Alex Melen, the co-Founder and Co-CEO of SmartSites, grew his company’s revenue from $1.7m in 2014 to $3.5m in 2017, a 110% increase, and now they are on track to hit $5m this year.
SmartSites is a full service digital agency that provides website design and development, SEO, and PPC.
In this interview with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui, Alex shares how he and his team accelerated their high value sales by:
- Focusing on their clients and providing a five star experience while helping small businesses get into the digital world.
- Keeping their employees happy so that they’d be excited to come to work and provide results for clients.
- Maintaining their culture as they add more staff. When combined with the above, this allows them to provide quality service to customers and maintain their reputation.
- Spending $40K-$45K a month on PPC ads to generate new leads for themselves. Currently every dollar they spend on PPC returns around $4.50 of lifetime client revenue.
- Offering clients a full suite of services, which in turn allows for higher revenue per client.
Malcolm Lui: Welcome to the High Value Sales Show of Eversprint.com. I'm Malcolm Lui, the Managing Member of Eversprint, and today we're speaking with Alex Melen, the co-Founder and co-CEO of SmartSites a fast growing full service digital agency that provides website design and development, SEO and PPC. Welcome to call Alex.
Alex Melan: Great to be here.
Malcolm Lui: Alex, you grew your company's revenue from $1.7 million in 2014 to $3.5 million in 2017, 110% increase, and now you're on track to hit $5 million in 2018. What were the three most important things that your team executed well that allowed your company to grow its sales so fast?
The driving factors behind their fast growth
Alex Melan: Great question. There's a there's a couple of things that we've always focused on since the start of the company which has allowed us to grow at this pace. I think the most important is really focusing on our clients and really providing a five star experience. Our goal as a company is to provide help to small businesses to get them into a digital world which often involves making them the Web site or fixing the website and then doing my marketing. A lot of times businesses even in this day and age you think in 2018 everyone's on mind but actually even in 2018 2019 there's still a lot of businesses out there they just haven't made the jump. And our goal is to get them into digital so they could better compete with other people who are jumping in. I think that that has been the primary goal of the company and the demand for it is there as long as you're providing quality service. The demand is there and that's been the core core of our company and of course along with that we make sure that all the employees are happy and maintain a company culture. There's a lot of kind of pillars that go into growing growing growing the company
Malcolm Lui: So just to recap the three things that really were that core drivers of success this one staying on point with their goal to get small businesses into the digital world and to keeping your employees happy and 3 maintaining your culture is at the three things
Alex Melan: Yeah I think so. I think that's that's that's pretty accurate. Then if the day where we we don't make a product we don't. We don't produce or sell an actual product or device are our product is our employees. So keeping employees happy trained and having them be excited to come into work and actually excited to provide the results to the clients kind of goes full circle and makes everything possible.
Malcolm Lui: Right now how do these three factors work together for you to ultimately end end of the day find more clients to do work with and do more work with your existing clients. How do these three things tie together to drive your growth.
Alex Melan: Great question. So I think I think the core of of all of this is pretty much of reputation whether it is reputation as a company for employees or reputation as for the services that we provide online and I think all of this I think all of this goes full circle. Employee culture and employees being happy allows us to provide quality services to our customers and allows us to maintain our reputation. We are so far have all five star reviews across the board and any any channel any review site for both employees like Glassdoor and services like Yelp Google Plus whatever it is and literally maintaining that and providing the quality service as it kind of goes full circle and people refer us and other people refer us and it helps fuel the growth
Malcolm Lui: It's pretty remarkable when you especially seeing good reviews and Glassdoor at
Alex Melan: Yeah
Malcolm Lui: The times I see it pretty much the only people who who respond and post them last there are those people who had really unhappy unpleasant experiences at their former employer right
Alex Melan: Same with Yelp Yelp is usually despised by every business because usually same thing people people go onto it usually too low to write about bad experience on good ones so it definitely takes a lot of effort from every single person in the company to maintain our reputation.
