Your website serves as your 24/7 marketing tool – the virtual storefront of your community if you will. We started this series to drive home the reality that you are being considered far more often than you realize. With a competition field of more than 3,000 counties (and equivalents) and decision makers mostly stuck at home with the internet at their fingertips, it’s time to ask yourself (honestly, ask yourself) – what does your storefront say about you and are you meeting the needs of your customers?
BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME (VIA THE WEB) »
Let’s assume your ideal decision maker’s web search has landed them on your homepage.
Sidenote: What people search and the results of those searches is incredibly important!
Can they find what they are looking for – EASILY? Do they know your top industries? Can they see your partnerships for talent development?
So many questions, I know! But, having the latest and greatest virtual tools, dashboards, widgets or data doesn’t do you any good if people can’t find them or use them.
Don’t worry if your site isn’t at the top of its game. During a recent audit, for a site location project, we reviewed nearly fifty economic development websites (state, regional, local and utility) we found only a fraction of the sites provided navigation that could answer the following top questions for their target audience:
- Does the state or region recognize this particular industry as a target?
- Are there any industry specific incentives or recent legislation passed to attract this industry?
- Are there any recent announcements for this industry sector?
Your website must guide people to the information they are looking for and make it EASY. The ideal website is responsive – meaning it will adjust to different platforms (computer, tablet or phone), easy to navigate, clear and concise messaging and drives the customer to their areas of interest. You can spend tens of thousands of dollars to get people to your storefront, but if you can’t get people past the window display, you won’t get their business.
Who does it well? It’s hard to limit it to just one, so here are some of our top picks (in no particular order):
Who just needs a control+alt+delete? It was hard to narrow it down to just one, but the winner is (insert 🥁 roll):
- Arngren (Our sincere apologies if anyone we know owns this site)
5 MUST HAVE ELEMENTS FOR A GREAT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT WEBSITE »
- Clearly define your location and amenities. USA, state, region and finally county/city, along with the transportation infrastructure and unique advantages for your region. Key word here is region! Sell your regional amenities – including a list of existing industries. Finally, don’t forget to update your property site and building information.
- Tell YOUR story. We typically know the majority of data before we ever contact you. Why regurgitate it? Use it to tell a story for your region. Highlight the good points, but more importantly, why is it good? And yes, we will know the not-so-good data. We are not suggesting you push those numbers out front, but consider highlighting what innovative approaches your community is taking to invest in itself. Maybe your county has embarked the ACT WorkReady Community Initiative to better lessen the skill gaps in your region. Or do you have testimonials that speak to how you have assisted existing industry?
- Define your competitive advantages for each target industry. We love to play the “so what” game. Will it drive you crazy? Of course it will. Is it effective at developing your competitive advantages? 100% guaranteed. Basically, you start with your listing out your competitive advantages. Then you review them and ask yourself “so what” next to each one. For example, when trying to determine the competitive advantage for your workforce, you may say “we have a lower cost of living and really great people”. Hmmm, so what? VisionFirst can name thousands of communities with a lower cost of living and really great people. We aren’t saying you are wrong, but we do recommend asking yourself what makes your lower cost of living and people really great? You repeat this process over and over again until you can’t say “so what” anymore. Shameless plug, we’re available to help you define these. We find it helps to have an outside party in the conversation for what can become a hard conversation. P.S. Don’t forget to include what incentives would apply to each industry on your pages as well.
- Tell YOUR story. OH wait, we already said that… Tell it again in your newsroom. Your newsroom should be filled with publications success stories, press releases and more – downloadable or linked to further stories if applicable. Consider highlighting a variety of topics – and ask the question – How are you investing in your people, infrastructure and who else is investing (public and private)? Lastly, and this sounds like a no brainer, but always put a date on the news source, write a brief summary instead of just supplying a link and categorize (investments, education, talent, etc.) your posts to make it easier for the viewer to locate the posts they are most interested in reading more about.
- Contact real people. Not a form. There are plenty of times, if allowed by our client, where we would pick up the phone and call the economic development professional and ask for more information on a piece of legislation that we saw, a utility rider or a recent investment. If we only see a generic email or a form, the chances are we aren’t calling. People want to know you are people. They want to put a face with a name. No one wants to wonder what generic email account their finely crafted message is going to.
MAKING IT EASY ISN’T EASY. GET HELP. »
Building your website is a task. There is no doubt about it. Remember you typically have two audiences. Your internal audience, which could be your board, stakeholders, membership base and elected officials – whoever makes up your funding structure. The other is your external audience, which consists of your current and future workforce pipeline, existing business and industry and prospective tenants.
We are here to help. Normally, I’d invite you to come see us in Florida and Mississippi (Tallahassee, Orlando and Jackson, for future reference). For now, we can help make it easier for you. VisionFirst offers a suite of services including our new program » re:Vision – a community performance program.
We developed this program as a result of one of the most common questions we get – “how do our properties, marketing materials, website, presentations and RFIs) compared to others?” We encourage you to contact us to discover our unique and practical approach to enhancing your web presence.
And if you aren’t ready to get in touch with us, that’s ok. We still want you to take a close look at your storefront. You never know who’s ‘walking’ by.
Greg Word, Senior Consultant