Thursday, August 23, 2007

Service Competition: Assessing Your Competitive Advantages

It's all about service! Every EDO provides them, but are your economic development services to businesses competitive with those offered by your competition? Existing and new companies looking at your area for investment opportunities will want to know what services you can provide them.

I find that economic development organizations (EDOs) give varying levels of consideration to their competitiveness from a service standpoint. Some give little or no thought at all to this issue. Your success depends upon knowing your competition and its service strengths. How do you do that?

Here are ten key questions you might consider exploring to develop a better understanding of your competition's services and how they compare with yours.

- First, what other areas do you compete with in a general way and in specific target industry markets?

- What economic development services does your area and your ED rivals offer, and what are their comparative benefits?

- What areas might launch new service offerings that are similar to those in your area? (Incentives are an important tool to assess here.)

- How significant are the resources (marketing budget, target industries, incubator services, etc.) your competition plans to launch in the future?

- How much does it cost your area and your competitors to provide the services you /they provide? Does your area have a cost advantage? (Getting good cost information on competitors is tricky.)

- Where do you and your rivals market services to businesses, and to which target market audiences? Is small business your service niche? Do you give more attention to technology companies?

- How successful is your service marketing performance in your major target market segments?

- What new ED services does your rival have in the pipeline, and how will they be marketed?

- How are your rivals organized? How well are their operations performing? (Are they organized in a vertically integrated way? How do they use networks? Are they adequately staffed? Is their staff well-trained?)

- What are your rivals' marketing channels (state development agency, regional EDO, industry groups associated with target industries, existing companies, leadership channels, etc.)?

- Are your rivals considering new strategic partnerships that could affect their competitive strength? For example, are new ties with a local college or university in the works? Is a new service relationship being considered with the local workforce development agency?

If you ask these ten questions, you will surprised at what you will learn that can help you become more competitive from a service standpoint.

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