Drew, thanks for taking time out to do this interview, much appreciated I assure you. Perhaps you could start by giving our visitors an overview of SourceKit
and your place in the organization.
DREW ADAMS: SourceKit is a web development company focused on helping businesses achieve their goals using web technologies. Often this means that they want to acquire or retain customer's using their website. That has given birth to two product / service lines. First is the SourceKit Email Manager, a web-based email list management software for marketing departments to send email and keep track of the results. It helps track the opens, clickthrus, bouncebacks and unsubscribes. It also comes with robust content creation options. The second is our search engine optimization service which is the best online method for customer acquisition. We guarantee top ten rankings for the keywords our customer select.
HOSTSEARCH: Your website tells us that Sourcekit is involved in custom development of software for the Internet. With all the open source applications available at the moment, can't people find what they want on the Internet and just download it cost free?
DREW ADAMS: Many times businesses' competitive advantages are integrated into their software and you can just find an open source tool that will do it. A simple example is Youth Enterprise who is a non-profit in Minneapolis that sells Christian t-shirts. They had a need for a shopping cart system but because they often sell in bulk to youth groups and church organizations, they needed a slightly different shopping cart that would allow a person to bulk order t-shirts.
By making a custom software shopping cart that could handle that business rule, we were able to secure more sales for the organization. Naturally that shopping cart also blossomed to take into account more business rules that were particular to that organization and helped them work more efficiently.
As you drill down to customers specific business needs that establish their competitive advantage, you can't just find that out there in an open source package.
HOSTSEARCH: Again, your website tells us that "SourceKit will sit with you and analyze your project and how it relates to your business goals". Is there a temptation at some companies to divorce technology and business objectives? Do people race ahead with the business concept without realizing the technological requirements?
DREW ADAMS: Perhaps not enough actually. (laughs) Knowing what the system needs to be able to do is the important thing. We encourage that kind of speculation. We like the challenge. We will figure out how to accomplish it.
HOSTSEARCH: The other side of this coin I suppose is some people believing that technology rules supreme. I personally have worked for companies where the sophistication of a data storage and retrieval system becomes more important than the data it contains. How do you steer people who have technology based business ideas away from being fixated on the technology and not performing?
DREW ADAMS: This really is not a problem for us. Generally for us, our clients don't get involved in what technology we use to make the software that powers their web applications. There is that level of trust.
HOSTSEARCH: In my experience, people often think they know what they want, but when it comes to delivering it, they often change their minds or come out with comments like, "When I said that what I meant was this." Particularly when you are working with people who are not especially technically minded and change their requirements frequently, how does a company like yours stop the cost of a project spiraling out of control?
DREW ADAMS: Gosh, you hit the nail on the head there. This is a constant challenge. There is no silver bullet. First we try to setup the customer expectations so that they know that we are going to build something amazing but that we need to stick to a plan. Next we get as much data regarding requirements upfront as possible. If the project is large enough, a specification will need to be done beforehand. Third, we try to make mockups before we write any code. A picture will clarify a lot to the end customers. Lastly, communication is important. For example, we might like to set up bi-monthly meeting to go over progress on projects.
HOSTSEARCH: note that one of the projects you offer is an email manager that enables people to put out "targeted relevant information to your customers through their inbox, raising response and conversion rates." In these days of hypersensitivity towards spam, don't 90% of email campaigns just end up in a 'Junk Mail' folder?
DREW ADAMS: Haha. No. We deal only with opt-in lists and as a result we are on whitelists with the major ISPs. If you are sending to people that have signed up for content they are receiving, they are expecting the email and that will reduce / remove any complaints that are the source of many deliverability problems. And as for legitimate email that gets accidentally dumped to the Bulk folder, we give our customers tools so that they can test their emails to make sure they don't accidentally trip Spam filters. The tools will alert them if there is something in their message that could affect their deliverability. For example using "Free" in the subject line of an email is almost sure to get you blocked, even if you are offering something free and the person has signed up for the content they are receiving.
HOSTSEARCH: I notice again from your excellent website that you produce online Flash games. They are very cute, but just how 'sticky' are they? Do they really bring people back to a site?
DREW ADAMS: Very much so. People will play flash games can play for many minutes and even hours at a time. The sticky part comes when the user gets to save their highscore. Seeing high scores on a page keeps people playing games so they can climb up the high score list. It also makes them come back to the website to see if anyone has beat their highscore. It's like the way video games work in the eighties. After you played the machine, you got to put you initials into the game and there was a sense of fun and even accomplishment in that. For website that has a community of users, it gives them another way to interact and builds a stronger community.
HOSTSEARCH: Here is our de facto question: What do YOU think will be the next big thing on the Internet and how will it impact people's lives?
DREW ADAMS: Small and mediums sized businesses want to accomplish the same things via the web the big businesses do. They want to interact with their customers. They want to organize, promote and sell. They expect to have that ability. We are working on software and solutions that meet that demand.
HOSTSEARCH: Your company recently relocated to Durham, North Carolina. Any plans of further expansion... perhaps Eastern Europe, Asia... other emerging markets?
DREW ADAMS: Haha, we have collaborated with an Eastern European company on a project in the past, we don't have any plans to expand overseas.
HOSTSEARCH: Final question... A number of HostSearch visitors are first timers - people who may have had a business idea and want to set up a website. If you had any advice for these people, what would it be?
DREW ADAMS: Find a trusted partner to take care of your web needs. The web is too important to your business strategy to leave it up to anybody, and for small and medium businesses it is hard to find the expertise inhouse to develop a solution on your own. That is why finding a web partner is essential to developing the site that is an extension of your business strategy.