Tech Tips from 9 Industry Leaders in Jax

Jacksonville was recently ranked No.10 for local business population growth, according to Yelp’s Q2 2018 Economic Outlook Report. We turned to market leaders in Jacksonville to learn how their businesses are using ecommerce to grow.

Nine experts in finance, technology, law, strategic communications and other industries are letting us in on their behind-the-screens contributions to internet marketing.

Read exclusive insights from top Jacksonville industry experts who know what it takes to build a business in the bold city. Both established companies and startups can use these insights to stay competitive and help establish Jacksonville as a tech hub:

Jason Mudd, Managing Partner at Axia

‘You have to keep up with your audiences and know the new technology they’re using. Adopt those platforms early and capture new members before the competition arrives.’

In our company’s 17 year history, we’ve often hired military spouses who join our team in military cities like Jacksonville and eventually transition to working for us remotely and from other cities. It’s also our way of supporting our service men and women. At the same time, this employment strategy  builds the Jacksonville brand as a great place for employment of the creative class.

To keep up with advances in technology and enhance the profession, every quarter each employee pursues an additional certification in a trending area of measurement and technology for strategic communications and marketing.

Brian Swallow, SVP, Strategy & Partnership Development at Fanatics

‘Culture is galvanized in the early stages of business, for good or bad.  Don’t let the soft issues get lost in your efforts to grow the company. At the end of the day, your people are driving the business.’ 

Find the right partners and negotiate everything, whether with vendors or business partners. If their values and services match up with your own, use long-term commitments to lock-in favorable business terms.  Capital is scarce at this stage; manage it aggressively. Leverage acquisition-based marketing. Eliminate front-end risk when possible by paying only for performance.

Offer only differentiated services or unique products and surround yourself with innovators. Work with people who don’t just perform tasks, but who find better ways of doing things.  You can never have too many ideas.

Kelly Dyer, CEO at Inventory Source

‘Stay lean, test new SKUs first, and be agile, then automate and integrate. Sell on every channel and from every source that has profitable returns and constantly iterate.’

Inventory Source provides automation tools and dropship fulfillment options for online retailers, along with software for distributors and brands.  We automate and simplify the challenge of selling your own products, leveraging third party fulfillment, and working with drop ship partners to allow retailers to sell thousands of SKUs across dozens of channels in a fully automated way.  We see lots of ways that retailers achieve success, and the ability to be flexible with your integrations and fulfillment partners is a big part of that.

My advice for ecommerce businesses is to follow the lean approach just like a startup would. Start small, with a limited number of SKUs, and experiment with both fulfillment sources and channels.

Mark McCrary, Senior Account Manager at Presidio

‘Unless you are a technologically sophisticated company, leveraging an outsourced processing company can put the onus and risk squarely on their shoulders versus yours.’

Getting into the world of commerce can be tough going at first. You’re bound to get some bumps and bruises along the way. There are compliance things to consider like PCI (Payment Card Industry) security standards. These standards are put in place to help protect you and your client from risk of getting their credit card information stolen. If it gets out that your client’s information isn’t secure when they do business with you, it can be tough going to keep them as a customer. Obviously on their side, dealing with credit monitoring and auto denials as they legitimately apply for credit or attempt to use their cards can be problematic.

PCI compliance basically ensure that the information that stores and credit card info for your clients is secure on your side as well as any transmission of their credit card information. This can best be done by leveraging an outsourced service for handling credit cards whether it be kiosks, credit card machines or card processing software.

Alan Ferguson, Chief Underwriting Officer at US Assure

‘Think about what sets you apart, how consumers will find you online and what type of experience you want them to have on your website.’

A great, mobile responsive website that takes all the search engine optimization techniques into account is important! You need consumers to find you when they’re online searching. There’s nothing more frustrating than a business who doesn’t provide the consumer with a contact method or buries it in FAQs. Because the world of digital is constantly evolving, we collaborate with experts in the space to review emerging trends and then determine if they are a good fit for our products.

