A strategy for measuring the place marketing performance of business improvement districts in South Africa
Businesses in city centres are increasingly faced with the problem of attracting customers due to competition from suburban shopping centres, high levels of crime and grime, and the inability of local municipalities to provide sufficient public services to core business areas. The business improvement district model is a model implemented for ceasing and reversing the decline in the economic health and environmental quality of city centres by imposing an ad-valorem levy on property owners located within the district in order to fund its operations, which include services like security, sanitation, landscaping and place marketing. Place marketing has become central to achieving increased place competitiveness, stakeholder satisfaction, urban regeneration, and the development of a unique place identity, image and brand. Business improvement districts need to demonstrate cost-effectiveness and evidence the additional value to the area that accrues from their place marketing efforts. At the time of conducting this study, no evidence could be found of a strategy that has been devised to measure the place marketing effectiveness of business improvement districts in South Africa. In addition, very little research has been conducted on the place marketing activities of business improvement districts, not only in South Africa, but also around the world. The purpose of conducting this study was therefore to devise a strategy for measuring place marketing performance of business improvement districts in South Africa. By measuring the effectiveness of their place marketing activities, business improvement districts are able to identify discrepancies and purge problem areas timeously. This will enable place marketers to reach their objectives more effectively and efficiently. In addition, place marketers will be able to make more informed strategic decisions concerning the allocation of resources. The study was qualitative in nature and followed an exploratory research design. Judgement sampling was used to select suitable research participants, and data was collected by means of conducting in-depth interviews with managers who were involved in the design, implementation and control of place marketing strategies. A sample size of nine research participants was realised. The results indicated that even though business improvement districts included in this study regard place marketing to be one of the primary functions of a business improvement district, it is still trumped by the provision of services like security and sanitation. The results further indicated that none of the business improvement districts included in this study have a formal strategy at hand for measuring the performance of their place marketing activities. Based on the results, this study proposes a strategy for measuring place marketing performance of business improvement districts in South Africa. In addition, this study provides a list of proposed key performance indicators for business improvement districts to select from when measuring the performance of their place marketing activities. It is recommended that business improvement districts devise a comprehensive place marketing strategy with clearly defined goals and objectives that are closely aligned with its overall vision and mission. It is further recommended that business improvement districts in South Africa consider the significance of measuring place marketing performance, and to adopt the strategy and its respective key performance indicators proposed in this study to evaluate the performance of their place marketing strategies.
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