Week of July 20, 2009
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C O M M E N T A R Y
The Tangled Web of Investment Information
Executives going online to scan area Web sites for location data today find a few good sites amid a worldwide jumble of frustrating and ineffective presentations. Here is a proposal for improving the system so it better serves both corporate executives and development managers.
by McKINLEY CONWAY, Site Selection Publisher, editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Let's say you are an executive of a large global corporation with offices and manufacturing plants scattered around the world. You are responsible for asset management, location studies and site selection surveys. In short, you are one of the Web surfers most sought after by area development groups around the world.
At this moment, you are compiling a list of Web sites for areas you may wish to study in connection with a new project. If you are interested, you may then make further inquiries at a later date using the "contact us" information you have gathered.
"Most of the people given responsibility for area Web sites know nothing about the audience they seek to reach. What appears to be a slick, award-winning site to an uninformed Webmaster may bore or offend the typical corporate real estate executive."It is your practice to do such a preliminary screening before you make any personal contacts or arrangements for visits. You do not wish to have your identity or that of your company revealed at this time. Any contacts with you regarding this inquiry would be annoying and counterproductive. You expect reliable area development professionals to understand and cooperate.
Now the fun begins!
You start with a search of investment promotion agencies. You would like to pinpoint certain cities and areas. In the USA, Canada, and the UK, there is good coverage below the national level. In most foreign nations, however, state and local coverage is very disappointing. Many nations seem to be depending on one central agency to provide response for any and all provinces and localities. Consequently, those nations get the same quality of results that we would get in the USA if all contacts were handled by the bureaucracy in Washington.
A Woeful Dearth of Local Data
Among the larger, more active nations, India appears to have more live sites for states. There are a number of provincial sites in China, but many key areas are not listed. Among European nations, there is spotty coverage in France and Germany and less in Italy and Spain. Mexico falls into the same category. Russia and Indonesia are among the large nations with the least coverage.
What do we deem to be an inadequate site? For an answer, just log onto Google and type in, for example, "Invest Podunk ". The chances are about one in three that you will get any kind of response. If you're lucky, a Podunk home page will appear although you may have to wait a while for it to load, since the Podunk Web planner has included a lot of artwork, boxes and color backgrounds to display his/her skill. Never mind that all you want is to find a good "contact us" entry and copy it to your file.
After a couple of minutes of searching, you finally find "contact us" and that vital information is in small print in an obscure location on the page. You click on it and discover an incomplete entry that lacks a phone number or a postal address. There is an e-mail address that doesn't match the one you used to find Podunk.
Even worse, a substantial number of "contact us" entries found on Web sites lead to a questionnaire or form you must fill out before getting into the site. This tells you right up front that the folks sponsoring that site are novices you don't want to deal with.
These are just a few of the frustrations we encountered in scanning hundreds of sites throughout the USA and around the world. We were appalled by the enormous waste of energy and considerable capital that areas have invested in Web sites that serve little purpose. The basic problem seems to be that most of the people given responsibility for area Web sites know nothing about the audience they seek to reach. What appears to be a slick, award-winning site to an uninformed Webmaster may bore or offend the typical corporate real estate executive.
A Proposal: The 'First-Response Screen'
Here, then, is a radical thought: What if all area sites truly interested in attracting investment looked at Web design from the corporate real estate executive's perspective? It would be wonderful if all area sites adopted a standard first-response screen as shown in the accompanying box.