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Industry Insights from the Inside

Moving into the Digital Marketing sphere, especially as a new start-up entrepreneur, can seem daunting at first. Even as the world becomes increasingly digital and mobile devices reign supreme, one has to be strategic to get off the ground, stand out from the crowd and succeed.


As our CEO and Founder, Kelly Cutler, said anyone hoping to jump into the Digital Marketing pool, so to speak, should follow these guidelines:


  • Think about long-term growth.
  • Set specific goals and determine how you’re going to reach them.
  • Commit a plan to paper.
  • Market your business. Just because you build it doesn’t mean that people will come.


Cutler has the experience to back up these claims. After moving to Chicago to pursue a career in the film industry, she switched gears and began an ascent in the Internet marketing world; spending time at, DigitalWork and finally at AOL Time Warner before starting her own boutique agency specializing in SEO in River North. Recognizing an explosion in the social media world of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google +, Instagram and more, Cutler sold Marcel Digital in 2014 and founded Kona Company, an Evanston-based digital strategy firm that deploys all the tactics needed in the modern digital toolkit – strategic planning, social media marketing, website design and development and web analytics.

KC Desk_Portrait evanston edge


Kona Company, a digital strategy firm, offers customized solutions based on clearly defined goals and objectives. As Cutler said, “We work with our clients to identify their digital marketing goals: Are they selling products? Are they directing customers to a mobile application?  Is it a location strategy?  Do they want to schedule appointments? Generate leads or inquiries? From that foundation, we develop a digital strategy using the web, mobile applications, search engine optimization, social media marketing, website analytics, display advertising and/or remarketing tactics”.


The expertise, coupled by nearly 20 years of experience, offered by Kona Company’s team can be applied a “a wide range of industries – financial services, e-commerce, business-to-business, healthcare … really just about any business” and non-profits, too. Depending on the account, whether it be B2B (business-to-business) or consumer, a wide variety of tools can be employed, and, “in order to be a strong agency partner, we have to be proficient in every aspect of social media and manage within each of those platforms.”



Recognizing the technology climate, Cutler decided to make the jump from specializing in search and shift the focus toward a broader range of digital marketing solutions. She noted that “companies were offering advertisers packages that really were not based on the advertiser’s goals and it was an early enough time in the industry that even the clients didn’t know what they needed or wanted.   I felt I could help them establish online goals, starting from a business perspective. I wanted to provide a better solution than what they were being offered by publishers.  Nobody was doing it [yet]. Google Adwords didn’t exist in 2003. I knew it was critical for an advertiser’s site to have a high ranking in Internet searches on AOL or Yahoo. It was the golden ticket and I could make it happen. Two years later, Google really took off.”


Keeping all of this in mind, Cutler outlined the firm to offer a “full menu of services for our clients [and] pursue more forward-thinking work: strategy development, digital planning and remarketing.” Sharing industry insights she has learned over the years, Cutler finds the Digital Marketing landscape engaging and ever-evolving.


Kona Company enjoys success in this climate of constant, technological change and improvement; with updates to Google products and other software happening in real time. One thing does remain consistent, though, and that is the strength of client relations, especially those with existing clients. Cutler notes that “we’d rather have deep relationships with our clients than shallow relationships with dozens of new ones, so we work very closely with a small number of clients.  That allows us to do great work for them and that’s how we’ve built our business… We’re growing in a very smart way. The three clients that we had when I started are still with us and every one of them has increased their billing [and] one of them is actually quadrupling their budget in the next year, so there’s still a lot of opportunity”.


Chicago Evanston Map

As for the future, Cutler is interested in the prospect of “expanding the Kona Company model to work with start-ups and social businesses [finding] ways to enhance the early company phase, especially in the technology space.” While many companies believe a relocation to Chicago, New York or San Francisco is necessary for growth, Cutler posits that “we’re in a great position to offer those growth opportunities through the services we provide at Kona Company”, right here in Evanston.

(This article originally appeared in the Evanston Edge)


To contact Kona Company to find out more about our services, click here.



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