Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
Promoting A Healthy Business Climate In Wisconsin
When branding a state, some may think about targeting tourism or the lottery with those marketing dollars. But what about branding a state from a business development standpoint? For the State of Wisconsin, we focused on all that is positive about business “In Wisconsin,” rather than what is negative in surrounding states. And it needed to resonate with C-suite executives, entrepreneurs, national and global business executives and site selection consultants making decisions about relocating or expanding their business. The integrated campaign generated a positive impact across paid, earned and digital platforms.
Wisconsin declared itself open for business. But in order to entice those businesses to relocate, they needed to stand out from the competition. The state lacked a compelling brand identity that would appeal to business owners and entrepreneurs, and it had developed a perception as an unfriendly place for business. This misperception needed to be changed, and Wisconsin’s positive business climate needed to be promoted.
In an effort to improve its competitive edge, the state initiated a study that compared the state to selected benchmark states and across specific industry clusters in terms of economic strategy, capabilities and conditions. This “Be Bold” study provided several recommendations, including the need to invest in a dedicated effort to market the state’s assets more effectively. As a result, the state formed the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) as the lead economic development agency focused on providing leadership, bold thinking and creative investment strategies to nurture business growth and build thriving communities. To do this, WEDC was charged with launching a business climate brand and a multi-year marketing campaign aimed at driving business relocation, expansion and startup activity in Wisconsin. That’s where Nelson Schmidt (NS) came in—bringing to WEDC our extensive business to business marketing expertise and established, global reach in many of the target industries.
In addition to changing the perception of the state’s business climate regionally, nationally and globally, NS needed to inform businesses inside and outside of the state about WEDC programs and resources available to support economic development in Wisconsin. We chose to focus the marketing effort to impact the three key drivers of economic growth: business expansion, business startup and business relocation.
From here, we pinpointed the primary audience to include C-suite executives who were already in Wisconsin and were looking to grow their businesses, entrepreneurs interested in starting high-tech businesses in Wisconsin, and national/global business executives and site selection consultants making decisions about relocating or expanding their businesses. Secondary target audiences were comprised of business media as well as trade associations and influencers, such as professional service providers, site selection consultants and industry consortia associations.
NS helped WEDC develop and launch a brand—In Wisconsin®—through an integrated marketing campaign. The idea behind the campaign was to simultaneously showcase Wisconsin-based companies that have enjoyed success over the years and also highlight programs and resources that make the state an increasingly attractive place to do business. Launched in September of 2012, the testimonial-driven campaign showcased five Wisconsin-based businesses, including renowned companies like Rockwell Automation, Trek and Organic Valley, as proof of a strong economic climate in Wisconsin. These stories were shared via video, print, online and outdoor advertising, direct marketing and public relations efforts. In addition, we amplified our message outside the state with TV spots running on cable news channels in the state’s surrounding markets.
To reach the segment of our audience who are deeper into the “buying” cycle, we leveraged pay-per-performance display, retargeting and paid search campaigns for in-state and out-of-state businesses looking for resources and startups searching for funding. All efforts were supported with customized landing pages, as well as a dynamic and engaging web experience via the In Wisconsin website. Featuring videos, success stories, whitepaper downloads and interactive tools, the site allowed the target audience to gain a comprehensive understanding of why Wisconsin is a great state to start, locate or expand their business.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) were based on the behaviors we were trying to impact, including engagement with website tools and resources*, phone calls placed and newsletter subscribers. All goals were met or greatly surpassed. Plus, site selectors ranked the “In Wisconsin” website in the top three nationally for economic development information. In addition, the site earned multiple awards and recognition from leading economic development organizations, including the International Economic Development Council and The Mid-America Economic Development Council.
*Internal reporting, WEDC