Economic Development Websites

If this is your primary marketing tool – then why are you putting so little effort into it?

As economic development marketing specialists, communities perennially ask us “What comprises an outstanding economic development website?”  VisionFirst reviews community, state and regional websites constantly working with community clients and also through the location advisory division of our business. The question we find ourselves asking is “If this is a community’s primary marketing tool –  why does it seem that many invest so little thought and effort into it?”

Now, that may sound harsh…so check me on this. Stop now and do a little research yourself. Google a few communities and review their sites. I’ll wait.

Hopefully your site is among the best you found, and hopefully, you were already familiar with many of your competitors’ sites. Notice any patterns? How many of the sites you visited seem static – simply digital brochures with standard menu options? How many have great design, lovely quality of life photos and plenty of text, but offer little in the way of content and data that help shape impressions of business or consultant audiences? Those sites that stand out – what sets them apart from the others?

As a community, region or state, your website is your primary communications tools and should serve as a platform for all your other marketing and communications activities. Promotions and advertising should direct traffic to your site allowing you to track interest and with the right tools, track those who are visiting for lead development. Social media can be linked to the site for automatic updates as you post. It is the workhorse of your marketing program. With this in mind, it is critical that communities approach building and regularly updating their websites with a clear plan and objectives for the site’s use.  Community and economic development websites most valued by site selectors and business decision makers have a few things in common.

  • They understand their audiences and speak to them in their own language.
  • They are heavy on facts and light on filler.
  • They provide relevant data in formats that users can download and manipulate themselves.
  • They are fast, easy to find and easy to use.
  • They have the right content, organized in the in a way that makes sense.
  • They are current, visually attractive, and regularly updated
  • The organization contact information is clear and accessible. This means a HUMAN contact – not a form or simply the organization’s address and phone number information.

In addition to the list of site specifics above, key points on economic development websites include:

  1. Maintain up-to-date data which should be considered a building block of developing the site. It isn’t good enough to have accurate and relevant data when the site is built – it should be built in such a way that the data in evergreen and where possible, auto-populates new data at scheduled intervals.
  2. Provide a sites and building (GIS) database that allows site selectors to search, select and compare your sites along with relevant data, photos, and maps 24/7.
  3. Understand and promote your key industries – both the sectors your area best supports as well as you current leading employers. It is important that you use your website to make a case for the industry sectors your region’s assets and resources best support and for whom your workforce is the best match. This case is then supported by the success stories of your current employer base.
  4. Ensure you have a robust newsroom that is more than a repository for press releases. The best economic development sites use a section of the site to continually update with good news stories; state, regional and local news that positively impacts the business climate and companies’ ability to thrive.
  5. Ensure that your website is designed appropriately for ease of use / easy to find:
    • 1-2 click accessibility to most information and data
    • Clean, modern and fresh – intuitive in flow
    • Both mobile and tablet versions should load quickly and operate seamlessly via cellular or wi-fi since users may access the website when in the field
  6. TELL YOUR STORY! Every community, region or state has a unique story that speaks to your competitiveness for certain types of business, that showcases the great people who live and work in the area and that highlights what an amazing place their community is in which to live. Tell that story!

Don’t take our word for it…download our tips and guide for what site selectors want to see in a website now.