In this multi-part series, Colleen discusses common mistakes in location marketing and gives tips on how to fix them. Her observations and recommendations are based on her experiences building websites, conducting site visits, and attending conferences and events with other economic development professionals.
There are 3,142 counties and county equivalents (thanks, Louisiana) in the United States. 55% of them share their name with at least one other county. 23% share their name with seven or more counties. There are 31 Washington Counties, 26 Jeffersons, and 24 Franklins. Basically, if your county is named after someone who signed the Declaration of Independence, you aren’t one of a kind. And this problem isn’t unique to counties. There are 88 towns with Washington in their name. Heck, the fact that there are so many Springfields (41) was a running joke on The Simpsons.
This is an obstacle that isn’t going away, so you need to address it head on. How? By putting your state name on everything. I’m serious. Everything. Slap that bad boy everywhere.
The most common opposition I see to this is ego. I’ve met a number of economic development professionals who think their city or county is the exception to the rule. Sure, there are other places with their same name, but they’re… like… the one everyone knows. When you’re inside the echo chamber of your state or region, it can be easy to overestimate your significance on the national stage. If you’re the third- or fourth-largest city in your state, everyone from your state probably knows where you are. But I’m not from your state, and neither are a lot of other people. There’s a high likelihood that people from outside your region do not know who you are.
I’m guilty of this myself. I live in Orlando – the House of Mouse. Everyone knows where Orlando is, right? People even make fun of me at conferences when I say I’m from, “Orlando, Florida” like there’s another Orlando. I was recently on the phone with my insurance company and had to give the customer service rep my address. When she asked for the city, I said, “Orlando.” She responded, “Florida?”
Even if you are the only one with your name, including your state name on everything is about more than differentiating yourself from other counties and cities with your same name. It tells people where you are in the United States. Do you know where Allamakee County is? What about LaRue? Otter Tail? No? They’re all unique names, but that doesn’t mean people know where they are. A site selector may not recognize your county or city name, but they’ll definitely know where your state is. This is especially important when it comes to site location professionals from overseas. American geography is challenging enough without you being elusive about your location.
It also lets you leverage your state’s brand. Some states have a reputation as being business friendly. Others are known as powerhouses in certain industries. By hitching yourself to your state, you can use that brand to your advantage.
The solutions are pretty simple.
- Put your state name at the top of your website. I once spent about ten minutes looking through a website only to realize I was looking at the wrong __________ County. The only place I could find the state name was in the mailing address in the footer. If your state name isn’t already part of your logo (which it totally should be), at least put it right below the logo on your website.
- Put it on all social media. Preferably you’d include it in the handle — @JuniperCountyFL vs @JuniperCounty. It’s just two characters. You can fit it. Also put it in the page headline or name. Anywhere you have your county name, you should also have your state name or abbreviation.
- Say it when you call someone or when someone calls you. A guy recently called our office and said, “I’m from __________ County,” and Jim had to ask him which one. It’ll take practice, but get in the habit of saying it every time you answer the phone.
- Say it when you introduce yourself in person. When you’re at a conference, networking event, or trade show, you need to say your state name every time you introduce yourself. It seems like such a simple thing, but you would be amazed how many people don’t do this.
- Pepper it into your website copy. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the science of getting your website to appear in search results. Google has an algorithm that’s a little finicky, but one thing it loves is repetition. The more often a word or phrase repeats, the more likely it is to move you up in the search results. Putting your state name throughout the copy is a small thing you can do to appease the Google algorithm. Note: It has to be in the body copy for it to benefit. Just having it in the mailing address in the footer isn’t enough.
The constant and obvious inclusion of your state name is vital. It gives your physical location, lets you tap into your state’s reputation, and shows that you’re aware of your role in a regionally minded culture. Think of it like Frank’s RedHot® and put that s#!t on everything!