Brent Yax

Brent Yax, president and CEO of Awecomm Technologies LLC in Troy, a provider of Web-based services including design, marketing, strategic consulting, and hosting, saw revenue climb 10 percent last year. The company, founded in 1999, has 20 employees.
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It’s been a tough business climate of late. What kind of year did you have in 2009, and are revenue and profit projections looking up?

Actually, business has been fairly good for us. Last year, we started going through a lot of directional changes. We’re eliminating the need for organizations, including current and future clients, to become experts in online marketing. Historically, companies interested in building a Web presence would consult with someone like us, or bring someone in to do it for them. Now we’re adopting a pay-for lead model where a business would pay for the traffic we generate for them, which is just one example. For instance, if we worked for a company that wanted to offer health insurance to more consumers, we would generate all the interest and traffic, and get consumers to sign up instead of having our client do it. And the client can literally track the progress we’re making through Web-based analytics.

As more companies turn to the Web to increase sales, raise awareness, and improve customer relations, what are some of the strategies you use to boost traffic and get results?

There a lot of traditional Internet services like pay-for click, or search-engine optimization. The trick is to get in front of people, perhaps through social marketing, which has really taken off. You want to engage with people who are having conversations about whatever your objective is, such as selling something online. You want to become a part of the conversation and actually get new information into people’s hands. There are also viral marketing tools that can help in this effort, such as YouTube. It’s a more creative approach to getting your name out there. And it’s a great way to complement more mainstream marketing efforts.

What advice can you give to companies that are contemplating a Web presence, but are holding off due to cost containment or operational complexity?

A Web presence is a valuable way for people to contact you 24/7, or at least get information about you 24/7. If you look at the statistics, 60 percent of people today go online first to research their options. This presents an opportunity for a company or entrepreneur to get their message out in the way they want it presented. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or costly. If that’s the route you want to go, I would suggest you do a performance-based model where you’re tracking the results. If you want to spend $10,000, [for] example, you should determine what kind of results you’re looking for based on that investment. Then you’ll [decide] whether to implement it or not.

How do you land new clients in a climate of increased competition?

We use our own services as we practice what we preach. We obviously show our results with our traffic results, and we land clients through word-of-mouth. We like to grow with our clients. If we’re doing our job correctly, we’ll be growing with our clients. We also use traditional forms of marketing like advertising to get the word out as it relates to branding and awareness.

With such a diverse clientele, from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, how do keep your staff from spreading itself too thin?

The challenge is we have great synergies, and since we’re experts in our field, we’re constantly honing our craft across all of our clients. When we come up with a new way of doing things, and it works, we look to see if we can adopt it for our other clients. Our staff is always working together to improve upon our clients’ goals.

You started the company in 1999. How were you able to weather the dot-com bust in 2001, and what were the lessons learned?

We did a couple of things: When we started, we focused on providing Internet communications services, and we did some design and development. When things started to slow down (in 2001), we switched all of our attention to hosting services. When the economy started to come back, we came back with design and communications. The good thing was, during the interim, we were able to learn more about what Web sites worked, and what Web sites didn’t work. So when we re-entered the market, we had a lot more valuable knowledge.

How did you get started in the business?

I had been a consultant for a number of years. I loved technology. I was working for a large organization, but there was a great deal of travel. But I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted in terms of Web design and Web consulting, and the other things I mentioned. There were shifting budgets and resources I had no control over. So my partners and I started our own company (the first three letters of Awecomm are the founders’ initials) so we could have more control over our careers.

Where are some of the Web innovations that show promise?

There’s a great deal going on in social spaces. Facebook is taking off. People are spending more time on Facebook than watching TV, in many ways. There are new TV applications on Facebook. It’s an exciting and fun business, whether it’s B2B, or B2C. We’re switching our direction to the pay-for-performance model I spoke of earlier, and you’ll see more of that going forward. We’re also taking on more risks. What we’re doing is allowing our customers to shift that cost burden (Internet services) to companies like us. That helps those companies grow faster because they can take those resources and apply them somewhere else.

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