Marketing Your Community on the Web By Sandra McMerty, North Dakota Department of Commerce Big or small, every community wants to get noticed. Whether it be the addition of a new business, new family or simply the revitalization of an empty space on Main Street, attracting people to your community is the first step. In today’s technology-driven world, everyone from a single family eyeing your community to site selectors looking for a prime business location is starting in one place first – the world wide web. Let’s face it, if you can’t “Google-it” and find it, it probably doesn’t exist – or at least that is what some people think. With that in mind, here are two pieces of advice worth following today: 1) If you have nothing, get something. Even a web site with some quick facts about your community along with contact information is better than having nothing available in cyberspace, especially if you are looking to attract someone or some business to your community. 2) If you already have something, make sure it’s current and easy to use. Having the best information possible on your site – meaning information that is current and accurate – makes a difference. Even if your site is simple, your information should still be top-notch. The site must also be easy to use. If it is difficult to navigate and find information, web visitors won’t stay long. Web surfers are a fickle bunch, if they can’t easily find information on your site, they know there is another easier-to-use site just a search and a click away. Build Your Community Presence Once you have a web site for your community, there is one simple mistake to make – push your own agenda. The community may have some great opportunities it feels strongly about promoting, however you need to be mindful the focus of the site is on what people and businesses really want to know. It’s OK to promote your community strengths, but you can’t be everything to everyone. Play up your strengths and back them up with specific data and testimonials. And, don’t forget to ask “is this the type of information I would be looking for if I didn’t already know my community well?” Here are some basic questions to ask yourself as you think about your communities’ web site: 1) What is truly unique about your community and area? 2) What is different now than it used to be? 3) What are you afraid they know or are thinking? 4) What would you do with people if they came to town? - What would you show them? - What stories would you tell them? - Who would you introduce them to? What types of information should you include in a community site? Here’s a quick run-down of some of the top information sought by site selectors, as reported by Robert Ady of Ady International, a top site consultant firm: - Labor market information - Site and building specifications - Availability of incentives - Wage levels in the region - Utilities and infrastructure capability - Available training programs for workforce - Quality of life aspects When marketing to individuals and families, don’t forget information on: - Housing and rental properties - Resources for job searching - Schools and education - Hospitals and healthcare - Daycare - Government services - Utilities - Local businesses and recreation - Places of religious worship - Community events and news Walk the Talk Last but not least, make sure your web design supports the positioning of your community. Just because you write that your community is progressive, doesn’t mean that is the impression your web site gives. Your site is your first impression to those scoping what you have to offer. Make sure the impression you leave is the one you wanted or are marketing. Parting Thoughts A web site is a great tool in marketing your community. - Remember to keep it fresh, easy-to-use and in line with how you position your community. - Include specific, not just general data, to entice site selectors and individuals to want more information. - Don’t forget contact information. Include an address, phone number and email where people can contact you. Be prompt in responding. When asked questions, get back quickly and with accurate information or resources if you can’t answer the questions asked. - Focus on answering the questions your visitors are seeking, not on just marketing what you think is important. To request permission to reprint or reuse this article, contact the North Dakota Department of Commerce, 701-328-5300.
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