OGDEN — It launched in Roy in 1988, later moved to Ogden, its current headquarters, and has a new satellite office in downtown Salt Lake City.

It's a fixture in downtown Ogden, occupying the big, blue-glassed structure at 2475 Washington Blvd., and, in all, employs some 1,100 people around the world, most here in Weber County.

Now, following the acquisition of MarketStar earlier this year by The Wasatch Group, more change, investment and growth is in the offing, says MarketStar Chief Executive Officer Keith Titus. The firm, an outsourced sales provider, is already one of the largest employers in Weber County — perhaps the largest private, homegrown employer — and Titus is bullish and excited about prospects going forward.

"We'll probably bring in somewhere between 15 and 18 new clients this year alone. We'll see probably somewhere between 10 and 15 clients grow with us this year," he said.

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MarketStar CEO Keith Titus poses for a portrait in his office on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at the company headquarters building on Washington Boulevard in downtown Ogden.

As a result, he said, the company will be pressed "to find and identify key talent." Translation — MarketStar, which works with some big names in the tech sector, like Samsung, Intel and DropBox, helping them bolster business-to-business sales, will need yet more manpower. Titus expects the firm, increasingly moving into digital media sales as well, will hire as many as 300 new employees this year, maybe more.

"The momentum with clients and new clients and client expansion has probably never been stronger in my seven years here at MarketStar," Titus said.

MarketStar is privately held, thus its numbers aren't subject to public scrutiny. But profits have been on the rise and Titus foresees revenue growth of 10% to 15% in 2019 compared to 2018. 

Much of Titus' optimism traces back to The Wasatch Group's acquisition of MarketStar, announced in March. The Wasatch Group, based in Logan, is a real estate development and management company and Titus' ties to Dell Loy Hansen, the Wasatch Group CEO, date back years. They're both from Cache Valley and Hansen and Titus' father were business associates.

"He's been a big fan of ours for years, a great supporter," Titus said. MarketStar, in fact, leases its Ogden headquarters building on Washington Boulevard from The Wasatch Group.

In Hansen and The Wasatch Group, MarketStar has leeway, more freedom to act, access to capital "in a different way," Titus said. MarketStar had been owned by the DAS Group of Companies, a global group of marketing firms that's part of the New York-based Omnicom Group.

Beyond that, there's a common leadership vision with Hansen, with a focus on the well-being of employees and the relationship with clients. "If you can take great care of your employees, give them the tools to be successful, the resources to grow and develop, then they’ll do a great job taking care of the client. And if the client can be well taken care of and be satisfied, then the clients will be one of your greatest advocates out there," Titus said.

To the end of taking care of employees, with the acquisition by The Wasatch Group, the cost of health and other benefits for workers has been reduced by 10% to 20%, resulting in a corresponding hike in take-home pay. MarketStar is making new investments in network technology, in addition to the buildout in Salt Lake City, envisioned as a hub for software development.

EXPERIENCE AND REPUTATION

MarketStar, founded by Alan Hall, had its origins in indirect sales with retailers. Employees would help promote sales of client companies' tech products to customers at, say, Best Buy or Circuit City locations when that chain still existed.

MarketStar has since transitioned out of that sector and now focuses on direct business-to-business sales. Instead of traveling to store locations, employees, working on behalf of client companies, contact would-be customers via phone or other electronic means for sales. In the case of its client DropBox, for instance, MarketStar employees will call those who have signed up for a DropBox service on a trial basis and try to get them to subscribe.

More recently, MarketStart has moved into digital media sales, working for clients like Pandora and Pinterest, selling advertising on those firms' platforms, among others, to third parties.

Sales skills are important, but MarketStar has developed strategies, training and proprietary software tools to bolster their employees' abilities to make deals. The firm has taken the craft of selling, particularly within the tech sector, to a new level — when a client comes on board, MarketStar can quickly assemble a team to address their sales needs.

“It’s a really intelligent, considered sale. A lot of people seem to think of MarketStar as a call center. Yes, we do telephone work, it’s all done over the telephone," Titus said. "But it really is a very intelligent, highly skilled sales person that we’re putting on that phone to have those conversations with the customer.”

There are competitors, but none, he thinks, that can match MarketStar. "We've been at it the longest, 30 years. So no one has the years of experience and the brand reputation and the reputation of performance and success that we have," Titus said.

ROOTED IN OGDEN

Sporting Vans and hobbling on crutches, recovering from surgery for an injury caused in a skiing accident, Titus strolled around the Washington Boulevard facility. MarketStar has a smaller contingent working out of the old American Can building in Ogden.

He greeted employees, who work in teams for varied accounts, and made small talk, underscoring the focus he puts on staffers, who range from high school grads and college students on up to others with advanced degrees. Titus worked for MarketStar back in the late 1990s, left for Motorola for several years and then returned to Ogden and MarketStar in 2011, starting as a vice president before taking over as CEO on Dec. 31 last year.

The company has served as a launchpad for the careers of many in and around Weber County, a point of pride for Titus. And there are many, like him, who started at MarketStar, left and then returned.

"We definitely have an influence and a presence here in Northern Utah," he said. "A lot of people have come through the doors."

That's a tradition he hopes continues. Despite the new office in Salt Lake City and locations in far-flung places like Dublin, Ireland, and Melbourne, Australia, it all starts in Ogden.

"I think it's important to note that we have no desire to leave Ogden. We'll continue to invest in our talent in the organization here in Ogden," he said.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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