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July 2009
Transport Your Web Site to Higher Functionality
By Janet Kropinak

     When The Biltmore Company needed to realign their overall marketing strategy to reflect changing consumer behavior and industry trends that support increased focus online, they called on Charlotte-based WebsiteBiz.

     The objective was to increase visitation, both to their site and to the Biltmore Estate, boost online ticket sales, and improve marketing return on investment for each of Biltmore’s lines of business.

     WebsiteBiz created an online marketing strategy that included search engine marketing, e-mail marketing, display media, and Web analytics capabilities. The goal was to help drive results across key performance indicators including total brand awareness, site visitors, e-mail subscriptions, and online ticket purchases.

     As a result of their campaign, WebsiteBiz President Eric Dudley proudly says online ticket sales increased by over 300 percent, with a 22 percent lift in conversions as a result of integrating online marketing tactics.

 

More for Less

     In today’s economy, companies across the board are looking for ways to cut their spending while maximizing their results, which is sending many in the direction of online marketing.

      Unlike traditional media, online marketing affords companies a measurable way to target prospects and position themselves to attract those looking for the products and services they have to offer.

     To achieve these results, WebsiteBiz offers a full spectrum of integrated online services which can be customized to meet a client’s specific objectives. But before any online campaign can be launched, they must understand the company’s goals, objectives and vision.

     The first point of contact is Kyle Bumgardner, director of business development, who fields inquiries from potential clients, many of whom are looking to grow sales, generate leads, or increase market share.

     “The companies that come to us are usually searching for growth strategies,” Bumgardner explains. “The first part of the process is education; they are educating us about their business challenges, and we are educating them about applicable solutions, which can differ greatly from what they initially think they need.”

     Dudley elaborates: “It is our job to help identify their measurable goals and then create a marketing strategy to help accomplish them.”

     Before a client is engaged, WebsiteBiz conducts an evaluation and opportunity analysis, which they use to determine if the client has a business case for their services.

“If we can’t make a significant impact, we disengage from the evaluation process,” Bumgardner says. “We look for companies where we can foster a long-term relationship.”

     As Dudley and Bumgardner begin discussing their capabilities, they start with search engine marketing. “Everyone wants to know how to be No. 1 on Google,” Bumgardner jokes.

Search engine marketing helps companies that are trying to attract more targeted visitors to their Web sites and those working to acquire more customers at a cost less than other marketing channels.

     This is achieved by a three-pronged strategy: organic search (or search engine optimization), paid search marketing (or pay-per-click search), and paid inclusion, which distributes comprehensive product data feeds to multiple search engines, directories and comparison shopping engines.

     These services allow companies to ensure their Web site and brand remains visible to potential customers when they are searching for information through leading search engines like Google and Yahoo!

     Continuing with a client, Dudley poses the following questions: Do you want to build stronger relationships with your customers, partners and prospects? And could you benefit from having insight into your e-mail marketing performance?

     If the answer is yes, he suggests taking advantage of opt-in e-mail marketing, which can help attract, build and retain profitable customers through permission-based e-mail marketing. These campaigns create one-to-one communication with the audience, while delivering the message to a highly-targeted audience, and often cost a fraction of other forms of direct marketing.

     To expand awareness of an online campaign, WebsiteBiz offers targeted online display media to its clients which may include targeted banner and rich media advertising on portals, blogs or news sites.

     Once a strategy and plan is outlined, the focus becomes the execution, management and reporting of performance and return on investment.

     Studying and measuring Web site effectiveness is another strength of Dudley and his team. They analyze how visitors navigate a Web site and apply changes to messaging, offers, design and layout to improve conversion rates and provide a better experience for visitors. The result is an increase in the number of visitors who convert into qualified leads and new customers.

     “Another advantage to online marketing is that we have the ability to test many options in a short period of time to determine the most effective tactics that will deliver sustainable results,” comments Bumgardner.

     Performance analytics is a foundational focus for the company, in which they partner with companies such as Google Analytics, Omniture, and WebTrends, allowing them to help their clients measure results and analyze campaign data from their Web sites at a detailed level. These solutions can then be used to demonstrate how their campaigns impact the client’s bottom line, which is increasingly important to marketing executives and CEOs.

 

Creating Synergy

     Today it is nearly impossible to find a company that isn’t using the Internet in their marketing efforts in one way or another, but that wasn’t the case in 1997 when Dudley started the company.

     Dudley came to Charlotte in 1992 from Philadelphia as a business analyst with First Union. The economics major spent five years in the Card Products and Home Equity divisions before deciding to pursue his own business interests.

     “The Internet was still in its infancy,” he remembers. “This allowed us to get in on the ground level and afforded us some autonomy.”

     WebsiteBiz started as a Web site design firm, serving the needs of small- and medium-sized businesses, and although they held this business model for nearly five years, in 2002 Dudley saw an opportunity to innovate their business to focus to online marketing strategies.

