In 1994, Steven Page was intrigued by an invention that was taking the world by storm. The Internet captivated Page and he absorbed as much information about the new World Wide Web as humanly possible at the time. While working as a manager for Shell, Page self-taught himself HTML and website creation. It quickly became a hobby and soon Page was being asked by family and friends to build their websites.
His burgeoning knowledge and growing interest in the Internet led Page to earn some money building websites on the side. Within a short timeframe, he had established his own consulting brand, PageCo, and was working in digital marketing long before it was a $135 billion a year industry.
According to Page, consulting has always seen PageCo as a hobby. His love for digital marketing and seeing it as an escape from his 9 to 5 job is why he has continued a full-time career. Despite a growing reputation and continued success with PageCo, the digital marketing expert still receives the same enjoyment he did two and a half decades ago.
Steven, you launched PageCo in 1994. Can you tell us about the launch of your company and how you have managed the business all these years while working on other projects?
STEVEN PAGE: I was working with local candidates running for mayor or city council. My background was in retail and brand marketing. You are always looking for the new “shiny thing” that will help you get your message out. I had a friend that worked at a tech company and got to play around with some of this new technology. It had been the birth of the Internet in 1994. Yahoo and AOL ruled the Internet universe. Teaching myself HTML and how it could be used for online marketing — that new way of communicating and getting your message out to the world. Back then, everyone loved seeing a website whether personal, marketing, whatever, because there just wasn’t that many. It was exciting and taking off at an extremely fast pace. I could create something that could reach lots of people and be on the same level as a giant company doing the same. But it was more of a hobby back then. I was constantly learning more and more. I had people coming to me and asking, “Hey, can you make me one of those pages you see on the computer?” That’s when I knew I could make a few bucks and started PageCo.
What was your inspiration to establish PageCo and how have you maintained that desire over the last two and a half decades?
STEVEN PAGE: I never saw it as work. It started as a hobby, made a few bucks and met some interesting people. The pace of the growth was so fast, at times it was difficult to keep up. The competitiveness in me wanted to be the best. I knew this was going to grow into something bigger then it was. So, I read everything, experimented, met with others that were doing the same, and chatted with people all over the world thanks to this new way to communicate. It was never the money or ego that drove me. It was a burning curiosity that came from my creative side. Kind of like a writer and their typewriter. This was my creative outlet, with no boundaries.
The digital marketing industry is worth $135 billion a year. Social media and online marketing is the most popular way for companies to reach their clients today. Unlike many of the digital marketing companies today who charge outrageous fees and provide few results, Page stresses that PageCo is far more affordable for businesses. Part of the reason is due to his decision to run PageCo like a non-profit or trade-barter. The company’s affordability has enabled numerous small businesses and start-ups to partner with it. Working with small companies and new businesses is a point of pride for Page as he has helped hundreds of organizations grow and reach customers.
What type of services can clients expect from PageCo?
STEVEN PAGE: Today, PageCo is a consulting business created for local small businesses to start-ups. Much of what I do is more affordable than what a traditional marketing firm would charge. Now with digital marketing and big data automation, it is hard for a business to know where to start. What types of campaigns should I have? Does the market even want to buy my product on the web? With start-ups, most are very skilled with whatever that one particular thing is that they are trying to get out to the world. Most have zero business knowledge, let alone marketing experience. That is why so many fail. My team and I can take that part of the business away from the principles, let them do what they are best at and let us worry about running the marketing side with skill and best practices they just wouldn’t have at the start. I put the profits right back into PageCo to improve services. Or trade-barter, trade for need, trade for fun, whatever the need maybe.
How can businesses benefit from partnering with your marketing firm?
STEVEN PAGE: We can come to the business, take over the marketing, PR, digital, and let them concentrate on what they do best. Once we have established a good solid marketing strategy, we advise the company on the best way to reach their customers and help them down that path. One less thing to worry about and they know they are getting the best in class service. It’s a great learning experience for the owners.
Page has seen the digital marketing industry, and the Internet for that matter, change greatly since starting PageCo. When he was self-teaching himself HTML and ways to communicate with others view the World Wide Web, there were few companies marketing online. Companies still used traditional methods to reach customers, but in the last 25 years, that has changed. Page knows it is going to evolve even more and he is still learning.
How has marketing, and digital marketing especially, changed since the company started?
STEVEN PAGE: At the start, there wasn’t or was very little digital marketing. If I was to go to a start-up and tell them you need to spend $15,000 a month on online advertising in the mid-’90s, I would have been laughed at. Nowadays, marketing budgets have moved from the traditional print, TV or billboards to online. Big data now is able to help marketers target customers that will want and buy the products that match their needs and wants. Now introduce AI (artificial intelligence) and you have an automated learning system that will improve customer satisfaction. The changes have been amazing!
