Today I have a special treat for my readers, an interview with the founder of Voices.com – Mr. David Ciccarelli. He offers management experience as well as a clear vision for the future. Most recently, David led the company to grow at over 500%, placing Voices.com on the PROFIT HOT 50, Canada’s definitive list of emerging companies. He has also presented Voices.com as a New Voices winner at DigiFest, an award recognizing Voices.com as an industry leader who provides digital media products and innovations that contribute to Canada’s economic and cultural future. In 2000, David graduated from the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology with an Honour’s Degree in Audio Technology. But enough said, let’s jump in!David, please introduce yourself.
My name is David Ciccarelli, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Voices.com. I’m married with three kids and live in the forest city, London, Ontario, Canada.
How did you get into internet marketing?
When my wife Stephanie and I started Voices.com, we saw the great potential in acquiring new customers online through a combination of search marketing, email marketing and blogging. My focus was on search marketing which included search engine optimization for a usability and information architecture point-of-view as well as managing our campaigns on Google Adwords.
What are your most successful projects?
We believe our job at marketing Voices.com is never finished. We always have projects that are in the planning phase, just launched or recently completed where we are reviewing the results. Some of the most memorable projects revolve around conversion rate optimization where we used Google Website Optimizer to split test the contents of several key pages on our website to see which version delivered the best results, namely which page layout helped the more people sign-up for our free web service. In fact, the team at Google wrote about how we increased our conversion rate by over 400%! (see details here)
We also embraced podcasting early, even before the podcast directory was included in Apple iTunes. I’d go as far as saying that we were podcast enthusiasts supported by the fact that we wrote a free eBook called the “Small Business Podcasting Kit” that guides small business owners through the process of creating their own podcast and how to get it into iTunes.
What are the biggest challenges for your business over the next couple years?
Our biggest challenge is how to adopt our business in a changing Internet landscape. The three major trends are local, social and mobile. While Voices.com is utilizing each of those technologies, I feel that we could be doing so much more. And, we will.
And where do you see the best opportunities?
Again, related to the previous question, the best opportunities for small business lie in local search marketing, social networking and mobile technology.
Is there anything you would do differently?
I would insist that every marketing initiative is required to generate a positive ROI. Considering that ads are placed online, it’s easy to add tracking code to the ad, your website and your conversion page. In this age, there is no excuse if you don’t know if a campaign was profitable.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Rather than specific advice, I hear a common theme that’s said different ways; “focus on your customers”, “create a unique customer experience”, “build a customer-centric business”. It’s simple, but true. Businesses are nothing without customers, so everything you do should viewed first through the lens of seeing how a change is beneficial to our customers.
What are the most valuable hints you would give someone who is just starting out?
Never forget the customer experience. This extends beyond a beautiful website. The customer experience takes into account every “touch point”, giving you the opportunity to differentiate yourself in the market. At Voices.com, every email is carefully crafted to ensure we’re communicating information consistently. The website is designed according to branding and usability guidelines. At the top of every page on the website, we offer a toll-free telephone number. This number makes it easy for our customers to engage in meaningful conversation with us, get their questions answered and again, gives us the opportunity to extend our brand through how we handle phone calls. There are dozens of other touch points, but the essence is to consider your marketing holistically.
Any secrets hands-on information you can share with our readers (e.g. great website, book, training, source …)?
Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” is an awesome book. Too often, the business owner thinks that everyone else sees their website the same way they do. Not so! By making the user experience as simple as possible through the use of your website’s copy, visual design and intuitive navigation you’ll keep your visitors engaged longer. In my own words, the 4 key elements of design are: visual, emotional, functional and financial. I could expand on those in a follow-up interview ;).
What are your preferred information sources about the internet marketing world?
David, thanks for the interview!