Malcolm Lui: Yeah. And even for me I rarely take the time to leave a review. The only time I do is if. And usually it's been I have some sort of exceptional experience. Then you write it. And for me
Alex Melan: Yeah
Malcolm Lui: To leave a negative review man it has to be really really bad for me to want to do that. So that's a fantastic that year that I've been delivering exceptional experiences not 10 Sheriff me maybe some numbers of you know my back in 2014 how many clients did you have with back then
Alex Melan: Great question I could actually pull that up and you could look me one second but instead of me making my number example look at the actuals
Malcolm Lui: All right
Alex Melan: Going back far 2014 you said
Malcolm Lui: Yeah. As well as that's a number I had from Europe from their Inc 5000 profile where you talked about your success over the past three years. At one point seven million back in 2014
Alex Melan: So back then we just had a little bit over a hundred recurring customers so these are we have a lot of one off projects like someone comes to us. We make them a Web site they're done they leave. But we had 100 clients who were on a recurring basis paying us for online marketing
Malcolm Lui: Nice and um how are you today. Come the end of 2018. Where how many recurring
Alex Melan: Where
Malcolm Lui: Clients do you have
Alex Melan: We're finishing up at almost 300
Malcolm Lui: A guy I got to ask how did you get from 100 to 300. And in the end of 2014 the end of two thousand eight. That's four years. That's a fantastic
How they grew their recurring client base from 100 to 300 in 4 years.
Alex Melan: Yeah. Yeah. And it's definitely. Then come overnight it's definitely been organic growth month to month quarter to quarter year over year. There's definitely no no magic bullet where you're just gonna wake up the next day and are going to have three times more clients and be able to deliver the same quality service and the same same results. It's it's it's it's a lot of lot of grinding and a lot of growing the business slowly over time. Our executive team here for example meets every quarter and every year and plans out how we're gonna grow next quarter and we set realistic goals and how we're going to get those goals and quarter by quarter. We've been meeting and exceeding our own goals and growing the company.
Malcolm Lui: So can you share what your best source of new business has been over the past four years
Alex Melan: Yeah. Great question. So we get we get our business from a lot of different channels and as we keep growing we're trying we're trying to keep differentiate the differentiating the channels to make sure we're not not getting. Because if you're getting everything from one channel and then you want to keep growing it's just not going to work out. But just looking at for example even let's look at 2018 we get a lot of recurring referral business so a lot of our clients are really happy and they refer us to other people and then that usually works really well because everyone always knows someone struggling with something digital and just by having our online reputation and delivering good results are our current clients. We're always top of mind for them to recommend to all the people so that's that's always been a great source. We get a good amount from just google organic. So it's a service we offer to other people and do for ourselves. We have really good content on our website so people find us to do a lot of the content that we publish. We also do a lot of thought leaderships. I personally do keynotes and speaking events to build build up awareness of our company and our services and then we do marketing for ourselves like we would do for our clients through a paper click. Literally we bid on things like paper clip Management website design and just to help people find us. That's that's pretty much it. But we try to keep it a mix of everything so we're not overly reliant on one one one source of leads.
Malcolm Lui: Fantastic. Yeah well while you're talking I fired up my my my Guess. I guess it was the best but it is despite spy tool right. When you can and I know you guys have it too. You put up a website you see what you're doing and and I see on my screen here that you have quite a number of 100 Google keywords that you're bidding for. Get number on Bing and Yahoo. It says they're spending the estimate here and let me know if it's accurate. I always wonder how good these changes are. It's saying that you're spending about fourteen thousand to thirty eight thousand a month on your paper ticket but you do that about right. Is it the wrong
Alex Melan: That's
Malcolm Lui: Number
Alex Melan: Actually
Malcolm Lui: For an orange
Alex Melan: Pretty pretty accurate. We usually spend fifty thousand a month. I think the last week we've been spending a little bit less because we've had some internal initiatives going on. But yeah it's funny those tools the more you spend the more accurate they get
Malcolm Lui: Right.
Alex Melan: When sites are spending like five ten thousand it could be completely off at once you're like 50 100 plus it becomes becomes more accurate. But at that that's actually not not too far off. I think last month was probably a little over 50. This month will probably land that 40 45. Considering the holidays.
