Devnet sets itself apart from other marketers by combining business-oriented consulting with campaign development to push a client’s objectives. By AMANDA GOME.
Craig Deveson was working as a business consultant before the dotcom crash and saw how the market was changing. In 2003, aged 36, he set up Devnet to offer ‘real online marketing solutions for business’. Since then, Devnet has expanded out of Brisbane to add a Melbourne office, and in 2006-07 posted revenue of $2.2 million.
Craig says he would love to take some questions online. Just email [email protected] with your questions.
Amanda Gome: What niche did you see when you started the company?
Craig Deveson: I was providing business consulting during the dotcom crash and saw firsthand that the market had changed. Before the crash companies would invest in the future potential of technology but after [the crash] they were looking for tangible results from their investments. IT companies at the time were constantly over-promising about what their technology could deliver. I thought that if we could offer real online marketing solutions to business then we could make a place for ourselves in the market.
What is your business model and why is it clever/different?
Devnet provides marketing solutions including Web 2.0 solutions, which that focus on business outcomes.
Our model is a combination of business-oriented consulting and program or campaign development. This is very different to other technology or marketing vendors because we are focused on driving the business objectives of our clients.
We are also focused on including reporting for businesses that are investing online. Most IT departments currently collect data on what they are doing online but this is not turned into marketing intelligence for senior business users. We use Web 2.0 marketing intelligence that enhances the customer experience for current and future campaigns.
This is growing in popularity as people stop just focusing on unique visitors and page impressions and start drilling down into all the market intelligence they’re getting so they can know far more about their customers.
What strategic mistake did you make when growing?
Like most small businesses, I was working in the business rather than on the business. Recently we added an experienced businessman to our board to help grow the company. Having experienced the positive change this has made in the business and to me as a professional, my regret is that I did not take this step 12 months ago.
How do you find new customers?
We use our online marketing strategies, for example SEO and SEM: a quarter of customers come from them
But as with all service companies, you need more than those internet strategies. You need other tools such as PR, seminars: a mix of traditional and non traditional means. We also use targeted marketing to attract businesses or organisations that we can develop long-term relationships with.
How is marketing online changing?
Customers are suffering from information overload. Online marketing is also suffering from lack of ‘cut through’ because of so much ‘noise’. In practical terms, this means that consumers receive so much information online through websites, blogs, email, etc, that it can be hard for them to find the key messages that relate to them. Online marketing is changing because of this. We offer our clients greater targeting and relevance so that trusted relationships are developed and fostered.
What makes a clever online marketing campaign?
Online marketing that is clear about benefits that are relevant to the individual consumer. I think some online advertising can be too clever so that while the consumer appreciates it for its visual or creative flair, they lose sight of the message it is trying to communicate.
One of your specialties is email marketing. What is its future?
Email is an increasingly popular tool for business marketers. The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) report on B2B marketing and email marketing indicates that email is a preferred B2B business tool. The future is more integration of email into marketing campaigns, greater interactivity and targeting of messages.
To get this level of personalisation, businesses are required to invest more time in profiling their market. Also there are some interesting technologies being developed by Yahoo and others to create trusted mail sender IDs so legitimate email can pass through. These efforts will increase the use and acceptance of Email as a communication tool.
SMS as a technology will be overtaken by email on mobile phones for business users and eventually consumers. The majority of new mobiles have web browsers integrated, so with new 3G networks, email may replace SMS for business to consumer communications. There has also been talk of how businesses can target consumers by location. Wireless networks can track where you are and then offer you local information and services.
What are three mistakes people make with email marketing?
1. Because it is generally cheaper and easier to implement than other marketing media, many customers don’t pay it the respect it deserves. More time is put into direct mail pieces for example even though the same rules apply for success, such as good creative, offer, timing and data lists. Email is seen as two-dimensional, where you just mail merge online and hope for the best rather than engage a creative agency to deliver a well thought-out campaign.
2. Email is one of the best tools for getting feedback on your campaign success. Many businesses using email marketing do not have a continued process of learning from previous campaigns. Continuous improvement is possible when campaign reporting is used and you constantly refine your offer, message, etc.
3. Email marketing can be misunderstood as spam by some business users. Devnet uses the latest permission marketing, which delivers results. Most businesses do not profile and segment their database so they offer the same generic information to everyone. One of the benefits of email marketing is the ability to customise information and to target customers with information that is relevant and of genuine interest to them.
What was your near-death experience building the company and what did you learn?
In our growing stage in the business, we were being inundated with work. We went from having a few small jobs to winning a couple of large projects at same time. It was a stretch to be able to recruit and manage additional staff. I was concerned that it would jeopardise our quality and lose the customers we had worked so hard to gain. When I was able to step back I learnt that there can’t be a ‘single point of failure’ in the business. We made some organisational changes so that one person wouldn’t be flooded if we took on multiple large projects at once. We also worked on achieving better work flow, which included allocating more staff to projects.
What are your long-term goals? Do you plan to sell/float?
We are currently focused on continuing to develop innovative services and becoming the leading Australian service provider of online marketing and intelligence services. We have plans to float in the future.
How is your industry changing?
The IT and marketing industry is always changing at such a fast pace. Lack of skilled workers and the integration of younger workers into the workforce is providing challenges. It will be interesting to see how employers utilise the new D-generation: kids that have only lived a digital life. Our research indicates that with excess digital interaction, people are losing their social skills; this has business and relationship impacts. Mature users seem to be able to better balance online and offline communication. Many younger workers don’t know when to just pick up the phone and have a conversation or organise a face-to-face meeting. The lines between work and social use of digital technologies are blurring. Employers are reference-checking candidates via social sites such as Facebook and employees are increasingly using work computers for social activities.