The Chamber of Economy. An important institution for any country trying to do business around the world. It is often the first point of reference for foreign investors looking at opportunities in that country, and so it is in everyone's interest to make that first impression the very best.
As an (enforced) member of the Croatian Chamber of Economy (Hrvatska Gospodarska Komora, or HGK - quite a mouthful for a non-Croatian speaking potential investor, a point we shall return to) paying my monthly contributions, I along with the other 115,000 enforced members of HGK pay a staggering 18 million euro a year in tribute to the gods in Zagreb. So what do we get for our money, and how does the presentation of HGK's website to the world compare with their counterparts in, let's say, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, or even Swaziland?
After the impressive online response from HGK to our last article (making some recommended changes within an hour of publication - and on a Sunday), it is clear that while my requests as a HGK member have been largely ignored until that last article (as detailed here), I decided to take a closer look at the websites of some of our neighbours, to see if there was anything we could learn, some tips perhaps, to improve the portrayal of Croatian business to the world.
It turns out there are quite a few things. And the good news is that most of them are VERY quick and easy to implement. I felt bad that someone from HGK had to work on a Sunday, so I am publishing this article during a weekday, in case anybody wanted to implement my recommendations. Weekends are for families, after all.
We start with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This is the contact page for the BiH Chamber of Economy. Very impressively laid out with contact details to all the departments, with phone numbers and emails which are hyperlinked, so one click and you are already emailing the relavent department. There is even a map of how to find the offices. Very useful and user friendly.
Meanwhile, our heroes from HGK have a different approach.
There is NO contact page at all. Zero. Nada. In order to reach your intended target, the only thing to play with is this email address at the bottom of the English home page. And it is not even hyperlinked, so unlike the potential BiH investor who is already emailing the relavent department, our future Croatian investor is manually typing the generic email address to a centralised zone. If you are too lazy to do a contact page, is it really so hard to hyperlink? First impressions? BiH 3, Croatia 0.
Meanwhile, in Swaziland...
Here is a screenshot of the entire contact details of HGK on the English homepage. Notice anything missing?
This is how they do it in Africa...
Yes, the chaps in Swaziland have had the foresight to add social media buttons to their site. A useful tip for HGK? What makes it a little more frustrating is that HGK does have an active Facebook page (we will take a look at it in a minute), it is just that no foreign investor looking for it would ever find it. Adding social media buttons - a two-minute job. Thanks, Swaziland!
We move on to the news...
HGK has a news section on the homepage - this is what you see. Of the three top stories, one will be six months old next week. It would be unfair of me not to point out that one can then open the news tab and see more - since the start of 2017, just 11 entries, and one of those was a totally blank article. By contrast, at TCN, we publish a minimum of three business stories a day, over 200 so far this year. And to prove I am being constructive, I would be happy to donate a feed - for free - to HGK where they can have the business stories (the positive ones) about their members appearing on the HGK website. If they don't have the technical knowhow how to do that implementation, I will fund my web guy to do the changes.
Meanwhile in Macedonia...
Here is the feed for just two days this week, all opening out into full articles with pictures, in English.
The Macedonians even have another cool addition. A revolving Events Calendar, so potential investors can see what is happening in Macedonia. AND they seem to have followed Swaziland's excellent example with those gorgeous social media buttons.
Meanwhile in Serbia...
A really useful news feed, in English (and do you see those lovely social media buttons?), separated into chamber activities, business in Serbia and Serbian business internationally.
Just for fun, I clicked on the Facebook button to find that the Serbian Chamber of Economy has an impressive 25,752 members. How did that compare to the HGK page?
Remember, there are no links on the HGK page to social media so - playing the role of a non-Croatian speaking potential investor, I typed in 'Croatia Chamber of Economy' into Facebook search. Whoops....
What was even more interesting was the second result was from a web design company called Gauss International boasting about what a good job they had done building the HGK website.
When I finally found the HGK Facebook page, I was a little disheartened to find it had just 5,441 fans, or almost FIVE times less than its Serbian counterpart. Is doing business in Serbia really five times more interesting than Croatia?
So in short, how can we make the HGK website better and improve Croatia's business presentation to the world, MUCH better, without spending much of that 18 million euro, most of which is already allocated to pet projects? Here is a suggested summary.
1. Learn how to hyperlink email addresses (I can happily explain how this is done). Total work time - perhaps 2 minutes.
2. Create a contact page, following the example from Sarajevo. Thank you BiH! Total work time - perhaps 30 minutes.
3. Add social media buttons. Thanks Swaziland! Total work time - perhaps 2 minutes.
4. Improve the news service. TCN would be happy to do this via a feed as mentioned above, and we could also throw in an events calendar for free. Total work time - zero. Alternatively, if there was a little left over in the main budget to fund someone to produce daily news in English, isn't that a good investment?
5. Have a little think about how foreign investors might be looking for information. One simple suggestion - perhaps add the English name of HGK to the Facebook page? Total work time - perhaps 1 minute.
And there we go, already a much better service.
One of the reasons TCN has been successful is that we are able to present Croatia with local knowledge and a foreign eye. It really doens't take a lot to improve things immensely. If, of course, the will is there...