Place Marketing: Meeting the 2020 business rates retention challenge

Place Marketing

Tuesday, July 12th 2016
Author: Ian Farrow

If you're wondering why you need a place marketing strategy more than ever, here's why. The funding landscape has changed and changed for good. By 2020 the revenue support grant will be consigned to the history books. It will be replaced by growth incentive mechanisms such as business rates retention and the new homes bonus. So councils now need skills, not to compete for a share of the funding cake, but for the levers of economic growth.


Competition for private investment (global and national) is rife. So is competition for a skilled workforce, market recognition and government attention. Add to the mix new forms of local and regional governance (LEPs, Combined Authorities, City Deals, Regional Partnerships), and the landscape of competing bodies all in the market for attention and investment is complex to say the least.


Is the combined authority next door getting all the attention?


Has the City Deal stolen a march on investment funds?


Are we losing out on visitor spend to other areas? If only the government understood my offer better!


What’s less confused is the need to set out clearly your offer to investors, explain plans, engage communities in them, and attract the resources needed to deliver growth. Place marketing for economic growth will help you achieve this.

How can Place Marketing help drive economic growth?


Place marketing should help define your area’s offer. It builds an authentic narrative that brings together the essence of your place, the hard opportunities for direct investment and the ‘liveability’ of the area. It should also provide governance to the complex mix of stakeholders that will influence your place brand and provide those thinking of locating capital, currency or people with a compelling offer that is better than competing areas.

To do this properly you need marketers capable of managing complex stakeholder groups, which can provide you with a situation analysis of your current place strengths and weaknesses, and a meaningful analysis of competing areas. Only by doing this will you be able to develop a smart growth planning offer that is authentic, powerful and capable of cutting through to your investment audiences.


Communications has to date been focused largely on the ‘place making’ strategies of old – the clean, green and safe approach. In recent years narratives about aspiration and opportunity have been added. What is missing however is the discipline of place marketing that sets measureable objectives linked to your growth strategies. An approach that can pull together the overarching narrative, marshal complex partnerships and deliver economic offers to investors. Simon Anholt’s book 'Competitive Identity' is a good place to start.

Create a clear Place Marketing strategy


We find that too many places have several strategies or plans that affect your place brand. They may have for example:

  • a corporate plan with a focus on services and amenities
  • a growth plan outlining development opportunities
  • a local plan setting out how this development will happen
  • a social value plan that seeks to build local community capacity
  • a regeneration plan that sets out your aspiration to change your place.


In reality investors may look for an offer that has some or all of these deliverables, but silo ownership of them means they are diluted in strategic marketing terms.

Community engagement for growth


Coupled with this is the need to not leave communities behind. If you’re going to build new office space, put up housing to cope with population growth, or lay down infrastructure and amenities to service growth, you’d better bring people with you.


Community engagement (like marketing) has to change to meet these new growth requirements. It’s no longer good enough to do tick-box consultation or use traditional marketing to reach commercial targets and smooth the way to delivering economic growth. And in a siloed environment you may be consulting in an uncoordinated and confusing way with a fatigued population that can’t recognise your economic growth narrative.


The great thing about competition is that it develops innovation. The bad thing is if you’re not innovating, your competition probably is so continuous improvement and innovation is paramount.


To discuss place marketing further and hear more information on our successful case studies, please contact Westco.

Sign up to receive our tips and guides on Place Marketing