MB: How did you get from b-to-b publishing to developing paid-subscription business information products in the optical industry?
Marc Ferrara: It started with a unique product called Census, which allowed us to develop an expert consultancy position within our market.
MB: Tell me about Census.
Ferrara: In the early '90s, there was almost no hard data on the retail optical market, but within the circulation files from our publications, we thought we could calculate the universe. So we commissioned a unit audit with BPA.
We used our editorial sources to determine the size of the market was about 38,000 units. We combined all our optical circ files and created one file of unique locations. On our qualification forms, we had asked for the dollar volume of each dispensary, size in square footage, number of frames and the breakdown of sales volume by merchandise category. We identified a "key man" for each location so we could assign all that data to each unit. We purchased third-party data to add demographics.
MB: How did this become a subscription product?
Ferrara: We put all of the information into an Access database that allowed salespeople to go in and develop leads by unit sales volume, geography, type of dispensary and so forth. We put it up on the Web three years ago and it's much easier to use. It's a six-figure business now and very profitable.