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Ady Advantage has developed, audited, and advised on hundreds of economic development (ED) websites. The key theme is that no matter how much technology platforms evolve, content will continue to be king and strategy will continue to be what differentiates your region from others.

Here’s an example from a recent Ady Advantage study that helps corroborate my claim: When asked how important certain characteristics were of an ED website, Site Selectors ranked Target Industries as the most important out of the thirteen options provided. In comparison, Economic Development professionals ranked Target Industries as the tenth most important characteristic. Why is there such a significant disconnect?

As I see it, site selectors use “target industries” as a proxy for “this community, region, or state knows what their assets are and what types of projects would be a good fit.” Going back to the first Site Selectors Guild Conference, I remember Dennis Donovan from WDG Group sitting up on stage and declaring, “If you don’t know what your brand is, then I don’t either. And I don’t have the time to figure it out.” 

The message is that in this world of fierce economic development competition, you have to differentiate yourself. It is no longer sufficient to simply say that your location is “a great place to live, work, and play!” In fact, just saying that statement is a detriment as it suggests you don’t know what type of businesses would place the greatest value on your particular mix of assets. (This is what we at Ady Advantage call “reverse site selection.”)

And one more thing: When you do get to listing your target industries on your website, it’s no longer enough to just list the usual suspects (Advanced Manufacturing, Transportation, Office, etc.).  Kate McEnroe from McEnroe Consulting makes the point that you have to do the work to understand what kind of advanced manufacturing, for example, would be the best fit for your region and why. 

If you’re thinking of updating your website, make sure you have target industries on there and, most importantly, that you are specific about the types of industries and companies that would be the best fit for your community and why. That is one of the most valuable pieces of information for site selectors to understand. If you do this well, you will differentiate your community from the thousands of others out there. 

At the end of the day, strategy matters. For help with determining your economic development strategy, including identifying your target industries and updating your website in adherence with site selector standards and ED marketing best practices, feel free to give us a call. We’ve got your back, and our 50+ years of combined industry experience makes our team the best suited to help you get from where you are to where you want to be.