Author Archives: Ady Advantage

Is your website a billboard or a bulletin board?

bulletin-board

According to scientific studies that were widely reported on in the media last year, humans now have shorter attention spans than a goldfish (you can read about it in this article by Time magazine). After a mere eight seconds, humans start to lose concentration, while a goldfish can focus its attention for nine seconds. In the year 2000, the average human attention span was twelve seconds.

Interesting, but what does this have to do with your website? A lot, actually. When someone gets to your website, you have a very brief window of time to capture their attention. The home page of your website is the online version of the highway billboard, where you have just seconds to capture the viewer’s attention before they speed past. If you don’t make an impact immediately, you’ve lost them.

Even though site selectors are detail oriented, if your website is cluttered like a bulletin board and your key benefits are not immediately apparent, you’re likely losing a significant percentage of your target audience. It’s imperative for your website to quickly and succinctly give the user a sense of who you are, where you are, and how your region and services can solve your visitor’s problem. Here are some tips for capturing your audience’s attention before they speed off down the information superhighway to one of your competitors’ websites.

  1. Your home page should lead off with your logo and high-quality photography that accurately represents your region and services in a memorable way. Instead of a text-intensive opening paragraph, grab the viewer’s attention with a few words or brief phrase that encapsulates what’s to come.
  2. Content should be scannable and easy to digest. Use short paragraphs, bulleted lists, and illustrations to make it quick and easy to find key information. Use photos to add punch and further reinforce your message. Photos of your workforce in action, sites and buildings, and your unique quality of life clearly portrayed are particularly impactful.
  3. Once you’ve captured and held your audience’s interest, then present “deep-dive” information that provides the additional details they’re seeking. This can be accomplished in various ways, including using video, accordion or tabbed content, or linking to dedicated pages with meaty detail, facts and figures.
  4. And finally, don’t be too clever. State what you mean and don’t force your audience to make inferences and assumptions. Millennials especially need directness for communication to be effective. Also, foreign customers may find it difficult to understand if colloquialisms are used.

If you’re having trouble assessing the effectiveness of your website, or if you know you need a redesign but aren’t sure where to start, give us a call. We know how to make your website speak to your target audience(s). The Ady Advantage team can audit your website, identify areas for improvement, and help you implement any needed changes. And if you need a whole new website, with content, photography, infographics, and integrated branding, we can do that, too. Contact Janet Ady to learn more at 608-663-9218.

Is your website a billboard or a bulletin board?

bulletin-board

According to scientific studies that were widely reported on in the media last year, humans now have shorter attention spans than a goldfish (you can read about it in this article by Time magazine). After a mere eight seconds, humans start to lose concentration, while a goldfish can focus its attention for nine seconds. In the year 2000, the average human attention span was twelve seconds.

Interesting, but what does this have to do with your website? A lot, actually. When someone gets to your website, you have a very brief window of time to capture their attention. The home page of your website is the online version of the highway billboard, where you have just seconds to capture the viewer’s attention before they speed past. If you don’t make an impact immediately, you’ve lost them.

If your website is cluttered like a bulletin board and your key benefits are not immediately apparent, you’re likely losing a significant percentage of your target audience. It’s imperative for your website to quickly and succinctly give the user a sense of who you are, what you make, and how your products/services can solve your customer’s problem. Here are some tips for capturing your audience’s attention before they speed off down the information superhighway to one of your competitors’ websites.

  1. Your home page should lead off with your logo and high-quality photography that accurately represents your products and services in a memorable way. Instead of a text-intensive opening paragraph, grab the viewer’s attention with a few words or brief phrase that encapsulates what’s to come.
  2. Content should be scannable and easy to digest. Use short paragraphs, bulleted lists, and illustrations to make it quick and easy to find key information. Use photos to add punch and further reinforce your message. Photos of your process, finished product(s), and the end product(s) being used are particularly impactful.
  3. Once you’ve captured and held your audience’s interest, then present “deep-dive” information that provides the additional details they’re seeking. This can be accomplished in various ways, including using video, accordion or tabbed content, or linking to dedicated pages with meaty detail.
  4. And finally, don’t be too clever. State what you mean and don’t force your audience to make inferences and assumptions. Millennials especially need directness for communication to be effective. Also, foreign customers may find it difficult to understand if colloquialisms are used.

