Anyone with toddlers and pets knows the challenges of keeping them
safe and away from restricted areas. So when Marc Pichik bought a
puppy, he needed something to keep the curious canine contained. "I
wanted something sleek and compact, unlike traditional baby gates
that are clumsy, in the way, and don't look good," he says. When
Internet searches didn't turn up what Marc was looking for, he
decided to invent a prototype. "I just kept moving the idea along and
eventually got a patent and trademarked the name Retract-A-Gate." His
safety gates come in different sizes, mount on stairways and
doorways, and retract like window shades when not in use. Marc
launched his business, Smart Retract, in 2002, selling his
Retract-A-Gates to stores in Iowa. "But then I realized the great
potential of selling online," he says. "I had an unusual solution to
a common problem."
Marc started using AdWords, Google's advertising program, in 2006. Since then, it has been a critical tool for reaching customers searching for safety gates. “When customers look for safety gates, they often expect something big and bulky. They don’t know about our small and sleek products,” says Marc. “AdWords gives us the online exposure that we need to get the word out there. And in our early days, it was either we were on AdWords or we sold nothing.” AdWords now accounts for about 80 percent of Smart Retract’s advertising and 30 percent of their sales. Marc also relies on Google Analytics to keep pace with digital trends and see which marketing campaigns are working best. Google Webmaster Tools help him monitor performance issues on his e-commerce website. And his YouTube videos show customers how to mount and use the gates.
In 2010, Marc moved his growing operation into a facility near the Mississippi River, where the company now manufactures 100 percent of their products. They ship all over the world, sell wholesale, and continue to grow 20 percent year-over-year. "Without AdWords and the other Google tools, this would have been a much more difficult road," Marc says. "We wouldn't have grown as quickly as we have. The impact is significant."
Smart Retract Dubuque, Iowa
“The effect of the web on our business has meant everything to us.”Marc Pichik, CEOSmart Retract has 10 employees.link www.retract-a-gate.com
Anyone with toddlers and pets knows the challenges of keeping them safe and away from restricted areas. So when Marc Pichik bought a puppy, he needed something to keep the curious canine contained. "I wanted something sleek and compact, unlike traditional baby gates that are clumsy, in the way, and don't look good," he says. When Internet searches didn't turn up what Marc was looking for, he decided to invent a prototype. "I just kept moving the idea along and eventually got a patent and trademarked the name Retract-A-Gate." His safety gates come in different sizes, mount on stairways and doorways, and retract like window shades when not in use. Marc launched his business, Smart Retract, in 2002, selling his Retract-A-Gates to stores in Iowa. "But then I realized the great potential of selling online," he says. "I had an unusual solution to a common problem."Smart Retract has 10 employees.link www.retract-a-gate.com
the Write Place Pella, Iowa
the Write Place
“Being online is essential to the book-publishing piece of our business.”Lexie Thomas, Manager & Graphic DesignerThe Write Place has 300+ clients nationwide.link thewriteplace.biz
The Write Place began 20 years ago and provides writing and editing services plus graphic design for corporations, small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals. The company formed a book division in 2007 to help authors publish fiction, memoirs, cookbooks, history, poetry, and more. “We invest in our relationships with our clients and authors,” says Lexie Thomas, Manager and Graphic Designer. “Building an understanding of each client’s industry or project results in messages and products that speak to the desired audience.” The Write Place’s website is the focal point for serving their clients, both regionally and across the country.
The Write Place uses AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to help reach potential customers. “It was easy to look at how our campaign was doing, use common sense to tweak it, and see the results quickly,” Lexie says. “It was just really fun to see that happening. And it’s super affordable, which is really important for a small business.” They turn to Google Analytics when creating new client websites or revising outdated sites. “We've always been able to dig into Analytics and present pretty much any data the clients are looking for,” Lexie says. “Those stats help guide the information-design phase of a website project.” Staff rely on Google Apps for Work, especially Gmail and Google Calendar, for communicating with clients and one another.
Staying connected from anywhere is particularly important for this ever-evolving company, as the Write Place team includes four people across two locations. They have published over 50 books, and about three-fourths of inquiries from authors come through the company website. Print-on-demand technology has helped to expand the book business, and the website includes an online bookstore. Writing and graphic services have expanded to include account management, marketing, and planning. The company also sponsors a book-publishing contest every other year. Based on their experience with AdWords, the Write Place plans to use the program to do more promotion of its services in the future.The Write Place has 300+ clients nationwide.link thewriteplace.biz
Happy Medium Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines, Iowa
“We encourage clients to use AdWords as a quicker way to get in front of customers.”Katie Patterson, Owner & Founder16 happy employeeslink www.itsahappymedium.com
Soon after striking out on her own as a marketing consultant, Katie Patterson had already accrued a lineup of local clients. “I realized very fast that if I didn’t help them digitally, their businesses were going to suffer over the next few years.” From this passion and focus emerged Happy Medium, the full-service advertising agency she started on her own in 2011. With strength in digital advertising, Katie and her team love building trust in clients who “may be a bit nervous” at first—not being very familiar with online marketing methods—and end up pleased and excited about the results.
Happy Medium practices what it preaches when it comes to online marketing. Not only do they advise clients to use AdWords, Google’s advertising program, they also use it for their own promotions, seeing it as “more cost-effective than a lot of other media.” They also use Google Apps for Work within the agency. Lead Developer Josh Larson says that tools like Google Drive, Gmail, and Hangouts make Happy Medium “more organized and more efficient, providing the structure for communication that makes us really strong.” Likewise, they share that knowledge with their clients, bolstering businesses in Des Moines and beyond, by “using Google tools to build efficiencies from email to security. It’s been helpful both internally and externally,” Katie says.
Having started a business of her own, Katie values the “incredibly targeted” approach that AdWords offers. “It’s great to present clients with an option that can get them in front of a really great audience at a very low cost,” she says. Maintaining their focus on value for their clients, Happy Medium will continue to help businesses grow through Internet-based tools, while advancing their own innovation as a company. “We’ve given ourselves an incubator-type atmosphere,” she says, with great possibilities ahead after the first few years of growth and success. Whatever direction they choose, they’ll stick to their values of trust and transparency. “I always say we don’t want to be the biggest, we just want to be the best.”
16 happy employeeslink www.itsahappymedium.com