By Sharad KC

The Internet is playing an instrumental part for individuals and businesses to market their products and services, and economic development organizations (EDOs) are no exception. An economic development website is the public face of the organization and the community. This view is highly supported by a survey report from Development Counsellors International (DCI), A View from Corporate America: Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing 2014.
Some key findings about the usefulness of websites and the Internet from the survey were:

-67% of respondents view Internet/Website as an effective marketing technique, an increase from 55% in 2011. Based on respondent type, 65% of Location Advisors, 57% of Large Company Executives, and 71% of Midsize Company Executives perceive Internet/Website as an effective tool.

-66% of corporate executives often use the internet for site searches, a jump of 18% since 2011. In addition, the use of economic development websites by corporate executives in a site search jumped back up to 63% from 47% in 2011.

-The survey also listed the most useful features of an Economic Development Organization’s Website. The top five features were Incentive Information, Workforce Statistics, Demographic Information, Comparisons to Competitor Locations, and Database of available buildings and sites. In terms of social media channels respondents currently use the most for business purposes, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Blog Forums were the top three.

The findings are very important for EDOs while marketing their site to businesses. A few large EDOs have already started to make changes to their websites, but smaller towns and cities are far behind when it comes to online marketing through their website. To incorporate these changes, redesigning websites is key but often expensive. Besides, most websites for smaller cities and towns are designed towards their residents.

A simple and inexpensive solution to that problem could be by creating landing pages for target industries. This enables smaller cities to keep their existing website and create customized pages for businesses in a more cost-effective manner. Landing pages are a stand-alone web page distinct from your main website that has been designed for a single, focused objective. Companies like Unbounce, LeadPages, and Wix provide self-serve hosted services that enable marketers to create, publish, and test landing pages. In fact, landing pages are becoming a hot topic in online marketing. Recently, LeadPages raised $27 million in a recent Series B funding, which is unheard of for such companies. We, at Whittaker Associates, feel that this is great opportunity for EDOs to use this tool for targeted marketing, especially for smaller cities that have fewer resources at their disposal.