Ultimately, when we decide to try a new tactic, we test, monitor and optimize based on engagement and conversions.

Jim Satterwhite, CEO at Venture Pointe

‘Through educational forums, ensuring our clients are receiving regular information on how to better their data management, and through constant network monitoring, the battle to protect your business’ data should never stop evolving.’

Venture Pointe, as a Managed Service Provider in the Jacksonville market, is continually trying to educate our clients on the importance of network security. The one thing that is always true; the pitfalls of data exposure are consistent. Most businesses fail to recognize “where” they have exposure, usually in simple circumstances, such as employees sending emails to themselves pertaining to work related items.

Constant education and network management is genuinely at the core of what we do every day.

Harold Boyett, President & CEO at Blue Streak Couriers

‘Every interaction we have seeks to gain a five star review of the customer’s experience. In today’s digital age, we are perceived to be only as good as our last delivery.’ 

Harold BoyettThink about what you want as your result, for your ecommerce platform, and then work backwards to develop your plan. Search Engine Optimization should play a major role in your plan. We work in the final mile segment of ecommerce.  As a result, many companies use Blue Streak to complete their final mile delivery.  We are the Ambassadors of Service for our customers with their clientele. The customer experience, in today’s day of social media and online reputation, is first and foremost on everyone’s mind.

Lee Lockett, Managing Partner at Lockett Law

‘There are two types of businesses that need a heavy presence in digital marketing: Those that are, and those that need to be.’ 

Try and be as active with posting as possible on our business Facebook page and Instagram. We utilize LinkedIn as well. Pay-Per-Click will be launching soon. Never try Search Engine Optimization  (SEO) on your own. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is complicated enough for laypersons such as myself, but trying to conduct SEO on your own is akin to attempting to remove your own spleen.

Bryan Croft, CEO, Holmes Custom

Start small – the first order is often the hardest to get.  Focus on the customer and what they need the most!

It’s the #1 agenda of our marketing team to keep up with the latest trends.  We use a wide range of tools to help clear through the clutter of “digital marketing.” Some of those tools include blogs, podcasts, email updates from industry leaders, tradeshows, seminars, webinars, and LOTS of tools to stay updated and ultimately ahead of digital marketing trends. I was born and raised in Jax (Bishop Kenny, UNF!)  and will always have a huge sense of pride for Jax. I feel it’s my duty to create jobs as a business owner today.

It’s no secret that technology jobs are typically high pay, innovative, and creative. This inspires me to build that within our company and have the most talented driven people in our city to make our world a better place!

Action Items for Jacksonville Businesses

To help your business stay competitive in this swiftly changing digital landscape, consider these action items from the above leaders.

You can keep up with digital trends when you:

  • Consult with experts, from SEO specialists to processing companies, to ensure site efficacy
  • Identify your target market and increase engagement
  • Stay active on multiple digital platforms
  • Make sure your employees continually increase their technical knowledge

You can navigate ecommerce better when you:

  • Protect initial resources, from vendor relationships to capital management
  • Make sure consumers can find you online, contact your business and leave reviews
  • Make sure products and services are unique and that they add value
  • Protect your clients’ information

You can be a part of local growth in your tech community when you:

  • Invest in your employees and company culture
  • Utilize proximal space and local resources
  • Build relationships that make you an active contributor to your local community

The Next 15 Years

Holmes Custom is passionate about helping Jacksonville become a tech hub. With an increasing number of tech savvy businesses developing, more resources are put into the local economy. This creates a healthy and growing job market. The digital marketing capacity of Jacksonville grows with each step that local businesses take.

Staying competitive in technology is demanding, but you can be one step ahead when you turn to market leaders in your community. These people – even those involved in different industries, working with different sizes of businesses – are part of the same effort to stay relevant as the internet and mobile search continue to evolve.

In 2016, Forbes reported that Jacksonville had seen a strong growth of over 80 percent in tech jobs since 2001. What will the next 15 years hold?

Author: AJ Ritchie

AJ graduated with a degree in English from Rollins College in Winter Park, FL.

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