Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Business Development - Promote It Like You Stole It!

Whether you call it Economic Restructuring or Business Development, you need to promote it.  When recruiting businesses you are selling your community, so why not include all the great things your district has going for it in the sales pitch. 

Here are a few ways to employ the methods of the Promotions Committee in your efforts:

Statistics, but not the kind you might expect.  Every business recruitment packet includes the demographics of the community/trade area, but that only tells part of the story.  Your sales pitch is about how those demographics translate into dollars for the district.  Include the annual number of event days you have downtown, along with estimated attendance at each event.  Wouldn't hurt to mention how much your district spends each year on marketing.  This is an ideal way to demonstrate that your organization is a valuable partner to the businesses.

What's your downtown's occupancy rate (commonly referred to as a vacancy rate, but why be negative)?  You might be surprised how many downtowners don't know the answer to this crucial question.  If you don't know, you better find out.  This number is not only a powerful tool in your business recruitment pitch, but demonstrates the effectiveness of your organization to the community at large.  It also provides a way to benchmark your recruitment efforts on an ongoing basis.

Promote new businesses.  Okay, so they made the move to your downtown, now what?  Issue monthly press releases, listing all the new businesses, plus any existing businesses that have expanded and/or relocated within the district.  And don't forget to include that fun little occupancy rate figure too!  Keep a tally of all the new/expanded businesses for the year and issue a press release at the end of the year telling your success story.  It's been my experience that you can't wait for the media to notice what a great job your organization is doing, so this will give them a nudge in the right direction.  And don't forget to push all of this information out through your social media channels as well.

Ribbon Cuttings.  Yes, they are old school, but people love them.  Seeing the looks on business owners' faces when you pull out those big scissors is priceless.  We partner with our local Chamber of Commerce to handle the ribbon cuttings.   Take lots of photos and post them instantly on your Facebook Page.  What a great way to introduce the business to the community and to raise awareness of your organization's business attraction efforts. It's also a subtle way to say "Hey, lots of businesses are opening here and you should too!"

Make business recruitment a special event. Host a Downtown Property Tour.  Essentially, it is an Open House, but for your entire business district.  Engage your landlords to make sure that their property is open for the hours of the event.  Select an available property for your host location where you can distribute master lists of available properties, while chatting up prospective tenants.  Make sure you capture attendee contact information so you can follow up after the event.  While the hope would be to have leases signed within 60-90 days, many attendees are testing the waters, but may be ready to make a move within 18-24 months. 

While this is far from a comprehensive list of ways to integrate Promotions into Business Development, I hope that I am starting to make a compelling case for the Four Points working together for the overall benefit of the downtown organization.  Stay tuned, we still have two more points to go...

Kristi Trevarrow
The Downtown Geek

First in a series of blogs demonstrating ways to incorporate Promotions into each of the Main Street Committees.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Main Street - Just A Bunch of Party Planners?

Having just returned from the National Main Streets Conference, I am bursting at the seams with enthusiasm and new ideas.  But my primary takeaway from this year's conference came from Tuesday morning's general session after hearing that Main Street organizations are viewed as "party planners".  And it wasn't meant in a good way.  I've always been proud to say that I'm a Promotions chick, but at that moment, I felt like I wanted to crawl under my chair.  Could my passion for Promotions be hurting my downtown, pegging us only as an events organization?

The discussion further suggested that being viewed as party planners compromises the overall credibility of your organization.  Sorry, I don't buy that.  You establish credibility for your organization through your projects and your positioning.  If anything, Promotions is the most undervalued point of Main Street.  Promotions is, in my opinion, the sexiest point of Main Street.  It is what attracts attention to the district.  The opportunity lies in finding creative ways to not only engage the community, but continuing to bring them back time after time.

Think of it like a first date.  Something attracted you in the first place - a glance, a smile, that extra bit of lip gloss or a hot sports car.  As the relationship goes on, you are still attracted by those things, but the connection goes way beyond the surface.  When people feel good about your downtown and they want to spend time there, that means something.  When they marvel at your historic architecture, that's all about Design.  When they spend money in your businesses, that's Economic Restructuring.  When they want to be a part of your efforts, that's all about Organization.

If you're not telling the complete story of what your organization is doing, don't blame Promotions.  Instead, embrace their methods.  Here are a few quick examples:

Organization - Capitalize on the traffic generated by special events by having your membership materials available at every downtown business. 

Design - Make each of your projects an "event".  Host ribbon cuttings for your restored buildings.  Post photos of your spring flowers plantings or your holiday light installation on your organization's Facebook Page.

Economic Restructuring - Promote the number of new businesses opening and/or expanding in your district as a tool for business recruitment.

To advance my not-so-subtle Promotions agenda, I'll be expanding on these suggestions in future posts, offering ways to pair Promotions with each of the other Main Street committees to develop a comprehensive approach that spotlights the best of what your program has to offer.

Downtown Geek and Proud Party Planner