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  • Matt Moloney

How to conduct a successful business visit

One of the best ways to engage with your local community is by conducting regular business visits. The key to a successful business visit consists of 3 things: being prepared, establishing a useful and friendly rapport and active follow-up. We dive into some easy ways to make sure your business visits go well as well as best practices from communities across the country.

Where to begin when conducting a successful business visit

If you’re new to starting a business visitation program, it can be difficult to determine where to start. However, the easiest place to start with any new project is to set a few goals. Why do you want to start conducting business visits? Is there a specific outreach project or update that you need to get the word out? Maybe you’re new and want to make sure local businesses know you’re a resource. Whatever the reason, make sure you spend some time establishing a few goals for the program.

Once you establish your goals, you can start to develop your list of businesses to visit. This can be challenging if you don’t have a small business directory. You may not even have an updated list of current businesses and addresses. However, many Economic Development departments simply begin by choosing an industry or region that they want to focus on. 

After deciding your area of focus, you’ll want to establish an agenda (no matter how informal) for your visit. Some Economic Development departments keep the visit extremely informal—their goal is to establish a rapport with the business owner and make sure they know what resources exist. Other departments use it as an opportunity to ask targeted questions. Either way, make sure you know how you’re engaging with each business owner before you visit.

Best practice:

“I do what I call 'cold calling.' I go out to an office park and establish relationships that way. I have a four by six little card that I bring and it has some bullet points of what I can do and how I can connect them to resources. Because it's not just my business card, they keep it. People actually hold on to it and I'll get just random calls, 'Well I have her information and I know you may not be able to help me, but do you know where I can get the help.'” Stephanie Scalos, Business Retention & Expansion Coordinator, City of Clearwater, FL

Tracking your visits

As you visit your local business leaders, many will have questions and feedback for your department—it’s important to log these insights and follow up in order to follow up and keep track of progress. While you may be taking notes in a Word doc or a handwritten note, by using a CRM for economic development, you can log these notes and attach them to a businesses’ profile—ensuring your entire department for years to come can learn from these insights.

You can also log updated contact information, addresses, business owners and other important business details in the businesses’ CRM in real time. CRMs—like Bludot—are cloud-based and can be accessed via your phone or laptop. 

CRM - Successful Business Visit Blog

Follow up is essential after a successful business visit

Understanding your business owners' pain points and what resources they require for success are mostly gleaned directly from a successful business visit. Armed with this information, it's crucial to understand that this is going to be a process with a continued feedback loop.

All of the businesses in your community require ongoing care and consideration that won't be achieved in just a single business visit. A successful business visit is the start of an ongoing journey and relationship to empower the local community.

Best practice:

Keeping the conversation going is oftentimes where BR&E programs trail off. The constant follow-ups, emails, phone calls and visits can eat up the lion’s share of the already limited employee bandwidth. Consistency is key, though. It will take time, but developing the habit of connecting with businesses, logging the activity in your CRM, setting follow-up tasks and providing business owners with resources will build long-lasting and meaningful relationships in the community. Dr. Alison Davis, Executive DIrector, Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky

A key piece of your business engagement strategy is a successful business visit

Once you get started, visiting businesses will become a natural part of your business retention and engagement strategy. After a few visits, you’ll be inspired by your local business leaders and want to develop action plans based on the feedback gathered. Your local businesses will feel recognized by their Economic Development department which can lead to stronger relationships with these cornerstones of your local economy.

When you’re ready, a way to level up your visits is to partner with other departments for a visit.

Level up:

“We have a brand new police department that started a year ago. We have an officer who is specifically assigned to our businesses so he and I have been partnering because it's important for us to meet with the businesses. We actually have been out visiting businesses and we had Coffee with a Cop and it was a very successful event.” Shelley Burcham, Economic Development Administrator, City of Lathrop, California

Using the right tools, strategy and proactive attitude can make visiting your local businesses successful and enjoyable!

If you want to talk about the best practices and tools to support your strategies, schedule a call with Bludot today.

P.S. - Don’t forget to send a thank you note to the businesses you met with.


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