Malcolm Lui: Okay. Now given that you guys do this for your clients as well. Can you share with me you know of the four sources referrals Google organic thought leadership and pay per click ads
Alex Melan: Yeah.
Malcolm Lui: Which one gives you the best r y
Alex Melan: That's our. It all depends how you calculate our
Malcolm Lui: Yeah
The best ROI of their four souces of new business.
Alex Melan: Ceo is a very long lasting. So similarly so the same same as the services we offer to our clients with MCO it's very very long term process but the results are also long lasting. So for example if we stop doing our own SEO now we still continue to rank for years and years to come our rankings have moved down a little bit as our competitors keep doing things that we're not. But overall it keeps going into future paper click it's pretty much if I stop bidding right now we'll stop Gingrich right now in terms of actually our why there probably if you look very long term look look a lifetime values are probably pretty close
Malcolm Lui: Okay
Alex Melan: But I will say that paper click in general and this is something I tell my clients also. It's not a secret but it gets more expensive every year and that's been the case since I think we first started doing paperclip for agency in 2011. So it's been almost eight years now. Every year there are. It gets worse and the cost gets higher and it'll continue to happen more and as more and more people jump into digital space you'd think that almost everyone's there already. But if you look at national digital and national advertising spend in general digital still only I think last I looked it was less than a quarter of overall marketing spend. So it's more and more funds get shifted from TV print billboards into digital will continue being more expensive. But I think the takeaway from that is that the best time to do it is right now because
Malcolm Lui: Yeah.
Alex Melan: Every month every year it's just like you keep getting more expensive they're still there and we'll be there for a long time. But the best time to do it is today.
Malcolm Lui: Yeah. Are you comfortable sharing the ROI numbers that you're getting from your own paper slick advertising campaigns.
Alex Melan: Look I could talk about general figures generally generally speaking a couple of years ago when we started tracking this and a lot more accurately we would get six dollars in sales from every dollar spent on paper.
Malcolm Lui: Night
Alex Melan: This is lifetime value so it's not necessarily they get it in month 1. We estimate for example that let's say a CEO contract stimulus or twelve months. So it's it's it's very reasonable lifetime value calculations based on our actual lifetime values where we saw each kind in each category Stay with us for how long. But a couple of years ago is six dollars for every dollar spent and that's why that's why we do invest the thousand on paper. Because the results have been good. I think last year we dropped to maybe five dollars for every dollar invested in this year. It might be like four and a half so it definitely continues to decline as as the cost per click again get a bit it up by everyone else jumping in. But it's still there still there's very very few industries where we will not get results from paper quick. I think literally 9 out of 10 clients even today in a more competitive market you could still get not only can you get results from from paper book but you'll get better results than your TV ads or your print or some of the other media that you're also doing
Malcolm Lui: Right. So you're saying that this year when you say this year you're talking about 2018 you're
Alex Melan: Correct.
Malcolm Lui: Around the four dollar 50 cent mark
Alex Melan: Yeah.
Malcolm Lui: Of a
Alex Melan: Yep.
Malcolm Lui: Sale. Okay now maybe you add some color on this which I always find really interesting. Sometimes I come across an ad agency selling their wares write out a paper click ad agency marketing their stuff and then I fire up my tool to see what kind of campaigns they're running for themselves and they're not running any campaigns for themselves at all. It looks really odd right. I mean here you are marketing your paper to look at management services they get you don't run campaigns for yourself what you think the story is about that
Why other PPC agencies done run PPC ads for themselves
Alex Melan: Yeah. It's funny we actually do paperclip campaigns for other agencies like they come to us and they they overlap some of the service and sometimes we just say obviously you can't do it but it's different enough or it's a it's a different price point or a different niche we take that on but it's because it's very very expensive and very easy too easy to lose all our money on. It's one of the more expensive categories for example. The term PPC management right now costs to be number two costs about 50 60 dollars a click. So to get one click. So if your campaign's not properly optimized if you're landing pages I'd probably optimized you're not picking up your phones at the right time. If you're not doing the follow ups if you're not really doing everything perfect there's no way to monetize that because let's say one at 10 people are going to fill in the form and you're upset you're already at five hundred dollars in cost. It's similarly on the web design side. It's also not as expensive but our website design side. There's a lot of a lot of people doing it really cheap so you're competing against that and so similar. We have a client that does local designs and we kind of do as well. They overlap a little bit but they're different price points so. So we do we paperwork for them on the logo design side. There's a lot of companies advertising that they'll do your local for 20 bucks and then the keyword logo design costs you five dollars. So it's it's it's one of the more challenging industries and I could see that companies that even even companies that consider themselves to be experts in it and build themselves as experts in it might shy away from doing it for themselves because it's very easy to lose money on it.
