Great ex-scape

Features - Design/Build

A robust marketing strategy is driving business forward for this Ohio design/build firm.

November 1, 2012
Kristen Hampshire

The way Bill Dysert describes his website is like this: “We had a nice, clean 2009 Chevy Malibu with 30-40 percent tire life left on it,” he says, referring a major overhaul that will result in a brand-new site launch in March 2012. “It was clean, presentable. But not cutting edge – not that Ferrari we wanted.”

Faster, smarter, more attractive – Dysert wants the best for his Chardon, Ohio-based company, Exscape Designs. What owner of a small business doesn’t strive to present that image of class and luxury, especially in a business dedicated to creating outdoor spaces that deliver that vacation-at-home feel?

“Part of my character is that I always want to work with the best and have the best technology,” Dysert says, relating how his high standards and limited bank account to spend on website and Internet marketing momentarily red-lighted his plans when he initially chose a firm that catered to companies with that Ferrari budget.

He just couldn’t foot the bill. But more importantly, he recognized that he needed to partner with a marketing expert that could relate to his small business and deliver a practical, workable strategy.

Ultimately, Dysert needed to reset his search for a marketing consultant and focus on finding a firm that matched his business size and scope. “The (other firm) was very talented, but I felt like there was no way I could financially make it work,” Dysert says.

Test-driving an alternative resulted in a happy union, a robust marketing strategy, an e-newsletter that reels in business and a website that has double the traffic it did before. Now, Exscape Designs is poised for future growth and preparing to use its website as a real business driver and lead generator.

“The need to make a good first impression online is critical because 65 percent of individuals under the age of 35 will search on Google and look for a company’s brand long before they pick up the phone or go into a storefront,” says Christian Klein, president of Company 119, the firm Dysert partnered with to refresh and reinvent Exscape Designs’ marketing strategy.

A marketing match.
Dysert went into his search for a marketing firm with the notion that he needed a brand-new website to boost traffic and get the results he was seeking. He figured his current site just wasn’t cutting it.

But that’s not the feedback he got from Klein, who took a careful inventory of Exscape Designs’ existing marketing efforts and resources and analyzed how each component was working to drive traffic and, ultimately, convert those hits into customers.

“We evaluated the site and we thought it wasn’t embarrassing the brand, and it was helping him out,” Klein says. Company 119 recommended that Dysert wait a year before investing dollars in a total site rebuild. Instead, Klein suggested that Dysert invest in photography so the existing website could be spruced up with compelling images of completed projects.

“We took a different approach than what (other marketing firms) were telling him at the time,” Klein says, noting that a good firm will focus on matching a business’s budget and sales goals with a program rather than pushing a company into expensive marketing projects, such as building a new site, that might not deliver the type of return on investment the company needs to see.

So Dysert’s website got a refresh, and an e-newsletter was launched with great success. Company 119 holds a conference call with Dysert monthly to discuss the newsletter content so the firm can produce the editorial. Exscape Designs maintains the email list – specifically, the office manager is responsible for logging new customers and prospects, people Dysert meets at networking events, into the computer system.

The e-newsletter paid off on the first round. Within one hour of sending it out, someone from the local chamber of commerce Exscape Designs is involved with called for information. “That resulted in a nice backyard patio project,” Dysert says. 

Aside from the newsletter, Exscape Designs invested in pay-per-click advertising to draw people to the site. “It’s hard to tell how much traffic we got because (customers) forget how they found you exactly,” Dysert says. But all of these marketing efforts work together.

And some efforts don’t work so well anymore, such as direct mail. In the past, Exscape Designs sent postcards to a list of potential clients. “The last few years, the results we were driving from were very poor,” Dysert says.

“We got very small projects, a very small return on investment. We were lucky to cover our cost with the amount of work we sold.”

On the other hand, the work his e-newsletter is raking in will justify the expense of the new websites. “Quite a bit of work was generated right off the bat from email marketing,” Klein says.

Klein also emphasizes the importance of a 360-degree program that includes traditional media like print advertising, an area where Exscape Designs readily spends each year.

That can also mean that some “cutting edge” methods are not a fit, such as social media. “It’s not for everyone,” Klein says.


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Find a firm that fits

While vetting a consultant, consider these points.

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits all marketing plan. The answer to your advertising problems is not to just build a new website or to begin Tweeting every hour, on the hour. Before revving up to blast out e-newsletters, a consulting firm should take the time to understand what makes your business tick.

Marketing is personal, after all.

But with the unlimited webinars and seminars designed to steer you into social media, or pay-per-click advertising or the marketing buzz of the minute, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

“Businesses today are inundated with new opportunities,” says Christian Klein, president of Company 119, an Internet marketing strategy firm in Cleveland, Ohio. But what you really want to know is how many customers will call you if you add X, Y or Z to your marketing plan.

“Businesses throw money at a new website and then the phone doesn’t ring and they don’t understand why,” Klein says.

The marketing plan should be aligned with a company’s sales goals. And a consulting firm should understand exactly what those goals are before making any recommendations.

Klein offers these pointers for vetting a consulting firm so you can be sure you’re partnering with a pro that is focused on your best interests.

Talk numbers. What new sales do you want to achieve, and what are your current sales? Ask the firm how they can help you accomplish that number, because ultimately a marketing program should drive business.

Introduce clients. Who are your customers? Be sure the firm fully understands your target market.

Share the past. What marketing efforts worked before? What failed? How much website traffic do you draw? “Talk to the firm about what your online brand is now, Klein says.

Trust your gut. Bill Dysert, president of design/build company Exscape Designs, felt confident that Company 119 was on board with his goals after the firm performed a thorough analysis of Exscape’s existing marketing tools. “They came back with ideas to improve (our strategy) and let us make the decision based on what fit our budget,” Dysert says.