GROWING BUSINESSES WITH TECHNOLOGY-BASED MARKETING
President and CEO
Adventure Web Interactive
Adventure Web Interactive (AWI) has been leading the charge in technology-based marketing for years, starting with social media before it was used for business. AWI president and CEO Craig Kahl discusses the benefits and the future of mobile marketing, and gives clients insight into the thought processes behind his successful company.
Q: How did AWI get started?
A: AWI was originally founded as an online retailer of board games. We realized we had a knack for web design, programming and marketing, and we started calling on businesses to show them what the web was all about and how it could benefit them. Back then it was all dial-up connections and really two players, AOL and Prodigy, for internet access. People would look at us like we were crazy.
Q: You were the youngest division head of a Fortune 500 company at the age of 24. How has that influenced the way you’ve run AWI?
A: Pitney Bowes at the time was ranked as one of the top firms in the country to work for by Fortune magazine. Pitney had incredible rewards and incentives programs for their people. They believed if you worked hard then you would be rewarded greatly. As a young, ambitious chap looking to climb the corporate ladder, I believed in this philosophy. I have embedded that philosophy of hard work and great rewards into my firm. We lavish our employees with great incentives such as all-expense paid ski or beach weekends, island trips and cruises. I took Pitney’s Philosophy one step further and allow our employees to bring a spouse or guest. Even though Pitney was great, it was very corporate. I have adopted a family style of business management verses the formal days of Giant Fortune 500 America. Generally, we have found that family atmosphere, fantastic rewards and incentives for all employees instead of ice cream machines, cappuccino makers or a waterfront address make for happier and more dedicated employees.
Q: What challenges did you face when starting AWI?
A: The net grew into social media interaction and we introduced a whole new line of products and services. When we began promoting those services to businesses, clients said, “Social media? Are you crazy?” Of course, now that it’s been years after social media’s introduction, we know that is not true. Some of our social media campaigns have lead to double digit growth for our customers. Now with all the new mobile opportunities, we have a whole set of products and services to offer. Now we hear “Mobile and text marketing, are you crazy?” So the greatest challenges we face are getting businesses to understand that the world is constantly changing. Sticking with old media strategies can be deadly. Businesses need to look beyond what may be on the surface and realize there is great potential in all the new web tools and marketing platforms. We do know that the early adopter firms that take advantages of the new platforms are always the ones that get the greatest rewards.
Q: How did you make the transition from offering internet services to social media, and finally to mobile marketing?
A: It’s our job to stay on top of the latest technologies. We send our staff to seminars and partner with some of the most recognized web marketing platforms in the world to always maintain a portfolio of products and services that is second to none. There hasn’t really been a total transition of products and/or services, but rather new tools that complement each other. Social media and/or content marketing have really become a way of reinforcing web authority for websites. Has social or content marketing replaced SEO or website design? No, but it has become a critical part of it. Now with mobile on the scene, Google is paying close attention to a website’s mobile capability. The new generation of website is known as being mobile responsive, which allows websites to adapt to whatever device or platform they are being viewed from. Imagine being in the mall where your favorite sports store is and they know you love golf. Within a few moments they detect your app and you receive a 20 percent off offer on golf balls for that day. How much more likely are you to pop in? So as a company it’s not necessarily about transitioning technologies but rather getting them working symbiotically with each other.
Q: How do clients often react to new technology advertising and how can AWI help?
A: At AWI, we know the difficulties businesses have with understanding all the new avenues of tech and internet advertising. When clients read our letters of references they always state that they were impressed with how many people have complimented us on our hand holding approach to web design and web marketing. There is a never ending amount of technology channels to choose from and analyze. AWI has positioned itself as a leader on all the major platforms and technologies by securing partnerships and certifications in all the major areas of web advertising. By being in the web design and web marketing business for over 17 years and serving clients in just about every industry imaginable, we have seen what works and what does not. With our team’s tenure well above the national average, our people have been working together and implementing strategy across dozens of web platforms watching our clients grow in size from small operations into multimillion dollar ones.
Q: What is the “evolution of websites?”
A: Websites are evolving constantly. So, businesses must have a strategy in place to be able to adapt quickly. By deploying some of the latest CMS technologies, we are able to anticipate change and position our clients to be ready for upgrades that can be made quickly. At the dawn of the internet, websites were about razzle dazzle. Obviously that is no longer an attraction. There is no doubt Google is in control of the website evolution. It’s their game, you’re playing on their field, you are using their ball, and the umpire is their uncle. The lesson to learn is to follow the criteria of what Google wants. Build it the way the research tells you to. Listen to Google; they actually put out weekly video tutorials about what they are looking for in websites. A website being ranked high on Google can be the difference between your business growing or sitting stagnate. Having your website siting on a giant econo web host company is not going to be the greatest idea in the near future. Google will be looking at performance much more closely.
Q: What role does video play for marketing nowadays?
A: Video is taking a wider stage online. Since Google acquired YouTube, they obviously feel strongly towards web video. The next few years will see many more websites containing video presentations of business offering and or capabilities. It’s not necessary to spend a fortune on a big production. Even a simple voice over power point can aid in a website scoring. Videos can also be optimized to appear in Google searches as well, adding another entry point to your website. After spending over a billion dollars, Google wants you on YouTube.
Q: How can you help a client get into the mobile marketing space? Why is mobile important?
A: Getting in to mobile technically is quite simple. Website DNS servers are easily configured to reflect a mobile responsive site to all the major internet service providers. The complexity comes in how extensive a custom mobile application is required. A simple app where someone simply downloads your app can be created in a matter of weeks. More complex ones that allow for sophisticated online shopping or collection of data can take a few months. Google sponsored a study that stated 72% of all internet searches are done on a mobile device. Think about what percentage of people call your business that see a simple print ad, or even radio or TV commercial about your products and services? With the above staggering numbers, mobile should be seen as one of the most important factors in a business’ marketing strategy for years to come.