Economic Development Marketing: The Country Club Effect

According to Janet Miller, the former Nashville Chamber of Commerce CEO, “People in powerful positions want to be in a room with other people in powerful positions.” In the economic development industry, this is what they call “the country club effect.” The association of your place brand among other brands that are elite brings your brand up and improves your overall market position.

Nashville is now one of the most sought-after destinations in the U.S., but 25 years ago it was not a formidable competitor in terms of economic development. Then the Chamber transformed the way they made decisions and the way they connected. Today, site selectors who are looking at major cities for relocation and growth are most certainly considering Nashville. How did that happen?

They started letting the industry-specific experts in the community make the decisions, and they started spending the majority of their marketing dollars on face-to-face interaction. Instead of looking to research and best guesses, the Chamber pulled a group of about 20 of the most influential people in the music industry, gathered them all in a room, sat with them, and came up with a list of prospective businesses that actually make sense in Nashville. And those were the businesses they then pursued.

Making use of the resources that are right in front of you seems simple and obvious but it can often be overlooked. It’s worthwhile to seek out the wonderful human assets who call your community home. Empower them, give them the tools to set their know-how free, and ultimately benefit the community in an inspiring way. Make the people in your backyard happy, and they will serve as advocates of your community.

As Janet said, “Economic development is all about relationships, internal and external. And the word on the street regarding your community is infinitely more important than all the advertising in the world.”