Anyone with toddlers and pets knows the challenges of keeping them safe and away from restricted areas. So when Marc Pichik bought a puppy, he needed something to keep the curious canine contained.
“I wanted something sleek and compact, unlike traditional baby gates that are clumsy, in the way and don’t look good,” he says. When internet searches didn’t turn up what Marc was looking for, he decided to invent a prototype. “I just kept moving the idea along and eventually got a patent and trademarked the name Retract-A-Gate.”
His safety gates come in different sizes, mount on stairways and doorways, and retract like window shades when not in use. Marc launched his business, Smart Retract, in 2002, selling his Retract-A-Gates to stores in Iowa. “But then I realized the great potential of selling online,” he says. “I had an unusual solution to a common problem.”
“The effect of the web on our business has meant everything to us.”
Marc Pichik, CEO
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Marc started using AdWords, Google’s advertising program, in 2006. Since then, it has been a critical tool for reaching customers searching for safety gates. “When customers look for safety gates, they often expect something big and bulky. They don’t know about our small and sleek products,” says Marc. “AdWords gives us the online exposure that we need to get the word out there. And in our early days, it was either we were on AdWords or we sold nothing.”
AdWords now accounts for about 80 percent of Smart Retract’s advertising and 30 percent of their sales. Marc also relies on Google Analytics to keep pace with digital trends and see which marketing campaigns are working best. Google Webmaster Tools help him monitor performance issues on his e-commerce website. And his YouTube videos show customers how to mount and use the gates.
Smart Retract has 10 employees.
In 2010, Marc moved his growing operation into a facility near the Mississippi River, where the company now manufactures 100 percent of their products. They ship all over the world, sell wholesale, and continue to grow 20 percent year-over-year. “Without AdWords and the other Google tools, this would have been a much more difficult road,” Marc says. “We wouldn’t have grown as quickly as we have. The impact is significant.”
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