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.
So why the trip down memory lane? Simple! I had every tool necessary to take my publishing company to levels beyond my wildest dreams literally at my fingertips. Some days I look back and think, “If I’d only gotten the concept of the Internet and its vast search capabilities, I could’ve married real estate listings, search and Web sites together.” And become a gazillionaire in the process. In 1993, I could’ve gone back to my former company and made this a reality. If only I’d understood the Internet’s potential!
What’s amazing to me is how the Internet and search have changed everything in such a short time.
I also wonder these days what exactly I’m missing right now, much like I missed in the past. Where’s the next big profit center going to be? The next multimillion dollar idea? Are you thinking? Me too!
Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing Inc., a full-service catalog and direct marketing agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert or you can post a comment here or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.