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Struggling Ottawa BIAs Should Just Hire a Marketing Agency

Struggling Ottawa BIAs Should Just Hire a Marketing Agency


Cheerful smiling child at the blackboard.

By Adam Slight

With some of Ottawa's biggest BIA's in the news lately seeking guidance, revitalization, and direction, I want to take the opportunity to make a suggestion that I think would help a lot of these guys out.

Hire a marketing firm!

For the uninitiated, BIA stands for “business improvement area.” A BIA is a municipally governed group of local businesses who act together in the interests of attracting business to the area and improving overall commerce (this more often than not requires businesses to pay for membership in the BIA — sort of like paying a mob boss for protection!) Little Italy is a BIA, the Byward Market is a BIA, Sparks Street Mall is a BIA–and there are plenty more in Ottawa (The Glebe, Wellington West, and so forth).

Some of Ottawa's BIA's are doing it already–that is, hiring a marketing firm to formulate and execute streamlined strategies for improving the overall experience in their given district.

With membership fees passing hands, I think it is the BIA's responsibility to do its best to make sure people in Ottawa continue to visit their area to shop, eat, and open new, attractive businesses. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way this sometimes falls a part.

Witnessing certain Ottawa BIAs struggle to get back on the horse is frustrating to watch. It often entails fruitless compromises to existing problems, awkward and aimless publicity stunts, and meagre results.

I think that if struggling BIAs were to hire a good marketing agency, they would be doing their membership businesses the justice that they deserve. A good marketing firm would establish consistent branding for the BIA and strategically take action to focus on what matters most–getting people shopping in the BIA.

As a bi-product of this process, a marketing firm could also help Ottawa BIAs with their other marketing problems, including:

- Awkward social media strategy/execution

- Outdated, unprofessional websites/graphic design

- Cell phone photography

It would also free up BIA officials to work on other things, keeping them off of Twitter and MS Paint.

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