     Bumgardner had joined Dudley and helped refocus the firm to reflect their new offerings. Of his decision to join WebsiteBiz, he says it was Dudley’s “analytic focus” that intrigued him most about the opportunity.

     After earning a B.A. in economics from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., Bumgardner got into Internet consulting with iXL, and later Osprey, where he built a solid reputation for developing new business and managing strategic accounts in the software industry.

     Corresponding to the shift in services, there was a shift in clients more to middle-market and Fortune 1000 companies. Bumgardner stresses that more important than size, they are looking for companies where they can build long-term and sustainable relationships.

“We encourage all of our clients to take an integrated approach to their marketing efforts. The Internet is not the be-all and end-all,” Bumgardner explains. “We believe to have a truly successful campaign, you must combine your online efforts with other traditional platforms.”

     Dudley adds that it is important to evaluate and understand the differences in marketing media, because, for example, what works in print and what works online can vary greatly.

After WebsiteBiz engages a new client, their team begins strategy development, led by Tom Dressler, the Internet marketing director, who is responsible for account performance and directing his team of campaign managers.

     Dressler, a Pittsburgh native with a degree from the University of Pittsburgh, uses his extensive design experience to bring aesthetic and tactical strength to drive the WebsiteBiz team’s creative concepts into functional, professional and targeted solutions.

     Of the management trio, Dudley says, “We complement each other in our unique roles and perspectives, while sharing a common vision.”

     “Although everyone appreciates the significant role the Internet plays in today’s business market, it still poses certain challenges when trying to engage a new client,” comments Bumgardner.

     The more common hurdles include educating the marketers and “cutting through the noise.” Gaining executive buy-in can also be a struggle, but this is where their focus on having a business case pays off. They strive to lay out a plan that is both easy to understand and is a “no brainer” decision.

     “There are always going to be certain challenges, but we work hard to overcome these and rely a lot on our talented team and competent partners,” Dudley says. “We’ve built our processes around best practices and this has paid off for us when we can present an opportunity to a client that aligns with their goals and objectives.”

     “We are able to say with confidence that we are offering the right results at the right investment level,” adds Bumgardner.

      It appears their business model is working, as the firm continues to grow. In November, they moved into their new offices in Dilworth, a 5,000-square-foot office building they purchased and completely renovated.

     They also continue to gain attention, both locally and nationally. They were awarded the No. 52 spot on Inc. magazine’s list of fastest growing private advertising and marketing companies and No. 688 on the list of fastest growing private companies nationally for 2008.

 

Satisfied Clients

     But more than rankings, it is their satisfied clients that tell the real story behind the WebsiteBiz team’s success.

     Charlotte’s Source Technologies came to WebsiteBiz looking to increase requests for information from target prospects online and build brand awareness for their core products and solutions.

     They partnered with WebsiteBiz to develop and implement an Internet marketing strategy that included competitive analysis, target audience research, keyword phrase selection, site usability, search engine optimization and paid placement.

     Dudley discusses the campaign results, which included 100 percent increase in page rankings for targeted keyword phrases, 45 first-page results on Google, Yahoo! and MSN, and improved site usability and conversions which produced significant growth in their sales pipeline.

     A similar success story comes from Alison Lee, Muzak’s marketing and sales integration manager, who approached Dudley and his team in early 2009 looking to gain a fresh perspective on Web marketing.

     “It was really important to us that our Web partner understand both the design and strategy sides of Web development, and that they come to the table with the expertise to help us align our Web marketing strategy with our overall business goals,” explains Lee.

WebsiteBiz provides Muzak with expertise on key performance indicators: awareness, interest, evaluation, and commitment.

     And in terms of results, Lee says they are beginning to see these plans taking off and describes what she sees as a personalized approach: “They are not a one-size-fits-all company,” affirms Lee.

     The track record of success continues with Ashley Furniture HomeStores in the Carolinas, who has worked with WebsiteBiz since April 2008.

     “We were looking for a premier search engine optimization marketing firm, and we believe we’ve found that in WebsiteBiz,” comments co-owner Charlie Malouf.

     They look to WebsiteBiz to manage their search engine advertising campaigns, which work primarily with Google AdWords.

     “While most of our ad budgets have been cut over the past 12 months, our online marketing budget has dramatically risen in the face of these challenging economic times,” Malouf explains. “We’ve increased our search engine advertising budget because WebsiteBiz has worked to achieve a positive ROI for us in this media. They helped us hit aggressive goals and objectives.”

     And when it comes to the manner in which they delivered these results, Malouf isn’t short on praise.

     “Their service is built on the principle of working to make their clients successful with carefully selected, proven methods,” he comments. “They understand that we must be as judicious as possible with every advertising dollar and ensure that we’re driving profitable returns on our invested dollars.”

     With a growing list of success stories from both national and Charlotte-based Fortune 1000 companies, WebsiteBiz has created a successful business model that allows companies of all sizes grow their business online.

 

Janet Kropinak is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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