Eternity, a Vermont-based web development and digital marketing firm with offices in Barre and Burlington, celebrates 20 years in business this month.
Company founder Mike Lannen started the company from his Champlain College dorm room in 2000. What started as a one-man, student-run operation, is now a business with two offices, seven employees and a $750,000 budget, and is still growing.
Eternity builds and hosts websites, implements digital marketing strategies and assists with company branding and corporate identity. Digital marketing includes developing an advertising strategy for Google and Facebook and other sites, e-mail marketing, social media management and content marketing.
Last year Eternity saw a 52% growth from 2018. Lannen credits the growth in 2019 to three main factors: a dramatic growth in digital advertising; the fact that his company has a strong relationship with its customers; and his “highly skilled crew.”
“We attribute this growth to an outstandingly hard-working crew and treating each and every client relationship with integrity and personal care. Anybody can build a website; we focus on building relationships with our clients. Some of them have been with us for 15 years,” he said.
Seth Hibbert from Let’s Grow Kids, whose testimony is posted on the Eternity website, agrees. “Eternity was a godsend for our organization. Having struggled mightily with another vendor through three missed deadlines, we put out a call for help and Mike and his team answered. We asked for an unrealistic deadline and they nailed it. The process was so smooth and the end result was a high-functioning, easy-to-use website with all the bells and whistles we asked for,” he said.
Lannen said he got his first customers by searching the Yellow Pages of the phone book. One requirement for his course work at Champlain College was that he do volunteer work. His volunteer work was free website design. He focused on nonprofit groups that did not have a website and called them and pitched his service.
“I started out doing pro-bono work with several nonprofits. I told them I was a student and said I would design their website for free. It was a great partnership as it allowed me to get my start in the online world and it spread awareness for some amazing nonprofit organizations. Eternity was built on a foundation of charitable work, and we hold that close to our hearts today as we continue to work closely with nonprofit organizations,” he said.
His roots in community service go back to his years as a boy scout. “I’m an eagle scout and believe in the importance of giving. What you give eventually comes back to you, which is why I decided almost 20 years ago to donate my time and resources to the nonprofit community. I wanted to learn how to make websites in the real world and I saw a lot of nonprofits that were missing a website. Because of my community background and experience with Boy Scouts, it was the perfect match. We continue to work with amazing nonprofits today and really enjoy helping them make an impact in the community,” he said.
The biggest change in his 20 years in business, Lannen said, is that today “instant availability of information,” is accessible on a variety of formats, from big computer screens to the small screen on a phone. Businesses that want to successfully compete must continually update their product and make their content accessible on all formats, he said.
Twenty years ago, Lannen said, websites were viewed primarily on big computer screens, so website design was fairly simple and changes were not needed as often as they are now.
The biggest challenge today, he said, is creating websites and digital marketing that actually work. One key factor for success is getting his clients on the first page of the Google search.
“It’s not ‘Field of Dreams.’ For a website, if you build it they won’t come, unless there is both a reason and easy access,” he said.
Landing on page one of the Google search is crucially important. “The best place to hide a dead body is on page two of Google.” Everybody uses Google but only 5% of searchers go beyond page one. To assure success his team helps design the website and content that tap into to the roughly 250 metrics that Google uses for its search list rankings, everything from content, to key words, to links and related blogs.
“Eternity takes pride in building and implementing strategies, with the goal of driving traffic to our clients’ websites,” said Lannen.
To help celebrate 20 years in business, Eternity is donating a free, fully developed website to a nonprofit organization. Lannen asked his staff to identify a nonprofit in serious need of a website makeover and digital marketing assistance. He and the staff are reviewing a number of companies for the award. The chosen nonprofit will be announced later this month and will receive all the services necessary to improve or create their website, and also will get free web hosting for a year and a significant hosting discount after that.
Lannen lives in Barre with his wife Mollie, who owns CW Print and Design, and their daughters Claire, 6, and Ella, 2.