Bucking the trend among agencies, Los Angeles-based b-to-b shop Kern Direct expects a small increase (5%) in direct marketing revenues this year over the $15 million it tallied in 2002. Showing such improvement amid the continuing economic slump helped earn Kern Direct runner-up honors in BtoBâs selection of Direct Agency of the Year.
"We were fortunate to weather the recession," said Russell Kern, chairman-CEO of Kern Direct. "Weâre not going to be talking about banner growth [in 2003]." However, he is bullish about 2004, saying, "Iâm expecting growth easily in the 15% to 20% range."
Kern attributes the agencyâs success to its dual emphasis on databases and strategy. "Weâre expert at collecting data, helping clients evaluate sales data and figuring out what to send to the sales channel," he said.
The company developed an acquisition campaign for Hitachi Data Systems that launched in September and included direct mail, e-mail, telemarketing and online. The core of its strategy was capturing data at campaign-specific microsites designed to move prospects along the sales cycle. Early campaign results look good, Kern said.
Kern Direct uses an in-house application, built on Microsoft Corp.âs .NET architecture, to capture, score and route data efficiently. Testing and measurement are always aligned with marketersâ budgets and sales goals, Kern said, adding he doesnât "risk the clientsâ money."
"Itâs not Hollywood, and itâs not smoke and mirrors," Kern said. "The big brand agencies waste millions of clientsâ marketing dollars, and I think direct marketing continues to be a stepchild of brand, but who cares? Weâre powerful in terms of the dollars invested."