If you’re having trouble assessing the effectiveness of your website, or if you know you need a redesign but aren’t sure where to start, give us a call. We know how to use the Voice of the Customer to make your website speak to your target audience. The Ady Advantage team can audit your website and identify areas for improvement and help you implement any needed changes. And if you need a whole new website, with content, photography, infographics, and integrated branding, we can do that, too. Contact Janet Ady to learn more at 608-663-9218.

What can you learn from Main Street?

Lake Mills WI Commons Park bandstand

Lake Mills, Wisconsin, a Main Street community, enhances the quality of life for residents and visitors by offering concerts in downtown Commons Park.

I recently attended Main Street Now, the annual conference of the National Main Street Center, Inc. Over 1,500 Main Street directors, economic development professionals, and community leaders from small towns, mid-sized cities and urban neighborhood business districts from throughout the U.S. and Canada met in Milwaukee to share successes and insights, address challenges, and plan for the future of their communities.

I’d like to share with you 12 insights that I took away from Main Street Now that have the potential to impact economic development beyond the borders of downtown districts. If any of these resonate with you, consider whether you could apply them to your own work, programs, or region.

  1. Talent attraction is important to you and to Main Street, too. If you have a Main Street community (or several) in your region and you haven’t already partnered with them, you may want to reach out to them to explore the possibility of collaborating on talent initiatives. They will be happy to learn about your efforts and share their plans and methods.
  1. Placemaking – a people-centered approach to transforming public spaces into community places – helps to create a sense of belonging and emotional connection to place. This sense of connection is critical to quality of life and is an important factor in successful talent attraction by helping build a place where people want to be.
  1. Connection is the single best indicator of a community’s prosperity. A higher level of community attachment – an emotional connection to a place that transcends satisfaction, loyalty, and passion – corresponds with a higher GDP growth, according to findings reported in the Soul of the Community Study conducted by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. One way to promote this type of connection is to encourage residents and business owners to “buy local.” This helps to build relationships within the community and creates a ripple effect that can include the creation of new jobs.
  1. Economic gardening is an alternative ED model based on the principle that it is entrepreneurs that drive economies, rather than large firms. The model was pioneered in Littleton, Colorado, in 1987. According to the Kauffman Foundation, Littleton has added 15,000 jobs since 1987, with no monetary incentives.
  1. Localism – the local production and consumption of products, epitomized by the “Buy Local” movement – supports the attraction of both business and talent. For example, in Asheville, North Carolina, a cluster of craft breweries has helped attract young professionals (read: Millenials) as well as larger brewing companies like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues, to locate or expand in the region.

  2. Storytelling: Every community needs a storyteller. Find a good one and help them get your message out. Whether or not you’re telling your community’s story, someone else is out there telling stories about it, so take the opportunity when you can to influence the message. Consider creating a brand ambassador program to encourage “true believers” to share their stories.
  1. Don’t forget to tell the story of what’s going right in your community. The media usually focuses on the negative. Train yourself and the people around you to notice the positive, good-news success stories and disseminate them yourself to make sure the word gets out: on your website, social media channels, email newsletters, press releases, etc.
  1. Use infographics to communicate important, but complicated, points more quickly and easily. Think through the eyes of your audience when determining how to best explain a complicated issue to maximize the chance that they will buy into your idea or proposal.
  1. When faced with the challenge of determining potential re-uses for an empty commercial or industrial building, it can be helpful to “listen to the building.” Does it have a large, reinforced, open floor plan, like, for example, an old coal plant? What other types of companies need a large facility with this type of floor? A brewery or distillery? An indoor sports facility?
  1. Change should be driven by outcomes, not outputs. Building a vision statement through consensus of your stakeholders and community and using that to guide your efforts will help to ensure that your actions are strategic and your limited resources are being used effectively.
  1. Having data is important, but it is not enough in and of itself. In order to truly harness the power of data, you need to understand how to analyze and interpret it – or find someone who can do it for you.
  1. You need big ideas to create excitement and momentum, but if you actually want to get something accomplished, chunk those big ideas into smaller, more doable parts. For example, let’s say you want to develop a food manufacturing sector. It may be more feasible to start with an incubator kitchen that can help entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses than it would be to attract a General Mills or ConAgra plant.

