This article is reposted from Mainebiz.
PHOTO by JIM NEUGER
Becky McKinnell, founder and president of iBec Creative, says her main role is business development.
Article by Renee Cordes
At iBec's colorful office on Portland's eastern waterfront, McKinnell spoke with Mainebiz about her firm's evolving business model.
Becky McKinnell, 34, is the founder and president of iBec Creative, a web design and development agency focused on ecommerce and digital marketing. Clients include LeRoux Kitchen, Black Point Lobster Co. and Maine Spirits.
Mainebiz: How did you assemble your team of 12 employees?
Becky McKinnell: It's funny because people typically ask me, "Oh, did you just hire all your friends?" I think of that as a compliment, because we do have a friendly group of people. It's been through word of mouth as well as Craigslist and Jobs in Maine, a variety of places.
MB: When you studied at the University of Southern Maine, did you already know you wanted to start a business right after graduating?
BM: USM has this art and entrepreneurial studies program, so it was the perfect combination. The pinnacle was my senior year, when I was in an entrepreneurship class and had to write a business plan as a final project. Since I had done an internship in college, I decided to write a plan for doing a graphic and web design studio. My professor was like, "You should really look into doing a niche, because that's how you could really differentiate yourself, and you can scale easier." I started researching different industries, and I found that doctors had horrible websites and terrible branding, so that was my initial niche. I ended up rebranding about a year into the business as iBec. We eventually dropped graphic design and now we specialize in digital while remaining loyal to our existing non-ecommerce clients.
MB: What can you say about your most recent pivot?
BM: We've shifted our business model from doing hourly work and budgeted work to what we call iBec membership, so it's a flat fee that clients pay each month. With their membership they have a dedicated team of a designer, a developer and digital marketer who really gets to know the business. Our goal is to produce measurable results for them each month. The companies that rely on their websites for results are manufacturers selling directly to consumers or to businesses, or retailers looking to bridge their online and in-store experience. We've been focusing our new business development on the ecommerce space.
MB: Can give an example of how you've improved a client's website?
BM: A really cool example is a resort client we've been working with for years. We had done a few refreshes on their website, and finally it was time to start from scratch and build a brand-new website. As soon as we launched the website, they had an immediate bump in reservations, an immediate bump in average time on the site, and pages per visit. So we knew that the new design and the new interface was engaging visitors, and the way that we were guiding prospective customers through their reservation engine was converting at a higher percentage than before. After the launch, we immediately started measuring with heat maps and screen recording tools so we could watch how visitors were navigating through the site.
MB: Within iBec's team structure, what's your role?
BM: My role is primarily new business development, so I meet with a lot of prospective clients. As soon as we have a client that we both agree is a good match, even before they've decided to officially work with iBec, I bring in the team that they would be working with so that they can get to know the people.
MB: How would you describe your management style?
BM: It's really important to me to incorporate fun into the office, and fun doesn't necessarily mean having Nerf-gun fights or something, it's more about having a lightheartedness to work, and working with people that really care about the work that they're doing, and are engaged.
MB: What's next for iBec?
BM: Whatever our growth goals may be, I make sure that I have happy employees and happy clients. I really feel that if I can keep those two things in check, we'll automatically grow.
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