Malcolm Lui: Right. So they may be an expert and can deliver value for their clients in this particular niche. But for because their niche is very competitive it's difficult to run ad campaigns for themselves.
Alex Melan: Yeah
Malcolm Lui: But it was down
Alex Melan: Yeah
Malcolm Lui: To
Alex Melan: Yeah yeah and it's yeah it's it's risky it's risky for them and not not a lot of agencies have the finances or the appetite for risk to to throw in fifty thousand in one month. On paper click ads and then hope it pays off over over the next year.
Malcolm Lui: Yeah. Now how do you guys have the confidence that investing whatever you started investing in back in 2011. Easy. Yeah this is gonna work for us. Or is it more of an experiment. Way back then and you said Let's start small. See what happens and it looks it looks good. Bring to scale it up.
Alex Melan: Yeah. Great question. So when we just started the agency I don't think we were as focused on our core services and we were trying a lot of different things. So to be fair I think it's and I think that's very important I think it's very important to experiment especially for smaller agencies to kind of find their place to find find what makes them special and what what sets them apart from other agencies. So we definitely experimented with a lot of things in terms of both of how we marketed ourselves and the services we offered and I think it just over time we saw that we were getting great results and other I think the two most important things is first obviously take the risks and experiment. I think that would be a huge takeaway. I think number two it would be you have to you have to really collect all the data and track everything. Don't start any experiment without first setting to keep the eyes and making sure everything's measurable so we experimented with both how we market our selves and our services and recorded all the data. That's why I could tell you exactly what would are why I'm getting not only per year. I could tell you actually for service I know that for web design for example are all rights different than from paper click. I could tell which performs better and based on that I know how much to bid on each specific category and adjust things and we kind of ticket them there. But I think both are equally important as companies grow that kind of the desire and the drive to experiment and try different things. But at the same time to make sure you're actually collecting data and learning from your experiments not just experimenting and then going off to work. Did it work. It felt like it didn't work
Malcolm Lui: Right. So for those people who want to use paper click ads for or their campaigns for their marketing. When someone in a company comes up to you and maybe even broaches that idea to you what are your requirements. Before you say yeah let's go ahead it makes sense or there's some criteria that you say no I don't think you're ready for this right now
Alex Melan: Yeah. So there's it's not. Unfortunately it's not a kind of final rule book but I'll tell you if people For PPC come to us from from from two different to two distinct different situations so situations one situation one is that they're currently running a paper plate campaign but not performing well or getting them results or maybe they don't even know they're getting results or not. That's that's that's a hard one. And in that case we do an audit of the counters. Well one of the few agencies that still does a completely manual audit with no obligation. So why agencies just run your accountant or tool and then just tell you what the tool showed. We actually have an analyst that sits there they count and spends two hours combing through everything and gets an A CALL AND says before any contract signed obligations and then says this is this I think we could do better this you can't do better. I would say eight times eight times eight times out of ten. We see things that could be improved significantly enough that we say you should do it whether you signed with us or another similar agency should signed with someone else and it could perform better two times out of ten we just tell them that it's sexually set up really really well as it is and either stick with what you're doing or if it's getting results maybe it's not there. So that's that's the one one scenario where people already have an account right so that's a little usually a little bit can make a little bit better of a decision because that is already there that account has run like we could see.
