GRAND RAPIDS — A Grand Rapids firm is tackling the issue that all businesses face when exploring commerce on the Internet — how do you make money?
Paul Ferrier and Pete Brand recently started Mindscape Creative, a Web design firm that specializes in return on investment.
The firm, which was started in November 2001, offers various services, including Web development, logo identity, application programming and Web hosting.
Ferrier and Brand departed from WWWEBSPINNERS Corp., a Muskegon-based Web development company still led by Anthony Blair. Upon their departure, Ferrier and Brand brought with them Steve Olson in the creative department and Mark Swanson in application programming.
“Our main focus is on return on investment,” said Ferrier.
“When we are putting together proposals, included in those proposals are a way for the client to get out of it what they put in. We want to strategize for them — where they are going to see that $3,000 to $4,000, and how.”
“We want everyone on the Web,” Brand added.
Brand and Ferrier say they have learned that many small to medium-sized businesses lack the capital necessary to put up a site that will both do what the company needs and look professional.
As a solution, Ferrier came up with what they call creative Web site leasing.
“Web sites depreciate faster than cars,” Brand said. “When someone designs a site, it goes into the browser and people begin to visit. They are going to visit once and maybe again, but if that site doesn’t change, people will get bored and they won’t come back.”
“What Paul has designed is a way for companies to have a small set-up site where they pay a monthly fee for, say, a two-month period and then they have free rein to make changes, and it is all built into a package.”
The beauty of the deal, the two men said, is that a small toy store in Rockford can have the appearance of an FAO Schwarz in Manhattan, not to mention saving nearly $10,000 to $20,000 on the cost of the creation of the site.
“That is the wonderful part about the Web,” Ferrier says. “Your shop on the corner can look the size of a corporation in New York. However, you need the same amount of money in most arenas,” he added.
“What we have done is leveled the playing field so the customer doesn’t have to come out with a big chunk of money.”
At the end of the lease, the customer can renew the lease, dissolve it or purchase the site.
Brand said clients are catching the leasing bug.
“I talked to three companies right after the first of the year that said, ‘We want to do it, we know we have to do it, but we just can’t afford it. We took a 40 percent hit last year.’
“Then I brought up this concept and they got all fired up and actually built larger than they thought they would,” said Brand.
Most clients also want flexibility, he said, so Mindscape Creative came up with an application that allows project-driven employees, such as lawyers, engineers, salespeople and consultants, to track their time through a cell phone connection to the Web.
Much like a traditional time clock, users will punch in and punch out so they can track the amount of time spent on specific projects.
The user can then go to their PC and pick the company, the specific project, and completely track the time they took on the project.
“This way they will be able to automatically spit out a bill or a report to the client that will tell them everything they have done on that particular project,” explained Brand.
“For salespeople there will be a component where the sales manager can track their whole sales force and customer base and what steps they’ve taken — all over the phone.”
The company also offers a build-it-yourself component where the client is able to design everything, starting with the domain name and moving all the way up to the design of graphics and wording. The client will be able to set up the site and manage the site, if they have knowledge of Microsoft Word.
“They will be able to use our designs, which will give them a professional look, and it will also make it easier and faster for them to change the site as they want.
“ Instead of having to get ahold of us,” Ferrier said, “they will simply be able to access the site, change a few words or graphics. just like that.
“This is just another example of return on investment. Some people are very interested in this and we are giving them the option to have a certain amount of control over their site.”