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Is Your BRE Smart?

Innovations in technology and data analytics are disrupting the way Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) is done. In the past, BR&E was centered around specific businesses – developing personal relationships with executives, collecting information on potential growth or decline, identifying opportunities to provide technical assistance to that business, etc. All of these elements remain important in a strong BR&E program; however, in the most successful programs, the relationship building, and provision of business-services is combined with strategic data collection and analysis to inform everything an economic development organization does. Here’s how:

Using near real-time data to identify unique advantages for targeted sectors.

In this economy, change happens fast. The things that give a community a competitive edge within a certain industry one day can flip the next. Data-savvy economic development organizations are using the timely information gathered through BR&E to become more knowledgeable about their key industries, and are using that deepened intelligence to understand their real-time differentiating factors to get ahead of emerging trends. This information can also be used to inform active marketing and attraction campaigns as well as overall strategic planning for the organization.

Using CRM tools to manage data collection.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the technology used to manage all of an economic development organization’s relationships with existing businesses and prospects. It allows the team to record information about each business and track each engagement with that business. CRMs can allow users to monitor and better understand not just individual businesses but industry sectors, and identify trends and issues that might emerge over time. CRMs can be complex systems and  require talented, knowledgeable economic developers and analysts working together to set up, manage, and use the tool to create value for the organization and its processes. Data-entry, analysis, and follow-up must be timely and efficient.

Strategically interacting with more businesses to collect more data.

Many economic development organizations are turning to a two-phased BR&E approach that allows them to reach more businesses and collect more information about those businesses. The first phase starts by conducting an initial survey to a large pool of businesses to collect an initial round of basic information. The survey can be either an online digital survey, or a calling campaign where the analysts making the call input the information directly into a CRM or other database. The survey information can be used to determine how best to allocate remaining BR&E resources and identify high-priority companies that are at risk or in need of assistance and require in-person visits. In addition to touching more individual businesses, using a survey facilitates the collection of more information from a much larger pool of businesses and industries that can be fed into the database and used for research, analysis, marketing and attraction, and strategic planning.

Combining BR&E data with other data sets.

Faster processing speeds combined with inexpensive cloud storage means the ability to access and analyze large amounts of data. Think about all of the active and neglected data points that your organization has in places like the email marketing database, event registrations, Google analytics for the website, social media networks, digital ad campaigns, etc. Your organization is constantly generating data about businesses, prospects, partners, and other stakeholders, and this data can be pooled in powerful ways to obtain even greater intelligence about industry trends and needs.

Some of our clients have commented that most of their leads and projects are now coming from their BR&E programs.

Are you overwhelmed with your BR&E? Need a re-fresh?

Here are some of the ways in which we’ve helped our clients streamline and smarten up their BR&E efforts:

  • Smart BR&E Program Assessment – A comprehensive overview of your existing BR&E program to identify opportunities to streamline processes and incorporate higher-level data assessment and analytics.
  • Survey Design, Implementation, and Analysis – Creation of phone or digital surveys customized to reach more of your businesses, collect better data, and quickly identify priorities for in-person visits.
  • Meeting Preparation – Walk into every BR&E meeting with the best business and industry intelligence and agenda:
    • Scheduling and meeting planning
    • Industry and business intelligence gathering
    • Business visitation training – “How to talk to a CEO”
    • Vetted business lists complete with accurate contact information and intelligence such as the industry sectors they are in, growth rates, employment numbers, etc.
  • Post-Meeting Processing – Data input, management, analysis, and reporting following surveying and in-person visits. Support with business intervention strategies.
  • CRM Development – Design of a CRM tool that allows efficient and user-friendly analysis of businesses and industry sectors.


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