Over the past few months, I’ve been inviting business owners to share their stories of optimism and resilience in this economy. Recently, an entrepreneur contacted me to tell me how her company has not only been able to build their customer base and sales, but has been doing it by helping other small businesses grow, too.
Jennifer Wily is the President of Vizad, a Utah-based company she co-founded with her husband Preston in 2006. Vizad is a digital marketing company that specializes in search engine optimization and pay-per-click management for its clients. Jennifer and Preston started the company while working at other full-time jobs. The company grew so quickly (doubling revenue from 2007 to 2008) that Jennifer soon left her other job to dedicate herself to Vizad.
With the recession, though, their growth has slowed, as many of their larger clients are no longer spending as much money on online marketing. To help maintain their sales momentum, Jennifer said they looked to areas where they could optimize existing business – and they found a way to both launch a new product and tap a new market at the same time.
“We had always wanted to sell to small businesses but with our full-service model, we just couldn’t make money on their lower budgets,” Jennifer told me. “At the same time, internally we developed our own software for managing client campaigns. We realized we could package that software as a do-it-yourself SEO marketing tool – and sell it at a price point that would fit those lower budgets.”
Launched in September 2008, their “LotusJump” is licensed to customers for a monthly fee and already has several hundred customers across the country and overseas. “Companies still need to do marketing, but many – especially small businesses – can’t afford it. We make it more affordable for them.”
And it’s also been a great tool for upselling those customers to the full-service side of the business. “We had been looking at packaging this software for a while, but it wasn’t until the economy really started shifting that we had more of a driver for doing this. Now it’s a huge area of growth for us.”
I asked Jennifer how Vizad was able to identify and launch this product so quickly, and she shared the following lessons she’s learned and continues to apply to her business:
Be adaptable and open to new opportunities to innovate. “I’m a big fan of Guy Kawasaki, and he often writes about change and staying ahead of the curve. I agree. LotusJump was the first product of its kind, and now we are seeing competition.”
Move quickly. “We put the software out, took feedback, and continue to make improvements. You can’t wait for something to be perfect. Someone else will step in and take your spot.”
Get to know your market personally. “Networking is something we’re really trying to focus on. It helps us learn more about what our clients need.”
Jennifer also shared how in marketing their product, they, of course, made use of their own digital marketing expertise. “We combined search engine optimization and pay per click advertising to market the product online. Social media also helped us get the word out. Both Small Business Trends and Duct Tape Marketing reviewed the product, which helped us tremendously.”
On their own LotusJump blog, the company “spotlights” their clients, giving them an introduction to social media – and free promotion. “We’re committed to helping our clients grow so we can grow,” Jennifer said. “Right now, it’s critical to keep asking yourself ‘how can I better help my clients?’”
Thank you, Jennifer, for contacting me with your story and for sharing your insights. I hope they will help others optimize their businesses, too.
If you have a business story that you would like to share, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Twitter @marcyshinder.