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News / Business

Webfor defies the odds

Digital marketing agency's founder quit job, started company amid the Great Recession

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian Business Editor
Published: September 30, 2014, 5:00pm

o What: Open house/ribbon-cutting for Webfor, a digital marketing agency

o When: 3 to 5 p.m. Monday,

Oct. 6

o Where: Webfor, 11805 N.E. 99th St., Suite 1360

o On the Web: webfor.com

Kevin Getch is running late — by about a full year — in holding an open house for his firm’s new offices.

But Getch, founder and CEO of the Vancouver digital marketing agency Webfor, makes no apologies. The company he formed five years ago in the depths of the Great Recession is enjoying steady growth, and Monday’s open house will be a belated but welcome celebration of that success.

Webfor now has 11 employees, up from seven at the start of last year. Getch, an east Vancouver resident who formed the company with wife Jenn Getch, hopes to grow to about 30 employees in about five years, leveling off at about that size.

“We will see consistent growth, adding a few employees each year,” predicts Getch, who is 39. The company currently serves about 100 business clients in small to midsize businesses — between three and 300 employees.

o What: Open house/ribbon-cutting for Webfor, a digital marketing agency

o When: 3 to 5 p.m. Monday,

Oct. 6

o Where: Webfor, 11805 N.E. 99th St., Suite 1360

o On the Web: webfor.com

Webfor is part of an industry segment of professional technical services that is growing at a more rapid rate than the county’s overall healthy employment increase. There were an estimated 1,400 “computer system design” jobs in Clark County in August, up 8 percent from last August, according to the state Employment Security Department. That compares to a 4.2 percent increase in all jobs in the county over the same time period.

The company does one-time work and also provides ongoing services for companies that want regular help in keeping up with the fast-changing world of digital marketing. Any changes in Google’s search engine prioritization, any new, red-hot website that attracts eyeballs of potential customers, and any glitch that keeps customers away can create opportunities or nightmares for businesses. Getch said he recently connected with a Vancouver business he’d helped years ago, only to find that many Web searches that should have brought people to the company went nowhere.

That misrouting of clicks to the company’s website “cost them hundreds of thousands in revenue,” he estimated.

Getch says he launched the company in part to flee a job with ATT that he found to be intensely frustrating. “I honestly got to point every day that coming to work was eating away at me,” he said.

An entrepreneur at heart, with two previous company launches, he recognized the risk of leaving a six-figure job during a down economy. “Everybody thought I was crazy, and I wondered myself,” he said. But he added, “I was more than happy to take a pay cut to do what I wanted to do. “

He chose the Eastridge Business Park because it offered a good price and flexibility for expansion, a benefit he took advantage of last year when he doubled the company’s space. He’d considered Battle Ground, but it was farther from his home and from prospective employees from Portland or other parts of the metro area. About 10 to 15 percent of clients come to the office to meet with staff, but the bulk of meetings are off-site or by teleconference, he said.

Webfor assists clients in various layers of marketing — search engine optimization, or SEO, an industry term for simply getting your company or product to pop up near the top of searches on Google or other search engines; Web design; blog development; social media marketing; and establishing benchmarks of marketing success. It’s an industry of both art and science, which fits Getch’s restless mind.

“It does change so quickly, it’s like being a lifelong college student,” Getch said.

One of the company’s first clients was Vancouver trial lawyer Don Jacobs of Northwest Injury Law Center, whom Getch knew from his previous job. Jacobs, unsure who to choose for his digital marketing from the many competitors pitching to law offices, decided to take a chance on the new company. He knew he needed more visibility and a better online image. “My kids would look at (my website) and go, ‘Dad, you look like Fred Flintstone,’ ” he said.

At least they found the website. Before Webfor’s overhaul, “I couldn’t even find myself on the net,” Jacobs said.

The website now shows a buttoned-down Jacobs with his dog, a casual image that contrasts with what Jacobs calls the typical attorney image of “a boring, middle-aged white guy with a suit and a tie.” The friendly portrait was Jacobs’ idea, but the rest of the site design and content came from Getch.

Jacobs says his Web and social media messages are now much more targeted to potential clients within his area of specialty than his previous advertising, primarily in a phone directory, and his marketing costs are lower than in the old days.

But while social media messages often hit their target, there are times when a message somehow goes “viral” and becomes an unexpected sensation. Digital marketers dream of having a marketing message hit that vast audience. But achieving that level of success is often a matter of pure luck, Getch said.

When that happens, he said, “it’s like hitting a grand slam — and then add a few more bases.”

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Columbian Business Editor