Scott Hill and Andy Medley were young when they founded PERQ — in their 20s. They quickly discovered they had a lot to learn.
Their original venture was dedicated to event promotions for automotive dealers using primarily print advertising vehicles. They learned as they went, relying as much on their customers for ideas as they were their experience.
“When you’re a two-person shop, those gaps are basically filled by you through whatever forms of education you can put yourself through, whether it means talking to a customer, talking to a buddy or just going online and trying to figure out what it is that you need to know,” says Medley.
As their company grew it branched into three entities, each with slightly different strengths though still focused on automotive dealers. But the owners felt the organization was splintered and wasting energy. So they brought the functions of all the businesses together under PERQ, tying them together with the one common thread that had emerged in all three businesses, marketing automation technology.
Leveraging the marketing technology pushed PERQ outside of its core of automotive dealers and into retail where PERQ handled a consumer prize giveaway for an HH Gregg and LG Electronics co-promotion. The retailer drives consumers to PERQ’s microsite, fatwin.com, through advertising. Consumers register to win on the site, answer questions, and share the experience through social media. In the exchange, HH Gregg gets consumer information.
PERQ also uses kiosks placed in brick and mortar locations and encourages consumers to interact by offering additional chances to win, while allowing the retailer to track and engage those consumers.
But entering the retail market means orienting their business to meet the needs of new customers.
“So for us it’s really how do we more clearly define what B2C means? How do we make sure that we’re targeting the customers who are going to be the quickest to adopt as we start to grow, learn from those customers and then start to open it up to others so we can diversify through our markets and make the technology more robust?” Medley says.
“It’s going to be more about making sure we’re focused on our growing efforts as we start to really go to market and open ourselves up outside of what PERQ is right now, mainly newspaper and automotive markets,” Medley says.
As the company expands in numbers — PERQ now has 75 employees — and reach, Medley says the challenge is staying ahead and making sure the organization has the right people onboard.
“We’re transitioning from a services company to a technology company and that’s been a two-year maturation process that’s required us to really inject the organization with a lot of skill sets that we didn’t have,” Medley says.
Those skill sets include understanding the retail landscape and buying process, how to build a robust technology platform, and understanding the national legal landscape of promotions to mitigate risk.
Education, whether on the job or otherwise, has been central to Hill and Medley’s development. The two of them attended a three-year Harvard owner/president management program that provided an intensive business education.
“It really helped us understand the fundamentals of business and how to be able to lay the foundation of a company,” Hill says. “With that education we started working on where is it that we’re taking that company. It’s not like we came back from those classes after those three years knowing that exact answer, but it taught us the framework of how to be able to search for it and develop it and not just be growing for the sake of growing.”
That education comes from more places than learning institutions. The two look everywhere for knowledge that will help them grow their business, from local advisers such as venture capitalist Bill Godfrey, who founded Aprimo, a company that focused on marketing automation software, to industry titans of the past, such as Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Though Hill and Medley have come a long way, the learning doesn’t stop.
Hill says, “I hope to never again feel like, ‘Wow, we’ve got this figured out,’ because that means that we’ve obviously stopped moving forward to the full degree because we’re not in a position of needing to go find new answers because we’ve ceased breaking new ground.”