The following 10 companies, ranging from a one-person marketing agency to a famous cheesecake bakery, weren't among the ultimate winners in the 2002 Inc Web Awards competition.
But because all demonstrated outstanding returns -- some financial, some less tangible -- on their Web investments, judges decided they special recognition.
So here are this year's honorable-mention winners, along with a snapshot of the ROI payoffs that earned our judges' admiration:
Company: Advanced Circuits, Aurora, Colo.
What it does: Manufactures custom-printed circuit boards
What we liked: This bare-bones Web site won't win any design awards, but CEO Ron Huston says it's gotten great results, generating $15 million annually in new revenues. The site provides a range of self-service functions, including customized price quotes delivered in a few seconds, automatic order entry, and ability to check order status.
Company: CustomInk LLC, Fairfax, Va.
What it does: Promotional product vendor; provides custom-printed T-shirts and other items
What we liked: CEO Mark Katz credits Web site with helping company track and target on-line advertising. For instance, in September and October of 2002, CustomInk's $33,221 expenditure on on-line ads reaped $337,407 in sales. Web technology also helps CustomInk reduce errors from the industry average of 8-12% to less than 2%.
Company: Beverly Shores Group, Beverly Shore, Ind.
What it does: Marketing communications agency
What we liked: Web site allows soloist Deborah S. Ramstorf to attract clients from Canada and Australia as well as the United States; she now receives 60% of her business via the Internet. She credits search engine placement and content on her Web site as two ways she drives traffic -- and sales. Over 75% of her total sales come from her on-line presence. "My Web site has definitely been worth the investment," Ramstorf adds.
Company: Eli's Cheesecake Co., Chicago
What it does: Dessert bakery
What we liked: The famous cheesecake-maker's Web site lets customers design their own customized "C-Cakes" on-line. Buyers choose from among 800 options for toppings (such as whipped cream or chocolate mousse), decorations (such as gummy bears, marshmallows, or sprinkles), and personal messages. On-line sales increased 65% since Eli's introduced the $49 product in September 2000.
Company: My Virtual Corp., Louisville, Ky.
What it does: Business service outsourcer; provides virtual work teams for client projects
What we liked: CEO Merrily Orsini credits Web site with helping produce an 120% increase in new clients in 2001; monthly revenues in 2002 exceeded previous year's by an average of 450%.
Company: Recom Group Inc., San Dimas, Calif.
URL: www.recomgroup.com and 12 related industry-specific sites
What it does: Provides displays for merchandising of products and services
What we liked: In 1999, Recom Group made $5,000 on-line. The company expects to finish 2002 with approximately $2 million in sales. Thanks to sales through spin-off sites like cardboarddisplays.com and musicdisplays.com, 55% of those sales come from the Internet.
Company: ROI Teleservicing Corp., Weston, Fla.
What it does: Consulting firm; specializes in call centers and customer-service operations
What we liked: Web site serves as a telecom industry portal, serving clients by offering well-organized collection of links to 850 relevant sites. This year, Teleplaza.com saw a 94% renewal rate on paid listings, which is up from 78% in 2001. CEO Jim Moylan credits a related site, CallCenterJobs.com, with increasing overall revenues by 35% over the past two years and attracting 18 new paid advertisers for the TelePlaza Digest e-mail newsletters. Several new products added to both CallCenterJobs.com and TelePlaza.com also have increased the company's overall sales by 45% since September.
Company: Shoebuy.com, Boston
What it does: On-line shoe retailer
What we liked: Web site helps customers overcome reluctance to buy shoes without trying them on. Revenues continue to increase by 50% per quarter. Shoebuy.com spends less than $7 per customer acquired for an average transaction of nearly $84, resulting in nearly a $30 profit per transaction.
Company: The Wireless Source Inc., Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
What it does: Distributes new, used, and remanufactured wireless phones
What we liked: Web site automates sales, customer service, and returns processing. CEO Bob Sullivan credits site with expanding the company's prospect base by 300% and its customer base by 25%. It's also generated more than $1 million in new business and reduced costs by allowing customers to process their own returns, without employee intervention. Says Sullivan: "Our best ROI is yet to come."
Company: VirtualBank Mortgage, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
What it does: Mortgage lender; specializes in "jumbo" and "super jumbo" mortgages of $200,000 to $4 million
What we liked: VirtualBank Mortgage credits its Web site with increasing its average monthly loan volume by 50% and saving nearly $8,000 per week by eliminating the company's massive fax barrages to its partners. Because customers can now check their own loan status anytime, the site has also cut the number of incoming telephone inquiries by 90%.