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Archive for the ‘New Best Practices for Communicating with Your Audience’ Category

Hitting Your Targets

A successful website plan begins at the strategic planning level of the organization. A layered process of analysis leads like a funnel to the strategy that serves to guide the website’s goals (see “Defining Website Goals,” October 27, 2009).

Once you have the strategy in hand, however, two questions remain: how can you define your website’s goals most effectively, and how can you know if you have succeeded in meeting those goals?

These questions relate to the often difficult problem of demonstrating ROI. Many economic development websites are difficult to evaluate, and investment is difficult to justify, because there are no defined goals, and because measurement and tracking of statistics is often neglected.

You can justify website investments by pointing to the achievement of goals both externally and internally. If you find that your goals are not achieved, this does not mean necessarily that there has been no return on investment – rather, it is an opportunity to improve (more…)

Defining Website Goals

Your website is the landing place for the prospects that you are trying to reach and to impress. It is the first source that site selectors use for identifying candidate communities. Making sure that your website is successful is essential!

We sometimes think of the website in isolation. A website can seem to be a world of its own, where rapidly changing technologies and expanding capabilities require specialized expertise to plan effectively.

But to develop a truly powerful economic development website, the place to start is not the site itself – after all, it is the economic development organization and the strategic goals of the organization itself, which the site is meant to serve.

Unfortunately many websites are built reactively, not proactively, without much thought to how they will help achieve strategic goals. It is quite possible for a site to be attractive and technically sound without being successful.

Where does a successful website plan begin?

At the economic development organizations strategic planning level: Several big steps before the job (more…)

Communication Loops

Economic Development communications programs require not only a focus on investment attraction, but also on stakeholder communications. To visualize the process, think of your Economic Development Organization as the central point in a figure 8.

On one side you need to communicate with your internal stakeholders, the funding organizations and the political, administrative, community and business leaders who need to understand the activities of your organization. On the other side you need to communicate with prospects, attract investment and generate leads.

In both cases, communications go out and, due to the nature of the Internet and two-way communications channels, statistics and feedback come back in to your department. The figure 8 represents the feedback loops. Using web statistics, you can measure how well each loop is performing and disseminate relevant information to the opposite loop.

External Feedback Loop

The primary function of an investment-attraction website is to attract leads by means of interactive communications.

As noted in an earlier article in the Tech Trends series, “Tips and Tactics for Measuring Results,” (March 24, 2009), an important (more…)

Making Data Interesting

Too often a list of data substitutes for information that could give site selectors a true understanding of the business dynamics of a community.

Make It Visually Interesting!

Data should be presented whenever possible in eye-catching ways that engage the viewer. Generous use of photos can go far to enliven a page of dry information. Are you showing lists of schools or businesses, for example? Illustrating those page with photos will bring your data to life for the viewer.

Visually enhanced graphs are many times more interesting and communicate strengths faster than a table does. Pie-charts, graphs or illustrative display of data can be bright, elegant or colourful and is much more memorable than a list of numbers in a chart.

Going further, you can help the viewer to put data in context by relating it to places and things in your community. With today’s web technologies you can present thematic mapping of demographic variables to show their spatial distribution and concentrations across a geographic area. For example, thematic mapping of population, income, retail spending and workforce characteristics can show the highest and lowest levels of (more…)

The Navigation Challenge

How easy or how frustrating a website experience is, is generally determined by how easy or how frustrating the navigation of a website is.

User-friendly navigation tools are more than a matter of aesthetics. To an economic development professional, it can mean the difference between attracting leads and being passed over – even if you don’t know that a visitor has come and gone.

Your investment-attraction website is competing with many others at all times. The majority of initial research by site selectors is done online. Such searches are anonymous, of course, so you will never know who is considering your community and evaluating it. If your website doesn’t do the initial talking for you, you won’t have a second chance.

Site selectors typically look at hundreds of websites at the beginning of their process of elimination to compile short lists. This is much different than practices of eight or nine years ago, before Internet research came to dominate in this field. At that time site selectors may have looked at a couple of dozen potential locations. Today your competition is much wider and stronger.

In addition, the length of time for an initial search has shortened to four to eight weeks from six months or more. This means that economic development professionals need to be ready and armed with more information at all times so they can address initial search (more…)

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