Alex Melan: We could see what's happened in the past and make a very good educated decision. The other scenario that happens is people come to us and they've never done paper. And for that it's more of analysis whether it's actually feasible we run we run different scenarios. We look at our our own similar clients we look at a lot of third party tools are out there that help estimate cost per conversion rates things like that. I think in that scenario similarly I think it's a time out of 10. We say that everything looks good. This is this is what your numbers will look like this is how much it'll cost you per click. This is where we estimate will convert. Maybe we recommend they make a landing page or something more action driven off their Web sites not so good or redesigned the Web site. I think 80 percent of the time we say that let's do it. We think you can get results out of this. And then the the the 20 percent I think is there certain industries that just maybe they weren't before but just don't now. And we just tell him it's not worth it. You would waste your money
Malcolm Lui: Right. Okay great for the go back to how you grew a business from 100 hundred recurring online to 300 at Ukraine and you talk about four sources that referrals the organic ratio thought leadership keynotes paper like ads. Now if you had one choice of new business leads. Which of the four would it be to meet your. To meet your targets meet your our eye whatever is most important to you. Which of the four would you run with
Alex Melan: If I had to pick one as the primary you're saying I am a little biased because here here the company actually had the paper quit department. That's that's kind of like my baby. So I
Malcolm Lui: Right.
PPC preferred lead souce if he could only pick one.
Alex Melan: I'd go with paper click and I'll I'll say I'll say it's because it's the most scalable out of the platforms for example of referrals as much as I think we'll keep getting more and we get more as we get more and more clients. It's not very possible for me to say OK next quarter I want to get 10 times more referrals. Yes there's some levers we could pull we could we could send a thank you card to our clients and remind them that they could refer us and to run a lot of internal initiatives to do that. But then on the day I think paper click is the most scalable and why it's such a great platform and I think out of all our services it's been the fastest growing in the last couple years.
Malcolm Lui: For. Yeah. I actually would. You know my mind I would have chosen paper click as well. I just because of the scalability feature although I imagine if you were now paying you know getting a dollar 50 of lifetime value for a dollar per click you might have a different choice right.
Alex Melan: Yeah.
Malcolm Lui: But you do
Alex Melan: Eventually
Malcolm Lui: Have a lot of room
Alex Melan: I think eventually once the numbers are not as favorable then it becomes more of a conversation of which service is more favorable and still makes sense. For example for logo design right now the numbers aren't so favorable because there's so many services doing logos really cheap. We do an actual like when we do a logo design we do a full branding package so we can give you branding collateral in different formats and you could print it in a magazine and format for your site. But we were competing against services that make you a logo for like 50 bucks. So when I run the numbers for logo design even though we do it we still do some working for it a little bit here and there. It's just not profitable enough. So I think it'll be a similar scenario down the road when when it starts to be less profitable I think there's certain services that will still be good at just certain other ones. I think we'll will start dropping off a little bit but you never know at the same time as the cost per clicks have been going up and it's getting more competitive much more people are searching for these things. So there's definitely
Malcolm Lui: Yeah.
Alex Melan: A tradeoff to the increase of cost of the tradeoff of increased volume. So
Malcolm Lui: Right now where does email marketing fit into your into these four programs if at all. Well you're
Alex Melan: Yes
Malcolm Lui: For genuine
Alex Melan: Sir.
Malcolm Lui: Business where you
Alex's take on email marketing
Alex Melan: Great question. So e-mail marketing we don't do a ton of both for ourselves and for our clients. It's a certain point a couple of years ago we just chose to concentrate on core services that we do well and really just focus on just doing an exceptional job and those services and email marketing just to make the cut. We could
Malcolm Lui: Write
Alex Melan: Certainly do it and we have done it for clients and really they really want us to do it. But we just didn't make it into our core services. Having said that we still do some you know marketing we send down for example we do a holiday newsletter to to all the people who have it. We have a list of all the people who filled out contact forms with us but didn't whine upside. And so we send them an e-mail saying just a reminder if you still happy holidays if you still need anything that can help us reach out. So we do kind of soft soft you know marketing like that. I know a there's a lot of agencies that do it more aggressively. I also know that it's been harder and harder to do especially if you compare today to 10 years ago just because you now open rates have have dropped down tremendously 10 15 years ago. How do you go if you go back to 15 years ago getting an e-mail was a very special thing right. People would log into their computer like excited to see if they got an e-mail.
