A new town website aimed at attracting business to Stratford will launch in early February.
The project is but has matured rapidly over the last month, according to Dave Lostracco, an Internet marketing consultant hired by the town to spearhead the website.
"It's been a back-and-forth project," Lostracco told members of the Economic Development Commission Tuesday night. "By the beginning of February we'll have the first number of pages."
The first couple of pages will basically be a welcome format with a message from Mayor John A. Harkins, said Neil Sherman, chairman of the commission. The website will continue to grow over the next few months as fellow commissioners and others weigh in on what is or is not working.
The site will be operated through a program called Wordpress, which is similar to a Microsoft Word document, Lostracco said.
"The town website has a lot of traffic -- we want to pull that to our website," Lostracco said. And the way to do that, he said, is through hyperlinks. Sherman agreed but stressed that the economic development website is a separate entity from the town's and needs to be developed as such.
A Work in Progress
Lostracco said Stratford's image and brand must be consistent on the new website, which led to commissioner Robyn Greenspan asking, "What is our identity?"
"We are uniquely positioned," said Lostracco, referring to Stratford's place in Fairfield County while also just outside New Haven County. "I think we should take advantage of that."
Sherman said the marketing effort needs to be regional and expand beyond viewing Stratford as simply a town in Fairfield County. "We need to start looking at ourselves as the center," the chairman said. Sherman added that colleges such as the University of Bridgeport, UConn and Yale should be considered as marketable targets.
Another key component of a successful website is using social media, Lostracco said.
"That piece is really going to tie things together," he said referring to sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Lostracco said a marketing committee will soon form to execute social media on the new economic development site. The committee will also play a part in determining Stratford's identity when it comes to branding it on the website, he said.
"Advertising is the only way the town can afford this project," Lostracco said. He said $10,000 to $15,000 in advertising per year will be required to sustain the website. About 50 percent of advertising is expected to come from local businesses, Lostracco added.
Alice Arcuri is the owner of on Nichols Avenue. New to the commission, she offered, "Why would I want to advertise on this site?"
Arcuri said if she spent $200/month advertising on the website, she needs to know that her customers are reaching the site through searching her business on the Internet. Lostracco said that process -- known as search engine optimization -- will be explored further.
How do you think Stratford should market itself on the new website? Tell us in the comments.