The Bay Area to Sacramento?

The Sacramento market isn’t exactly known for its sex appeal. Long mocked by the neighboring Bay Area, just 90 minutes away, as a cowtown or, lovingly, as a ‘Sac-o-Tomatoes,’ its reputation certainly had room for improvement.

Additionally, Sacramento’s home within the state of California doesn’t do its reputation much benefit from a business-friendliness perspective. California is regularly ranked among the most unfriendly places to do business in America.

So there you have it.

The Sacramento region was known as a slow, uneventful region within the union’s most unfriendly business environment.

The Bay Area, on the other hand, has so much energy and economic momentum that it doesn’t matter that it is in California. Its startups and domineering tech firms are known for basically printing cash.

So who in their right mind would try to attract companies from the Bay Area to Sacramento? Why would any company do that?

I took on that challenge at the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, as VP of Marketing and Communications, in September 2016. The organizations primary goal is to convince companies to relocate or expand to the Sacramento region, with the end goal of creating more regional economic prosperity and job growth.

Who Will Listen?

There are many types of companies in the Bay Area, but, as an organization, we decided to strategically focus on two groups.

First: The Juggernauts

The massive tech conglomerates the represent un unwieldy portion of income and growth in the Bay Area weren’t to be overlooked. As they grew, and as the communities they call home became increasingly bitter about traffic jams and high living costs, we know that there will always be an interest in expending operations to other region. Sure, these beasts may not be moving their HQ any time soon (unless Apple’s spaceship actually flies), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity.

For the big guys, I created a complete strategy for saturating not only their decision makers but also their senior employees (those who may be consulted in internal focus groups regarding a potential expansion location) with key lifestyle messaging. This was done through an integrated approach, including geo-targeting to HQ locations.

Why lifestyle?

They already know the business climate in California, so we didn’t need to educate them on this front. They know how far away we are. And they know we are cheaper. They primary objection to talented employees expressing interest to their senior decision makers about moving to the Greater Sacramento region is the lifestyle.

As part of this effort I created the following video to be used with the campaign.

I may revisit the Bay Area Juggernaut marketing in a later blog post, but my intent for this post is to focus on the other type of Bay Area company we targeted: The startup.

What Do Bay Area Startups Want?

Startups want access to:

  • Venture capital
  • Mentors
  • Talented employees
  • Other startups
  • Potential acquirers
  • A startups ecosystem (networking events, co-working spaces, and the like)

The Sacramento region is in a unique position to access all of these elements through its proximity to the Bay Area. Venture capital, mentors, employees, other startups, acquirers, and, in some respects, the startup ecosystem. At 90 minutes away (without rush-hour traffic), it really isn’t a stretch. In practice, I’ve actually spoken with startups in the Sacramento region that have Bay Area board members that Uber to and from board meetings in Sacramento.

The startup ecosystem isn’t nearly as mature in the Sacramento region a the Bay Area, but it is growing.

If we could convince startups that the Sacramento region offers access to everything they want at only a slight deviation from what they have in the Bay Area, but at a lower cost, we can win their hearts.

Extend Your Runway

We didn’t want to simply advertise ourselves as a cheap market. After all, many, of not most, other markets outside of California are cheaper.

We wanted to brand ourselves as a lower-cost option uniquely combined with a startup-friendly environment.

To speak the language of entrepreneurs, we landed on the tagline “Extend Your Runway.” A runway, in this sense, is the amount of time that a startups has before its venture capital (or other funding source) runs out. By the end of their runway, they need to either become profitable, be acquired, acquire additional funding, or go bust.

In the Sacramento region, we offer startups the opportunity to extend their runway by making their existing capital last longer – due to lower cost of office space and talent.

Vehicles for the Message

Startups lean heavily on influencers and others that have been in their shoes before when making decisions. So, to carry our message, we created a series of videos with startup leaders in the Sacramento region that weaved our key points into their stories.

Here are those videos:

Platforms

We tested several platforms for the campaign, and pivoted to those that were showing the best results after the first few weeks. Among them: Content advertising in the TechCrunch newsletter and native content marketing through Bidtellect proved to yield the highest click-through rates. We leveraged several ad styles, including those below:

The Result

We received excellent feedback from this campaign, landing page visits, and conversions as compared to other tactical approaches for this particular market. Additionally, we leveraged this ‘Extend Your Runway’ concept through an experimental activation at Techcrunch Disrupt, which you can read more about here.