Posts Tagged ‘Pat Stewart’
Trenton needs an ad campaign now like we need another hole in our head.
City activist Pat Stewart has been beating this horse for years. For the love of God, let’s have a product plan first.
Marketing VPs get fired for launching ad campaigns at the wrong time. The right time is around the launch of a new product or product update. Trenton hasn’t updated its product. In fact, we’re not even sure what our product is.
Yet, a marketing campaign is exactly what Mayor Tony Mack has recently suggested.
I’ve written about this before, but basically we need to sort out what we’re trying to sell first. Are we selling abandoned warehouses as Mack suggests in his recent “Ask the Mayor” session. If so, are they saleable? Are titles cleared? What are the brownfield issues remaining? What’s the market for abandoned warehouses? Perhaps we’re selling city-owned houses or infill projects in our nice neighborhoods. Or, perhaps we should promote downtown living.
Mack doesn’t know what we should be selling. Sam Hutchinson doesn’t know. If councilmembers knew, they certainly wouldn’t agree with each other or the Mayor.
A marketing campaign can’t market everything. If we’re going to make a pitch we’d better make it for a product that’s ready to be sold. For instance, promoting infill opportunities before we know how we’d take a developer or homeowner through the development process is wasteful and potentially damaging to our reputation as an easy place to develop (of course we don’t actually have that reputation). Another consideration is what are our development priorities? What kind of development gives us the most “bang” for the buck? That analysis has never been done in Trenton and marketing consultants won’t be able to do it for us.
Before launching an expensive marketing campaign, we need to have sorted out the residential market for Trenton. Who’s going to move here? Where do they live now? We have challenges like our crime rate and schools. Are there population segments that don’t care so much about those things? Where would they live in our city?
Before we think about promoting Trenton we need a marketing strategy. Read more about that in the following: Managing the Trenton brand
The first step in a plan to sell Trenton is to figure out what we’re selling and why. This doesn’t have to be a difficult process but when we’re talking about spending precious tax dollars and time we shouldn’t just guess.
Second, just as in business, our pricing needs to be right before we market. Trenton is currently priced too high. Many of our abandoned buildings have negative value and yet the City attempts to sell them for positive prices. It’s no wonder they haven’t sold. Also, our tax rate is the highest in NJ making new development in Trenton a bad idea when compared to neighboring towns with half our tax rate. We need to work out how to make our product’s pricing attractive. Land Value taxes are one answer. Subsidies and abatements are another.
More on how land has negative value in the following: The case for dumping city-owned property
Third, we need to spruce up the product. We can do this by reducing crime in the area of focus. We could clean up a bit. If we’re marketing to population segments likely to appreciate the arts, we could invest in some targeted cultural things. We could also wait until we have a Mayor that’s a little less radioactive.
When you visit Trenton and pick up a paper, all you’ll see are dirty streets, stories about shootings and murders, a recreation department in disarray and a corruption scandal that sought to extort a developer. No amount of marketing is going to overcome these issues. And while we don’t have to eliminate crime or have pristine streets to attract new development, we do have to have made progress and at least have a credible plan on how we’ll improve. The product improvement plan for Trenton doesn’t exist.
Fourth, we need to make sure our operations work. As a customer you hate it when you try to buy something but the store is out of stock, it gets shipped incorrectly, or it’s broken when you receive it. Trenton is like that.
Our Economic Development department isn’t prepared to deal with an influx of developer interest. Our residential and commercial realtors don’t have the city’s marketing plan in mind so they can be part of the solution. There’s not even a promotional web site in place. Our inspections process has never been a positive aspect of developing in Trenton. Would it be useful to have turned that department into a positive instead of a negative before we start attracting new investment? Can the City even transfer property? Properties sold in last year’s auction still haven’t closed.
The bottom line is that before we start attracting interest we need to improve the operations of our city so that our new customers have a positive experience. If you currently live in Trenton and have dealings with the city, you know we’re a long way from operational excellence. Companies that run marketing campaigns when their operations are broken make matters worse and pretty soon go out of business.
Advertising is the last step.
To recap, first we must
- Decide what we’re selling and to whom
- Competitively price our city
- Fix the issues that are causing our poor image
- Improve operational proficiency
These aren’t new ideas; and its’ pretty much Management 101.
For more reading on planning for Trenton’s revitalization see of the below articles:
Jim Coston was a transformational councilperson for Trenton and the South Ward but with his leaving, the race to fill his spot is wide open. Read the rest of this entry »
Political representation of Trenton’s South Ward was snatched from the hands of Trenton’s political machine three years ago by a smart and energetic Baptist minister. Reverend Coston was well educated, well read and well …. basically a decent guy.
Coston did much to initiate the Ward’s political renaissance through his efforts in organizing opposition to two ill-considered government funded housing projects in 2004. HUD’s Hope VI would have replaced the old Kearny homes project with another one and Leewood Village would have bulldozed 8 blocks of the South Ward in order to make room for subsidized fake colonial townhouses. Coston became president of the Lamberton Historic District Committee (LHDC) which hosted meetings that regularly drew 300 residents to the protests.
I bring up this bit of South Ward history to point to both what’s needed and what’s lacking in the crop of candidates hoping to fill Coston’s now vacated council spot. Read the rest of this entry »