14 Dec 2015








10 big economic development mistakes, illustrated by cat GIFs

Alissa Sklar is the director of marketing for GIS Planning. She has extensive experience as a consultant, writer and educator in the fields of technology and communications. Dr. Sklar has a Ph.D. in Communications from the University of Massachusetts of Amherst, and has as worked closely with B2Bs and economic development agencies to assess, develop and implement social media strategies for business development.

Sure, the Internet is filled with lots of useful information, helpful tools, inspiring images and pictures of cute babies. But for many people, its source of greatest appeal is cat videos.  And cat pictures. And cat GIFs. In an effort to address the entire spectrum of economic developers, we've put together a list of 10 serious economic development mistakes, illustrated by cat GIFs.


You're welcome.


1) Thinking it's enough to just look cool. A clever logo and beautiful website will only take you so far. You also need to make sure you are delivering the right information to key website visitors. 

2) Using the wrong tools. You wouldn't use a screwdriver to peel an apple, or a can opener to tighten a loose bolt, so why are you trying to engage and inform investors with outdated, substandard data tools? Or static PDFs listing outdated census information? You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make sure you can trust the information tools you are using to let potential investors know key data about your location.


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3) Losing focus. As economic developers, your main goals are to nurture existing businesses and attract investment. It's easy to become distracted or overwhelmed by everything else. As you take on each new project and task, ask yourself if they will help you realize those goals and allocate your time accordingly. If the answer is no, move right along to the next thing.

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4) "But we've always done things this way." Respect the past, but stay open to new ideas. Innovation means change. When we first introduced ZoomProspector Enterprise, there were those who wondered why anyone would want an online GIS location analysis tool and sites and properties database. After all, no one had ever seen anything like this before. Wasn't it enough, they wondered, to just send out printed brochures and slickly produced VHS tapes showcasing your community? 


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5) Wasting resources re-inventing the wheel. Why attempt to build data tools from the ground up when you can easily outsource to experts? Every once in a while, we come across someone trying to build or copy our online data tools, possibly because it offers an illusion of cost effectiveness. We've been working on these, improving them, updating them, perfecting them (even patenting them) since 1998. Know when to do it yourself and when to call in the pros


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6) Assuming your website visitors will wait... and wait... and wait for website pages to load. Testing reveals that ZoomProspector Enterprise clients consistently load faster than the competition, which is critical when website visitors have so little patience. That's the reason we invested in Amazon Cloud Servers, which mean your pages will be loaded by servers in the vast Amazon network that are geographically closest to them, skimming key seconds off load time, and making sure they don't click away out of frustration. 


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7) Underestimating what you need. Site selectors and potential investors come to your website for information. Will they find what they need? If not, they may not bother to pick up the phone or send out an email looking for more information. After all, there are many other communities out there offering all that critical data in online tools, and many of them also have the industrial parks, facilities or office building spaces you offer. Help them find you. Then make sure they can get enough information to take the next step and make contact.


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8) Not optimizing for mobile. Our data shows that up to 25% of economic development website visitors are using mobile devices. Ever try to navigate a non-optimized website with those tiny screens and your big fingers. It's maddening. When things are hard to do, people just click away. If you don't offer mobile optimized GIS site selection information, you are losing leads without ever knowing you were in the running. 


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9) Doing what everyone else is doing. You've got a nice, informative website and an awesome GIS location analysis tool. Congratulations. But could you be doing more? Maybe adding in some innovative, new and powerful interactive tools directly on your website pages? Think outside the box.


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10) Not thinking strategically. How can you ensure your location will be found (and then selected) when potential investors have the whole word to choose from? First of all, make sure you are giving them the data they are seeking. They will check you out online well before they pick up the phone or send an email. Make sure your website is informative enough and attractive enough to keep them engaged. Then do everything you can with blogs and social media to get their attention. 


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The GIS Planning team works hard to keep our clients successful. Contact us to see how we can assist your location.


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