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Why Hiring a Local Design Firm Can Backfire

Why Hiring a Local Design Firm Can Backfire Main Photo

8 Jun 2021


News, Blog

Before you hire a local design firm to create your new website, consider this:

We understand why you may feel honor-bound to do business locally. In most cases, we agree. However, when it comes to creating your online presence, that choice may be detrimental to the very community you're working so hard to serve. The reason is simple. Economic development organizations are specific, nuanced, and hard to thoroughly explain to anyone outside the industry.

Design firms know design. They'll take any client, in any industry, who'll pay the fee. If you go with one, be prepared to explain what an EDO is, and what it does. Don't be surprised if they conflate some of your goals and needs with those of a Chamber of Commerce or Convention and Visitors Bureau. Six months later, on average, they'll deliver a slick-looking website. You'll be proud of it until it starts to lose its "new" - which won't be long. Nobody knows every industry, and design firms don't know enough about site selectors to anticipate their ongoing needs.

In contrast, Golden Shovel Agency has been a leading expert in Economic Development Marketing for years. We've never built or maintained a website for any other industry. We never plan to. Economic development organizations who go with us have a better experience and get better results.

If you think doing it right costs too much, consider the cost of doing it over.

Many of our clients come to us for replacement sites after price shopping, choosing a local design firm with a stunning portfolio and great general references, but no economic development experience. Sadly, they soon realize that the first investment they made misses the mark in today's fast-paced, remote-centric market.

Site selectors visit a lot of economic development organization websites before they pick up the phone. Odds are, you won't hear from them until they've narrowed their choices down to a short list. They make permanent judgments in a matter of seconds. They won't study and read unless they're intrigued. They'll scan your landing page. If it looks unappealing, superficial, or like too much trouble to navigate, they'll move on. They may be doing all of this from a mobile device. Who can blame them? Every site selector is busy, pressured, and looking at locations in an effort to solve a problem. They want a community that piques their interest, holds promise, and inspires trust. Creating targeted online messaging for site selectors requires understanding the processes and plans they follow to support those goals. That knowledge is one of Golden Shovel Agency's strong suits.

Your site selectors aren't local. That's one thing they have in common with Golden Shovel Agency.

In addition to having clients coast-to-coast, Golden Shovel Agency's team of professionals are seasoned, traveled, and based in strategic locations across the U.S. Having a cohesive team with diverse perspectives helps us ask the right questions, understand the answers in detail, and create ongoing online content that draws your desired sectors like a magnet. We know what site components you'll need, and how to map and populate your pages for optimal SEO.

During the phase of development when a local firm would be scaling a steep economic development learning curve on your dollar, Golden Shovel Agency could be busy creating your site. We launch 40-50 economic development websites every year. Our level of volume, combined with our intense focus has enabled us to create a web development process that resembles a 4-lane superhighway. As a result, you'll get a highly functional, customized, data-driven web portal that is ready to go in 2-3 months, along with an army of support ready to assist your every need. Our completion rate is 56% faster than our competition. Once your site is launched, we continue to perform advanced SEO optimization.

We're in it for the long game.

We have a 95% client retention rate for a reason. Our years in the industry have taught us that meaningful results are cumulative. We help our clients create a solid foundation that will support growth and success year after year. As industry experts, we routinely speak at conferences/webinars about best practices in economic development marketing. Our experience has inspired us to write some useful eBooks on the subject along the way. Our reputation has also helped us build strong relationships with the Site Selection community and to negotiate exclusive partnerships with other industry-leading firms in economic development.

We've developed an approach to economic development web development that works.

A website is unlike other marketing collateral. It's a living, breathing entity with a job to do 24/7. In order to do this job, your site needs to be regularly refreshed with relevant, engaging data and SEO-friendly articles that are worthwhile to both Site Selectors and local businesses of all sizes and scopes. We meet with our clients regularly, listen to them carefully, and keep a finger on the pulse of the industry to ensure each site maintains its strategic position.

In addition to keeping sites alive with content, we set them up with room to grow. In recent years, GSA has forged strategic partnerships with GIS Planning, SizeUp, WAVTEQ, TIP Strategies, ResarchFDI, Lead Forensics, and GeoFli. This positioning allows us to integrate these state-of-the-art solutions into your website at a reduced cost. When you're ready to expand your site, we can help you choose components that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

We can give you the keys and let you drive safely.

We understand that when it comes to communication, economic development organizations need autonomy. Our content management systems ensure that our clients who wish to make their own updates have access to a user-friendly back-end interface. Other firms will also tout this advantage, but there's one important difference: they're likely to set up your site on WordPress, or some other popular, inexpensive site platform that is as vulnerable to hackers as it is easy to use. Golden Shovel Agency sites are developed with Economic Gateway code that uses PHP version 5 standards. That system was designed and built by a small team of dedicated developers with the specific goals of running as cleanly and efficiently as possible for economic development websites. As a result, it's user-friendly/hacker-resistant. Because Economic Gateway was custom built for a niche industry, it flies very low on the radar as far as hackers are concerned. As an additional measure, we run constant security scans of the entire system.

In today's climate, information, data, and visuals aren't enough.

We know that it's easier for economic development organizations to do business when they attract their ideal investors. In today's climate, courting those prospects means presenting information in a dynamic context. Creating a visceral and aesthetic online experience isn't enough. It's important to know what hard data site selectors will need to best understand the logistics and economics specific to your community.

Golden Shovel Agency knows how to tell your unique story by showcasing that data in a meaningful, relatable manner, portraying your key industries and leading employers in the brightest spotlight possible, and highlighting your incentives to ensure they entice. Instead of a site that screams for attention, you'll have one that beckons visitors into an immersive journey and serves up memorable stories that are loaded with salient facts along the way.

In addition to liking your content, site visitors need to trust it. This is why we present a realistic impression of the geography, lifestyle, and economy in a community by way of virtual tours, journalistic stories, and interactive maps. In order to understand why other companies and industries have chosen your community, site selectors need a comprehensive view of your infrastructure, location advantages, and workforce development resources.

Last, but not least, we know your pain points and are poised to help alleviate them.

If budget constraints are at the forefront of your mind, we can spread out the cost of your website project over multiple budget years.

If you have shareholders who are leaning on you to hire a local firm, you can share this article with them to help them better understand the value of partnering with a specialized agency.

Last but not least, if your own sensibilities make you reluctant to step outside of municipal, county, or state lines to do business, rest assured that this is a time when making that exception will solve your problems at a higher level, and will ultimately serve your community's interests best. Casting that broader, stronger net will help bring in the business your community needs to grow and prosper today and for years to come.

If you want to learn more, we'd love to schedule a call with you! Click here to find a time that works best for you.

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