Congrats, You Too Can Be a Gazillionaire!
Back in the late ’80s I started a publishing company that worked with Realtors to help sell its properties. My goal was to get my publication into prospects’ hands before they bought a home from another real estate firm who wasn’t one of my advertisers. To accomplish this, I came up with a ridiculously high-tech method of reaching potential buyers: I “bulk-dropped” my publication in every supermarket, restaurant and bank that would let me.
And it worked. My company prospered. My clients sold houses. I spent a lot of time teaching my clients how to track their responses on such technological devices as “tick sheets,” where you place a tick mark on the sheet whenever a response came in.
For a time, this was fun. But bulk-drop distribution isn’t the best way to reach prospects. So I racked my 20-something-year-old brain for a better method, but came up empty.
By 1991, I’d had enough. Luckily, one of my former employers was interested in buying the company, so I sold it. “Good riddance,” I said, even though the new owner offered me a standing opportunity to come back to run things.
Come 1993, I had my first proper job in direct marketing and went to New York University for its direct marketing certificate curriculum. A visitor came into my class one night and started talking about this thing called the Internet and its marketing arm, the World Wide Web — with something called a graphical interface. It’s coming, he said, and we entered into this whole speculative, theoretical conversation about direct marketing in the future.
A year later, a girl I was dating showed me the Internet. I asked her, “Where’s the three w’s?” She directed me to Yahoo.com. From what I remember, Yahoo! was a mishmash of totally unrelated links. I was more interested in learning how to instant message people who wanted to do cyber-things that I won’t mention here and laughing with my date over this.