Creating Meaningful Partnerships with Economic Development

By Mya Surrency, Co-Founder Digital Edge Marketing

For those destinations looking to build community engagement, creating a mutually beneficial partnership with your local economic development leaders can be a powerful tool to grow meetings business and community alliances.

“I remember when I was with DMO’s that we were all so focused on growing tourism, we typically focused on tourism even when we were meeting with different local organizations.  In order for this partnership to work, sometimes we have to take our tourism hat off and focus on the other areas of community and economic development in order to grow local support and create alliances that will, in the end, pay off for tourism.” - Mya Surrency, Co-Founder

Your CVB will be positioned to create more strategic meetings marketing to grow your group business in alignment with your community's industry market segments. By focusing on these growing market segments, It will allow you to create specific messaging to share with meeting planners and decision-makers which engages and encourages them to choose your destination. Hosting targeted groups in your community creates more opportunities for your community to tell its story and share its experience with potential relocation and expansion decision-makers.

Creating Meaningful Partnerships with Economic Development

In order to create those internal community alliances and get your local leaders involved it’s important to create an active Board that will work jointly to grow your community’s economic development interests. This board should include business leaders, education leaders, civic leaders, key destination organization board members and internal team leaders for both offices.  Set the board up to work as ambassadors to support the destination’s efforts to grow meetings opportunities and to grow business relocation/expansion efforts. 

The board members should be engaged and understand their role to make both meetings and expansion efforts happen. The board’s program should include benefits for reaching the economic development team’s’ goals. This includes personally reaching out to their business network, supporting events that book in market, traveling to conventions to sway decision-makers, sponsoring events that are in alignment with their business interests, recruiting speakers for events and telling their story for how the community meets their personal and business needs.

It’s key to develop routine communication strategies for this ambassador board that keeps them informed and educated on the goals for the community and actions being taken.  When we manage a client’s economic development/meetings program, we include internal communications strategies and tactics to keep the group engaged via newsletters, quarterly meetings, social media groups and email marketing via joint databases. 

It is important to not only focus your marketing externally but also incorporate these internal communications strategies in the mix. The marketing developed through the alliance can be utilized to reach meeting planners and their decision-makers along with the site selectors and their decision-makers.  With some modifications, both audiences can be reached and engaged providing strong benefits to both parties in the partnership.

Making sure the local leaders see the value of the ambassador board and the work beyond meetings and conventions is key.  The marketing should include messaging that ties back to how the efforts are working to grow a community’s expansion and relocation efforts in order to keep the alliances intact long term.

Ways to Market to Meetings & Use Messaging for ED As Well

When creating marketing for the effort, ensure it is in alignment for both audiences & leverages your marketing dollars further. 

Some ways to achieve this are:

  • Utilize a cohesive brand for the meetings & economic development initiatives
  • Develop content around the key industries that can be adjusted based on which audience it is reaching
  • Create content around local leaders and Ambassadors stories
  • Build email databases of planners, site selectors and decision-makers for both groups to market to
  • Develop videos that can be adjusted for each audience
  • Create microsites for both sets of audiences
  • Host joint FAM’s

In the beginning, it will feel like an uphill battle to secure the mutual objectives, trust between the sets of stakeholders and alignment between your meetings and conventions goals and their economic development goals. But, you can overcome these challenges and position your destination organization among the core group of leaders in your community with an established program.

It is key to deliver on the timelines, ensure the marketing tactics meet expectations and over-communicate successes.

This requires both teams understanding:

  • The program of work
  • The goals for the marketing
  • The timeline for the marketing program
  • The approval process for each organization
  • Shared assets
  • Shared costs

About the Author

Mya Surrency
Digital Edge Marketing
Digital Edge is an agency focused on working with CVBs with a specialty in meetings marketing. Mya utilizes her 10+ years of CVB experience create cutting edge meetings marketing techniques from her work with San Francisco Travel, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and Visit Park City (among others). Mya has led the agency to be honored as Inc. Magazine’s 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America in 2019 and made the Jacksonville Business Journal’s list of 50 Fastest Growing Companies three years in a row.