Zero to $2 Billion
What's in the book?
- Marketing Fundamentals
- Marketing Yourself
- Understanding Customers
- Social Media
This eBook is a compilation of marketing articles and blog entries I have done over the years. It helps to have some context before reading them to understand my background.
I am an engineer by education (Systems Design—University of Waterloo 1980). While in my final year of university, I started a company, EMJ Data Systems Ltd (EMJ). I wanted to do some software and circuit board design, so I needed a computer but got a better deal if I bought two. So I bought two and sold one. Then I bought another two. Then I bought some printers and some monitors, then some software, and soon I became a computer distributor.
I learned that I am better at sales and marketing than designing things. I love marketing and branding and have studied it extensively.
In the early years, I would go to the PC user group meetings and sell memory, disk drives, etc., from the trunk of my car, so people often say that I started a business from the trunk of my car.
Over the years, from this modest start, we grew a business that eventually was selling $2 Billion.
In 1979 when we started, there was no email or web pages. The fax machine was not yet prevalent. So much of our marketing material was printed.
One belief I had was to always market to customers when you "touch" them. So our invoices were printed with "sales" and information on other products we sold. We did invoice stuffers (a flyer promoting some product), shipping stuffers (these went in the products with shipments), and of course mailing. We also did a newsletter where we tried to add a bit more value than just promoting the products we sold—we included some humor and usually an article on how to succeed in business (often with a marketing angle).
We did so much printing that we bought a duplicating machine. One step above a copier. It made paper plates that could print 1000 flyers but only one size (8.5 by 11). We also bought an interest in a printing company that had real presses, cutters, stitchers (that is what they call staplers), drills ("printer speak" for punches), etc.
We would also touch our customers by phone. We were selling to the same customers (retailers, computer resellers, and computer stores) repeatedly, so although we were telemarketing, we were not the “dreaded unwanted ones.”
We did a lot of trade shows in the early years and, of course, in-person sales calls.
Fairly early on, we invested in a fax machine, and eventually we used a computer to send mass faxes to our customers. So in a way, we were pre-spam spammers, although we were careful to only fax our customers.
Then email and the web arrived, so we invested heavily in building a web presence and did very active email campaigns.
We knew enough to segment our customers so the communications were more likely to be welcome. We did not send information on Apple peripherals to someone who did not buy Apple products.
When social media arrived, I was early to start blogging and tweeting.
We grew the business to $68,000,000 in sales in 1994 and then went public. This brought about an era of annual and quarterly reports and investor communications. In 2004, our sales were $350,000,000 at which time we sold to SYNNEX. I then had the privilege of being CEO of SYNNEX Canada and running a couple of divisions of SYNNEX US, and in 2009 when I left SYNNEX, I was responsible for $2 Billion in sales.
While growing EMJ and SYNNEX, I invested in, advised, coached, and mentored dozens of tech companies. One of the most successful ones was Blackberry. I sat on the board of Blackberry before they went public for the first 13 years.
I am now a partner in Canrock Ventures—an early stage tech investment firm. Sort of a cross between an incubator, a VC, and an angel investor. This is a natural next phase of my tech investing.
My love of marketing and branding have continued. Canrock has an investment in an SEO company that does a lot of social media and search optimization for companies.
I am a blogger at jimestill.com. I tweet @jimestill.
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