October 11, 2013

How to sell talking about the weaknesses of your location?

All marketers focus on location's strengths when it's about investment promotion. Talk about the weaknesses on the right way and you will stand out the crowd.

A long time ago, when I was the regional director of the Hungarian investment promotion agency, I organized a meeting for a potential investor with the mayor of a city in my region. The mayor presented about the city's 21th century visions, about state of the art business environment, large-scale development projects etc - like every mayors on the planet. The site selection team (corporate professionals from Europe and the U.S) were listening politely.

The surprise came at the end of the presentation. "Now, let's talk about our weaknesses" said the mayor. What?!? We didn't liaise about it, what the hell are you doing, man? - I thought. And my surprise was even more bigger, because he did it on a very professional way and the WOW-effect arrived, the corporate guys were impressed.

The mayor talked about every weaknesses of our offer: we have no international school, and we have very limited air flights from the city to the large European hubs. He didn't hide any details, didn't hype, he was very honest. And when he described a problem, he also described some options how to solve the problem and get around the weakness. Described some ideas and projects about the improvement, with timing and responsibilities.

The result was really impressive. First of all, his credibility increased to the sky, site selectors also would believe him if he said he is the Santa Clause. All the strengths he had talked about earlier was validated, because he is a so honest man. And secondly, our scores for these weak factors became probably not so low - the local leader knew the answer to these challenges.

Never think your prospects are dummies and cannot realize your weaknesses, they can. It's much better if you talk about it and about your improvement ideas (and don't let them to think about weaknesses without solutions). It's easy, but somehow nobody does it.

The end of the story: the company selected another competing location. The city's strengths were not strong enough, also strengths should be improved - but it's another story...

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