Is it me, or do some economic development websites seem determined to undermine their own effectiveness? I know marketing budgets can be thin (or even non-existent), but there are some small, common sense quick fixes that would make big differences for the communities they represent.
The following is our list of the top 10 things EDO websites do to drive away businesses. While some of these examples may seem funny, we don't mean to be glib. These are deadly serious errors in a competitive site selection marketplace.
- No contact information on the website. Anywhere. We finally tracked down the email address for an economic development organization director by Googling his name. In the example below, only first names are listed. Why would you want to make this more difficult? Include last names, high quality thumbnail headshots, links to LinkedIn Profiles. In this same website, the Contact Us page lists only one individual, who inexplicably has a UK address (which would be fine if this wasn't an American economic development organization).
- The only contact phone number on your site is for Animal Control. I just don't know where to begin, but I sincerely hope you get those rabid raccoons sorted.
- There is not a single picture of a human anywhere on your website. Lovely, empty office buildings. Industrial parks. Test tubes in a lab. Welding sparks. Construction cranes. Surely there are people who live and work in your region? Possibly they have stories to share. Find them. Success breeds success. Anyone contemplating a move to your location wants to hear happy stories from the entrepreneurs and executives who make your region tick. Include names and case studies of existing businesses eager to share why they are happy to be where they are, what advantages they see in labor force, supply chain, logistics, infrastructure, talent and quality of life.
- Confusing Escher-like website construction. Why must I click seven times to find the information I need. How come I can't get there from here? Where is the home button to bring me back to the beginning? Why are there so many dead links? Where is the site map? HELP! Get me out of here!
- 10 year old data. Or no data at all. I know you knew I was going there. Please help me understand how any economic developer worth his/her salt expects a business or site selector to make a decision without information? Is it truly a good idea to offer outdated information on static PDFs? Do you think it would be helpful to see some projections? How about aggregating data from multiple sources so they can do an actual analysis before they choose to expand or relocate in your community? Adding robust, up-to-date data is so easy and affordable, there is no reason to leave this to the off-chance that the business person may be motivated enough to call or email you for the data (assuming they can find your contact information).
- Static, one-dimensional pages and no updated content. You must have absolutely interactivity or dynamic content to make your website sticky. Businesses and site selectors come to your website with questions; do you expect them to hunt through all those endless lists of numbers to find the answers, or do you offer them online tools to quickly search for what they need (and then export it for their reports)? Integrate your Twitter feed. Start - and maintain - a blog with news and updates. Make sure your website feels like a lively representation of your community.
- You keep sending website visitors away. Ideally, as much content as possible should be embedded within your website or on a microsite associated with your brand. Every time you send a visitor away to another organization's website, or offsite link, you risk losing them forever. If you must link to outside websites, always make sure that link opens in a new tab.
- No one is maintaining the website. Dead links. Outdated content. Large images and video that take agest to load. Websites are like puppies: they need regular care and love so they turn out OK. One tipoff: the main image on your home page shows an idyllic snowy landscape. But it's July.
- You don't tell people where you are. Businesses and site selectors don't necessarily know which Washington County you are (there are 31 in the U.S.). And if they come from out of country, they may not even be entirely certain where your state or province is located. It's best to just assume that anyone outside of your region won't have a solid sense of your geography. Your home page should have a clear visual showing your location. Check out these two great example from Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, and Mohave County Economic Development.
- Your website exists in a vacuum. How can businesses and site selectors find you? In addition to ensuring that other municipal, regional and state organizations link back to your website, you want to make sure you are properly represented on the U.S. national site selection portal, ZoomProspector.com. Anyone can freely search over 1000 data points on every community in the nation. To make sure they can find your contact information and website URL, set up an EDO Profile. It takes only a few minutes to ensure you are easily found by qualified leads.
Does this list raise any red flags for you? We can offer a customized assessment of the data offerings on your economic development website, with information about our line-up of online data tools.