Malcolm Lui: Yeah
Alex Melan: And people at open would open all their emails even if it went to people. The spam they would open all their older e-mails. Similarly people would click we used to click banners a lot more. They would like
Malcolm Lui: Yeah.
Alex Melan: When they just came around. So the same with e-mail over time as people get bombarded with spam. I think that the amount of people that actually open e-mails are not from someone they recognize just has dropped down a lot. So we just don't don't do that marketing channel but I know companies that do it for themselves and do see results. I know it's gotten more competitive. But I think it's still so feasible and I wouldn't rule it out as a as a marketing source for us in the future.
Malcolm Lui: Right. So can you share what your now you share with me how you had a hundred recurring clients at the 2014 three hundred and two thousand eighty. These recurring clients make up the bulk of your revenue or is it
Alex Melan: I
Malcolm Lui: The onetime
Alex Melan: Would say
Malcolm Lui: Guys that contribute a lot as well
Alex Melan: Yeah I'll tell you so year I would say it's about it's about three quarters the one time are usually the reason I say that is because we're talking about revenue minus so a number of clients about the one time ones may not be as often but they're usually big Web site projects so on the big web site projects don't come says and says I don't want to do any marketing I just need to have a brand present for example we had a pharma company that came to us they're not even allowed to do marketing in their space. They have a farm a product that's not approved yet but they need to have a corporate Web site to get investors. So again as I say we had absolutely nothing recurring. We just need a Web site.
Malcolm Lui: Right.
Alex Melan: And it's usually they half upfront have upon completion may be 20 thousand or whatever it depends on the scope a project. They're usually bigger numbers than that. Then we might be getting from the recurring guys for paperclip management for example are rates are probably one of the more competitive ones out there. We charge the greater of five hundred dollars or 15 percent of spend. So to visualize the numbers if you're spending less than thirty three hundred a month past five hundred dollars if you're spending more in 30 300 a month you think 15 percent. But relatively speaking that's a five hundred dollars a month actually for that five hundred a month. We did tons of work managing your campaign. I went off on a tangent a little bit but for the Web site. My point was for the Web sites is a big big upfront payments where for the ongoing SEO is pricier but for for PPC it's a lot of five hundred dollar a month clients SEO we start a 2000 month up. So in terms of revenue. The website projects probably are probably a third and the two thirds are the recurring paper click SEO type of funds.
Malcolm Lui: Okay so then the next question I have for you on the recurring side what another way of growing your revenue in general for your business right is to help your clients more do more work for them and be paid more. So how has your average annual revenue from your recurring clients changed over the past four years.
Alex Melan: Yeah it's a great question. I think that's the huge takeaway that we discovered probably probably four years ago or maybe five years ago where we had a lot of clients kind of in an isolated silos where we would just do one service for or for example someone would come to us and say I want e-mail marketing and we really are we don't really do it. I guess we'll do it for you. And then we would just do you know marketing for them and that's it. And that realization four or five years ago is that we could actually have just performing single services. We could become the digital partner for these for these companies. And that's usually where we get the most value and the client gets the most value where we literally provide all the services we make them a Web site. We do a CEO we do paper click because we made them the Web site that Web site is already optimized for a CEO. We already have access for it to install all the tracking and optimize everything and make landing pages. And then we literally become their partner for everything they need their logo every May they come to us. So I think great question I think that's really what helped scale scale the business to some extent where we we realized that just offering service in isolation because they're offering these bundles and becoming a digital partner where we literally will do everything anything digitally decline needs. And like I said it winds up being a better value for the client. They don't have to go get different agencies and have a lot they wind up with extra costs showing you have extra agency you could help explain the same thing four times and you have to wind up getting access from one place giving it to another place one agency points fingers to another agency. So it's a value to the client and it's a value to us because then we have one project manager assigned to them that manages a bunch of the services and just more and more cohesive of a process
Malcolm Lui: Right. Can you share how your average revenue per client has evolved and changed from 2014 to today.