PageCo has never been a full-time position for Page. As he admits, he has been loyal to the companies he has worked for over the years. Page also uses his own brand as a retreat, a place to go to escape the rigors of his full-time job working in other areas that fulfil him personally.
You have always worked in other areas and for other companies while running PageCo. Why haven’t you gone all-in on the company full-time previously and is there a chance you will in the future?
STEVEN PAGE: Probably because I never did it for the money. Yes, money can come with what you love to do, but I’m too loyal. I loved the people I have worked for and still do. I love being busy. There is also something nice about insurance, a constant paycheck and other perks at my current level. I guess I had always used PageCo as a learning tool to keep my skills sharp and help make people very successful. I also used it in the earlier days as a way to give back to my community. I’m still, today, hounded by others to go full-time on my own. They want to team up and have this “super consulting” business and rule the world. So who knows in the future.
When Page isn’t working on digital marketing projects for small businesses and start-ups, he is the Vice-President of IT, Marketing, and Digital Banking at SafeAmerica Credit Union. Page joined SafeAmerica in 2015 and has turned the company’s digital marketing into a strong tool that has helped grow the credit union’s reach. He continues to build the company’s online presence and has become an important part of the SafeAmerica team.
Steven, how did you get started with SafeAmerica Credit Union?
STEVEN PAGE: I was working at another credit union close by and the CEO for SafeAmerica Credit Union knew of me by reputation. He contacted me through LinkedIn and asked if we could do a lunch together, [he] wanted to talk to me about the digital world. Long story short, I took the lunch and started working there about two months later.
How can good marketing improve the banking experience for customers?
STEVEN PAGE: Banking, especially credit unions, were way behind when it came to digital channels. Most didn’t even have a proper website. There was a huge need for change and not many of us out there to do it. The larger institutions were starting to see that they needed to get with the times. But smaller shops and certain geographic locations were not. Living in Silicon Valley, financial institutions are expected to have innovative technology. It’s everywhere. There is this need to make sure you have a best-in-class digital footprint, which in turn will help you gain a large customer-membership base. It was an essential element. Good marketing is smart marketing. Give the customer what they want in the fastest, less frictionless way possible. The digital tools were there to do it. I just think many financial institutions are afraid of change. Once that change happened, the experience rate sharply increased with positive feedback.
In 1987, there was no such thing as digital banking. What was it like to go from paper-based operations into the digital marketing age?
STEVEN PAGE: Amazing. I don’t know how we did it before. Honestly. When I look back and think of all the manual processes and just simply guessing to today where you have tons of hard data that will tell you everything you need to know to market, it really is revolutionary. I think most people forget that not long ago you had to pay inside the gas station store and not at the pump. When you went to the bank, you went to the branch. Now the branch is on your phone in your pocket. The digital momentum is moving faster and faster. The digital marketing age is much better for both consumer and business owners, targeting to your needs. I think many people just take that for granted. There is a privacy concern today with big data that we did not have before. Everything is fine and good until the information is breached. Never had that worry back in the day. But people in this industry are amazing. They are working every day to make it secure. It is the reason why we don’t live like we did 30 years ago. Progress — but it does come at a price.
Steven, what is something most people don’t know about you?
STEVEN PAGE: I’m fiercely loyal and competitive. Sometimes to a fault. It has worked well for me, so I guess I can’t complain. I love the good life and everything that comes with it. There is a fine line between flaunting it and being content. You have to know the difference.
Instinct versus expertise: Which is more important and why?
STEVEN PAGE: You are either born and instinctively know what you are doing because of creativity or curiosity, or not. It is what it is. To be an expert in something, you can learn that and it is subjective. Instinct first as a foundation to back up your expertise that you have experienced or learned through the years. Go with your gut.
What advice would you give to anyone starting a new business?
STEVEN PAGE: Do it! I have helped many people take the plunge. Some have failed pretty badly, picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and went on to be very successful. So be realistic and know this can happen. Dream and dream big, but also be honest about what you are really going after. Stay true to yourself and do it your way.
Page is an in-demand person and each day is extremely busy. However, as Page says, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The digital marketing veteran has surrounded himself with a staff he considers family. It has enabled him to build PageCo into an exciting business that transforms small companies and start-ups into powerful digital marketing machines.
Page is still making a “few bucks”, but he has come a long way in the last 25 years in the digital marketing industry.
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