Economic development doesn’t stop at the “official” borders of your region. That applies to cities, towns, and downtown districts as well as counties and states, so don’t overlook the potential of the Main Street districts in your region to be partners and allies. The boat will go further, faster if everyone is rowing in the same direction.

Whether you need to develop strategies for talent attraction, market your region, tell your story, market a brownfield site, or put data to work for you, the Ady Advantage team can help. We use our experience, expertise, and understanding of the site selector’s perspective to craft strategies and initiatives that position your region for success. To discuss issues and challenges you’re facing, or to learn more about our services, contact Janet Ady at 608-663-9218.

 

What is Main Street?

The National Main Street Center, Inc. works with a nationwide network of coordinating programs and local communities to encourage preservation-based community revitalization. Main Street is focused on creating places that are economically competitive and socially connected, as well as developing leaders that can help their communities attain and maintain economic vibrancy. Since its founding in 1980, the National Main Street Center has provided resources and an organizational framework to over 2,000 older commercial districts, resulting in:

  • Over 246,000 buildings rehabilitated
  • More than $59.6 billion in new investment generated
  • More than 502,728 new jobs gained (net)
  • More than 115,000 new businesses gained (net)

Making the most of brownfield opportunities

 

seedling_pepper

 

Identifying and actively marketing brownfields is a trend that is growing in popularity. At Ady Advantage, we’re increasingly integrating brownfield redevelopment efforts into the strategic plans that we develop for our economic development clients. This allows us to map all of the property assets in the region, which in turn can result in more interest in the region from a broader set of prospective investors.

On the surface, attracting redevelopment and re-use for brownfield sites may seem very similar to the process of attracting development for greenfield sites. In reality, marketing brownfield sites requires different strategies and tactics in order to be effective. A brownfield site is not just another industrial lot. There are likely higher environmental risks. There could be previous uses that limit future uses. Infrastructure and/or building issues may need to be addressed. You need cleanup and mitigation plans as opposed to a shovel-ready site. And finally, but perhaps most importantly, your target audience for brownfields are redevelopers, for the most part, not the site selectors and corporate clients who are looking for greenfield sites.

Companies and utilities are constantly reviewing their real estate portfolios, and older, more obsolete facilities often end up on the closure list. This can be detrimental for a community and for the employees who worked at the facility. At Ady Advantage, we leverage our research and reverse site selection expertise to identify the best and highest possible reuse when these large employers leave a region. We then create actionable marketing plans that may include dedicated websites or microsites, lead generation, listing sheets, direct marketing campaigns, and more to attract new investment to the facility. Often these efforts are part of a broader regional growth strategy.

At Ady Advantage, we have been working with a number of clients on marketing strategies and campaigns for brownfield and industrial sites, including developing specific reuse and redevelopment plans and feasibility studies for unique industrial properties. If you’re interested in exploring the redevelopment possibilities for brownfield sites in your region, contact  Janet Ady at 608-663-9218 to discuss how we may be able to help you.

EDO Portfolio Post

Testing

Manufacturing Portfolio Post

Testing

Demystifying SEO for manufacturers

SEO is one piece of the marketing puzzle

 

SEO can be a mystifying and intimidating concept. You may have heard web developers talk about things like keywords, alt tags, rankings, or the Google algorithm. On top of that, there are a plethora of companies who would be more than happy to increase your search ranking – for a hefty fee. Is SEO really that complicated and mysterious?

What is SEO, anyway?

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a collection of techniques and tactics used to improve a website’s display position on a search engine results page. In a nutshell, the goal of SEO is to get your website to come up as close to the top of the list as possible when someone searches for content that you’d like them to find on your site.

Why should you care about SEO?

In this digital age, your website is – or should be – your primary marketing tool. Your website promotes your company 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. What other form of marketing can do that? But your website only benefits you if your target audience can find it (and then can find what they need, but that’s a topic for another blog). That’s where good SEO comes in.

