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Marshall Hays, left, Joe Hanish and Clark Allen get creative with entertainment sites like VirtualKiss.com.

More than staplers and kisses; Hays Internet Marketing’s ‘waste of time’ sites serve as creative outlet

7/9/2001
By Stacey Closser
Who would have thought that a Web site featuring an interactive stapler would draw a crowd? Apparently, Marshall Hays and his colleagues at Hays Internet Marketing Inc. in Dallas did. The site VirtualStapler.com has become a popular entertainment destination since its debut a couple of months ago.

But its popularity pales in comparison with Hays’ other pet project, VirtualKiss.com, which reels in 5 million page views per month.

Other “waste of time” sites run by Hays (www.hays.net) include Datingfun.com, Chatfreak.com, Stayinshape.com, WhoDoYouLove.com, DailyFashion.com, and WasteOfTime.com.

The list will get longer with the company’s upcoming release of TooDrunk.com and TooSober.com. In the meantime, Marshall Hays is promoting his dating sites and expertise around Dallas and as a co-host of DFWDating, a weekly radio show aired on KYNG-FM (105.3).

Of course, all of this dating and entertainment activity can’t keep Hays and his team from their day job — developing Web sites for their clients.

“I don’t know anything but doing 600 things at once,” Hays said. But it’s that diversity that keeps him and his team excited about work.

Where creating sites like VirtualKiss.com serves as a creative outlet, doing work for outside clients pays the bills. It’s because of customers like Digital Convergence Corp., AT&T Corp., Infomart and Fujitsu ICL Systems Inc. that Hays and his six-member staff are able to get paid for having fun.

In fact, because the company is busy with client work, the entertainment sites have been developed to practically run by themselves, Hays said.

“We have to make the back-end interfaces very user-friendly,” he said.

Of course, it can be difficult to sell to clients based on work done for an entertainment site aimed at teen-age girls, especially when the potential client is in a more traditional industry.

“When I go meet clients, I tell them how we can do promotional and back-end database stuff and I show them VirtualKiss.com. And a lot of these old guys say, ‘That’s nice, but we’re not selling kisses to little girls,’ ” Hays said. But once he demonstrates the features of the site’s database, those clients tend to see things differently.

Due to plummeting ad sales in the Internet sector, Hays said he’s seen a 90 percent drop in advertising sales for his entertainment sites. However, the demand for Web development continues to remain strong.

Marshall Hays founded the company in 1996 upon graduation from Southern Methodist University with his master’s degree in business administration. His plan wasn’t to go out and start a business; in fact, he wanted to wait a couple years until he had some corporate experience under his belt.

But with the Internet economy just taking off, Hays couldn’t refuse the opportunity. With the help of his friend Clark Allen, he started up the Web development and marketing firm.

It was the firm’s site, VirtualKiss that attracted the third co-founder Joe Hanish, who received an “e-kiss” from his girlfriend.

“I wrote them and told them I thought it was a cool idea, but it could be made better,” said Hanish, who has been programming computers since he was 14. At the time, Hanish was working at an Internet company in New Jersey and was looking for something “more positive” to do.

Hanish moved to Dallas and the rest is history.

Hays doesn’t dismiss the incredible competition within the Web development industry, but the variety of firms narrows the market a bit.

“You can get business cards that cost $14 or that cost $2,000,” he said.

The same applies to Web development. Just because someone can design a Web site doesn’t put him or her in the same category.




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