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Have you come to an economic development roadblock and are searching for new ways to get leads? This summer, we hosted a webinar in partnership with Resquared to discuss prospecting and uncover new ways to recruit and retain businesses. In this article, we’ll break down the discussion into a step by step guide for economic developers to easily implement into their prospecting strategy.

Be proactive

Retail must be recruited, and it must be recruited with a proactive approach. Those who are most successful are filling their pipeline and actively reaching out to those retailers. So how do you start? We suggest first creating your workday profile. Set a list of goals and chip away at that list every day so that you constantly have prospects in your pipeline. Next, do your research! If you know your community needs a sit-down restaurant, start taking the necessary steps to go after a sit-down concept. Do you have a list of available sites? Do you have up to date community profile reports to give prospects? Finally, host franchising workshops. Provide your local community with educational opportunities to help entrepreneurs who are interested in opening a business. In essence, what are you doing today that will help you take control of your prospecting efforts and build that pipeline?

Tailor your messaging

No one opens emails that look like junk mail. Be careful not to send emails with tons of links and attachments or your message will never reach your prospect’s primary inbox. Try to put yourself in that person’s shoes. What mindset are you in when you’re checking emails? All emails should be tailored to their specific needs. For example, if you are going after a BBQ restaurant, be sure to specify in your email that you have an available site with xyz square footage and a patio that would be perfect for a BBQ concept. You want them to know that you did your research before emailing them. Be concise in your messaging. Shorter subject lines often convert to better open rates. Try to stay under 110 words in your initial outreach. Your email should be concise and speak to their specific needs.

Pro Tip: Try sending the email to yourself first to see how it looks on desktop vs. mobile. Would you read and respond to your own email?

Build and nurture your relationships

In many ways, economic development prospecting is a lot like dating, so it is critical to build and nurture relationships. You typically do not ask someone on a date without knowing anything about them, especially if you don’t even know if that person is interested or available. In the same way, you cannot always ask a brand to locate to your market without knowing anything about them or their plans. How about you first ask, do they have any plans to relocate or expand their business? There are other indicators you can look for before reaching out to a prospect. Do your prospects already have a “ring on their finger” or are they with someone? In other words, do they already have multiple existing locations? Do you know if the owner is open to franchising? Get to know people on a personal level before you ask for the “date”.

Leverage different mediums

Prospecting is more than just emails and phone calls. Technology is your friend! Don’t be afraid to message a business through Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Looking at platforms like Trip Advisor and Yelp can help you discover new businesses. You can also get help from a financial advisor business coach. Get creative! Write a handwritten letter or even send a video recording. Anything you can do to stand out amongst the crowd (that is genuine) is worth experimenting with.

Follow up, follow up, follow up!

There’s a fine line between pesky and persistent, so it’s important to find a good balance when it comes to follow ups. Keep in mind, your prospects may have other things going on that may slow down their response. Every time you follow up, try to add more value. Has a new vacancy come open? Is there a new announcement with your local DOT to add traffic lights? Are there new sites available? Keeping the prospect in the loop of what’s going on provides a great reason to follow up.

Pro Tip: Try to get the follow up on the calendar when possible!

Overall, think long term in your prospecting efforts. What are your end goals and how will you meet them? Prospecting takes time and effort, so don’t be discouraged. You may get more nos than yeses, but those yeses that are sprinkled in are worth it!

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