The closer to the top of the list your website appears in a search, the more visits it will receive. Consider how often you go to even the second page of results when you conduct an internet search. More visits from your target audience increase your company’s visibility and can drive engagement. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to find you. Competition for market share is fierce. Good SEO can give you a leg up on your competitors and keep your company top-of-mind.

5 DIY Techniques to Improve SEO

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Many techniques that can positively impact your site’s SEO are not complicated or expensive. You can do some of these things yourself, and if you have some basic familiarity with your website’s back-end, you can do all of them. Like most things, it requires a plan and some time and effort. Here are 5 DIY techniques to improve your SEO.

  1. Know what terms your target audience searches for and make sure those terms are included in the content on your site. Run some test searches on those terms (keywords). Does your site come up in the results? What about your competitors’ sites? Do you rank higher or lower than your competitors? If your site doesn’t come up on the first page of results for important keywords, review your content and determine how you could work them in.
  2. Just tag it. Here’s where the back-end stuff happens. Each page should have a meta title and description that focuses on the important content and keywords. They should be short and sweet and written in language your audience would use and understand.
  3. Don’t forget your photos! Photos should be named based on their content; e.g., logo_MyCompany.jpg instead of logo.jpg. Each photo should also have an alt tag that’s relevant to what it depicts. Not only does it help Google know what’s in the picture, it reinforces the value of the content on the page.
  4. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. More searches are now done on mobile devices than on desktops. In keeping with the trend towards mobile, Google’s search algorithm now factors in how mobile-friendly a site is when displaying results. Responsive (mobile-friendly) websites are now a must.
  5. Regularly freshen up your content. Your website’s copy should be written with readers in mind and should incorporate your keywords, but that in itself is not enough. Google’s search algorithm factors in how often your content is updated. Timely, relevant content is not only more useful to your target audience; it can help your site rank higher. Some ideas would be to feature current and new products, highlight awards and key employees, and show off recently completed projects.

There are other behind-the-scenes items that your website developer can help you with; for example, making sure your robots.txt file is configured appropriately; adding breadcrumbs; adding backlinks; making sure header attributes are used properly; adding social media feeds; etc.

When you’re first getting started, it can be helpful to have a plan and set aside time regularly to work on your site’s SEO. It’s less about the mystery of SEO and more about making the time to implement some simple strategies. With some dedicated time and effort, you can positively impact your website’s SEO.

Want to improve your SEO but don’t have the time? Ady Advantage helps manufacturers optimize their websites to improve SEO and user experience. Our team can audit your site, provide assistance with copywriting and art direction, and provide regular content updates. And if you need a whole new website, we do that, too. Contact us for more information: 608-663-9218.

Demystifying SEO for economic developers

Google feeling puzzled


SEO can be a mystifying and intimidating concept. You may have heard web developers talk about things like keywords, alt tags, rankings, or the Google algorithm. On top of that, there are a plethora of companies who would be more than happy to increase your search ranking – for a hefty fee. Is SEO really that complicated and mysterious?

What is SEO, anyway?

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a collection of techniques and tactics used to improve a website’s display position on a search engine results page. In a nutshell, the goal of SEO is to get your website to come up as close to the top of the list as possible when someone searches for content that you’d like them to find on your site.

Why should economic developers care about SEO?

In this digital age, your website is – or should be – your primary marketing tool. Your website promotes your region 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. What other form of marketing can do that? But your website only benefits you if your target audience can find it (and then can find what they need, but that’s a topic for another blog). That’s where good SEO comes in.

The closer to the top your website appears in a search, the more visits it will receive. Consider how often you go to even the second page of results when you conduct an internet search. More visits from your target audience increase your region’s visibility and can drive engagement. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to find you. Competition for talent and business relocations is fierce. Good SEO can give you a leg up on the competition and keep your region top-of-mind.

5 DIY Techniques to Improve SEO

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Many techniques that can positively impact your site’s SEO are not complicated or expensive. You can do some of these things yourself, and if you have some basic familiarity with your website’s back-end, you can do all of them. Like most things, it requires a plan and some time and effort. Here are 5 DIY techniques to improve your SEO.

