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SAMSSA expands online presence

At first glance, the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA) website doesn't look any different. But a handful of new features being introduced over the next few months is poised to enhance its market appeal on a global platform.
Dick DeStefano
Dick DeStefano, SAMSSA executive director.

At first glance, the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA) website doesn't look any different. But a handful of new features being introduced over the next few months is poised to enhance its market appeal on a global platform.

The goal is to become the most comprehensive compendium of information for mining in Northern Ontario, said SAMSSA's executive director, Dick DeSefano.

“Our only medium worldwide is the Internet,” he said. “I needed to find something that projected and portrayed that on our website, that we were really in tune with the changing way people were absorbing and accumulating information, and searching.”

If SAMSSA's primary function is to promote ingenuity in the marketplace and members' products and services, SAMSSA should lead the way, he reasoned.

With approval from the board, DeStefano commissioned Sudbury-based Fuel Media to assess the site's assets and areas of improvement. The analysis found that 60 per cent of the site's visitors—it gets 2,500 unique visits a month—were accessing the site via tablets and handheld devices.

Accessing SAMSSA's information from any portable device, from anywhere in the world, became a priority, so that even while mobilized visitors and SAMSSA members could access the site's information. Using their SAMSSA profile as “pocket resource,” members can meet with potential clients, pull up their profile and show them the services and products they offer.

“If you go on a BlackBerry and you plug in our name, SAMSSA, it is now formatted so that it doesn't spill over or get cut off on a handheld device anywhere in the world,” DeStefano said. “Maybe it's not the sexiest stuff in the world, but it's a good business model and it also demonstrates that we are, as an association, moving forward.”

DeStefano also wanted to create a geographical portal that would highlight businesses beyond the confines of the Sudbury District. The site now features a search option that allows visitors to find companies under one of six geographical areas: North Bay and Nipissing, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Timmins, Ottawa and Thunder Bay.

Each year there is debate about changing the SAMSSA brand to become more encompassing of the other Northern Ontario mining districts. But, DeStefano noted, Sudbury remains the most easily recognizable mining district across the globe, and, with 320 companies and $3.4 billion in annual sales, has the highest concentration of mining-related products and services.

“Sudbury is still the richest ore body in the world and it's got a history of 120 years,” DeStefano said. “You can't ignore that it's a trademark.”

Added to the website is the Google translation service, which, while far from perfect, makes the site that much more accessible to non-English-speaking visitors, DeStefano said. “You can click on any article on our website and you can have it translated to any language in the world.”

Perhaps the most significant change, however, is the shift from a “pure” website to one that includes advertising. Rather than bringing mining companies on as members, DeStefano is looking to sign them up as sponsors.

For a fee, a mining company can purchase advertising on the site, and in return, SAMSSA will have information available about both stable and emerging mining companies so that visitors can follow their progress.

Members, too, are able to purchase advertising, as well as enhanced profiles that include video clips.

It's part of an effort to reduce SAMSSA's reliance on government funding and become more self-suffi­cient, DeStefano said. Revenue generated from the ads will go towards bringing in more guest speakers, undertaking a membership drive and continuing to enhance the website.

A mix of local, regional and international mining stories and video clips compiled from other sources will continue to be posted on the site.

DeStefano said he's as likely to get requests about how to get in touch with mining companies as he is about industry news these days, and has taken on the role of de facto broker, facilitating introductions between Northern companies and potential clients.

That demonstrates the success that the organization has had in building up the SAMSSA brand over the last eight years, said DeStefano, who predicts that SAMSSA will have one of the most dominant websites in Canada within a year.

Immediate response to the changes has been positive, and traffic numbers show visitors stay on the website for an average of five minutes, visiting between seven and eight pages. International traffic is still limited, but DeStefano hopes that will change as site enhancements continue.

“Five years ago if I posted video of mining in Peru, people would have scratched their heads, but now they're recognizing the benefit of connectivity to other markets,” DeStefano said. “They recognize the need for a global presence and want information instantaneously.”