Cincy uses Net to troll for new business
Cincinnati’s Department of Economic Development (DED) is going high-tech in its efforts to bring new business to the community. Recently, the DED became one of the first to take advantage of the immediacy, flexibility and interactive communication capabilities available through the Internet as a means to promote commerce. The department’s World Wide Web home page debuted in April at the address: cincinnatigov.com.
The department is using its Internet presence to promote the city on a national and international basis to potential-inventors, visitors and business owners considering opening, expanding or relocating new companies. Additionally, the department hopes businesses already based in Cincinnati will use the web site to learn about services and opportunities available through the city.
“Part of our challenge in bringing new business to Cincinnati is demonstrating that the city is a pro-active and forward–thinking community with the knowledge and resources to provide solutions to a wide range of business problems,” says Mayor Roxanne Qualls. “By using the latest technology in our marketing efforts, we go a long way in letting the world know that we are on the cutting edge.” The web site opens with a greeting from Qualls and includes information on the city’s infrastructure and demographics, its “livability,” neighborhoods, health care, education and leisure time activities.
There is information on the city’s major businesses, financial institutions and commercial real estate firms. The site includes a resource directory for international trade consisting of information from the Chamber of Commerce, international trade consulates located in the city and Cincinnati’s Sister Cities programs.
Direct links have been established between the DED site and those of many of these organizations, taking the benefit of immediate access one step further. In fact, one of the primary advantages of marketing via the Internet is that it allows easy access to information even when the office is closed. For prospective investors in other time zones–or those simply on non-traditional schedules–this access can mean the difference between considering Cincinnati further or bypassing it for other communities.
To encourage local businesses to use the site as a resource, the department launched a full-scale advertising campaign coinciding with the unveiling of the web site. An e-mail address, business.info@FUSE.net, is also part of the site, offering users a direct Internet connection to the department. E-mail also provides a tool for the department to use in gathering information about prospects and developing a qualified database. A questionnaire has been built into the site to provide information specific to each respondent’s company and economic development needs.
The web site is a unique tool for marketing economic development services in that messages can be changed, updated and customized to address changes in the marketplace.
For example, while the page was initially designed simply as an introduction to the city and the services of the department, next month’s messages could focus on a neighborhood revitalization effort, a community event or meeting or an in-depth analysis of a specific economic development program.
The department kept the entire project local, tapping Cincinnati-based businesses for all of the creative and technical expertise necessary to get on-line. Local advertising agency Hsiung & Associates created design and copy elements, while The Idea Company provided technical assistance in the area of HTML, the programming language used to create documents for the web. All photos used on the web site were provided by Cincinnati photographer David Wendt. Additionally, the city worked with Cincinnati Bell Telephone, using the company’s new Fuse (SM) Internet access service.
Development costs were minimized by using existing marketing materials as the basis for the web site. Specifically, a comprehensive, full-color brochure and a number of pamphlets on specific services were adjusted and expanded upon to capitalize on the technology available through the web.
“With traditional methods of marketing, budget constraints naturally limit us to a finite audience,” says City Manager John Shirey. “For significantly less than the price of one ad in a national business magazine, the Internet opens up uphole new audiences, who are actively looking for information, that we may never have found otherwise.”