Design firm finds offline benefits in Web site

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The Gettys Group, a Chicago design and architecture management firm, is enjoying the advantages that come with being the first in an industry to undertake a Web marketing effort.

Gettys specializes in hospitality building design and renovation, a market that requires it to keep abreast of the latest trends.

Real-time surveys

Its site was developed to help the company "stay on the cutting edge and keep ahead of the curve," says Lara Kaslow, sales and marketing manager for Gettys.

With the help of Chicago-based Two Way Communications, Gettys designed a Web marketing strategy that would allow it to tap into the knowledge base of its Web visitors and increase its profile in the industry, all on a limited budget of $20,000.

The key elements in this strategy are the real-time Vox Pop surveys Two Way designed for the site, which was the first in its industry when it was launched in January.

A lot of ink

At the time of its launch, three industry trade publications -- Hospitality Design, Hotel Motel Management and Lodging -- each featured articles about the new site.

Each month, the magazines give Gettys a list of questions to post in its Vox Pop surveys. That information is collected and analyzed by Gettys and then sent back to the magazines to publish, branded under the Gettys name.

"It's lifted them from being not as well-known, and now all of a sudden you're seeing them in trade magazines," says Bob Gear, senior managing director, Two Way. "The perception is that this is a company that is technically oriented that knows what's going on in the industry."

The site, which has had over 12,000 visitors since January, also includes a renovation budget program and chat rooms for architects, designers, hospitality vendors, hotel and restaurant owners, hospitality consultants and purchasing agents.

"We wanted prospective clients to have a place to go to find what best suits their needs," says Roger Hill, Gettys president.

Another facet of Gettys' Web marketing effort has been an aggressive effort to find appropriate industry links. The site has 20 links now with plans to add more.

"We want our site to get you to anywhere in the hospitality industry. We're always requesting links because we want everybody to come to our page and know that they can get anywhere in the hospitality industry from our site," Ms. Kaslow says.

Currently linked are several hotel sites and professional association sites such as the American Institute of Architects, the American Hotel & Motel Association and the National Restaurant Association.

Perils, too

But while being first to launch into Internet-based marketing can be advantageous, it also carries with it dangers.

"Others [in the industry] may not have a Web site just yet, but they'll be standing in the shadows learning what needs to be done, then they'll come out with a site that really, really works and hits all the nails on the head at once," says Seema Chowdhury, analyst for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research.

Ms. Chowdhury says Gettys' site is clean, but needs to add content and get updated more frequently.

"There isn't a lot of content in some places," she says. "And with the Vox Pop survey, it should be rotating."

Overall, she says the site is a worthwhile development for the industry and with a few changes it could be very effective.

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