Here’s something to consider: Your economic development organization’s website doesn’t need to win an IEDC award (or other award) to be successful. Why do I say that? Take a look at the winner’s list from past years and there’s at least one economic development website that’s not even mobile friendly. What good is the information on that website if you can’t read it well on a smartphone?
The fact is that your economic development organization website doesn’t need to win any awards. It simply needs to target the right audiences with the right information, excel at generating leads, then have the technological backbone to help your staff work those prospects more efficiently.
Modern EDO websites are more than pretty brochures. There is significant technology available today that lives behind the scenes, and you probably don't know about some of that technology.
So if you’re planning to redesign your economic development organization website this year or next, it’s vital that you have at least a basic understanding of these things that your economic development organization website needs to be successful.
Does your website have these?
1. Responsive design for mobile devices
Not only does a responsive website make your website more accessible to the on-the-go business traveler that’s likely researching location alternatives, but a responsive website is easier to read on smartphones and tablets, and search engines value mobile friendly websites more than non-friendly ones.
It's 2018. Anything less than a fully responsive website is unacceptable.
2. It’s updated regularly
This one’s not exactly rocket science, but you may be surprised to know how many EDOs have severely outdated information on their websites.
Regular updating means that all content needs to be kept up to date, including:
- Economic development data (needs to be updated as often as once per quarter)
- Company announcements and closings
- EDO staff directory and contact information (including at a minimum what each person handles so a prospect can decide who to contact)
- Company profiles/testimonials/videos
- Local government news as it affects economic development policy
3. Information about existing companies and industries
As much as your EDO would like to land that “whale” of a prospect, the reality is that projects that are smaller in scope are more the norm than the huge project. In many cases, it’s executives of small and medium-sized companies that are making location decisions.
These prospects want to see social proof. Don’t just list your target industries -- profile companies that are succeeding in those industries and why. Company executives want to hear from their peers, not read your polished marketing collateral that only highlights the positive aspects.
This means that you need a relationship with those existing businesses, and you need to hone in on what’s going on in their industry. What industry trends are happening? How are those trends affecting businesses in your target industries? Your website might be the only chance you’ll get to communicate these to a prospect.
4. Prospect identification
With modern websites, you can track just about anything. Having prospect identification capabilities means that you’re serious about lead generation.
Prospect identification software will give you a daily or weekly snapshot of the companies that visited your website and what pages they each looked at. You can use this information to target those companies with online advertising or organically build a direct mail list for a targeted campaign (without buying the expensive list).
5. Customer relationship management software, or CRM
Having a CRM means that you can keep all of your current, past and future prospect data and history in one place. You can either enter contacts and deal information manually, or your prospect identification software will feed your CRM with fresh leads based on website visits.
Imagine inputting some information about a deal, being able to see the people associated with that deal and their contact information. Imagine being able to track notes of conversations you’ve had on a person-by-person basis, and being able to set reminders or even automate responses. Imagine being able to see when they open your emails and visit your website. That’s the power of a CRM.
6. Sense of place
When a company relocates or expands in your locality or region, they might need to convince at least some employees to move. It’s important that you know what “outsiders” value about your place and highlight those on your website.
Your don't need a fancy slogan, but you do need to look “lovable.” Good photography and some “social proof” in the form of testimonials helps more than you might think.
7. Lead magnets
Lead magnets might not be something that you’re familiar with, but essentially, the modern website has to attract leads using tactics other than just a “contact us” form. Let’s say, for example, that you are trying to attract foreign companies to Happyville, USA. You might author a guide to expanding your manufacturing operation in America in another language.
To get this guide, someone would need to fill in their name and email address. Then they are able to download some truly useful information, while you now have their name and email address in your CRM and can track that individual’s future activity on your website.
8. Social media capabilities
Sure, the ability to click over to your LinkedIn page or share your news release on Twitter is important. That’s been important for years, and frankly, it’s a given. But if your focus is on lead generation, you need to be monitoring social media for companies that you’re trying to attract.
The ability to monitor prospect social media feeds quickly and easily will alert you to what’s going on at those prospects and tip you off when there’s a company event that might affect you, such as funding or expansion. This will be a signal to contact them and follow up.
9. Email marketing capabilities
You may already have an account with a third party email provider that you use to blast out a newsletter. But is email capability built into your website? When prospects contact you or download your lead magnets, are you able to automate follow-up by email? Can you set up logic that automates responses when a prospect takes a specific action on your website, like downloading an Excel spreadsheet or a report?
EDOs need to move past blasting newsletters to the masses and tailor specific communications to those that take specific actions on their websites.
Hopefully this article has given you some new ideas and perhaps challenged your thinking about the boring “brochure” website. Use these 9 things to improve the prospect’s experience, improve your lead generation efforts, and make your EDO more efficient at prospect response.