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SBJ/July 15-21, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Web.com finds home for forum series on tour

After spending nearly 30 years in the health care industry, Michael Young bought a motorcoach and attempted to retire. That didn’t last long.

In November, Young was hired by

Web.com to run a series of small-business forums at the site of PGA Tour and Web.com Tour events. But he wasn’t the only hire.

Young is one of 150 new employees hired since last year, most of whom have been added to work on Web.com’s new 10-year, $100 million PGA Tour umbrella sponsorship for the developmental tour.

These small-business seminars are a primary form of activation for Web.com, which signed the deal in June 2012.

As a vice president with the company, Young is running a nationwide series of seminars that piggyback off of the tournaments on the Web.com Tour and the PGA Tour. The seminars teach small-business owners how to set up a website and use it for online marketing.

A Web.com small-business forum at TPC Sawgrass last October.
“We’re using the Web.com Tour and the PGA Tour as a way to engage communities,” Young said. “A lot of people think they’re walking into a timeshare sale, but it’s not like that at all. It’s all about educating and providing knowledge with everything we’ve learned about website building and online marketing.”

Web.com CEO David Brown had been thinking about a nationwide series of forums like this for years, but it wasn’t until the company sponsored the developmental tour that it had a viable platform.

Now that Web.com is halfway through its first full season, the company is already looking to build on its initial successes.

Web.com, a company of 2,000 employees with customers all over the world, will conduct 27 small-business seminars this year, and that number will grow to more than 50 in 2014. CAA Sports works with Web.com on strategy and activation.

“What we’ve found so far is that people are starving for good information,” Young said. “Some of the people in the audience have no website experience whatsoever. Others have a website, but it’s not doing what they hoped it would. We take them through all of the fundamentals to be successful.”

The one-day forums typically last three to four hours and attendance ranges from 100 in smaller markets to more than 300 in the larger markets. They’re free to attend but cost Web.com as much as $25,000 to stage.

In these seminars, small-business owners learn about Google analytics, search-engine optimization, linking their site with Facebook, and other online marketing and e-commerce techniques to grow their business.

The morning starts at 8 a.m. at a site on or near the golf course. Most of the forums have been on Thursdays or Fridays of the tournament, but Web.com also is experimenting with Mondays and Wednesdays.

Web.com ambassadors — experts in online marketing and website optimizations — then take over and lead the session.

Web.com reaches out to the local tournament committees, chambers of commerce, and small business associations in each market to find its potential attendees. The seminars are purely educational, Young said. Business owners can follow up on the company website if they desire follow-up or if they want to become a customer.

The company this year plans to have seminars at every U.S.-based Web.com Tour event, six PGA Tour events and the season-ending Champions Tour event.

Web.com also has established official player websites for more than 100 players, free of charge, including Jim Furyk, who has an endorsement deal with the company.

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