The need for speed

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Internet veteran Bruce Judson is a one-man marketing show, dividing his time between teaching e-business at the Yale School of Management, writing books and newsletters, and starting his own businesses.

One of the founding executives of Time Inc.'s Pathfinder site and its Road Runner high-speed Internet service, Judson left the media conglomerate in 1997 to launch his own ventures. In 1998 he started a subscription newsletter, "Bruce Judson's Grow Your Profits," and he has written two books, "NetMarketing" and "HyperWars."

His newest business is Speed Anywhere, a portal that offers recommendations and services for high-speed Internet access to business and home users. Judson is paid a commission for each customer he signs up through his portal, and his site achieved profitability in six weeks. Business partners include Internet service provider CAIS Internet Inc., high-speed networking service NetSetter and Kiss Software Corp.

Taking a break between speaking engagements at the spring Internet World conference in Los Angeles last month, Judson told BtoB what makes a successful Internet business.

BtoB: What did you learn from Pathfinder about running an online business?

Judson: No. 1, advertising doesn't pay the bills. I have yet to see an example of where I'm wrong.

No. 2, the ability to shift and move quickly on the Internet doesn't lend itself well to any kind of large company. We [at Time] were so early, we created our own technology. It didn't make sense to have a lot of things in-house.

I believe the whole world is moving toward expertise in very finely defined areas, and everything else should be outsourced. Speed Anywhere is an example on a smaller scale of what the future will look like. Companies will have far fewer people doing something very well.

BtoB: What's the business model for Speed Anywhere?

Judson: It's a virtual speed store. There is a huge need for speed, but no one was providing a central information resource around the question of speed. We answer questions such as: 'Am I in an area to get high-speed services like DSL, cable modems, or two-way satellite? What other kinds of software services might I want to enhance the speed of my connection?'

If I find a quality provider I'm comfortable recommending, I'm very clear at the site that if you do buy, I receive a commission.

BtoB: How many customers do you have, and how do you drive traffic to your site?

Judson: I am currently at a run rate in excess of 25,000 unique visitors to the site per month, and anticipate that I will reach 100,000 within a few months. I use highly targeted messages and search engine optimization.

If I don't get a 7% click-through on an ad campaign, I cut it off.

BtoB: That's pretty high. How do you do it?

Judson: I have developed a set of proprietary criteria for both the media opportunity and the presentation of the message that allow me to add impact to target marketing opportunities on the Net.

We know these methods have real value because my 7%-plus results have now held constant as my efforts have grown. I have now worked through about 1 million impressions, which is certainly statistically significant. I am constantly evaluating new opportunities using these methods.

BtoB: Explain your outsourcing philosophy.

Judson: I know what my core strength is, which is target marketing. Everything else related to running the business, I'm going to outsource.

I have a managed chain of 10 ASPs [application service providers] linked together—everything from the hosting service to development of customized forms to Commission Junction. A really good chain of ASPs makes you the centerpiece. You can instantly change anything and everything that is important to you. Automate everything you can.

BtoB: Have you developed a breakthrough on targeted marketing on the Web?

Judson: I'm trying to identify the characteristics of services that can profitably and effectively be sold over the Net.

If I don't have 20-30 marketing tests going on for Speed Anywhere, I'm unhappy. Is it applicable to other services outside of speed? I will be testing that. It will be a separate business. Life is a constant beta.

BtoB: What's your next project?

Judson: I am seriously considering a book with the working title 'Good Marketing is Free.' My point is that I believe companies would benefit from rethinking their basic approach to product marketing. The first question in planning a marketing campaign is typically 'What's my budget?' I would suggest that the most effective marketers first ask, 'What can I accomplish for free?' and then ask, 'How do I target my prospects, and what's my measurable return going to be on each thing I do?'

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