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“We’re not interested in standard 9 to 5 hours and we care a lot more about being engaged and productive, and then taking a break as soon as we’re not.”

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Within TargetClick, Therese Kuster, focuses on writing copy, social media strategy and management and content marketing. She also works on any traditional PR-related things and is the resident proof-reader for just about everything her team writes. She spends free time with friends and family, reading or traveling and the last book she read was Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier.

TargetClick Marketing is a comprehensive online marketing firm that helps clients improve their overall web presence. They do this through website design and development, search engine optimization (SEO), Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) and content marketing.

Therese Kuster, TargetClick Marketing Solutions - Founding Partner

MO: What are some easy ways that companies can improve their online presence? What are some more long term approaches?

Therese: There are a variety of ways businesses can improve their online presence. The first and most obvious area for improvement is the website. It should be an active member of a business’s sales team, which means it must have contact information and a call to action on each and every page. This is so often ignored and by incorporating it into the header, it’s easily visible no matter where a visitor is in the site.

As a long-term solution, local businesses should claim their Google Places listing and provide a complete and optimized profile. Beyond that, they should build more citations across the web on local and industry-specific directories, as well as Yahoo! and Bing. It’s crucial that these listings be consistent across all channels to build authenticity. This is just part of creating a fully-optimized online presence, but it’s a great place to start.

MO: Who or what inspires you? Have you had any mentors during the course of your career?

Therese: The people who inspire me most are my partners, Greg and Doug. We each have such different personalities that it’s easy to learn something new from them. They’re great at seeing the big picture for our company and always help me keep the vision of what we want TargetClick to be. It’s an exciting and encouraging group and I’m proud to be a part of it.

It’s also always inspiring when I speak to classes or student groups about the services we provide or entrepreneurship in general. I love the enthusiasm and always feel a renewed energy after giving these types of presentations.

I’ve had many mentors during the course of my career because I have a lot to learn. The staff at the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and the incubator programs at the University of Northern Iowa have answered many questions and provided a lot of advice over the past few years. I have also learned a lot from former bosses and a very smart businessman, Neal Conover, who I met at the Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute.

MO: Can you talk about your company culture and how you feel it contributes to the success of TargetClick?

Therese: Our culture is a huge part of our company’s success. Fortunately, we three partners had little corporate experience, which means we always do what works best in the situation, not what’s “normal” or what everyone else is doing. We always talk about how if we make a policy or rule, we have to be prepared to throw it out as soon as it no longer makes sense.

We do our best to create a happy place to work where everyone’s excited to come to the office each day. We’re not interested in standard 9 to 5 hours and we care a lot more about being engaged and productive, and then taking a break as soon as we’re not. We believe in going home and recharging when we need to, which makes it easier to put in a lot of extra time and work when it’s necessary. We believe in the power of the team and we’re working hard to build a good, solid foundation that can support our company as it grows.

MO: Congratulations on winning the The CEO/YEC Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award, what a fantastic achievement. Why do you think that you were chosen and how did it feel to be recognized for your efforts?

Therese: Thanks! It was an exciting opportunity and I’m grateful to have been chosen.

I think I was selected for this award because I wrote what everyone else was thinking. My essay was honest and true and I think the judges could see that. I talked about how it’s such a challenge when I’m in class and would rather be in the office, or when I’m at the office but have to leave to study for an exam. I also said that at the end of the day, the TargetClick office is where I want to be so I know that I’m on the right path, which helps me stay motivated to finish school.

It was nice to be recognized by The CEO and The YEC, because they’re leaders in student entrepreneurship. The groups are made up of my peers and it’s always nice to be recognized for something I’ve worked so hard at over the last few years. Every entrepreneur is an entrepreneur and something else: parent, spouse, student, etc. It’s nice to be recognized for my “something else” and it was very encouraging to know they appreciate what I do.

MO: Can you explain how business incubator programs are fostering economic development in their communities? How has been being part of an incubator contributed to the development and progress of the company so far?

Therese: Business Incubators help take people from the idea through the business launch and beyond. These are great programs for encouraging risk and growth when nothing else is. We’re in an economic situation where if you can’t find a job, maybe you have to go make one and that’s what incubators help us do. They help business grow enough to launch into the community, create jobs and provide products and services that local people need.

Incubators are more than just office space, they’re places where you can walk down the hall and ask someone how to use Quickbooks correctly. They’re places where you are invited to a networking event every single day of the week. Most importantly, they’re places filled with entrepreneurial spirit. The staff members are always around to answer questions and connect business owners with the right people. They provide a devil’s advocate perspective when it’s needed, but also provide reassurance and assistance to help big ideas become reality.

TargetClick has been involved in both student and community-based business incubators and both have contributed greatly to our success. It gives us a professional setting for client meetings, as well as space for our interns to work. We’ve been able to meet a lot of great people, including some of our clients, through the incubator.

MO: Name two trends in your industry that you’re excited about.

Therese: Right now, we’re really excited about all the opportunities for local search marketing. Local businesses are able to compete with large businesses in the online sphere because of the way search engines, specifically Google, have chosen to display their local search results. When you search for something like “Golf Equipment in Waterloo, Iowa,” Google displays the local maps listing and the organic listing higher on the page than organic listings alone.

In addition, it’s exciting to see the way people’s perception of online marketing has grown and changed. It’s no longer a question of if business will be able to do online marketing, but rather a question of how much. Internet marketing has become a crucial component of all marketing campaigns and business owners are really starting to understand the need for an optimized web presence.

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