Article appeared in the "Libertyville News":
Web firm gaining national reknown
NetSolutions: a 'Mighty Mouse' biz with a big string of 'hits'
By DENYS BUCKSTEN
Entering the NetSolutions Group web site is a bit like walking up to a home in Lake Forest. You're not immediately aware of how much style and substance is back there behind the fence line, trees and shrubs. NetSolutions, a 17-year-old corporation based in Libertyville, is becoming a Mighty Mouse among web design and marketing firms. The brainchild of Steve Wadhwa, NetSolutions, with a staff of 24, has been recognized twice in Crain's Chicago Business, as one of the most dynamic companies in its field. The firm's logo, a spinning planet in a solar system, suggests a global level of e-commerce that Wadhwa wants his clients to reach. Before founding NetSolutions, Wadhwa worked 11 years for Hewlett Packard, helping launch its laser printer line, and contracted as a management consultant for Fortune 500 companies.
Unlike many web firm owners in the highly competitive, secretive world of e-commerce, Wadhwa makes no secret of his client list. Click on the "Portfolio" link on the NetSolutions home page at www.gonetsolutions.com. Each page is a link to a NetSolutions client's web site. "I know a lot of our competitors are very secretive about their client lists," said Wadhwa, "but why hide it?" Unspoken is the confidence that Wadhwa and Jim Wheary, sales and marketing director, have in their work, as the firm's reputation grows. "There are three things we can do for a client when we create a site," said Wadhwa. "Customer acquisition, customer retention and customer reactivation. Someone used you five years ago and they do a search for the same service. But if you don't come up on their search, guess what? They'll find someone else."
Success can be measured in beautifully displayed web sites; complimentary media reviews and sales revenue. Wadhwa likes to measure success in the hits on each client's web site, "which all our clients do," he said. "We have some web sites with over a million hits a month. "We're not just creating nice looking web sites and our approach is not all technical. It's consulting, technology and marketing. "We take a very strategic approach, trying to understand our clients' business in depth, and doing a bit of consulting before we deploy a technical team, the graphic designers, web masters and programmers. "And on the back end, we market the web sites with the search engines, so that our clients come out on the very top. If people are doing a search for widgets, and our client sells widgets, we want their web site to come up first so people will buy their products."
Wadhwa said that service fees associated with developing and marketing NetSolutions' sites need not always be an extra expenditure. "We try to analyze how a client is currently marketing their business; maybe (that funding) is taking away from some other area. You're doing a lot of mailing; what results are you getting? Sometimes it's just an allocation of funds, not additional funding." Other services that NetSolutions offers to clients include: managing the web site; managing client networks, with upgrades and maintenance; Intranet networks within a company for conveying proprietary information; and analyzing or installing the hardware and software "to make everything work". said Wadhwa.
Like a proud father, Wadhwa points to Wistoff's World of Fitness, a Winnetka business mired two years ago in sluggish sales. Treadmill Warehouse, the web sales division of Wistoff's, a 45-year-old brick and mortar firm, sells upscale treadmills, elliptical steppers and other cardiovascular equipment ranging in price from $1,400 to $5,000. The firm's typical customer has a six-figure income, said Zano. Wistoff's, now powered by a NetSolutions web site and an e-commerce business presence, www.treadmillwarehouse.net, has six offices and a warehouse in Chicago, and 12 service centers in the upper Midwest. Tony Zano, national sales manager for Wistoff's, said that before hooking up with NetSolutions two years ago, "we had a web site, but we were hardly getting any sales leads off it."
Now, with the aesthetic, upscale, "treadmillwarehouse" site, "we get about 40,000 hits a month, on average," said Zano. "We've doubled our business since the summer of 2001, when we started with NetSolutions." "That was our biggest surprise with the new web site," said Zano, "that people are willing to purchase a $2,300 machine, sight unseen. What we think is that the design of the web site makes people comfortable that we're not a fly-by-night company." "One of the things that really makes our web site different is that we're constantly updating the latest information onto the site, the newest models that are coming out and we're constantly marketing the site itself," he added. "We gear our (other) marketing to drive people to the web site, we're getting good search engine placements and we've been running banner ads with Yahoo.com for a long time."
Dwight Houchins, president of the 750-member GLMV Chamber of Commerce, said NetSolutions "has a nice style in designing their web sites and obviously they provide all the standard functions of web site design, but at the same time they've shown that they can be very innovative in meeting their clients' needs."