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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 that return:

  • First examine whether your methods and execution could be improved.
  • Then examine the goals themselves – are they realistic, and do they most effectively implement your strategy as shown by experience? A regular cycle of evaluating both your website results and goals leads to continuous improvement.

External Goals

There are three types of external goals you should try to achieve in planning a website for investment attraction:

1. Inquiries and leads

You will want to be able to point to concrete results from your efforts. Set measurable goals for such concrete results as part of your planning. To generate inquiries and leads from your target audiences, build a site that:

  • Establishes branding;
  • Provides a showcase for as much information as possible relevant to your target audiences;
  • Provides the ability to interact with prospects through online media;
  • Provides access to contact information so prospects can have questions answered promptly.

2. Attention and admiration

The appearance of your website should be distinctive and a source of pride to your community. This has much more than skin-deep significance. First impressions are extremely important; an unattractive site can lose a visitor in less than a second. Do people compliment you on how good your site looks? Has it won awards or been cited by knowledgeable people as exemplary? Set goals and keep records of such activity – the buzz you create today might come back to you in the form of a phone call in six months.

3. Network activity

Economic development today is focused on raising awareness of the uniqueness of each community and its ability to retain and attract talented people who will contribute to creating economic opportunities. The web is an ideal medium for people-based strategies that market your community for its high quality of life and quality of place. An important goal of your website, then, is to take advantage of modern, measurable tactics, including social media, to generate inquiry and comment about your community from a network of engaged people.

Internal Goals

A well-planned economic-development website will serve as an enabler for your department as well as a business attracter. It will help your department perform better and contribute to the professional growth of your staff. This can be achieved if you set three kinds of internal goals:

1. Service excellence

What happens when web visitors interact with your staff? Are they satisfied with the information they receive? Do they take next steps? Your website should help you to evaluate whether your department is achieving its goals for service excellence.

2. Efficiency in communication

Modern websites save time and money in communications. Set goals for reduction in time spent updating the site with information, in creating new messages and in responding to inquiries. This is an effective way to present an ROI case to senior management.

3. Improvements in workflow

Similarly, a well-planned website will simplify user management and workflow processes. It will enable fast and easy retrieval of information and sharing of information among staff and departments. Your goals can then include productivity improvements that enable your staff to spend more time with clients and less with administrative chores.

Defining and measuring goals, evaluating your results and adjusting for continuous improvement is a best practice that is sometimes overlooked in an EDO’s demanding day-to-day tasks. However, making this activity part of a disciplined routine will result in intelligent feedback and the ability to determine website ROI, which can be invaluable for keeping stakeholders and funders informed about your progress.

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