Business Ambassador Program

Promotional - Items | Town of Richmond Hill - Economic Development
Abstract:

Purpose of Project
Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, being home to 213,000 residents, has an incredibly diverse business climate with over 4,700 businesses. Our very small Economic Development team continue find strategies to attract businesses to Richmond Hill. It is important to keep expanding our business base to provide opportunities for employment for all residents of Richmond Hill.

Due to limited staff resources and a huge desire to keep attracting more businesses to our community, we developed the Richmond Hill Business Ambassador Program, because in a world of too much information, a message delivered by a trusted source is the most effective. We rely and count on our business community members to help us with delivering of these messages to the right parties. As part of this Program, we recruit Business Ambassadors to help us with attracting businesses to our municipality by supporting the Town of Richmond Hill, its brand, and business-related activities. Business Ambassadors are made up of Richmond Hill residents and businesses, and are an extension of the mission and values of our brand.

Effectiveness / Meeting Objectives
The Business Ambassador Program was officially launched to the public on April 25, 2018 and it was a resounding success. We promoted the Program through the Richmond Hill Economic Development social media channels, e-newsletter, email lists, and received promotional support from affiliated partners. We also created and featured a video of the Mayor introducing the Program and placed it on our website. Interested parties were encouraged to apply through the Business Ambassador Program website (www.BusinessRichmondHill.ca/BusinessAmbassador) by submitting their resume or Linkedin profile, and staff reviewed each application to determine the eligibility. Within one and a half month of promotion, 15 industry leaders from Richmond Hill business community applied. All new Business Ambassadors attended the Business Ambassador Orientation Session in June 2018. During the orientation session, the new Business Ambassadors learned about the economic landscape of Richmond Hill and they were given the Business Ambassador Toolkit consisting of Economic Development publications (such as Guide for New Businesses, Fact Sheets, sectors’ information, etc.), in addition to a welcome letter from the Richmond Hill’s Mayor.

To better assist Business Ambassadors in promoting Richmond Hill during their outreach, a key marketing piece (see attached card) was created by the Economic Development staff, as part of the Business Ambassador Toolkit. The Business Ambassador Card – The Smart Place for Business card – highlights the benefits of doing business in Richmond Hill: Diversity, Talent, Innovation, Location, Business Sectors, and Award-Winning Businesses. Each card also includes all Economic Development contacts such as social media addresses, website, as well as direct Economic Development staff contact information for immediate support. Each Business Ambassador received a stack of these cards, sized 7” by 5” on a heavy glossy cardstock, and was encouraged to use it as a ‘cheat sheet’ when attracting new businesses to our community. They can also leave these cards with the potential investors for their reference and contact. Once a Business Ambassador replenishes these cards, we will provide him or her with additional ones.

The Business Ambassador Toolkit is reviewed monthly for the most up-to-date information and forwarded to each Business Ambassador. The latest update to the Toolkit is the Marketing Deck that includes sample social media posts, emails, Business Ambassador email signature and resources and tips for attending events. Annually, there will be three Business Ambassador Networking events held at various business locations in Richmond Hill, with the first event in October 2018.

We see and feel the benefits of creating Business Ambassador Program immediately. Few of the new Business Ambassadors are extremely active in the community and already provided us with few leads for follow up. Some of them create new events to help us attract businesses. As an example is a Business Ambassador that hosted an event for 250 people in June and introduced Richmond Hill to them as a desired business location. As a result of his short promotion, he is now organizing another event in October that will attract over 400 attendees from the Persian community, all of them eager to start or invest in a new business. This event will take place in our community and will be titled “Richmond Hill, The City of Business.” The best and most active Business Ambassadors are publicly recognized for their efforts to attract business to Richmond Hill.

Challenges & Changes Made
Initially, it was a challenge figuring out a single promotional item for Business Ambassadors to hand out to potential prospects as a conversational starter. After approaching business community for advice and working closely with our Communications Department, we came up with a simple design of The Smart Place for Business card that clearly articulates and highlights the benefits of doing business in Richmond Hill. We also educated the Business Ambassadors to be our messengers and forward any prospective leads to the Economic Development staff, so we can properly follow up with them.

The second challenge was to determine how we can continuously support the Business Ambassadors while keeping them engaged and motivated. We came up with the idea of hosting Business Ambassador Networking events to provide updates, collaborations and to gather feedback. Furthermore, we also maintain close communications and provide Business Ambassadors with support and resources via email and through social media.

Target Audience
Leaders from business and the community with strong affiliations with provincial, national, or international industry associations and organizations, who can leverage their contacts, membership privileges, and attendance at trade shows and events to increase the reach of the Program. High-profile community members, past and present, with recognition and credibility beyond the community. Former residents who can leverage networks in their new place of residence to promote the benefits of the community. Leaders in sectors that are a strategic focus for the community.

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