By Ann Luongo
In an ever-changing world where almost everything — shopping, socializing, reading, working and more — is done on computers and connected devices, effective digital marketing is more crucial for businesses than ever before. That marketing begins with a well-designed and user-friendly website.
Business partners Chris O’Brien and Rodrigo Passos launched their website design and development studio, Dative, in 2013, with this simple tagline: “We build websites.”
Since then, the business has expanded its scope. “Over time, our services have grown to include digital marketing — like social media, SEO, targeted email marketing, and Google AdWords — because our clients’ success often requires more than just a website,” O’Brien said. “Many of our clients rely on us as their outsourced web team. They need a dependable partner, but can’t or don’t want to hire full-time staff.”
O’Brien said he’s often asked where he came up with the name Dative. “Rodrigo is a programmer, and is very data-oriented,” he said. “I’m a designer, and have a more creative approach. So I combined the two words —data and creative — to get Dative. I love the name because it really captures our collaborative style as a company.”
Dative offers its clients a number of services in addition to web design. The number one service it provides, according to O’Brien, is strategy.
“Everything else we do — from custom websites to digital marketing campaigns — is only successful with a smart strategy in place.”
Clients come to Dative because they have a specific problem that they don’t know how to fix. For example, their website might be difficult to update, or it’s not getting enough traffic or generating enough leads.
Perhaps their website is so outdated that they don’t like the way it reflects on their business. Here is where strategy comes in.
“Our approach is to, first, take steps to learn about and understand the problems [the clients] face, create a roadmap that will get them to their desired outcome, and then execute on that plan to deliver positive results,” said O’Brien. “Recently, we conducted a digital marketing campaign to promote an annual fundraising event for a local nonprofit. The outcome was a 350 percent increase in the number of online donations, and a 207 percent increase in total dollars compared to the previous year. Results like that are why Dative exists. That’s what makes me excited to go to work every morning.”
Dative’s clients think of it as a one-stop shop for their web design and digital marketing needs. “Compared to a freelancer, our level of skills and experience enables us to handle complex projects. At the same time, compared to a large agency, we are more directly accessible to our clients and can take on projects that a larger firm would deem too small.”
O’Brien and Passos, who continue to operate the business themselves in their Osterville location, have intentionally kept their numbers lean. Additionally, they’ve developed a network of other professionals and subject matter experts that they utilize as needed.
“Being small allows us be flexible — and even experimental — in the type of projects we take on, the services we offer, and how we operate,” O’Brien said. “This also helps us keep our clients’ best interests in mind. We don’t need to say yes if it seems that we may not be a perfect fit for the project.”
O’Brien said building relationships with great clients and delivering amazing results for them is what the pair will continue to do. They currently serve dozens of local businesses on the Cape and beyond.
“Roughly 80 percent of our clients are on Cape Cod and the Islands. The other 20 percent, and some of our largest clients, are from larger metro areas including Boston, New York and Las Vegas. Many of our clients say they love being able to meet with us face to face. Fortunately, our field allows us to connect with people worldwide: I’m in a peer networking group that includes business owners from Germany, Latvia and Argentina.”
His hope is that the company has built a reputation at Cape Cod’s go-to source for professional websites and digital marketing. “Also, I grew up on the Cape, and it’s tough finding a sustainable job in technology here. So I envision Dative as a resource for students who want to make a career in this field, through internships or mentoring.”
Passos and O’Brien try to give back to the community that continues to put its faith in them, as well. “Rodrigo and I have served on the board of directors for organizations including Cape Cod Young Professionals, Cape Cod Technology Council, Calmer Choice, Cape Cod Makers and even the Yarmouth Dog Park,” he said. “We provide in-kind services to many of our nonprofit clients, and are a Business Alliance Partner at Calmer Choice.”
The pair has done speaking engagements at the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and Cape Cod Community College, and for those who want to learn more about digital marketing, “We are also planning some educational workshops in 2019,” O’Brien said.