Niagara Region economic development team’s digital outreach paying dividends

Niagara Region economic development team’s digital outreach paying dividends

This article was originally posted on The St. Catharines Standard on April 6, 2023 and can be viewed here.

When it comes to promoting Niagara as a premier location for investment and businesses to locate, invest and expand, Niagara Region’s economic development team is leaning heavily into the strategy part of strategic marketing.

Katie Desharnais, the economic development team’s strategic marketing manager, gave regional councillors a look Wednesday into an updated strategic campaign, which began Jan. 1 and leans heavily on digital communication.

“We focus on a number of key industries and businesses, and my main purpose is to target those businesses and attract an international audience to our website,” she said.

The new approach saves the department money and has produced some early eye-popping numbers for its social media channels, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, from the beginning of the year to Feb. 23.

The Facebook page reach increased by 255 per cent, Twitter impressions are up 48.5 per cent and LinkedIn page visits have jumped 17.8 per cent.

“I like to remind everyone about our different channels because we are unique in that we don’t typically talk to residents,” Desharnais told regional councillors. “We typically talk to an international and business audience, and we have a totally separate site from Niagara Region.”

Desharnais said the analytics for the new campaign are beating the industry average and government average by at least 20 per cent on both the website and social media channels.

“This has helped us in our decision-making for the plans for the tiers of communication,” Desharnais said.

Desharnais said this year’s challenge is dealing with a reduced budget while ensuring the same level of communication and marketing strategy going out.

“I was really excited to transition more to digital strategy for cost savings and optimizing what we are trying to do,” she said.

“We’re always the No. 1 search on Google, Bing and anywhere you’re looking for new lands to open a business.

“If you’re looking for keywords such as agriculture supports, grants, incentives, we are the No. 1 search that comes up — and that’s just through quite a bit of work with a little fewer dollars.”

A Brock University graduate, Desharnais spent more than a decade doing international marketing for Canada’s largest wine producer after honing her communications skills in a variety of positions, including Google and the Canadian Olympic Committee.

She also set up a targeted geofencing campaign for large trade events, such as an EV battery show in Michigan later this year.

Geofencing creates a virtual geographic boundary that triggers a marketing action to a mobile device when a user enters or exits that boundary.

When Desharnais and her colleagues go to conferences to promote Niagara, they will geofence the conference centre so anyone who enters sees targeted ads for the next 30 days.

“So even as they return home, I’m constantly reminding them that Niagara is an option,” Desharnais said. “We have everything that they need, and we are pointing them to the exact location on the website where I have a subsection explaining how you can bring an EV battery company to our area, what supports we offer and how you can get started. We have a web service to help you.”

Another part of the plan is a series of business feature videos for the website to promote the local business community for economic.

“We have amazing businesses in our area,” Desharnais said. “So we have committed to doing 10 videos featuring different industries and leaders in the industries.”

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