The view from Room 214

James Clark is now working on his fourth startup, a web marketing agency called Room 214 in Boulder.

It’s a great story. The founders of Room 214 (James Clark and Jason Cormier) have a strong PR and web development background. Three years ago, they had a friend who was helping to source manufacturing in China, and so together they set up a company called VitalSourcing. As you can imagine, this is fairly competitive space and VitalSourcing soon realized that search engine optimization would play a large role in any success they would have. Faced with the challenge of marketing their business over the web, James confessed that at that time “we didn’t know what the hell we were doing”. He gathered bids from PR firms that were all over the board in terms of price. Instead of hiring a firm, James dove head first into the mysterious world of web search marketing.

It must have worked. A search today for “china manufacturing” returns VitalSourcing in the first position followed by page after page of competitors.

James explained how Room214 got started: “In normal public relations, there are huge inefficiencies. For many companies, traditional PR is a waste. That’s why we decided to start Room 214 – we wanted to take our expertise and focus in on small growing companies to help them to really leverage the web for marketing purposes.”

On September 24th, Room 214 announced itself to the world. Already, they’re making a difference for some not-so-small customers like Coors, Centura Health, and ViaWest. They provide a range of Internet marketing services such as web site and search optimization, reputation management, and helping companies take advantage of social media. Clients like Alltel are even using Room 214 to get their message out utilizing NFL and Nascar podcasts. Clearly, Room 214 is using their own expertise to get their message out effectively.

Room 214 can act as a consultant, teaching a web savvy team how to best leverage the web. However, the company is finding that most of their customers want to completely outsource these functions.

One of the products offered by Room 214 is really compelling for startups that may not be completely in touch with new media and the related technologies (not you, you’re reading this blog by RSS, right?). It’s called RSSready, and out of the box it allows organizations to monitor and join the conversations about them that are already taking place on the edge of the web (I’m sure their copy will turn up this article, for example). Many young companies may not realize that their customers are already talking on blogs, Myspace, or in specialized forums that simple Google searches will not turn up.

Room 214 also publishes a site called Capture the Conversation which provides some useful free resources on these topics. There are video tutorials on creating online press rooms, using RSS readers to monitor what conversations are occurring, working with PR firms (or not), and more.

“Listen, you can learn how to set up an RSS reader yourself and track what people are saying about you. It’s not that hard.” – Founder James Clark on why Room 214 created

It’s a smart strategy. Room 214 provides white papers and valuable free information to get companies started monitoring new media sources, and RSSready to help you take your first step. Once their customers realize the potential of such sources, they’ll start to “get it” and end up as a Room 214 client pretty fast.

“You don’t just walk into a crowded bar and start yelling. It’s much easier to join a conversation than to start a new one.” – Founder James Clark on how to communicate on the web

In case you haven’t noticed, there is some great work going on in the RSS space here in Colorado. Room 214 and Umbria both play in the services market, while companies like NewsGator and ClickCaster are creating software solutions. It’s been really interesting to watch these companies help transition RSS from a geeks-only technology into a mainstream tool.

file under: Blog, Startups