A Chat with Arnie Zaslow, executive vice president, ATD American Co.
CS: How do you narrow down your prospects?
AZ: We utilize that time-worn concept of recency and frequency. We measure very carefully who our best prospects have been. We try to identify and profile those prospects, then duplicate them in the prospect market. After prospects have been converted to customers, we ask “who were the people who were converted?” We carefully examine our customer list and constantly update the criteria to make sure we’re identifying our customers with every attribute that’s available. We overlay those attributes on the prospect file.
CS: What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in business, and how did you recover?
AZ: That’s an easy one. We were really late in the development in our Web site. And I think there were a lot of people guilty of the same sin in the institutional market. In the early years of Web sales, a lot of the B-to-B people were saying this was just a tool for the consumer market. The L.L. Bean’s of the world, while they were enjoying the fruits of their Web sites, we sat back and said that our customers weren’t going to buy that way. And we were wrong. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long to realize we were wrong. We immediately took steps to correct that. We developed a Web site four to five years ago, but it was rather primitive compared to what we have today. Now we have a very sophisticated transactional Web site where customers can come, check every item in the catalog, place orders, arrange payment, etc. It’s been a very successful method of marketing. And I’m confident that in the years to come, our Web presence will generate a lot more than the 13 percent it currently generates. And I don’t believe it will all be a matter of replacing other sales from the mail or telephone. I think we’ll be broadening our market and bringing in new sales from the Web site.