In May, tech company iModules moved into its new headquarters on College Boulevard near Nall Avenue in Leawood, Kan. The Web hosting company helps higher education institutions engage online with their alumni.
Fred Weiss of iModules recently appeared on Power Lunch to discuss his company’s relocation and significant growth.
Krista Klaus: Tell me a little more about how iModules works.
Fred Weiss of iModules: We are a high-tech company based in Leawood, and we have about 900 clients overall. We host websites for higher education institutions, alumni relations offices and fundraising offices, and we help them with their branding of institutions, delivering email, allowing online gifts to be made, event registration, event payments to be made, and really the goal is to help them have deeper, more relevant relationships with their alumni.
KK: Are your clients colleges of any size? International universities?
FW: We actually do business with primarily four-year institutions here in the U.S., but we have some two-year colleges, and we do work in the U.K., the Mideast and in Australia. But, we are primarily focused on the U.S. and Canada.
KK: How does iModules reach these alumni?
FW: There are a variety of tools that are available through our platform. We enable our clients to reach their constituents via email marketing campaigns, via their websites and social media integration, and as I mentioned, event registration tools and online giving membership tools as well.
KK: I know there used to be a time when I used to get phone calls from people on behalf of capital campaigns from universities. Has this replaced those efforts?
FW: No, it is actually a really important complementary channel. Admittedly, it is a much important more important channel than it used to be. Actually, that’s how I started my career. I was one of those callers who called the alumni at my institution. It’s not an easy chore. And, for those people that can stick with it, it takes a little bit of intestinal fortitude. The online engagement platform is really, really important as a supplement to direct mail and tele-fundraising activities, and it’s also an important supplement to in-person volunteer activities.
KK: The goal is to help universities raise money through a variety of efforts. Can you run through range of outreach efforts?
FW: The primary outcome that most institutions drive for is around increasing their fundraising effectiveness. That being said, remember these institutions have 40- to 50-year relationships with their constituents, so sometimes the goal is to increase event participation, increase the brand of institution and for public institutions, to help with lobbying efforts.
KK: Is a big piece of what you do capturing data? With a lot of people moving around and changing their email addresses, is that part of what iModules does? Is it to help keep that information current?
FW: It’s a lot of the online data collection. And, also, keep in mind that there’s a huge proliferation of mobile devices in use today. So, for example, that old tele-fundraising approach that people took – it’s a lot harder to reach people on their home phones than it used to be. We actually provide mobile sites that are available on mobile phones and tablets, and we capture data that helps institutions engage more effectively. It’s partly also about knowing what your audience is interested in hearing about and making sure you are delivering content and information that’s salient to them.
KK: With the student loan crisis out there, how important is it for institutions to keep fundraising at current levels?
FW: There are a couple of challenges right now in higher ed, and the student loan crisis is one of them. The other one is the proliferation of online classes. And, very often, there are a lot of students today that don’t have the on-campus experience that you and I may have had when we were in school. Institutions are also trying to figure out how do they engage deeply with those people who haven’t had that on-premise experience.
KK: That’s where loyalty comes from, the wistfulness of remembering being on campus with friends. You can engage people in an online community, but it is a different nut to crack.
FW: It’s not just about that wistfulness, though, because a lot of these institutions deliver programs as their alumni age that actually continues to bring value such as career services programs that help them find jobs, network with their peers and engage with current students and current faculty members as well.
KK: So iModules helps continue to build on the relationship?
FW: We really believe we help institutions take advantage or leverage the network and that kind of spider web of relationships that they have between alumni, students, faculty, prospective students, parents of current students and so on.
KK: How did iModules got started?
FW: It started about 11-12 years ago. There was a predecessor company that, during the “dot-bomb era,” did not do very well. There were a number of investors that got together and said, “We have a different approach we can take to build an online community,” so the initial focus was actually with K-12 institutions. But, as the client base grew, we found that the higher ed space was really where our niche was, and that’s where the majority of our customers are today.
KK: How many employees do you have?
FW: We have about 70 local employees, and they are all working out of our Leawood office. In fact, (this summer) we had 550 of our customers at our annual customer meeting here in Kansas City. And, not only do we have all of our local staff there, but we also have all of our remote staff there as well.
KK: We talked about challenges in higher education. My understanding is that you’re expecting growth for iModules. Where do you see the company going?
FW: We always expect growth, but growth is hard work. We had a great second quarter. You know for us, it’s a matter of doing three things really well. The first thing – and it sounds cliché, but it is a distinct focus of ours – is understanding what customers want and satisfying that in a deep and meaningful way. No. 2 is staying focused on where we think the growth will come from, and that involves making hard decisions about things we won’t do. And No. 3 is making sure we empower staff to have tools they need to drive what they want done for the customer.
KK: Want to brag about your second quarter?
FW: We achieved a 53-percent growth rate over all over last year in the second quarter. We did it by focusing on three things: customer satisfaction, empowering staff to have the tools they really need and making sure we were focused on where we wanted our business to be. For example, we have made choices. It’s really hard to be a global company, and we have focused on the U.S. and Canada.
KK: How is your new headquarters? You built it from the ground-up.
FW: It was a ground-up, and we are really proud of it. We’re proud of it because of the space we created for our customers to visit with us. We have customers coming to us for training classes. It’s a very modern building. One staff member commented that it looked like a computer’s hard drive from the outside. It has great colors and a great use of industrial design. We are really proud of it.
KK: iModules reaches more than 90 million constituents?
FW: In hosting our software – and it’s a pure hosted solution – we sit on data for 90 million customers through our hosting solution.