The Downtown Improvement District never has tracked results from its expenditures of marketing dollars, DID Operations Manager John Moran said during a Tuesday workshop at City Hall.
“That’s the reason we are here,” Moran told city leaders and representatives of community partnerships attending the session. “We are trying to get smarter about this.”
DID Chairman Ernie Ritz said district officials are not prepared to dole out more money to market the city until they’re sure they’re getting the most out of their money.
In years past, Ritz said, the DID has given as much as $80,000 to the Downtown Sarasota Alliance for marketing purposes.
“But we have less money to give out this year because of the economy, and we want to make sure we are leveraging our money correctly,” Ritz said.
Therefore, instead of holding a meeting this week to allocate marketing dollars, Ritz and Moran scheduled the workshop to discuss ways to maximize marketing efforts.
Moran also suggested the DID needs to start focusing its downtown marketing dollars on year-round programs.
“In the past, we have spent all our marketing dollars for three months of the holiday season and have nothing left for the rest of the year,” Moran said.
Representatives of the Downtown Sarasota Condominium Association, Downtown Sarasota Alliance (DSA), Sarasota Farmers Market and others pledged assistance.
DSA Chairwoman Eileen Hampshire noted that her organization spent $18,000 last year on advertising, but she said it would be more appropriate for the groups to pool their resources.
“For instance, we spend money to make a map of downtown and so do other organizations,” Hampshire said. “Why don’t we think of pooling that money together to make one spectacular map for downtown?”
Virginia Haley, president of the Sarasota County Convention and Visitors Bureau, explained that because the SCVB has a $4 million budget, she could work with groups to market the downtown area more effectively.
“With Siesta Key Beach being ranked No. 1 this year, we are hot right now,” Haley said. “This is the right time to market our community.”
Ritz said he was glad to hear of the interest in joint downtown marketing plans, which could lead to more efficiency in spending.
“We are all doing really good things to advertise our city,” Ritz said. “But we are all doing it without the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing.”
The DID members agreed to meet again at the end of the month to discuss future collaborations, with the goal of the DID allocating $60,000 in marketing funds by the time its new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
“The goal is to become an A-plus marketing task force,” Ritz said.