By: Julie Steenson, Office of Performance Management
Often in local government, we overlook the importance of getting the word out about the services we provide. We and our partners work diligently to improve what we do and sometimes forget that no matter how good a service is, it isn’t doing much good if no one knows about it.
For our second post, we will focus on a chart taken from the 2014 Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Business Survey (as also featured in the April 7 KCStat meeting on Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development). EDC, in partnership with the City, has conducted a survey of businesses in Kansas City since 2011. In 2014, 411 businesses responded out of a random sample distributed equally between four geographic areas of the city. When the 2014 results came in, one major increase caught the attention of a City staffer who quickly said, “I can explain that result.”
In 2013, only 22% of businesses said that they were aware of local business assistance centers like the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), Kansas City Business Assistance Center (BizCare), PIEA and Justine Petersen. In 2014, that percentage grew to 46%. What happened between 2013 and 2014? This happened:
Tom Trabon, Chair of the EDC’s Enhanced Business Retention and Expansion Committee was so disturbed by the low awareness shown in the 2013 results that he came up with a concept to send “Thank You” letters to area businesses as a way to raise awareness and connect to businesses.
The piece that was developed thanked businesses for working in KCMO and provided information to help them understand the resources that are available when starting or growing a business, including details about the business assistance centers specifically mentioned in the Business Survey question. Katherine Carttar, Coordinator of the City’s AdvanceKC Strategic Plan for Economic Development, led the team of City and EDC staff members including representatives of KC BizCare, the City Manager’s Office, and the EDC’s Business Retention team that developed the content and distribution strategy for this marketing/outreach piece, which was distributed to over 15,000 businesses. The result – a 24% increase in awareness that these programs exist!
The quantitative data certainly suggests that the mailer did its job in making business owners aware of the business assistance centers, but there is also strong anecdotal evidence from business resource center staff. John Pajor, a BizCare staff member, tells the story of a man who called and said that he had received the mailer six months prior and finally had a question. He had held on to the flyer and so he knew who to call with his inquiry. In fact, nearly half of businesses now know who to call, a big improvement over 22%.