Alex Melan: Yeah for sure. I think I think we've we went from from very few clients that they were spending five figures a month with us to now a quarter of them spending. I think there's a month for us
Malcolm Lui: The big change a big big difference
Alex Melan: Yeah and it's worked out that the clients who who do that are also happy like literally helped ever so many clients were just so happy when they realized it. But I no longer need to have a agency that makes me a Web site and different one that does SEO and different social media different to redesign my logo that could literally have one place and have everything go funnel to go one agency was a lot of clients have been really really happy about those. So it's it's been I. I was I was one of the better decisions we made
Malcolm Lui: Yeah. So I took a look at the people on Lincoln of your employees
Alex Melan: Yeah.
Malcolm Lui: And I see how you have a whole bunch in New York area and you got a whole bunch in South Asia as well. Now are all the people on your team are they full time employees of your company
His global team
Alex Melan: Great question. So our headquarters are in Paramus in Jersey so we're right outside New York City. So we have about 20 people here now. We have four positions open so we'll have 24. Hopefully by the end of the year. But then we have offices worldwide. So those offices are our actual offices where we pay the rent for them full time smartass employees. And what's interesting is the overseas offices take it even more seriously than here. Being part of smart sites they literally wear shirts that say smart sits on it and they feel so connected to a company because overseas especially Southeast Asia a lot of people just wind up doing like ad hoc projects for random people and they got they work like a fiver likes to go all these places and they don't really belong to the company. So when we actually hired them there they're so excited to be literally part of an American company and it's actually worked out very well. We have office are back in development offices in Russia. Our front end development is in Nepal. Our design team is in India. So we have offices to go out and teams in Thailand and we actually meet up with all the offices once a year. So last year our executive team went to India to do a retreat there with old employees and this year. Well the springtime got pushed off a little bit because of visa regulations but this spring time will get you bringing all the team leaders from all the different offices here to New York City.
Alex Melan: So it's it's it's been it's been you know it's it's been both challenging and rewarding by having the overseas offices. It helps us in two ways. One it helps keep our costs low enough that we could provide a much much cheaper service by the same time still provide a quality service but really provide value for clients because for example for a lot of our ad hoc work we do we charge 100 bucks an hour. That's our ad hoc development rate. If we had everyone the US we would have to charge 300 dollars an hour and would drive much less value to our clients. So for from the cost perspective it's been really helpful. And even from having so much different so much different expertise has been really helpful. Like we if we separated our offices based on function and then the backend the development team are all these high end programmers and they just bring a whole different level dynamic compared to our front end developer team that does the more simple coding and work press. And it's it's definitely challenging managing an international team and older. Aside from managing the people or the legal regulations and things like that but overall it's it's been it's been really helpful and has helped us provide the most value for our clients which at the end of the day is to go to
Malcolm Lui: And ethic can you share what your plans are for 2019. What are your objectives how many how many recurring clients are you aiming for in 2019 what's your revenue targets.
$7m revenue target in 2019, up from $5m in 2018.
Alex Melan: Yeah. Great question. So we're gonna be finishing off 18 at 5 million or so should be a good good jump. Last year I think it was three point five a closer group and six for 2019. The goal is to continue continue continue that growth more so their specific departments for example the paper thick department that are going to double it next year. So double in terms of how much how much money we say we manage manage spend and both in terms of headcount. So that's a big part of it and that's that's that's really the goal is 100 percent growth and then certain other departments are smaller but sold based on the trend we're seeing of the sales coming through of our margins and certainly projects. So it's all the department by department but in where we're still in the process of actually setting a company wide goal I think it's literally just adding up what each department adds up to. But the the soft goal would be to dig around around 7 million and that tells 19 from the 5 million work and then finish up by.
Malcolm Lui: And give if you have an inkling as to how many were clients sick and need to get their yearly. You had about 500 recurring right now
Alex Melan: Where we're at three hundred recurring
Malcolm Lui: Right.
Alex Melan: Now
Malcolm Lui: Three hundred right now.
Alex Melan: And
Malcolm Lui: Right.
