I started my business career as a real estate agent in the 80s. Selling homes was a fantastic training ground for me. I learned to communicate complex issues, got exposed to contract law, and had to live on straight commission (a true performance pay job) for a decade. What made it so rewarding is that over time, I discovered the underlying principles of success in that business- high volume prospecting (I knocked on doors), being honest and helpful (creates referrals), treating vendors right (gets your loans closed faster). By the time I was 27, I was the youngest multi-million dollar producer in the county. But even then, the seeds of boredom were sown. It was often a lonely business and was decidedly difficult to create a company with lasting, productive value. I was the center of all production for my business. And so by 1996 the boredom turned to discontent and I woke and told my wife that it would be my last year selling real estate. I left at the height of my career making six figures and with no other job waiting.
Fortunately, one of the doors I had knocked on several years earlier was Brent Kuhn’s. Brent was the founder of BKV Advertising, the Southeast’s largest direct response advertising agency. He had clients like Dirt Devil and Care and Tru Green. When I first met him and he described his business, I was fascinated by the fact that direct response was this “totally accountable form of advertising” as he described it. He excitedly explained how one uses specific techniques and testing and then measures the profit from the ads. Well, when I told Brent I wanted to leave real estate he recruited me to work at BKV in order to teach me this fringe sort of marketing methodology.
October 10, 1996, I joined BKV and for the next four years I worked on DRTV projects, help pitch and win new clients like Cingular and EarthLink, and helped source DRTV products. I sat in countless media meetings with his partner Maribett and their media teams listening to how “this ad paid out” but “that one didn’t.” I developed a fascination and love of results. To me, the black and white science of it all was thrilling. Direct response marketing and mining through the data was a big game to be played.
In December of 2000, Deborah Fisher, an executive with BKV came to me to help launch a tiny little Earthlink web marketing test. I was given $45,000 and told to beat the direct mail acquisition cost-per-new-customer. I had to invent tracking, and take the media for the weird networks like BigFoot and 24/7 media and GoTo and buy, launch, test and read the results of the campaign. In January 2001 over a two week period we launched across four different vendors including email, banners and search. At the time, Earthlink was spending about $250 to acquire a new web hosting customer using direct mail. When we sat down at the end of January for me to present the results, paid search on banners came in around $80 new customer, emails came in around $50 and a tiny little ting called PPC search on GoTo came in at $8.00 per new web hosting customer.
Well, within a few months EarthLink had assigned $90,000 per month to be spent in paid search and I was managing the buys. That’s when Maribett, Brent and I sat down and decided to start a separate company. In June of 2001, Direct Results Network was born as a pay for performance direct marketing company, backed by BKV Advertising. A year later we revisited the name because it did not capture the essence of what we were doing. After writing down a word list of adjectives and verbs about the company, I observed that at the core we were doing direct response marketing and mining data from the analytics to optimize campaigns. By combining these two core activities, we renamed the company Response Mine Interactive in 2002.
As we grow, I often get questions about our relationship with BKV Advertising, how I got started in the advertising business and how we got our name. So, new folks, now you know.