David Koder: Building relationships

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David Koder’s passion and commitment drives the success of D Koder Marketing, a Bath, Pa.-based agency that forges long-term relationships with clients. Catch up with David on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The who:

Given a business name is so central to a brand, we tend to put a lot of importance on it. How did you arrive at a name, and how do you feel about it now that you’ve been in business a while?

This is an awesome question and love sharing it… We originally started our business with Velocity SEO. We had the name, logo, but when we started the mission/vision statement we felt the excitement decrease. So after four to six months of work, we knew it was not catching in our market and surrounding target markets. We regrouped and brainstormed what the overall focus on the industry we are in and what we do.

D Koder Marketing was a play on words with our last name being involved in the development process.

Our business name is a convenient “play on words.” My wife and I were overreaching to come up with something creative and attention grabbing when she stated that my name, David Koder, conveniently reflected a lot of what we do.

We essentially “decode” your marketing needs by mirroring your goals and objectives in the best approach to your needs.

Almost 7 years later, the name is a perfect fit as it still embodies our mission, without pigeonholing us into a specific facet of marketing- and gets a lot of smiles when people who are savvy to the industry realize our last name is in fact Koder.

My journey into this industry started in 2004 as a sophomore at Southern Lehigh High School taking web design classes and working with Front Page old-style HTML. (Why we started our business name with D Koder.) After leaving the sporting goods retail industry, I found a love for marketing. I carried over my best traits from retails into the marketing industry. (I do not hold a degree from college.)

This journey has been bigger than that. Marketing has nothing to do with promises, it has everything to do with A/B testing — and not any one client is the same.

As my father-in-law says, “My reverse lights are on.” Did you ever watch someone back up? Majority of people cannot. For me, it’s easy — I am a backwards thinker, you know — dyslexia. I have always thought through everything backwards. In the beginning it was hard, but as I got older it became easier.

In school I needed extra help, teachers liked me, but not my constant questions. To me, marketing is questions, experimenting and showing your findings and perfecting. “D Koder” is the starting point to all of this and also the beginning of understanding your needs to solve a problem.

“Marketing” was simple — that explained what we can help you with, and the industry we are in.

When we picked our colors, orange represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation. Orange increases oxygen supply to the brain produces an invigorating effect, and stimulates mental activity. Black denotes strength and authority. Black gives the feeling of perspective and depth.

I always loved figuring things out and helping others accomplish bigger and better. Our logo is all about the client. That is why we have the K behind the D and M. even though Koder is our last name, it is also a play on words and represents what we do — and why it’s orange.

With some brands, location is a key component. Is there anything about the place you live and work that’s shaped your own brand?

I was born and raised in the Lehigh Valley and lived here my entire life. When I started working for large marketing companies, I always did right for the client as I knew I was not leaving this area — and reputation is everything. I was not so much working on the marketing aspects, but my communication and networking skills, which is why we took off so quickly. I spoke to roughly 50% to 60% of the businesses in the Lehigh Valley over the last 15 years.

Our location here in Pennsylvania’s thriving Lehigh Valley has allotted us the opportunity to continue to be diverse in who we can help. My wife and I are both born and raised here, therefore we understand the area from a marketing standpoint. Marketing isn’t “cookie cutter” in our eyes and our clients are all unique in their own right. Our location allows us to serve many different industries with our creativity and work ethic. We also believe in the importance of understanding other locations and serving our out of state clients by physically visiting their markets and learning the environment to better serve their marketing aspirations in a more authentic way.

How would you describe your professional experience and background?

I have gained most of by experience by being out in the field since high school and continuing education by my own means of research, reading, and networking. I was voted Businessman of the Class of 2005 when I graduated High School in Coopersburg, PA, so I knew early on that my passion was in the business/marketing field.

Could you describe the scope of your operation?

We are an in-house, performance-based internet marketing agency. We provide a wide array of services ranging from SEO, website building and eCommerce sites, to PPC and direct engagement advertising. We also try to educate the public with our partnerships with Google, providing trainings and volunteering on our local vocational school board’s technology department.

Some 75% of our day-to-day focus is marketing. Another 15% of our day is website design. We pick up clients based on their long-term focus. If marketing is not in their future plan, we decline and send them to a website designer. Our retention rate on clients who we have built their website and do their marketing is 99% since we launched our business.