  1. Know what terms your target audience searches for and make sure those terms are included in the content on your site. Run some test searches on those terms (keywords). Does your site come up in the results? What about your competitors’ sites? Do you rank higher or lower than your competitors? If your site doesn’t come up on the first page of results for important keywords, review your content and determine how you could work them in.
  2. Just tag it. Here’s where the back-end stuff happens. Each page should have a meta title and description that focuses on the important content and keywords. They should be short and sweet and written in language your audience would use and understand.
  3. Don’t forget your photos! Photos should be named based on their content; e.g., logo_MyEDO.jpg instead of logo.jpg. Each photo should also have an alt tag that’s relevant to what it depicts. Not only does it help Google know what’s in the picture, it reinforces the value of the content on the page.
  4. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. More searches are now done on mobile devices than on desktops. In keeping with the trend towards mobile, Google’s search algorithm now factors in how mobile-friendly a site is when displaying results. Responsive (mobile-friendly) websites are now a must.
  5. Regularly freshen up your content. Your website’s copy should be written with readers in mind and should incorporate your keywords. That in itself is not enough, however. Google’s search algorithm also factors in how often your content is updated. Timely, relevant content is not only more useful to your target audience; it can help your site rank higher. Some ideas would be to update your success stories, regional news and other positive activities.

There are other behind-the-scenes items that your website developer can help you with; for example, making sure your robots.txt file is configured appropriately; adding breadcrumbs; adding backlinks; making sure header attributes are used properly; adding social media feeds; etc.

When you’re first getting started, it can be helpful to have a plan and set aside time regularly to work on your site’s SEO. It’s less about the mystery of SEO and more about making the time to implement some simple strategies. With some dedicated time and effort, you can positively impact your website’s SEO. And that’s good for your EDO and your entire region.

Want to improve your SEO but don’t have the time? Ady Advantage helps EDOs optimize their websites to improve SEO and user experience. We are expert in bringing the site selector’s perspective to bear on your website strategy. Our team can audit your site, provide assistance with copywriting and art direction, and provide regular content updates. And if you need a whole new website, we do that, too. Contact us for more information: 608-663-9218.

As I See It | An Insider’s Thoughts on Attracting and Retaining Millennials in Manufacturing

Ashley Scray and Scout

Ashley Scray and Scout, our office dog. Millennials are committed to family and friends and value flexibility in the workplace.

My name is Ashley Scray and I am the research analyst at Ady Advantage. Being the token Millennial in the office and having attended the Women in Manufacturing Summit a few weeks ago, Janet asked that I write a guest blog on Millennials in the workplace. This topic has immense implications for businesses, because in 2020, Millennials will comprise half of the American workforce. It is especially important for manufacturers, because it seems to me that manufacturing is one of the least likely careers that Millennials want to move in to. Companies should focus on adjusting their strategies rather than pointing out the negatives about our generation. I believe that each generation has some attributes that people may view as negative, but focusing on these is unproductive for both parties.

Through my research, I have come up with a few key pointers for working with Millennials:

  • Feedback is key. All of us Millennials have gotten a participation trophy at some point in our lives, which is probably one of the main reasons why we look for constant feedback. In all honesty, this is not because we need to be babied, but because we are committed to moving up in the workforce. Feedback like this can reassure us that we are moving forward. Simply having an annual review is not going to cut it for Millennials.
  • Be flexible. Millennials are very committed to their friends, family, and hobbies. The work-life balance is imperative for our generation. That doesn’t mean we will not work hard, but we appreciate flexibility in the work place. According to Fortune, companies on the Great Place to Work’s “100 Best Workplaces for Millennials” list are more likely to offer flexible scheduling, telecommuting options, paid sabbaticals and paid volunteer days.
  • Decide what your strategy for retaining Millennials will be.It seems that companies take two different approaches. One manager will tailor working conditions to Millennials in the hopes of retaining them for 30 years. The other type of manager realizes that they may not have this employee forever, and that the relationship is based on mutual expectations. Some companies will even talk with an employee and agree on specific goals that will be met, knowing that at the end of the agreed-upon time period, there is a chance that the employee might leave. These types of managers often have a different mindset when an employee decides to leave and have a sense of pride that they were able to contribute to this employee’s career path and success.

