helps you become more digitally aggressive and capture more opportunity. Your department is the driver of business growth – it should stand firmly with a business brand of its own.