SUMMARY: Larry Weissman, CEO of Paradigm Direct Marketing Inc. has been flying around the country a lot lately, re-educating direct-marketing clients, well, maybe not re-educating – more like evangelizing. His gospel? Marketing on the Web.
Weissman has taken a traditional direct-marketing agency and turned it into a company designed to serve Internet marketers. For companies such as First USA Bank, Alamo car rental, Crutchfield Corp., and Land’s End, Paradigm provides interactive marketing, which includes media planning, branding, content sponsorship programs, banner advertising, and integration of back-end reporting systems. Literally on the fly (at Logan Airport in Boston), we caught up with Weissman to talk about his business.
Q: How did the Internet focus develop?
A: I was working for a traditional direct-response agency up to 1994, and that firm was resistant to interactive media. I raised some venture capital and formed Paradigm-Interactive in the summer of 1994. We didn’t know what it was going to look like, but we felt it was a way to speak to people on a one-to-one basis. (The new company did traditional direct response) while we figured out what was happening with the Internet.
The first e-mail I sent was down the hall, and I rushed to my partner’s office and watched it come up on screen. There was no graphical user interface at the time.
Q: Kind of like Alexander Graham Bell. How much of your business is Internet marketing?
A: 70 to 80 percent of our revenue comes from doing interactive marketing for direct response companies.
Q: How are you convincing traditional direct-marketing clients to go to the Internet?
A: If it costs $60 to acquire a client, it better be $60 or below on the Internet or they’re not going to do it. We developed metrics . . . how many e-mails, click throughs, completed calls to action.
Q: Has this been an evolution?
A: I wish I could say we knew it all, but we figured it out as we went along.
(Weissman then went on to describe how the company is divided into four departments – for traditional list response, interactive media, permission e-mail marketing and alliances through strategic Web partnerships, such as the First USA credit card deal it arranged on Yahoo!)
Q: How difficult has it been to re-educate direct-marketing clients?
A: It’s still very challenging -- they have a trepidation to get involved with something they don’t know. We try to establish trust because they kind of follow us into the river. We break down the Web into its direct-response components –- how many people are going to click, what it will cost to acquire clients on the Web. Many direct-response firms have gone to the Web because they are afraid of the competition -- We just preach that it’s another way to reach your people.
Q: Is strategy fully formed?
A: There are going to be ways to develop a tighter relationship through e-mail –- more than the phone. People are tired of voice mail solicitation. With e-mail, you get it when you want it. What I'm working on is delivery on the promise of what I call, ‘What you want, when you want it and where you want it.’
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