Here are some tips for manufacturers who are interested in recruiting and hiring Millennials:

  • Reach out to college students. All of the learning events that I have been to so far focused on changing the perceptions of manufacturing; however, most focused on younger generations. Many people talked about how we need to make elementary school kids and teens aware, but I think that same idea needs to be brought into the colleges. I knew a lot of people in college who really did not know what they wanted to do, so having manufacturers attend a career fair or something along those lines would be beneficial.
  • Offer internships and other programs to give Millennials direct experience in the manufacturing environment. These can be a win-win. Internships are great for us, because they give us a chance to test out a career before we make the big decision, but it could also help your company. We can bring to the table things like being tech-savvy, being team players and, most of all, being cost-effective. Yes, we would prefer if the internship was paid, but we are actually less motivated by money than other generations. According to a study done by Monster.com, 37% of employers report that “work/life balance” is the most motivating factor for Millennials. Only 17% said that “compensation” is the primary driver.    
  • Yes, social media connects with us, but so does an old-fashioned plant tour. I think any way (social media, events, plant tours) that manufacturers can show Millennials that their company is not dull, dirty and dangerous, but rather innovative and high-tech, will get through to us.

When it comes down to it, I really don’t think we are that much different than other generations. We do have somewhat different values and needs, so if companies slightly adjust their strategies, it will have a greater impact on recruiting and retaining Millennials. 

If your company is looking for strategic and creative ways to attract and retain talent, Ady Advantage’s strategic consulting services for manufacturers can help. Contact Janet Ady to learn more about how we can help your organization strategically plan for the future.

As I See It | An Insider’s Thoughts on Attracting and Retaining Millennials in Your Community

A sense of community is important to Millenials

 

My name is Ashley Scray and I am the new research analyst at Ady Advantage…and I am a Millennial. Janet and I have had a lot of discussion about Millennials since I came on board and Janet asked that I write a guest blog with my “Millennial Thoughts”. This is obviously a hot topic right now, as every conference that I have been to so far has had a speaker on Millennials. Most of the time, however, I hear about my generation from the perspective of other generations, so I wanted to take the opportunity to share my ideas from an insider’s perspective.

With the migration of talent from more rural communities to larger urban areas, many economic developers are struggling to attract and retain Millennials. According to a study done by The White House, college-educated Millennials have moved into urban areas faster than their less-educated peers. The challenge for rural economic developers is that you can’t magically turn your town, city or region into a large metropolitan area. However, I think steps can be taken to try to make smaller communities more attractive to Millennials.

  1. Make sure there are opportunities for us. In 2020, Millennials will comprise half of the American workforce; however, manufacturing is the least likely career that Millennials want to move in to. If your city/region has a large manufacturing industry, it will be important to get kids interested at a young age in order to retain them in the community and hopefully recruit them to these companies. (Tune in for my next guest blog, “Millennials in the Workplace,” on our Manufacturing Blog channel, to hear some more of my ideas.)
  1. You can’t control the location of your community, the weather, or the cost of living, so instead, start with things you can change. This could be something like opening a walking/bike trail or revitalizing the downtown. Just make sure that your community always has its best foot forward, because you never know who is searching for a new place to live and is typing your city into Google or Yelp as we speak.
  1. According to a study done by the American Planning Association, 55% of Millennials surveyed are likely to move within the next 5 years, which means now is a perfect time to start promoting your community! If you are within driving distance of a larger city, make sure to publicize this, as well as any and all amenities that you have, because quality of life is key. Show us why your city is better than bigger cities, including things like cost of living, housing availability and the sense of community. These things are very important to us Millennials.

These big cities that are attracting Millennials like crazy right now are going to start to run out of room for all of us. Other communities are already realizing this and starting to find other ways to attract us, like some of the ones I mentioned earlier. In the end, though, Millennials want a sense of community and belonging just like anyone else, and if you can provide that, you are already one step ahead of a lot of communities.

Looking for creative ideas to attract and retain talent? Our “Talent Toolbox” contains case studies from regions who’ve successfully implemented out-of-the-box strategies to deal with their talent challenges. If you’re looking for a partner to help you develop a strategic talent attraction and retention plan for your region, contact Janet Ady at [email protected] or 608-663-9218 for a free, no-obligation consultation to explore how Ady Advantage may be able to help you.