Some entrepreneurs describe an aha! moment, the instant they decided it was time to take things into their own hands. Could you describe any of those moments you’ve had?

Ha-ha, where do I begin and end with this one? Let’s point out the elephant: Not following through on your word. Every big company worked on contracts, not effort. That was the turning point for me. If I wasn’t the first — I was pretty darn close to being the first agency to offer no term contracts and I know I we were the first to give our new clients exclusive rights to their target GEOs.

I think the deciding moment for going into business on my own was after working for 10+ years in the sales industry and dealing with fluctuating pay scales and goal expectations that were unrealistic and not truly helping the clients I was serving as our “packages” were cookie-cutter and not offering them viable results to their goals. I wanted to actually help my clients get the results they were striving for in a way I knew I could achieve, so I made the terrifying- yet rewarding decision to go into business on my own. The true “aha moment” is when you can figure out how to solve the problem better than your competitors.

The what:

What kind of projects do you prefer to work on? 

Each member of our team has an individual strength that make us a monumental asset as a whole. My personal preference and strong suit is Search Engine Optimization.

Could you describe your typical client (if you have a typical client)?

A typical client for us is someone who desires a stronger internet presence- whether that be ranking, a more user-friendly website, or “tweaking” their existing structure to achieve their intended goal.

Sometimes we’re in a position where it’s necessary to turn down projects or even fire clients. What do those situations look like for you, and how do you manage them?

Simple, we interview our clients with a digital form when it comes to marketing. We take a thorough look at their current voice on the web. We ask them the common question:

Have you worked with any other agencies that handled your SEO? And how long ago did you leave that agency?

When we take on website design projects we want to know the client’s long-term goal, and that it’s not just build us a website. So, if they are looking for just Facebook advertising and a landing page, we will not take on the client.

The majority of the situations we have to decline a project are based around manpower and the timeline in which the job could realistically be completed.

We are always transparent with our prospective clients about what we can- and cannot do.

Performance is always important, but sometimes we have to pay close attention to value as well. How do you position GoDaddy products and services for your clients?

We are positioning the client so that their future on the web is organized and focused on the greener pieces to building their presence. Most of our clients are not “start-ups” so when a customer comes to us and they’ve got three different hosting companies, we ask them if it would be easier to manage if everything were in one spot with better security?

Could you describe a project that you feel exemplifies you at your best?

96.8% of our clients are still with us from the beginning. Too many projects to state one over the other.

The how:

An obvious metric for measuring our own success is how much you got paid versus how much time it took. In your experience, what are the advantages and drawbacks here?

We do everything in house and do not outsource any of the work, so the advantage is more profitable and still maintain a competitive proposal on the table. The downside is rapid growth, so you need to be prepared to hire and scan new team members or take on our approach and filter your leads from great and terrible.

I believe the time it takes to complete projects in correlation to time reflects more than just time. It encompasses the unseen building blocks that make you experienced in your field such as education, training, troubleshooting and redirection of strategy. Everyone has a skillset that sets them apart from the crowd and, in theory, when we are hired for a project and give a proposal for the work required, it also embodies 14 years of education and knowledge crammed into the allotted estimated time frame. You wouldn’t hire us for our expertise and we wouldn’t be confident in our craftsmanship if we undervalued our time.

How does GoDaddy Pro fit into what you do? Could you recommend any ways to get the most value out of it — especially to someone just starting out?

Simple. If you are reading this and just starting out, just don’t try and win the client by being cheap. Win the client with service. If you have to pay an extra $10 a year on a domain to get 24/7 support – do it. When the customer faces zero problems for 1 year, they see the value and will renew.

Imagine you could travel back in a time machine to a point where you were like, Forget this. I’m done! What advice would you give yourself?

The good days outweigh the bad and you will never please everyone. Keep pushing forward because the reward of helping those who value your agency’s expertise is amazing.

What’s your parting shot for people who want to be like you when they grow up?

Take the path less chosen. Not all traditional routes may lead you to the destination you were meant to be at. Dare to think backwards and take in all the knowledge you can.


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Art Martori
Art Martori thinks words are like chess pieces. While checkers might be more appropriate for the analogy, he’s aided by years of professional writing experience via mediums including content strategy, journalism and fiction. When he’s not typing on a keyboard, find Art strumming the 12-bar blues.