By Dean Whittaker

While attending the International Economic Development Conference Annual Meeting in Columbus, OH I sat in on a panel discussion based upon the book “What Would Google Do.”  The panel was to address the question, what would Google do if it was in economic development? The panelists included Jennifer Wakefield, Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission; Andy Levine, Development Counselors International; Ben Wright, Atlas Advertising; and Anatalio Ubalde, GIS Planning.

The panel discussed eight rules:

Rule # 1: Everybody needs Google Juice

What makes Google value you? If you can’t be found by Google, you might as well not exist. To find out how much Google juice you have, search for your organization using common terms under which you would likely be found, and see where you rank.  It was suggested that the most effective ways to increase our Google juice are to get others to link to our website, avoid using flash animation on our opening page, and maintain a logical permanent website address.  Google provides relevancy to your site when found by a site selector. 

Rule # 2: The Middle Men are Doomed

If the Internet is bad for your business, you are a middle man and are about to be eliminated. The new model is to be an information distributor rather than an information gatekeeper. Be a connector, simplify the process, be transparent, and be a leader.  The more you give away, the greater your value will become.

Rule # 3: Specialize

Specialize – do what you do best, and link to the rest. The link has changed everything.  Move from a generalist to a specialist.  It is about collaboration.  Make all content more accessible.  Example: Metro Orlando EDC uses Google Maps to display available property.

Rule # 4: Be the Platform

Like,,, and Linkedin, become the platform on which others can build. Provide the tools to connect to your website and its content so that others can share it. Seventy percent of the site location consultants and Fortune 500 companies can now be found on Linkedin, the #1 prospecting tool today. The use of Twitter to follow journalists and to have them follow the organization provides a communication connection to understand their interests and share your information.

Rule #5: Join the Network

Join the network, and be part of the conversation. Become a value-added node on the network by distributing information. Link your website to the right organizations. Grow your social network.  Be where your clients are, and be everywhere by using your digital presence. Contribute to the conversation, and be part of something BIG. Use widgets to be in many places at once as Google does. Create a digital ambassador program by inviting local blogs to help you tell your story.

Rule # 6: Answers are Instantaneous

What information should you make widely available through your website? According to site location consultants, a list of major employers, location maps, colleges/universities, direct contact information for economic development, and incentives offered.  Make it easy to find.

Rule #7: Listen

Listen to what your clients are asking you to provide, and provide only that which is relevant to their needs. Site selection consultants are translators of your message. Make sure they understand it. Engage your client to help tell your story.  One example given was the use of the Flip Camera to tape candid unrehearsed testimonials for YouTube. Use the one-click link to make it easy for others to share your information.

Rule # 8: Make Mistakes Well

Make mistakes well, and then move on. The panelists reviewed some of the great mistakes of the past and how they became the foundations of later success. For example, the Apple Newton led to the iPhone. What mistakes are you making right now, and how can you learn and benefit from them? Accept mistakes as the price of progress.  Someone has to be the first person to try something new, and it might as well be you.

For more information, view the following SlideShare presentations: