Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Direct Marketing Success Story Pt. 3

JDS: How did you get into the "business you're in now"? How did the "Big Idea" come to you?

Peter: I feel that my background working for a diverse range of companies in various marketing positions, including large Fortune 500 companies, a large ad agency, a start up ad agency, combined with my Wharton MBA in marketing, provided me with a strong background for starting and growing my business, Koeppel Direct. When starting my business it wasn't really a big idea that came to me, but more that I liked how direct response advertising allowed companies to measure the ROI from their marketing investments. It was more of a niche area of advertising at the time I started, but I saw firsthand the potential for companies to transform their business utilizing direct response, when I started working on the Hair Club business. Over the course of five years, we were able to help take their business from near bankruptcy, to a high level of profitability. This allowed the owner to sell his business for a high multiple of earnings, and the amount he received for the company greatly exceeded what he had been offered for the company when we first started working with them.

JDS: Did you layout a detailed business plan for it, or was it more a napkin-sized outline?

Peter: I didn't really have a detailed business plan when I started. I liked the direct response business and I saw the potential for growth. I liked the fact that if the client did well you could also do well, so you were really looking out for the client's best interest. In contrast, I had seen brand-advertising agencies spend huge amounts of a client's money, but they couldn't provide their clients with a way to accurately measure the impact of their advertising campaign on sales.

JDS: How did you finance your start up? i.e. Savings, Family, Mortgage, Bank/SBA Loan?

Peter: Fortunately, in the direct response TV business clients pay for their media time in advance, since at the time they tended to be higher risk, start up type businesses. I was able to use the float on the prepayments and the media commissions earned, to initially fund the company. I also put some of my own money into the company and I didn't take a salary for six months, so I could cover the payroll.

JDS: Did you have a detailed spending plan in place for the money you started with? If so, in ballpark percentage terms, how was the money spent; (product/inventory, marketing, employees, tools/equipment, location of operation.) Or was it more, I have this much money to start and I'm going to wing it the best I can?

Peter: I didn't have a detailed spending plan. My strategy was to improve the ROI for the client's I had, which would enable them to increase their advertising spending. I realized early on that the more money they made from their direct response media campaigns, the more money Koeppel Direct would make on media placement. Many of the successful infomercial marketers at the time were hard-core entrepreneurs that were highly demanding and still are today. We always kept in mind that we were spending their money, not a big corporation's money, so it was very important for us to be able to account for every dollar spent and demonstrate how that spending translated into profits for the client. Right from the beginning, I decided we would differentiate ourselves by offering better service, advanced analytics and superior performance, because I knew that was what successful entrepreneurs demanded from their media buying firm.

JDS: As your business progressed, was your growth self-financed through its own success? Or, did you need to raise outside money to grow? If you needed outside capital, how did you get it?

Peter: Our growth has been primarily self-financed. Later in our development, we established a line of credit with our bank, but we rarely have used that line of credit to fund growth.