As the owner of Sackville, N.B.-based Tantramar Interactive Inc., Chris Mackay had seen many changes in the technological landscape of his website development business. With the availability of off-the-shelf content management systems (CMS), developers were focusing less on mundane coding and more on the user interface and strategic design of the website.
Although Mr. Mackay's clients claimed that they wanted to use a CMS, which granted them flexibility to customize their own websites, most of them found it easier to simply continue sending update material directly through him.
As a result, Mr. Mackay found himself spending additional time editing language and content, realigning website information, moving stuff around on the website to maximize impact, etc. Since his business model did not allow him to charge clients for these additional services, he had to find a solution to monetize these value-added service.
In 1986, Mr. Mackay joined Mount Allison University's English department but soon switched to Physics and later to Psychology, graduating in 1991 with a BA degree. Because of his eclectic interests, he decided to stay back after graduation and complete one year of Fine Arts. Soon after, Dr. Bob Hawkes, one of his Physics professors, invited him to join a new project developing compact disc content for an Introduction to Astronomy course. He also started teaching as a part-time faculty member at the university.
Over the next several years, with the growth and adoption of the Internet and web content, he found a lucrative opportunity to work as a freelance consultant developing web pages for various advertising agencies, corporations and government sector entities.
In the fall of 1987, Tantramar Interactive was formally established and soon garnered a roster of clients from across the public and private sectors. The company grew and at its peak employed six people in 2005. This was followed by a downsizing which saw a move from having full-time staff to contracting out work as and when needed to a group of specialists.
Mr. Mackay knew that he could not continue providing a suite of services to his clients without charging for them. He also realized that the work was neither rewarding nor profitable.
His solution was to start educating his clients on the value he was providing in terms of the curb appeal of their website, search engine optimization, delivery across desktop and mobile platforms and communication strategy. He re-focused his offering to providing content management strategy advice to his clients.
It's been six months since Mr. Mackay pivoted his business model. The existing clients have responded well to his changed direction as they realize the value of the additional services that he was providing all along and are happy to continue with the relationship. The shift has also allowed him to start marketing to niche clients who are looking for such a value added and customized service. On a personal note, he's enjoying the fact that he's able to focus on work that he finds rewarding, satisfying and valuable to his clients.
Nauman Farooqi is a professor and head of the department of commerce in the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies of Mount Allison University.
This is the latest in a regular series of case studies by a rotating group of business professors from across the country. They appear every Friday on the Report on Small Business website.