Brandon Pelissero knows the value a long-term relationship with the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (UGA SBDC) can add to a small business. Pelissero, owner of industrial chemical company Ecolink, has worked with the UGA SBDC for more than 15 years, beginning with a website audit in 2009. Over the past few years, the success of the partnership has been reflected in Ecolink’s growth—by 2023 the company had quadrupled sales and expanded both domestically and internationally.
Ecolink manufactures industrial cleaning compounds. Their products are created in a novel way that lessens the amount of cleaning material required, resulting in lower costs for the customer, less harm to the environment and a lower carbon footprint. Ecolink’s product line includes industrial cleaners, degreasers and solvents.
In 2016, Pelissero reached out to Drew Tonsmeire at the UGA SBDC at Kennesaw State University to understand how consumers were finding Ecolink. The two worked together to amplify the company’s website, increase search engine optimization, and keep a close eye on website analytics.
“We’ve always relied on permission-based inbound marketing but didn’t know how or why people were finding us online,” said Pelissero. “These online analytic tools gave us some insight on what people care about and what drives our website traffic up.”
When the pandemic began in 2020, the hard work Pelissero had invested in Ecolink’s online presence paid off.
On Tonsmeire’s advice, Pelissero set up Google AdWords campaigns in 2016. Among the campaign language were the words “isopropyl alcohol.” As online searches for isopropyl alcohol increased during the pandemic, so did hits to Ecolink’s website—and unprecedented sales followed.
“We hadn’t touched that ad campaign since the 2016 meeting with Drew. The first week of Atlanta’s acknowledgement of Covid, we got notifications from Google that ‘isopropyl alcohol’ was trending at 1,007%, resulting in an over 6,000% return on investment for us,” said Pelissero.
In the first 90 days of the pandemic, Ecolink exceeded its sales totals for all of 2019, in large part due to the work put into the digital marketing four years earlier. The 2020 sales exceeded the annual sales for2018 and 2019 combined.
In addition to the increase in sales, the success the company saw from those marketing efforts resulted in more than 25 industry awards.
The website analytics encouraged Pelissero to take a closer look at the company’s plan to tap into the international market. Tonsmeire referred Pelissero to Darrel Hulsey, director of the UGA SBDC’s International Trade Center.
“Darrel asked questions we never thought of before. He started analyzing what was working with our international sales, specifically the number of products, countries and revenues, trying to find common denominators,” said Pelissero. “It opened a Pandora’s box of what was missing in the international market.”
Pelissero was also selected to participate in UGA SBDC’s ExportGA training program. An intensive four-session, 16-hour export training program, ExportGA allows export-ready companies to develop their skills to identify new international sales opportunities. Participants also have access to a student from the University of Georgia Terry College of Business to assist with research.
One piece of the program introduces participants to the Interest Charged Domestic International Sales Corporations (IC-DISC) and explains the business advantages of that designation. The IC-DISC allows exporters to realize tax savings on exports. If a company is exporting to an area that practices trade protectionism, and the same materials are available locally, the country will charge more for the materials coming in from abroad. The savings realized through the IC-DISC help level the playing field for the U.S. exporter in those situations; allowing their products and locally made products to be priced comparably.
“The profits derived from the IC-DISC covered the cost of the ExportGA class and the legal fees to set up the designation,” said Pelissero. “Through ExportGA, I’ve met with contacts in Mexico, Chile, Peru, Japan and Canada. And now we are launching our first e-commerce website in Canada. The class really helped us focus on our international plan.”
Ecolink’s growth proves the value working with the UGA SBDC can have for a small business.
For More Information: University of Georgia SBDC | (706) 542-2762