Engaging Results Communications

With a background in marketing and PR, Kay-Tee Franke, 28, was working at the local CW television station before leaving to pursue an original idea that had long been gnawing at her brain. "This had to be done," she said. "It was almost a responsibility."

Franke is the president of Engaging Results Communications (ERC), a company she formed to help clients better engage with customers using mobile marketing solutions. Her company has moved beyond Facebook to create a direct dialogue between clients and their potential customers through text messaging, and everything they do is permission-based. "It's no longer a world based on the number of impressions. It's about the depth of our engagement with our customers," she said.

ERC works with businesses anywhere, of any size, that are interested in focusing on customer retention and creating loyalty clubs so they can communicate directly with their customers. "We do all the creation and implementation. We send the messages out and handle interactive messaging. We work very much behind the scenes and act as an additional arm of a client's marketing effort," Franke said.

Compatible with most mobile carriers (Verizon, US Cellular, etc.), the company's services have helped local businesses to drive traffic almost immediately. For example, a text might be sent out alerting customers to a limited supply of gift certificates being given out between certain hours in a day, instructing recipients to text a special keyword to get the deal. "We push the deals out when the client needs the customers," she said. It's working. The company is seeing 95% of texts opened within 15 minutes. "Facebook just can't compare."

Early on, Franke engaged the help of an advisory board, tech experts, and a lawyer to help develop confidentiality agreements because she realized the importance of protecting her intellectual property. "You can't trust the closest person to you not to take the idea and run with it," she said.

ERC has three divisions: Dane Exclusive Deals, a cooperative arrangement delivering deals from various businesses via SMS text messages to area residents that have requested them (initial costs can run between $700 and $7,000); Trade Shows, allowing trade show producers to actively communicate with their attendees, directing them, for example, to specific events; and a National Loyalty Club, used for multi-location retail businesses that want to communicate with their customers to get them back in the store. (For example, a receipt given to a customer might include a note saying, "For future deals, text DANE to 30364.")

Franke funded most of the start up herself, but also took out a small loan through WWBIC. "If someone were to go into this, realistically, they'd need $60,000 to start up," she said, adding that programming, carrier contracts, and advertising have been the biggest costs thus far.

Since launching in October, ERC has attracted 10 national accounts and a local clientele of about 100 businesses. The company employs five and is currently hiring. A year from now, Franke would like ERC to be launched in eight markets and increase its trade show business.

By all appearances, ERC is on a fast track to success. "We were asked recently about a buyout," she said, "but we said no."


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