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Back in the fall of 1993, Datastream Systems Inc. was being co-served by James Gibbons Creative Consulting and Perimeter Designs (Anne Peck’s firm), when they decided they needed an advertising agency. After about a ten minute conversation with Marketing VP, Amelia Fusaro, and an equally lengthy discussion between the principals at Perimeter Designs and James Gibbons Creative, the agency now known as Gibbons | Peck was born. And Datastream was our first client.

As part of our series about things we’ve learned from our clients, this post focuses on the simple, yet brilliant philosophy of John Sterling, Datastream VP of sales. It worked like this—close the sale now. NOW! The way it shook out was get next year’s sales on the books this year. Get next quarter’s sales on the books this quarter. Get next month’s sales on the books this month. Get next week’s sales on the books this week. Get tomorrow’s sales on the books today. Get this afternoon’s sales on the books this morning.

Datastream employed an inside sales force that was well-recruited, well-trained, well-coached, and motivated to drive the strategy. “If I can throw in a free day of consulting, will you fax me a PO in fifteen minutes?”

Ongoing tactical marketing revolved around two key pieces. Every month began with a direct mail piece containing a deal and a deadline. Now the deal was always one of two offers. it never changed. But it went out every month and worked like a clock. Then, in the middle of the month, we sent a postcard to the same list, reminding them that this was their last chance to buy before the offer expired. And on top of this was the constant tidal motion of phone calls.

The result. Continuous sense of urgency. Buy today. If you wait until tomorrow, you’ll miss out. When we started working with Datastream in 1993, they were doing just short of $4,000,000 a year in sales. When we parted company in 1997, they were doing $20,000,000+. They went public in, I think, 1996. Doubled on day one. Doubled and split in the first three months. Doubled and split again before the end of the year. All because of a constant sales growth curve (60% per quarter for, like, twenty quarters), built on getting tomorrow’s sales today.

It sounds easy. Fact is, it requires a certain type of sales personality (we called them “Data Dudes”), a certain discipline of urgency, and acceptance of a high wash-out rate (fail fast), and equally high burn-out rate (life is too short). And it takes a system. A deal…a deadline…and latitude for sales guys to make spontaneous offers to get the deal done now. NOW!

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