Alex Melan: We'd have to be at least 400 I think to some extent though one of the initiatives is to increase how much services we're doing for each crime that as we just talked about I think there's still a lot of add on services that we could be doing that we aren't. For example we want to start rolling out a more graphic design work for clients. A lot of our clients also advertise in print magazines for example and we could be designing those creatives and make it match the website which obviously would be great for everyone. So it's another add on service or gonna be pushing a little bit harder and says 19. So I think part of that part of it could be growing how much we make from each kind. But also I think we'll continue our natural growth of how many kinds we have. We have our canceled rate cancellation rates not going What are very low. And our growth from the last couple months has months quarters years has been very steady and I have no data or continue to test 90
Malcolm Lui: Would you foresee would be your biggest challenge to get from where you are today to where you want to go in 2019.
Alex Melan: Great
Malcolm Lui: Is it
Alex Melan: Question.
Malcolm Lui: Looking above. Yeah
Alex Melan: So that's a very good question and we as a company we have things that can't have meetings and we literally discuss and try to try to see the coming challenges to kind of plan for them before they blindside us. I think one of the bigger ones said that we first seen says 19 is just growing the headcount of the company both from office space or the office here in Paramus. We just moved into a year and a half ago and it was doubled the office we had previously but once we hired these four people that we have the positions open for literally have no more office space so we now have to get a bigger office expand the office. So even logistically things like that but more more generally just growing headcount. I think it's a very big jump from So right now worldwide we have probably around 80 employees full time taking the jump from 80 to let's say 150 is a huge huge jump because right now I'm able to interact with the older employees and I know them. But once you keep growing and may make the next jump up that's much harder to do. It's much harder to maintain the company culture and it's much harder to guarantee the quality of the services that we provide best as we keep Toronto's levels. But up until this point it's still been manageable to a point where I still know everyone I talk to everyone I help everyone and try to mentor as many people as I can. But obviously if we double headcount or part of part of the plans is to close to double headcount that becomes much more challenging
Malcolm Lui: Right now how are you gonna hire these extra 70 people. How are you going to find them and bring them on board in one year's time.
Alex Melan: Yes. Great question. So we probably won't need to hire as many. Well it depends. It depends how things are they're looking but I was kind of like worst case this is this is where we have to push locally here we do. We do indeed. It's been it's been the best for us for for hiring people but it's definitely not not an easy man easy process. And then the international offices of the leads makes the main person for each office is responsible for mostly finding the talent we get involved with interviews as well and they have some independence of controlling the headcount on their level.
Malcolm Lui: Two last questions for you Alex. Who are your ideal clients and what's the best way for them to contact your company.
Their ideal clients
Alex Melan: Great question. So I think our ideal clients and this is just from from working with lots of different planning. We work with everyone from one person companies to Fortune 500 companies but I think they feel kind wines of being somewhere in the middle. I think the companies are I don't know five to 100 employees where if they were if they wanted to to do all of this themselves hire someone to do it they just can't find one person that would be able to do their web design seal and click and social media and everything like that. So hiring internally doesn't always make sense. And then on the flip side you have the smaller smaller companies can't even afford to hire a single person they want up using their cousin to make them a Web site or something like that. So we usually provide the best value for that small to medium sized business where it just doesn't make sense for them to do it any other ways. Many attempt to but that's literally where we're bringing value where we come in and we say we could be your digital partner you don't have to worry about anything digital and we'll take care of everything that year for you how they could find this they could figure out our website smart sites outcome on both our contact information and a lot of a lot of great information about us and of course if you google around you could read some of our reviews and see what other people have said about us and you want every child directly could only female contacts at Smart sites dot com or call us at 2 0 1 8 7 0 6 thousand and people are more than welcome to Connect with me personally as well as if a search Alex Mellon or go to Alex known dot com I have all my social media profiles up there and I always welcome people connecting
Malcolm Lui: Thanks for joining us today Alex and Chang how you accelerate your company's high value sales so quickly
Alex Melan: Problem. Thank you.
Malcolm Lui: We've been speaking with Alex Melen, the co-Founder and co-CEO of SmartSites about his company's rapid growth. For interviews with other fast growing high value sales companies, or to learn how we can accelerate your firm's high value sales through automation, visit Eversprint.com.
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