Working the Web
There’s more to building an Internet presence than just posting a Web site
By Don Weiner
When it comes to establishing a presence on the Web, there seem to be as many good reasons as there are sites. The Web offers groups effective ways to communicate their messages.
Politicians and organizations may see it as a fundraising tool. Some are interested in creating opportunities for visitors to socialize or speak their minds. And businesses use it to generate leads, answer frequently asked questions, provide operating manuals and promote products.
The reasons may be varied, but the building blocks of an easy-to-find, well-designed Web site are not.
Miki Dzugan, president and principal consultant of Sedona-based Rapport Online Inc., argues that “the effective Web site starts with the concept of, ‘What do you want to accomplish?’ ”
Once you establish your goals, consider who you want to reach and how you plan to promote your site.
“I can’t think of an instance that it doesn’t include search-engine marketing,” she says. “To me, that’s just basic to being on the Web.”
Outlining a marketing strategy at the outset sets the table for building and designing the site properly. It helps target the most useful keywords, link strategies and tagging needed to make your site search-engine friendly.
Why is this important?
“We find, and the statistics prove it, that right now, regardless of your product or service, someone is searching for you,” says Andy Richter, managing partner and vice president of sales and marketing for Terralever, an interactive marketing agency in Tempe.
Once you decide how to lure visitors, the next step is to hook them. There’s no better way than by creating an attractive, user-friendly site.
“The key element is to have something useful on the Web site for your client,” Dzugan says. “Information is really, still, the primary thing that is sought on the Internet. And so people need to be able to get their information quickly. Web site users are very impatient. Don’t be too subtle. … On the Web, you’ve got just about one second for people to decide whether they’re going to do anything more with your Web site.”
Well-written, up-to-date content helps. So do interactive and visual elements. But there has to be a balance between the written word and Flash-based video or animation.
“There are some excellent, powerful uses for Flash,” Dzugan says, “but the thing that you have to bear in mind is that search engines don’t understand that. So you need to have text on your Web site.”
Considering all this, pitches from providers who say you can get a site up and running for less than $20 a month don’t ring true for everyone.
Although such solutions may work for some, Richter likes to borrow a quote from billionaire businessman and investor Warren Buffett: “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
In fact, a one-person online operation may not be the best choice either. Web site design and marketing requires the skill sets of designers, information architects, copywriters and search-engine-optimization specialists, among others.
“Typically, you’re not going to find a well-rounded person that’s great at all those things,” Richter says. “It really takes some level of specificity in all those areas to really put a site out there that’s going to really communicate your unique value proposition to your customers.”
If you decide on getting professional help, you can expect to spend a minimum of four figures. Also, let the experts do their job. Don’t bog them down with an overabundance of your own design ideas.
“The toughest conversation that I have to have with clients,” Richter says, “is to tell them, ‘This is not about you or for you. This is for your customers.’ ”
Professional Web developers are up to date on the latest, most successful trends. For example, Richter points to social media as an area growing in importance.
“When the Internet came to prominence, it was very much a one-way conversation. It was the print and marketing collateral digitized,” he says. “So just from a general communications standpoint, the trend is really around dialogue. It’s really around conversation and not just communicating how great your company is.”
Be aware that nothing ends once the Web site appears on the Internet.
“Launching a site is a singular tactic to an overall marketing strategy,” Richter says. “If you’re truly going to get the return on investment, you can’t just look at launching the site as the panacea to your online marketing needs.”
There has to be an ongoing effort to measure and analyze a site’s performance, market it, manage its content and improve it.
One of the biggest mistakes firms make, and this includes some major companies, is to allow a Web site to remain idle.
“If it sits for three months, people will see that it’s stagnant and it gives them no reason to come back,”Richter says.
When a company’s product line generates news, its Web site needs to be the prime source for additional information.
“Some large companies that aren’t doing direct selling online kind of lose track of the fact that they need to make sure that their new products are up there,” Dzugan says.
Translational Accelerator looks to invest in Arizona bioscience companies
By Don Weiner
Providing funds is one thing. Lending a hand may mean something else. But select companies can expect both from the Translational Accelerator LLC, a new $20 million Arizona-based venture capital group that has set its sights on assisting early-stage bioscience companies already located in the state or planning to move here.
“We will make an investment, we will keep what we call ‘dry powder’ to enable us to do follow-on investments with that same company a
nd we are committed to the companies that we invest in to assist them from a management perspective as well,” says Eric Tooker, president and CEO of MCS Biotech Resources in Scottsdale and one of four managers for the TRAC fund. “We want to be active managers because of our expertise.”
TRAC is targeting companies involved in cancer and neuroscience diagnostics, services, prevention and treatment. There’s enough funding available, according to Tooker, to initially assist about six or seven companies with investments ranging from $500,000 to $1.5 million. The idea is to help these firms during their pre-clinical or early clinical stages.
There may be some flexibility in terms of which stage of development a company has reached, but there’s none in terms of where the company is located.
Love points out that Arizona has done a good job supporting bioscience research at institutions such as TGen and at state universities.
“It’s clear that funding has led to discoveries and those discoveries can be commercialized,” Love says. “But if you don’t have local venture capital here, particularly for the early-stage discoveries, the discoveries will be taken out of state and go to San Diego or San Francisco or elsewhere.
“So it’s real clear we had a big need for local venture capital here. … That’s what stimulated all of us to do this.”
Tooker agrees and adds: “The idea for TRAC really was born out of a desire to keep those companies here and raise a fund that was Arizona-only, biotech-only to help the biotech infrastructure here.”
The first business to receive TRAC funding is Silamed Inc., a Scottsdale biopharmaceutical company that is developing ways to enhance new or existing drugs through the use of silicon. It is also an example of a company that has received more than a check from TRAC. Both Love and Von Hoff serve as Silamed advisors.
Silamed CEO Craig Taylor and Stephen Gately, the company’s founder and chief scientific officer, have come to rely on Von Hoff for his expertise in oncology therapeutics and on Love for his business acumen. Their counsel, according to Taylor, has been invaluable.
“They’re really trying to take us by the hand here a bit and help us along,” Taylor says. “And while I have experience doing this on the investment side, having people in there with us is very valuable.”
Other venture-capital firms looking at Silamed often seek Love’s input on the investment opportunity and Von Hoff’s thoughts on the company’s technology.
“Those are perspectives that they provide to would-be investors that, because of their position (and) because of their experience, is very valuable to us,” Taylor says.
There are several priorities TRAC managers consider when evaluating potential investments. One is strong management.
“Many times, especially in drug development, the technology can always be improved but management talent is something that is either there or is not there,” Tooker says.
A novel and promising technology is a second criterion. And, finally, TRAC managers want to know there is a market for a company’s technology, one that warrants an investment and indicates the potential for profit.
“We’re looking at probably a four- to six-year time horizon from the time we invest to the time that there’s an exit,” Tooker says. “Our preferred exit strategy and our likely exit strategy will be a purchase of the companies that we invest in by big pharma or even, really, medium-sized pharma.”
When that happens, the return can be substantial.
“Our expectation is that, yeah, there will be ‘gold in them thar hills,’ ” Love says. “From what we’ve seen, I think there’s a good probability of that.
“I think it’s very important for our fund to make money for investors because part of the problem in Arizona is that high net worth people who invest in this industry have no experience investing in it. So it’s important that those who are investing have a good experience and they’ll bring more in. That’s how venture capital in biotech in the Bay Area, for example, took off.”