THE MARKETING 100; PDS TERRY PETERSON

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For a marketing executive who sells prepaid phone cards, Terry Peterson of Phone Debit Systems spends more of his time meeting with potential customers than glued to a phone.

That's the best way he knows to present the rechargeable telecard programs to retailers such as Sears, Roebuck & Co., Blockbuster Corp. and Walgreen Co.

PDS is using distribution agreements through national retailers-as well as offering an array of phone services-as a way to build its share of the burgeoning retail telecard business.

Mr. Peterson, 53, partner and also VP-sales and marketing for PDS, is the first to admit the telecard programs sold by his company are "not the least expensive" cards in the industry.

But, he says, PDS tries to provide more than just prepaid telephone service.

Known as Phonecard Plus cards, the 30-minute cards cost $9.99 and can be upgraded for more time. To deter theft, the cards are activated at the point of sale. Other features include instructions in English or Spanish, voice mail, speed-dial programming and announcements about sales at the retailer that sold the card.

"We're giving retailers like Walgreens a way to build repeat traffic, keep track of inventory and customer purchases, and offer these preferred telecard customers discounts on merchandise," he says.

Since introducing the cards in late 1995, PDS claims Walgreens customers are recharging their cards at a rate of 9% per month, 16 times the standard industry rate. The reason, Mr. Peterson believes, is that purchasers don't have to memorize a new PIN number each time they recharge their cards and receive bonus minutes by recharging.

He estimates Phonecard Plus users will log more than 35 million minutes of used phone time this year, helping raise revenues at PDS to $70 million for the fiscal year ending June 30 and to $100 million for the subsequent 12-month period.

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