GIS Planning has an article out on their blog about The Changing Requirements of Site Selection for Economic Developers and I want to highlight some of the main takeaways for the benefit of those in our audience who work on RFIs.
#1 – Data is Key
The data you provide impacts big decision making so it’s important that you are providing robust, quality data. If a company chooses your community using bad data, it’s not going to be a happy pairing. So when assembling your RFI submissions remember:
- Facts. Not Fluff. It’s natural to want to show our communities in the best light possible and turn a blind-eye to some of its downfalls. Hopefully we are all biased to where we call home. But it is important to establish yourself as a trustworthy resource. Deal in facts and use reliable third-party data to support your message.
- Be accurate. Provide the most current data available and be sure to source your data. This lets a prospect know how reliable your data is and makes it easier for the prospect to verify. Bonus, it also makes it easier for you to update down the road.
- Better Data. Competition is fierce and becoming more so as prospect expectations increase. Common third-party data (i.e. Census data) is often not timely enough for decision making. This requires states and/or communities to find alternative real-time data sources or utilize available data in an original (unique) way that adds value for the prospect. Original research is becoming more important in the realm of economic development and could eventually be the status quo.
#2 – Site selection decisions are happening faster than ever
If you’ve been in economic development for a while you’ve seen the evidence of this. Instead of having several weeks to turn data around, we’re lucky if we get a week. And it’s not unusual to only have a couple days to respond. This trend is not likely to reverse itself, so it is important to be prepared.
The good news is that expanding businesses and site selectors are generally looking for the same information every time (with some variation). So getting your data pulled and organized ahead of time makes it easier to respond. And, bonus, when 90% of your data is ready, additional customization or unique data needs become much less daunting.
Data to have ready includes:
Efficiency certainly applies to being prepared and able to turn around a response within a limited window. But I also want to emphasize the efficiency of data presentation. How easy is it for a prospect to review your submission and see why your community is a good fit? Your community might be the perfect fit for a project, but if a prospect has to hunt through your submission to find relevant data, you’ve wasted their time, and likely ended up in the cut pile.
We need to make it easy for the prospect to find and comprehend the data in your response. Be aware of the following:
- Relevant data: the only data to provide in your RFI is data that the prospect requested. If they didn’t ask for it, don’t provide it. Stay on topic.
- Being too wordy: get to the point.
- Be concise
- Avoid run-on sentences
- Use short paragraphs
- Use features like headings, bullets/numbering, tables, or graphs to quickly convey your main points.
One way to make efficiency automatic is to set up a template for your RFI submissions. By investing time up-front in a template – thinking through how you want your information to flow, the layout, and the look of various features – you will eliminate the need to spend additional time on these elements later.
In the coming weeks we’ll be delving more into the details of preparing yourself for RFI responses and best practices that you can implement for a smooth RFI process. We welcome your feedback so let us know if there is something specific you would like to see covered regarding RFIs.