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Developing a fx on web design

ONE of the major challenges facing any business in a crowded industry sector is attracting attention – and for attention, read sales. Website designers and managers Steve Cartwright and Julie Smyth established fx digital Pty Ltd in January 2003 to provide professionally designed sites and internet hosting to the world. The company operates from the front room of Mr Cartwright’s house in Perth suburban Ballajura. While highly qualified and with a successful background in IT in the UK, in a crowded market fx digital might be seen as just another web site design company. “There are billions of web site designers our there,” Mr Cartwright told WA Business News. “We needed a point of difference.” While working for a growing number of clients, he threw himself into sales courses, read volumes on the subject and attended numerous workshops. “I grew to love sales. I used to hate it.” The strategy that emerged from this and numerous brain storming sessions with Ms Smyth was to offer web sites on a rental basis, primarily targeting small-medium sized businesses with a small budget, but an ongoing requirement for website marketing and even sales. “On analysing our past and current client base, we found they were different sized enterprises at different stages of life. Some were new and emerging, some just one-person operations, others well established. Some had large budgets, while others operated on pretty much a shoe-string approach,” Mr Cartwright said. “We had to adopt an approach that catered to all of them.” As far as the pair knew, such a service had never been offered before. It worked. “The rentals kick started us and now provides good, regular cash flow,” Mr Cartwright said. It has also reshaped the business. fx digital sits at the centre of four separate divisions, each represented by its own web site and all cross promoting and feeding each other. There is the rentals website, which currently charges $500 for set up and an $80 a month maintenance fee; traditional custom website design, from $4,000 upwards and averages about $10,000 a site; website hosting; and Cyber Aspects, an on-line magazine that reviews the latest software, hardware, games and other internet related bits and pieces. Cyber Aspects was originally designed for IT professionals, earns revenue from advertising on the site and gets up to 2,000 hits a day. “It also keeps us at the forefront of the business,” Mr Cartwright said. Since 2003, the company has designed custom web sites for more than 2,000 clients and has over 200 rental sites around the world. While 60 per cent of fx digital’s income is derived from overseas, the actual client base is the other way around. “The US companies like to own their web sites and manage them, so we sell a lot more rentals in Australia than the US. In Australia it’s about a 50/50 split,” Mr Cartwright said. The cash flow is good, with the rental design and set up fee paid upfront, the custom clients usually paying 33 per cent in advance. The company now has a commission paid sales agent in Perth, is looking for another and a programmer. It also has a joint venture with an Indian company, which provides access to another 20 programmers. The new appointments are aimed at freeing the couple to spend more time on administration and sales. The Australian Advertising Federation quoted a recent US Business Barometer survey of 780 leaders of organisations with less than 500 employees that showed small-medium businesses were increasingly relying on the internet for business growth. The survey found that 72 per cent had a website and of those, an even larger percentage said their company was healthier – had a competitive advantage or stronger economic footing – because of their website. More than three quarters said their website was a tool that generated business leads, while 57 per cent said they generated monthly revenue through online or offline purchases influenced by their website.

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