For the past several months, the Small Business Blog and other entrepreneurial blogs have focused on the importance of investing in marketing, even in a down economy. Growing your online presence, SEO,Twitter, social networks, are several new marketing tools and techniques small businesses can use to succeed in business today. But, one of the most basic online marketing tactics is often overlooked. Your Web site.
When I first became the Small Business Community Manager, I mentioned that my father is a long-time small business owner and consummate entrepreneur. My father, Bill Krautter, is the President of Statco located in Austin, Texas. He and I talk a lot about business and lately I've put a lot of pressure on him to look into an online refresh of his company. Well, my persistence paid off. Not only did I convince my dad to start blogging and get on Twitter (wfk_statco), but he also agreed that Statco needed a brand and Web site refresh. Now that the new site is live (check it out!), I wanted to do a short Q&A with him about why he did decide to make an investment in online marketing during a recession.
KK: What IS Statco? (yes, after 20+ years I still am not 100% sure of this)
BK: We are a data processing "service bureau" – and then you say "what's that!" Back in 1959, when only Fortune 50 companies and banks could afford to own a computer, third party service bureau's would process other companies' information. Today, we still capture information from paper forms or document images and convert it into data files for organizations. These data files are delivered back and inserted into information processing systems for analysis or transaction processing. We are the hands and feet which magnetize data for the first time…
KK: What have been your biggest challenges as a service-oriented small company in the past 5 years?
BK: Capturing data for the first time is a diminishing returns business; the longer time goes on, the smaller the universe becomes. Growth comes from expanding the universe or reaching other (new) markets. Before 2004, we relied on government bid, referral and yellow page advertising to expand our service market. In April of 2004, we expanded our Web site into a useful destination for companies interested in our services and started using "click thru" advertising. This immediately expanded our "universe" beyond Texas into the entire US and even other countries.
KK: In the current economic climate, why did you chose to spend money on a new Web site?
BK: Our web site was originally built prior to 1999, it had a minor re-facing in 2001 and was adequate for directing curious people from the bottom of an email signature. Over the next 8 years, the purpose of the web site changed to a marketing vehicle for our services and was now driving a shift in our marketing universe from local to global. Our company now receives 80% of our new business from an Internet related inquiry. The company has weathered many severe economic storms over its 50 years, pulling through each time by looking forward and not back. Investing in continual marketing and advertising maintains visibility to prospects and customers whether or not they require your services today. Research reveals companies who are consistently visible will grow faster coming out of a economic swell. (Probably because their customers knew they were there the whole time!)
KK: What other new marketing strategies are you getting involved with?
BK: On-line information referrals using social media networks. I have joined LinkedIn and currently a member of the AIIM and Direct Marketing groups. Each day interesting topics and issues are presented by members of these groups. I try to comment on topics which I believe can add credible value to the conversation. I received a referral last week from the Direct Marketing group through a client's forms processing experience I shared with the group. I have started a blog page to share timely information relevant on data capture and document information processing. Being a helpful resource to those who have data and information capture challenges is quite rewarding to me.
KK: You've used Dell products for more than 15 years. What convinced you to go Dell so many years ago and what has kept you as a customer?
BK: In 1988, we purchased our first 386 PC from a manufacturer who went out of business before the system failed. The same thing occurred in 1989 & 1990. After these experiences we needed to find a company who was more like us, entrepreneurial in business acumen, preserved customer's investment and delivered high quality at competitive prices. We had used the same strategy in the 1970 -1990s when selecting main-frame and mini-computer systems and that decision served us well for 20 years. Standardizing on one platform manufacturer makes upgrading, migration and training easier. Dell always delivered this for us and produced the best reliable and long-standing solution.
KK: Rumor has it you have a Dell server from 1997 still in operation. True? Can we see a photo?
BK: Yes, here it is. And yes, it still runs our Novell network and Yes! it will finally sunset this year with a new Dell PowerEdge server deployed in its place.
KK: With businesses (even small ones) moving towards being more environmentally-friendly, there is a great cost-savings opportunity with upgrading technology. Have you thought about how to make your office and operation more Green?
BK: Being green for us means deploying technology improvements that improve processing speeds and disk access times, while drawing lower levels of electricity. We already have seen these "green" benefits since 1990 when we replaced disk drives which required 220 volt with 120 volt service and we are using one less air conditioning system to climatize the computer data center. Since we are a 50 year old computer service bureau, we still operate legacy tape drives, disk drives and older PC systems to support the conversion our client's legacy data. This older equipment must be climatized to maintain it's operation and serve these clients. The bonus here is the climatized computer center probably added to the life of a 1993 server and will continue to lengthen the lives of other electronic equipment.
The deployment of a new PowerEdge server this year will increase the throughput of our document imaging and data capture conversion services. Our labor productivity will increase and data management processes will become more efficient. This will allow us to deliver customer data faster and best our SLA performance goals.