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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.

Question: 
Where does a successful website plan begin?

Answer: 
At the economic development organizations strategic planning level: Several big steps before the job of developing the website itself!

Step 1: The Economic Development Strategy

No small feat in and of itself, the economic development organization develops a multi-year strategy to optimize opportunities for business investment attraction. During this process overarching goals for the organization become apparent. To achieve these goals a marketing strategy is then developed.

Step 2: The Economic Development Marketing Strategy

Now research is conducted to define differentiation and messaging. Tactics, programs and campaigns are developed to work towards achieving the previously defined strategic goals. Marketing tactics at this level include both traditional print/media and online marketing objectives and tactics.

Step 3: The Economic Development Internet Strategy

The Internet strategy supports the marketing strategy by identifying how the website and other Internet-related tools such as e-mail and web 2.0 platforms can be applied to achieve the goals defined in the economic development strategy.

Step 4: The Website

Throughout this layered process, the goals defined at the start by the economic development strategy are consistently interpreted and applied to each type of marketing activity. By the time the website is developed, the goals are clear and the website can be put to work to meet goals, answer all standard site selection questions as well as communicating differentiation and messaging, focusing on specific strengths and making the desired first impression.

As noted in an earlier article in the Tech Trends series, Tips and Tactics for Measuring Results,” (March 24, 2009), an important best practice in investment attraction is to analyze stats to determine what works for your community and what doesn’t.

Today’s websites need to lift a heavy load: balancing look and feel, messaging and positioning, first impression, information completeness and timeliness as well as valuable interactive features — all targeted at attracting investment in specific sectors or reaching out to identified target groups, such as the creative class.

By aligning your website with your strategic goals, you are much more likely to produce a website that will be effective for investment attraction and measurably successful!

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