Entrepreneur Magazine - Get it on a Disk

Brave New Marketing  - Get it on a Disk!

November, 1991 - Vic Cherubini found a strategy for success. He wanted to reach mail order customers without the expense of sending out catalogs. In late 1986, Cherubini was making catalogs for a Texas company that manufactured coatings for oil pipelines. "With oil prices dropping from $28 to $8 a barrel, this was not a great place to be" he says. "We developed some neat new coatings, but had no money to print our catalog." Cherubini's solution was to condense the catalog into an entirely new sales tool: a floppy disk. I hired a software programmer to create a decision support system that leads customers through a process to come up with the best solutions for their applications," he explains. "Then, I integrated our catalog text and graphics with the decision support system on a floppy disk."

Sending the decision support program to customers by direct mail and computer modem proved a successful marketing tactic. "Our sales went up, and customers and competitors began to perceive our company as high-tech," says Cherubini. "The program served as an extension of our sales-force efforts."

A couple of years later, Cherubini founded Electronically Produced Interactive Catalogs (EPIC) Software Group, Inc., a company in The Woodlands, TX, that produces computer catalogs.

"[The average] four-color, 16 page catalog costs $15,000 to $25,000," says Cherubini. "And as soon as you produce a printed catalog, you're stuck with it. The next year, you have to start again."

Disk-based catalogs, on the other hand, can be updated electronically throughout the year, says Cherubini. They can also include animation, sound and graphics. He boasts, "Two hundred electronic pages can be transmitted by modem in 14 minutes"

Cherubini demonstrates how companies can grow without investing huge sums. Innovative marketing simply requires a new, creative look at what customers want. If you can make it work, you can also help your company grow in exciting ways - and in the process, add a lot of diversity to your business life.