The Importance of Reducing Risk and Building Relationships
OUTdrive Episode 11 with Jessica Craig
In this episode of OUTdrive, Cliff visits with Jessica Craig, Executive Director of Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County. An involved community member and lover of the rural American way of life, Jessica leads the charge in creating new wealth in the community. Read more for highlights of their conversation on communicating your value proposition to build relationships.
Communicating Your Value Proposition
Whether you are recruiting new businesses to your area like Jessica, or developing a strategic marketing plan, it is important to understand the unique services and value that your organization offers. When you have a clear understanding of what sets your organization apart from the competition, you are able to strategically position yourself within your market to actualize growth. As she develops relationships with businesses across the country looking to potentially relocate, Jessica has had to identify and communicate what the Sedalia-Pettis County area offers for companies in all industries.
“At the end of the day, our biggest value proposition to those businesses is the cost to operate and the time to market,” she said. “From a regulatory standpoint, Missouri is a much more business-friendly state than other states to commission and build a new facility. And the cost of doing business in rural America is significantly lower than in some of your more urban markets.”
She continued sharing the unique community dynamic that Sedalia has that appeals to developing businesses.
“We have fantastic infrastructure to connect companies with highway access and rail access,” she said. “But also with a talented workforce that has that rural work ethic instilled in them. We’re excited about what the next 10-15 years may bring and we want to capitalize on the momentum that we’ve built over the past few decades.”
Understanding Customers’ Points of View
When communicating your value proposition, you must understand the things that are most important to your customers or clients. Cliff and Jessica discussed the power of listening to another person’s story and understanding where they are coming from and what has led them or their organization to where they are today.
Jessica learned this lesson in her youth and continues to remember its importance today. “My parents taught me many years ago that everyone has a story, and everyone has their own personal angle. So whether it’s individuals or companies I’m talking to, I always try to ask them on the front end.”
She strategically asks questions to discover the most important aspects that a company is looking for. Through her process, she asks questions such as, “What are the main drivers of your decision; meaning if you’re planning on building a new hundred million dollar facility, what is most important to you?”
These open ended questions and introductory conversations allow Jessica to get a better understanding of the company’s needs and craft her strategic plan to best meet their needs, a process that can be applied to every industry.
“That message could be true in economic development, but a lot of other industries. If we know someone’s point of view, and if we look at it from there, I can craft our entire approach around it. Certainly, it’s going to be more spot-on and more targeted and hopefully more effective at the end of the day.”
Be a Resource to Lead the Process
When unexpected challenges arise, companies turn to those they trust to help them navigate the unknown. In her position, Jessica effectively leads businesses through changing environments. The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example. Positioning your brand as a trusted resource and being available to help your partners is a strategic value proposition that Jessica and her team demonstrate regularly. “It’s maintaining relationships and having an open dialogue, so if something were to go south with them, they’re able to call me and bring me to the table so that I can help retain that business within our community.”
Being a source of information and maintaining open dialogue is important not only for current relationships, but also in the beginning stages of new relationships. Jessica goes on to say, “So much of what we do are business retention relationships, and then responding to requests for proposals, requests for sites and buildings for companies seeking new locations.”
Being flexible and adaptive have become important characteristics of businesses and business leaders today. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person and trade show conversations had to transition to online Zoom meetings. While these communications were different, Jessica felt these virtual meetings did have some silver linings.
“We’ve actually converted some of those one-on-one discussions virtually,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with site location consultants and CEOs. It’s been interesting that those meetings have been more impactful and more personalized and much better discussion than the fly by night visit into somebody’s office and you’ve got 30 minutes. The ones that we’ve done virtually in the last six months have seemed to be a little more intimate, and in my perspective, more impactful.”
Whether it is crafting a strategic pitch, communicating the benefits of doing business in rural America or guiding current partners through a crisis, Jessica is a strong community leader that has helped our Sedalia community see significant growth by recognizing and leveraging its true value proposition. Hear more about these topics and ways to strategically develop your business from Cliff Callis and Jessica Craig in this episode of OUTdrive.