Economic development meets marketing: 3 tools to find your niche

Recently I was invited to speak at an International Economic Development Council (IEDC) online course about Marketing and Attraction in the Economic Development World. I have a marketing degree and ran a marketing company for five years before working at the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for four years; I just celebrated my one-year anniversary in my current position as the Economic Development Outreach Manger at the Institute of Business & Entrepreneurship. My mix of professional experience has led to unique content for this course.

I suggest three useful tools for finding your niche for your community:

  • SWOT analysis: A SWOT analysis helps you analyze your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. SWOTs can be applied to cities or counties, events, entire organizations and honestly, I even use them in my personal life! If you aren’t familiar with them, here is a YouTube video that walks you through one for a business (which can easily translate to an organization). In the case of positioning your community and finding your niche, I recommend focusing on the strengths and opportunities and building out your customer avatars (bullet #3) based on those features.
  • Business Model Canvas (BMC): The BMC is a great visualization tool for making organizational decisions. When completing the canvas, you can see what a particular initiative may look like for your organization. If you aren’t familiar with the BMC, check out this YouTube video to learn more. The Customer Segments section can be built using the customer avatars described in the next bullet.
  • Customer avatars: Creating highly detailed dossiers of your target market is a highly effective way to narrow in on marketing that really makes a difference. By narrowing in on just one to three avatars, you can save time and money — and prevent yourself from chasing after people who will never do business with you. Avatars should be given a specific age and set of demographics, with detailed values and aspirations. If you’ve never done this activity, check out this YouTube video.

These principles can be applied no matter who you are representing in economic development. Hours and budget are limited, so you have to figure out how to use them wisely.

Thanks again to IEDC for the opportunity to present “Positioning your Community and Finding your Niche.” I look forward to attending the fall conference coming up in Oklahoma City this September. Will I see you there? Message on LinkedIn so we can connect!

Melissa Meschke
Economic Development Outreach Manager
UW System Institute of Business & Entrepreneurship