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Best Practice #4: Specialty Websites and Portals

Not long ago, investment attraction websites were designed with the idea that one site fit all. But that’s not true any longer.

Creative Economic Development Web Initiatives

Multi-channel web marketing has come to the forefront quite quickly in recent months. This has led to some remarkably creative initiatives by economic development departments all over North America. But, it’s also causing some headaches.

As mentioned in our article of August 5, 2010, EDOs are finding themselves managing several websites in part because of the need to build web properties for social media purposes. But there’s another reason.

Multiple Target Audiences Drive the Need for Specialty Websites

In today’s creative economy EDC’s must deliver messages with carefully defined purposes. Their targets are people as much as they are industries; people with specific questions on their mind. They won’t be attracted by a general purpose website containing much information that they consider to be irrelevant.

As a result we are seeing a proliferation of specialty websites and portals aimed at meeting investment attraction goals by appealing to specific target audiences. The portals can be promoted independently using different channels and can also be tracked and measured independently, providing greater flexibility in marketing.

You can find wonderfully creative specialty sites and portals designed to engage entrepreneurs, immigrants, people with expertise in selected industries, creative professionals looking for the ideal home and many other kinds of target audiences. A few outstanding examples include:

These are just a few examples of how specialty websites and portals can deliver targeted messages very effectively. They can and should be part of your cohesive web strategy, but care must be taken.

Web Management Issues Are Multiplied

Multi-channel web marketing can be challenging to oversee while maintaining optimal quality. The many issues that apply to any investment attraction site, such as message consistency, updating of data, approvals, structure, publishing frequency and the measurement of results, become multiplied for each new portal launched.

A best practice in the management of specialty websites and portals is to clearly identify goals, target audiences, messaging and content maintenance programs for each site, while maintaining consistent messaging within your economic development web strategy.

For each portal, set goals and a development path stated in monthly or quarterly increments. Clarify target audiences and key messages. Each section of a portal should be mapped back to explain how it supports the overarching economic development strategy.

Of critical importance, every specialty website or portal must have an owner who is accountable for its quality and success. Success must be tracked and measured using pre-defined key performance indicators.

Appropriate Software Simplifies Multi Website Management

As the web evolves, the navigational structure, content management and interactive capabilities of investment attraction sites are becoming increasingly complex. Much attention should be paid to selecting and maintaining the underlying technologies to ensure that they are robust and advanced enough to support competitive sites.

With a multi site content management system, an unlimited number of specialty sites or portals can be added. Each one can have its own independent participants and goals and objectives, yet can be managed through the main organizational administration system. Web based content management tools further make it possible for anyone participating in a portal to instantly publish relevant content and keep it vital and up to date.

Backed by modern technologies and guided by a comprehensive web strategy embracing all of your web properties – this best practice for economic development online – specialty websites and portals can give you a competitive edge in reaching the target communities your community needs for future growth.

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