West Richland digital marketing company aims to be one-stop shop

Cougar Digital Marketing & Design’s business plan has evolved over time

Travis Hartliep wasn’t sure how long his startup company would last when he began it out of his then Tri-Cities home in 2012.

Back then, Cougar Digital Marketing & Design LLC was just him, with his wife Erika helping out.

“To be honest, I didn’t know if there would be enough work to keep myself busy,” Hartliep said. “It was not until we’d been in business three and a half years that I thought we could make it.”

[blockquote quote=”We want to be a one-stop shop.” source=”Travis Hartliep, owner of Cougar Digital Marketing & Design” align=”right” max_width=”300px”]

Hartliep said about 80 percent of all startups don’t last beyond 18 months.

And according to Neil Patel of Forbes.com, nine out of 10 startups will eventually fail.

It’s safe to say the prospects for Hartliep’s West Richland company – at 4001 Kennedy Road – look good for the long term.

Sometime in the middle of October, Hartliep and his seven employees – four full-time and three part-time – will celebrate the company’s five-year anniversary.

It’s a result of Cougar Digital’s ability to keep abreast of the never-ending changes involved in the digital age, Hartliep said.

“When I first started in the business, I was in graphic design and website design,” he said.

But today, his company can offer a variety of services: website building; e-commerce websites; lead-generating web packages; search engine optimization, or SEO, and marketing packages; Facebook and Google ad campaigns; graphic design; brand development; and professional printing.

It’s helped company’s bottom line.

Hartliep estimated he did $60,000 in business his first year.

“This year, we’re approaching $350,000 to $400,000,” he said. “Now overhead comes along with that. But I love our culture here.”

So do his customers.

“I’ve used Travis the last four and a half years, and he’s been great doing website and marketing for us,” said Nate Goetsch of Platinum Automotive Services in Kennewick. “I’ve actually referred him to other business owners I know, and they’re more than happy to use him again.”

Salem Snowdy of the Children’s Reading Foundation feels the same way.

“I’ve used them for the entire three and a half to four (years) I’ve been here,” Snowdy said. “Travis and the whole team have been great. I’ve not known life without them, and I’d not want to.”

Snowdy said Cougar Digital, among other things, helped develop an online library for the Children’s Reading Foundation’s customers.

“(Cougar Digital is) really a valuable, valuable part of the team here,” Snowdy said. “I couldn’t be happier with their work and responsiveness.”

A 1995 Prosser High School graduate, Hartliep admitted he’s his own biggest critic. But he’s also persistent.

“In 1995, the internet was new,” he said. “I graduated in 2000 from Washington State University in management information systems, with a programming degree.”

He worked for Tri-State Outfitters for a year as a graphic designer and advertising assistant.

From 2006-12, Hartliep worked as a senior website developer and graphic designer for DREAMarketing until he got laid off.

“After I got laid off, I wondered what I should do. Do I go get a job at Hanford?” he said. “But I knew I liked helping people be successful. I joined Business Networking International. It allowed me to get my name out there. I slowly built my reputation. In 2012-13, that’s when I saw in the web where people were going in terms of marketing.”

Hartliep made his first outside hire in 2014 with Josh Kandle, who is the company’s creative director.

“He came to our house to work,” Hartliep said. “He’s basically my business partner.”

As the company continued to grow and added employees, there wasn’t enough room at the Hartliep’s home. So Cougar Digital has been at the Kennedy Road location for the past 18 months.

Organizational duties are split among the employees.

Hartliep emphasized the importance of SEO, or the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results.

When a potential customer searches via Google, the idea is to be on that first page of results.

Cougar Digital has three employees concentrating on SEOs to get their customers to that first page.

“Some companies, all they do is SEOs,” Hartliep said. “We want to be a one-stop shop. It’s not to be greedy, but to make sure everything is done right.”

In essence, Cougar Digital has become a one-stop shop for clients.

“Social media is a big part of life,” Hartliep said. “On Facebook, having a digital marketing plan is a plus. The younger generation likes Instagram. But the majority of people are on Facebook.

“For our clients, we also want to be their marketing department. We do not want to have them worry about anything. Because just having a website is not enough today. We want to give the client a competitive edge.”

To do that, Cougar Digital does its research.

“There is constant learning,” Hartliep said. “We’re always learning about SEOs. We also need to know what the competition is doing. In certain cases, we may not need to do a whole package. We’ve built our research into the workday – HTML, social media channels, Snapchat. We look at other website designs to get ideas. You can get web design block. It happens.”

But things are constantly changing. And fast.

“Honestly, in five years it could all be different. Who knows?” Hartliep said.  “Google and Facebook could change. But whatever the change, we’re going to embrace that to keep that competitive advantage.”

That attitude has kept Cougar Digital in business.

“We have a lot of clients now,” Hartliep said. “The main thing is to keep growing. We’ve had strong results.

“But we’ll never be satisfied.”

Cougar Digital can be reached at 509-491-1146; cougardigitalmarketing.com.

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