The Right Mechanic
Tortus Technologies Helps the Engines of Business Run Smoothly
Harry Moore has a simple question for computer users: when you’re looking for information on a business, do you still open the yellow pages? Or is it more natural to search on Google?
“People don’t use the phone book anymore; if it’s not on the Web, it’s not worth looking up,” said Moore, president of Tortus Technologies in West Springfield. “That trend has hit critical mass with all generations and all groups. The question, then, is how to take this technology and make it work for businesses. That’s what we do.”
Since launching as a Web-development house with three employees in 1996, Tortus has grown exponentially as a technology and business planning resource for companies of all sizes, with 18 employees serving more than 350 current clients. Further growth is expected, Moore said, because of what makes Tortus unique in the Web services field – its business acumen.
“Our clients have a significant advantage with us because of what we can do for them outside of Web site development,” he said. “We’re business people, as well as big users of technology. Most people in this field are simply technologists trying to work with businesses.”
Art and Science
That dual focus has spawned some success stories as eye-catching as the two-headed tortoise that graces the company’s logo. The name Tortus means “twisted” in what Moore calls “bad Latin,” but the meaning behind the logo is a bit clearer.
“The heads are art and science, and you have to blend both to make it work,” Moore said, referring to the Internet. “That starts with a company’s Web site.
“The Internet isn’t just a business tool; it’s the primary business tool, and people are beginning to understand that,” said Larri Cochran, Tortus’s director of Business Development. “It’s not just about a big Web site that looks pretty. You also have to be found on the search engines. You have to draw traffic to your site.”
To that end, Tortus not only designs, programs and hosts Web sites for companies, it optimizes them to register highly on search engines. Tortus also offers a content-management system that allows clients to update their own sites with an easy-to-use toolbar, without having to learn technical code.
“It allows clients to keep their sites timely, and it keeps costs down,” Cochran said. “Sometimes the information just can’t wait.”
Gerard Gualberto, Tortus’ lead programmer, said some customers are surprised at how easy the system is to use. “They say, ‘you mean I can change my Web site at 2 in the morning?’ Well, yeah, you can.”
Putting such tools in the hands of business people who don’t consider themselves tech-savvy is crucial, Cochran said, because Web sites, with their round-the-clock exposure (unlike TV or radio ads), are becoming the foundation of business marketing. “It’s an education for some companies,” she said. “They think they need a Web master to manage their sites, but they don’t.”
That’s not the only education Tortus offers to its clients, however, Moore said. Bi-weekly seminars help customers learn to use the tools Tortus provides. “We train people in what we do,” he said.
That guidance goes beyond simple Web skills. Tortus also helps companies develop complete business plans that will help them grow at the pace that their finances, human resources and technology level will allow.
|“The Internet isn’t just a business tool; it’s the primary business tool, and people are beginning to understand that.”|
Rent.com is a good example. When Tortus began working with the online real estate company in 2001, it had no workable model. “We refocused them and turned them around,” Moore said. Recently, eBay, the leading Internet auction site, bought rent.com for $415 million. “That’s a big deal,” he said.
There are plenty of local success stories as well. When Flag Fables, a Springfield company, first partnered with Tortus, it was considering expansion of its its physical retail space. Instead, it bolstered its Internet presence, and now the majority of its sales are conducted online.
“They knew nothing about the Internet, and now they’re managing their own Web site and catalog online,” said Cochran. “Our people understand business; we really work as a team – no one person has all the answers. And our clients like that we really focus on education as part of our relationships.”
Moore said 80% of Tortus’s business lies in fixing other people’s problems. “We feel like a car repair place sometimes. People come in with baggage from bad experiences. But they learn that you can’t just throw a Web site up and see what happens. You need a business model.
“And when your car is serviced right,” he added, “it’s because your mechanic just gets what’s wrong.”
A Faulty Instrument
Say you attend a symphony concert, Moore said, and the third violin sounds noticeably squeaky. Attendees are likely to say that the concert was terrible – even though the problem lay in only one instrument.
That poorly tuned instrument can be anything when it comes to Web marketing, but as often as not, the problem lies in exposure. The most well-designed site on the Web won’t help a business grow if no one looks at it. That’s why Tortus helps clients optimize their sites to show up prominently on search engines such as Yahoo! and Google.
“People who are serious about the Web come to us,” Moore said. “If you really want to be a player, we can get you up and running, get you the look and feel you want, and generate traffic.”
“You can’t build a Web site and not have it found on the search engines,” Cochran stressed. And that will be even more crucial as the Web becomes a more commerce-friendly place and Internet users become more sophisticated, she added.
“It seems to be happening all at once, but people are actively looking to the Web for business solutions,” Moore said. “It’s becoming much more intuitive and easy to use.”
Other economic trends support the growth of Internet commerce. Dana Soucier, Tortus’s director of operations, suggested that soaring gas prices are likely to turn even more people away from traditional retail outlets like malls, and toward Web shopping.
“A Web site doesn’t replace a traditional business model; it’s an enhancement that allows them to operate faster and better,” Cochran said. “Companies want to make it easy to do business with their clients, just as we’re making it easy for them to business with us.”
That claim is reflected in the growth of Tortus’s client list, which is dominated by long-term customers, and in the company’s aggressive growth goals for the coming year – which include adding seven more employees and doubling sales. “Our goal is to increase our revenue while providing great services to our clients,” Moore said. “We don’t just build web sites; we build businesses, and that’s our uniqueness.”
“If a client is successful,” Cochran said, “we’re successful.”
Gualberto said there isn’t time for Tortus to rest on its laurels, not when the ways information is exchanged constantly change.
“Our goal is to be good not just for this area, but when compared with companies nationally and internationally,” he said. “But it’s like being a physician – you have to keep constantly re-educating yourself. If you lay off it for six months, it shows.”
And despite the shifting technology and the growing sophistication of Web design and e-commerce, it still comes down to how businesses connect with their customers, Moore said. After all, a great Web site design won’t obscure a poorly delivered pitch.
“There are two doors you have to open,” he said. “One is to get on the first page of
Google search results. Then, what’s your message?” It had better be solid, Moore explained, because the average computer user searching for a product or service will look at a site for four seconds, on average, before deciding whether to keep reading or head back to Google.
“If you’re on that first page, great, but what are you going to tell people?” he asked.
Once the message is clear, Tortus Technologies can help find the audience
– and that’s a marketing concept that has never changed with the times.