Scott Zuckman and Richard Rosenblatt
of Web Builders International

by Don Hamilton

WWWiz: How did you decide to start Web Builders?

S.Z.: With the advent of the World Wide Web we saw that there was a great push to commercialize the Internet by companies such as AT&T, IBM, and just virtually, as you know now, virtually every business that's in existence is starting to become aware of the Web and, in fact, they need a presence on the Web—almost like a Yellow Pages type of operation. And it's such that if you're not on the Web, you're not in business. So it's certainly not the year 2000.

With these kinds of comments and the cost of marketing so high in general, and realizing that the amortized cost of Web page advertising is literally pennies a day, because of the free nature of the Internet, it occurred to us that more and more businesses and individuals would be moving onto the Net, and in so doing would need Web sites or Web pages, and somebody would have to provide them.

Certainly one of the hottest businesses going today is Web page providing. People creating Web pages. What we wanted to do was be a visionary, be ahead of the pack and not playing catch-up. The way we felt we should keep the costs down was by word-of-mouth type of operation whereby we wouldn't have to put forth a lot of our own corporate advertising to compete for clients who would want Web pages created. And we do that through an independent distributor network who can refer people and the give them a commission for doing so. That method, of course, keeps us from spending a lot of money. It keeps our marketing costs down, and allows us to maintain a profit while still paying out generously to the distributors who refer business to us.

WWWiz: And who are the targets of your distributor network?

The target market would be virtually any business, large or small, who would like Web page advertising created, and individuals who would like Web pages for their own reasons.

WWWiz: And what are you going to do for your distributors to help them advertise and get connected with those people?

S.Z.: The way we help our distributors to get connected with their potential clients is, number one, we give training, corporate training, on audio and video tape, as well as corporate-sponsored meetings that we have where distributors can come and learn how to talk to other businesses. We have full flip-charts, presentation materials, we have a computer disk which shows who Web Builders is, what we are, that we could put into anybody's computer, and it would show a presentation, it would virtually do all the selling. We have a book full of full-color templates, or samples, of Web pages that can be created, so that a distributor could just show this to a client and say, "Hey—Look at this template. Which do you like? We could make it look like this, but with your name, your logo, your pictures, your text." They just fill out a simple insertion order form and let the programmers do the rest.

WWWiz: How are you going to deal with the competition?

S.Z.: We anticipate that our market is not the person who wishes to be in the creative business themselves and make their own pages. We're looking for the busy business people who don't know computers and would be willing to pay to have that service done, and the first way they contact them or compete is by personal referral; if they talk to someone they know, there's a lot more credibility doing business with someone you know than just some stranger saying, "Hey, I make Web pages."

We want to be hassle-free so that our distributors don't even have to do the work. We send in the insertion orders, we do all the work for them, so we anticipate competing by offering a hassle-free service. You're really paying for the service and the quality of the page and also the location of the page.

Furthermore, we have lower marketing costs, therefore we should be able to keep the cost of our pages low and not have to keep escalating as others do, as well as the monthly maintenance fees; we anticipate, if anything, our fees going down, not up. So what we offer is a complete service package, not just page development.

So the first thing is ease of creation, because we do it all for you—all you do is say what you want it to look like—or if you want custom design work, we offer custom design work at very low rates, and people can get with our customer service department, and through fax, literally through the Internet itself, or through telephone calls, actually keep on touch with our customer service department, to say, "No, I don't like that graphic in that position. Could you move it over here?" And they can see examples of it as it's being developed and literally take part if they wish to, or the total opposite—just say, "Use your imagination; make me a neat page." We can do that, too.

WWWiz: Do you have your own server?

S.Z.: We do have our own server. We believe putting an ad or Web page, or sometimes we call them display ads, on the Internet is really tantamount to shouting in a forest when nobody's around to hear you, in that if it's just out there and nobody knows where you're at, then it's really no good having it, and you've wasted your money. Our service is to actually put you in a location whereby you have traffic coming in almost automatically, and here's how: we are the iMall.

The iMall gets, conservatively, 50,000 to 100,000 hits a day, and that's backed up by computer printouts that show the number of hits. It has names such as the Draft Rush Limbaugh for President Committee and the Super Bowl XXX Host Committee.

The iMall has a full browse feature, a full, dedicated search engine, so that you can either browse the different categories while you're there, or you can search for whatever you might be interested in while you're there. But the key is, we don't send people out of the iMall once they get there. We put iMall links on other sites, bringing people to the iMall, but we don't send them away once they get there. So there's a good reason for clients to stay there, and browse and search while they're there. There are other big names—Covey Leadership Group, Covert Bailey, Healthrider—there have been other big companies.

WWWiz: When people come to the iMall can they actually buy with credit cards?

S.Z: You got it. There are two ways we can work it. Number one, if a person, a vendor has a merchant account, we can set it up so that their merchant account can actually process stuff online. If they don't have a merchant account, then we have a service where they can use our merchant account, in some cases, to accept payment. We use Netscape Security, so since a majority of people are using Netscape, their credit card actions are secure.

WWWiz: Do you have any resistance to credit card usage?

S.Z: We haven't seen it. In fact, quite a few of the customers who come into iMall buy things with their credit cards.

WWWiz: Okay, so what percentage of people who come to the iMall actually buy something?

R.R.: We don't have those exact numbers because the individual clients take their own orders, and they go directly to them, and they don't tell us every time they sell something, but it's a high percentage.

WWWiz: Do you know what the price range of items available on the iMall has been?

R.R.: Yes. They vary from $10 to...I think Healthrider was selling them for $1,000.

WWWiz: How many stores do you have on the iMall?

R.R.: Right now, I think we're getting close to over 200.

WWWiz: What kind of connection do you have into the system?

R.R.: Right now we have three T1s, and a T3 we put in to handle the Super Bowl traffic.

WWWiz: Of course this other side, where you're going to have agents out selling your Web sites for you—Web Builders—that's going to increase traffic, I assume.

S.Z.: Oh, yeah. Amazingly so. People are logging on more and more to the iMall. What we're doing is, the new iMall page has incredibly different graphics, and when you go in, you go to a directory, which is just like looking in an actual mall directory. When you start strolling down the aisles, you'll see the sites on the upper and lower decks, and almost the virtual stores, and then, as we incorporate the newest languages, we'll always have, on the home page, what's hot on the Internet, so that people can get Java demonstrations, they can get Java Script, they can get 3-D animation, macromedia stuff, they can have video, real audio, and people can sample that.

We're expecting to draw a lot of traffic from people just looking at what new things can be done and, of course, Web Builders International will offer those programming techniques to our clients, so that on top of having the best locations and a lot of viewers, and a better chance to be successful, our clients are going to have the ability to have state-of-the-art Web pages, and therefore, people will want to come and look at their hot, new pages. For example, they come in and they say, "How would you like to look at some Java?" They do, and then they say, "Come and look at some of our tenants who have Java pages." Then they'll all of a sudden be going to those pages, and it just brings a lot more traffic and a lot more interest for people, and that's what it's really all about.