Live plants used as sound barriers and desks imported from Germany are two elements of DME’s call center that reflect its worker-friendly corporate culture.

DME’s top management includes, from left: Michael Panaggio, founder and CEO; Kathy Wise, COO; and Michael Walther, president.

“We maintain a select group of customers because it takes market intelligence and extensive resources to really satisfy the needs of those companies,” Panaggio explains. “We work with a customer in developing a personalized marketing strategy, and that’s when we know we’re more than a vendor. If a customer doesn’t let us in at the strategy stage—just wants us to print for them—we know that account is not going to be long lived.”

In one case, the close ties DME had with a customer (Sales Systems) proved so beneficial to both firms that their respective managements decided to formalize the relationship. DME Sales Systems, in Orlando, is now a 50/50 partnership headed by Larry Oliphant, who transitioned into being president and CEO of the new organization along with having a 50 percent ownership stake.

“We’ve become a marketing innovation partner to DME’s massive production organization,” Oliphant notes. “We work with our customers on strategy and program management.”

He defines DME Sales Systems’ target client as any “serial marketing” company that works through a decentralized sales structure (agents, dealers, franchises, etc.), so it needs to do local marketing. They don’t all have to be big names, adds Oliphant, noting that one client is a tile and grout cleaning business with about 100 franchisees.

Where he sees the biggest opportunity, though, is in the $10 million and above companies that have become fixated on how many leads they can get for how little money, along with making sure to spend all of the marketing budget for the year. The future is in getting vice presidents of marketing to focus on the bigger picture and ask the important questions about the role of marketing and what really works, Oliphant says.

“We are going back to the fundamentals—test, collectively (with the client) execute, track and repeat,” he says. “It’s all about testing. We’re not selling results. We’re selling the ideology that you have to look for the answer. You have to test in the marketplace.”

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