Do you ever get the feeling that everyone expects your local economic development office to have all of the answers?
Do these questions sound familiar?
How many people are employed in the X industry (Full time and Part-Time)?
What's the average hourly rate for workers in the warehouse?
When is the last time we met with these companies?
Who did you meet with?
How many manufacturers between 5-49 people do we have in the area - what are their NAICS codes?
What companies in our area provide internships? Tell me about each program and how they work...
Where can we get training for underwater welding?
How many site selection meetings have you had since January 11, 2018?
While you won't have all of the answers, you should be able to get the answers quickly. How do you do it? Your CRM system and your Business Retention and Expansion data is the key. Local data in one place starts here and it's easier you might imagine.
Step 1: Know Thy Customers!
When COVID-19 hit, we saw some interesting things happen. There was suddenly a real need to be able to contact all of our business owners and key executives. In my city (Chattanooga, TN), the economic developers at the city didn't even have a list of health - fitness clubs. So, they had loans and grants but no contacts!
The important thing to understand is this - These businesses are customers of the city - they pay their taxes but the city didn't know how to identify or find them all.
You've got to start with the basics - get your local companies and contacts into a CRM database.
Not every business is a member of the Chamber of Commerce. You can't rely on just the Chamber's list. Use this as a starting place but you can go further.
The Small Business Development Centers all have access to InfoUSA - an online database showing all companies by city, zip, county, MSA, etc. It's not a perfect source of data but it's a great place to start.
Gazelle.ai is also a great source of company data. This is a subscription service. Look for other subscriptions like Hoovers, D&B, etc.
Use LinkedIn to get the word out - ask for help on LinkedIn to find and connect with these companies.
Step 2: Meet Thy Customers!
Start scheduling BRE calls, surveys and meetings sector by sector with the companies you do know.
Ask for introductions to other local contacts in the sector that you might have missed. The best way to do this is easy - show them the list of companies you have in their sector and ask who's missing.
Take the time to come up with your idea customer profile - determine what you want to know about your customers. We can give you a list of 200+ data points (and growing) for you to work from. Don't start from a blank slate, use our list - it's much easier and you won't miss something important.
Start to populate the data. As you do this, the data can be queried "Hey CRM-HubSpot... show me all of our manufacturing companies that are hiring, offers internships, has plans to expand in the next 3 years and also... while you're at it, show me who my primary BRE contact is at this company and when we met them last...."
Here you see a snipped of a Company's Profile. In fact, lots of this data is automatically populated by our CRM for you.
Step 3: Use the data to...
Identify shared challenges and needs - if you see lots of companies that need the same things, you can take 1 action that impacts many.
Example: A community college is more compelled to offer training on Inbound Marketing when there are several companies asking for this... your BRE work can spot these trends quickly.
Track engagement using Tickets - show your board how much time, effort and energy it takes to support your local industry. Show them the results of these engagements too by showing that you've identified companies at risk, companies poised to grow, new projects, etc.
Break tickets and support activities into Type and Track the Hours Spent.
Show how many projects came fro your Support Activities.
Capture data about lease renewals - this report shows which companies are planning to expand but have a lease coming up for renewal. (without your help, these companies could be lured away by another city, state, county).
Conclusion - by intelligently sourcing data and expanding on this from your outbound efforts, you will have your fingers on pulse of the community.