By Noelle Salerno, Consultant, Avalanche Consulting

Your website is one of – if not the – most important marketing tool in your toolbox. For most audiences, it is the first place they will interface with your community. It reinforces your brand and shares important information about what it is like to live and do business in your region. It is important to update your website on a regular basis to keep data fresh and ensure messaging is aligned with your marketing goals.

As strategists, we are often asked to evaluate the effectiveness of our clients’ websites. In this article and the one to follow in our June newsletter, we share the 10 critical questions that arise when we review economic development websites. The first five are below:

1. Do you market your community or your organization?

Your website is how you make your first impression, so it is critical to clearly represent your community, not just the economic development organization itself. Convey the personality of your community through imagery and thoughtfully written copy. Showcase your top assets and why your region is a desirable location for target audiences.

2. Do your messages stand out and are they unique?

Almost every EDO touts their community’s “great quality of life.” Companies, site selectors, and the media are bombarded with generic messages like this from thousands of EDOs. For your marketing messages to stand out, they must be unique and specific. Begin with a strategic plan that identifies your target audiences, differentiating assets, opportunities, and challenges in order to understand your competitive position in the marketplace and determine which messages are going to resonate. Use this plan as a fountain of content for your website and other marketing materials.

3. Can visitors readily find important and up-to-date information and is this information reaching your target audiences?

Continuously refresh your content and update your data. This signals that you are a relevant, thriving community. Push new content to a Data Center or News page as well as on social media. Consider distributing a monthly newsletter that aggregates these news updates to stakeholders and target audiences. This will keep your community top of mind when target audiences are looking for their next location.

4. Are visitors interested in what you have to say?

Your website is not meant to be used as a scrolling, static data dump! Be concise and to the point. Put the most important information at the top of the page. Imagery and graphics are eye-catching and more likely to be read compared to lengthy copy. Use infographics and other design elements to help tell your story.

5. Have you integrated social media?

Social media is an important extension of your digital presence. Just like your website, use images and copy to reinforce your brand, communicate targeted marketing messages, and engage your community. Use social media platforms as an outlet to be creative and engaging. We recommend creating a social media calendar to plan your posts each week, which will ensure messaging is consistent and time spent on social media activities is efficient.

Stay tuned for the remaining five questions in next month’s article. As this series continues, we will break down each question in more detail with best practice examples and actionable steps you can take to make your website even more impactful.