The Magic of Marketing – Promoting Klamath County to the World
It is a new year and a fresh start toward lofty goals for Klamath County Economic Development Association’s (KCEDA) Executive Director Greg O’Sullivan. As the wizard of economic development, Greg has only been at his post for two and a half years but, with an energized board and eager staff, has already scored successes for the county by leveraging the power of effective marketing and lead generation. We managed to grab a few minutes with the magic man to catch up.
If you could only use three words to sell a prospect on Klamath County, what would they be?
GO: Leadership. Progressive. Business-supportive. All three of those go together. It takes leadership to think strategically and build a business climate that is both progressive and supportive of business.
When you started at KCEDA, would that have been your three words?
GO: I think so. I think it was all there. I would like to say the new energy – the new board that took over to move economic development forward – was poised from a laymen’s perspective with the same leadership, progressive sensibilities and attitude of being business supportive. But it took transitioning from a volunteer group into a paid staff to implement those initiatives. I think it was there but needed some polishing.
So, it needed to be brought to the surface?
GO: It was already elevated when I got here but it needed to be launched in a strategic direction.
How important is lead generation for your recruitment efforts?
GO: Lead generation is the basis of all economic development. We work with clients. The idea that economic development is another function of government or of a philanthropic-type organization went out a long time ago. The clients we work with are businesses that are either expanding here in the Basin or looking to expand elsewhere. We need to retain them and keep those jobs and investment here. Business attraction is also key. When you’re taking about lead generation in economic development, you’re talking about all three of those initiatives. It’s the bread and butter of any good program.
How competitive is it?
GO: There are about 20,000 economic development organizations just in the U.S., vying for less than 5,000 new business locations each year. Now on the other hand, there are a lot of companies that are already here and expanding. The balance lies in having a program that addresses both. If your business sector isn’t supportive to begin with, you’re not going to convince an outside company to come here. I think that is what lead generation is all about. It’s talking about your successes and overcoming issues. And how you overcome those issues, speaks to business climate. Not just stopping at “well that’s how we do business here,” it’s “how we ARE going to do business relative to your company looking at our county.”
So, it’s a very personalized approach.
GO: I think so. Personalized, targeted and strategic.
What is the top thing you are doing to get some traction with the prospects you are talking to?
GO: I think it’s being organized. I know that sounds very basic. If you go with the approach that you throw everything at the wall and see what sticks, that’s an expensive endeavor. I like to think that in the last two and a half years, with the help of some great marketing consultants, we’ve begun to think more strategically about how we spend our resources.
Speaking of consultants, how has SmithBates played a role in your success?
GO: Early on when I took this position, we had no collateral material, we had three or four websites confusing every client out there, and I had a young staff that had not really been engaged in the arm-to-arm combat of business attraction and lead gen. Reaching out to SmithBates just seemed natural, especially given the fact that they are a local company doing marketing for a world leader in the private sector in the building trades. I’m speaking, of course, of JELD-WEN. I knew that we needed to be able to compete with the Portland Development Commissions, with the San Diego Economic Development Corporations, and a host of others on the west coast, for our share of prospects and leads. Getting ramped up with a website that minimally met the profession’s requirement, and would help drive information to our key audiences, was vital. SmithBates successfully deployed a very, very sophisticated website that matched both the needs of the local community for data tools, as well as site selection consultants that are looking at our area. Our website is rich with information that allows companies to make a decision at first blush. We get a lead long after they’ve looked at our community.
It’s a long sale, isn’t it?
GO: Yes, it’s a long sale and it’s a blind sale, at least in the beginning. So your information has to be current, it has to be dynamic and it has to meet the needs of your target audience.
You know I have to ask … are there any exciting developments you can share?
GO: You know as well as I do, with both of us coming from ED backgrounds, I can’t talk about any specifics. But I can tell you this. No time ever in the history of the Klamath Basin, has this many Fortune 100, 500 and even Fortune 1,000 companies looked at this area. And I can tell you as of today, we have about four that are engaged in a daily, weekly and monthly basis in asking for information to make their site selection decisions. What we have done is beginning to pay dividends. Likewise, we’ve caught the attention of Business Oregon, who is probably the leading source of prospects. Now, there’s a difference between leads and prospects. Leads become prospects, which then become clients. That’s why we require so much advertising. We need to keep that pipeline full.
Can you elaborate?
GO: We have done things under the advise of SmithBates to go in statewide magazines to get added exposure, to do mailings to targeted groups like aviation companies … Where we have benefitted as a small office, is that we now have the templates do these things ourselves. But there are a lot of things we can’t do ourselves. For example, when a prospect comes to town and we need to put together an impressive graphical presentation, we depend on our consulting team to act as our extended staff to fill in the pieces we are not able to do. On more than one occasion, SmithBates has put together complex presentations and collateral with less than a week of turnaround. SmithBates understands our audience very well and they take time to listen to us.
From a personal perspective, I think that KCEDA working with a marketing partner that has a vested interest and is located in the community is a bonus. We are just as passionate as you are about seeing those positive outcomes.
GO: Completely. And I can tell you that the products and materials we have received have been every bit as good or better than some of the very large marketing firms we deal with in economic development all the time. To have that in my back yard is pretty impressive.
Switching gears, I know you are always flying at full speed. What do you do to relax?
GO: Ummm boy, I read sometimes. I like to read about the history of the Basin. You know, this is a sport that is all consuming. I also love to fish and hunt.
You’re in a great place for that, for sure!
GO: The Basin is for recreation. I love to duck hunt and I fell in love with this area back in the 2000s when I started coming up for duck hunting and things like that.
Did I miss anything? Any additional thoughts?
GO: I think it’s important to say – and I’ve got to underscore this – there are aspects of marketing that you should do in house. And there are other aspects you should know when to outsource. I have a very good friend who is a building contractor and he said, “Greg, anybody can build a house. Most people shouldn’t.” And the same is true for marketing.