On a recent DMAI webinar I had the chance to conduct a quick poll of 100+ destination marketing organizations and economic development organizations on the following question:
On a scale of 1 to 5 (where 5 = ‘Superb, love working with them’ and 1 = ’Ugh, we don’t play well together’), rate the quality of your relationship with the partner organization (destination marketing or economic development) in your community?
The average ranking was a 2.83. That’s not exactly singing Kumbaya around the campfire together. And yet, when you get right down to it, the two organizations have identical end goals: job creation, economic well-being of the community and a better quality of life for all community residents.
With the recent release of Destination Promotion: An Engine of Economic Development, a DMAI-sponsored study conducted by Oxford Economics, there is now a clear business case to support better collaboration between DMOs and EDOs. So in an effort to promote such collaboration, I’m pleased to share five specific ways that the two groups can advance their working relationships:
1. Conduct Joint Marketing Missions
Cincinnati is a case in point. In May, 2014, the Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, REDI Cincinnati and a half dozen major arts organizations in the region, led a ten-day mission to New York City (titled “Cincy in NYC”). Amid performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Joyce Theatre, the group connected with meeting planners, site selection consultants, corporate executives, travel/business media and past Cincinnati residents. It was truly a tour de force.
2. Influence the Business Traveler (when he or she is in your hometown)
DCI’s own survey data suggests “business travel” is one of the leading sources of information influencing executive perceptions of a region’s business climate. For economic development groups, the key is to look for “choke points” that the business traveler will move through when visiting your community. Philadelphia set-up a well-thought-out program to train limo drivers shuttling business passengers to and from the airport. Sales materials were placed in the back seat of each car. The Four Seasons Hotel – arguably the best business hotel in Philadelphia – agreed to share personalized letters from local CEOs with business travelers staying at their hotel. DMOs can help their EDO counterparts make connections to reach and influence the business traveler when visiting their hometown.
3. Collaborate on Tourism-Related Investment
Here’s a clear win-win opportunity. DMOs want to improve the tourism product by bringing in the right hotels, attractions and restaurants. EDOs are in the business of attracting such investment.
The two groups can also work together to attract better air service – a key best practice outlined in the recently released study. Denver is a case in point. Denver International Airport, Visit Denver and the MetroDenver Economic Development Corporation have collaborated to land new service from Tokyo, London, Panama City and Mexico City.
4. “Strategic Conference” Pursuit
Nearly every economic development organization in the world has a carefully defined set of 4-6 target industries it is seeking to attract and grow. And each of these industries has a group of trade associations that sponsor major conferences and meetings. DMOs, of course, have the skill set to “win” conference and business meetings.
It’s just a matter of the EDOs and DMOs sitting down together and building a target list. Several years ago, the state of Tennessee focused on attracting key business conferences. The Inc 500 Conference, Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneur Conference and Industrial Development Research Council (a major conference of corporate real estate executives) all came to Nashville in the same year.
5. Align Your Brands
While I’ve never been a fan of a community adopting a “single brand” that covers both tourism and economic development, I do firmly believe that DMOs and EDOs should collaborate closely to develop complimentary messages and graphic design. Both public and private leaders want messages that are in alignment and help tell the community’s overall success story.
Final point: DMO and EDO collaboration is not about creating community harmony. It’s in the DMO’s best interest…It’s in the EDO’s best interest…And it’s in the Community’s best interest.
Andy Levine is President/Chief Creative Officer of Development Counsellors International (DCI), the leader in marketing places. He has worked with destination marketing organizations and economic development organizations for most of his adult life.