_Don Lange is the Senior Vice President and a partner in the “Cornerstone Group of Companies”:http://www.cstonecanada.com. He was one of Cornerstone’s first employees and has seen the company grow from a 6 person operation to almost 300 full and part time staff over 8 business units. From the beginning, Don’s role has been to develop new businesses for Cornerstone based on providing existing clients with new direct response media opportunities. Don has started 4 of Cornerstone’s businesses as well as conceptualizing and developing Universe Canada(tm), the largest and most comprehensive consumer database in the country._
*One Degree: Cornerstone has a long and successful history of helping enable direct marketing in Canada. How is classic direct mail been impacted by the Internet?*
It’s an interesting question. On the one hand if someone were to invent direct mail today it would be revolutionary. And, direct mail is still a very strong channel in this country. On the other hand, the rising costs of production and postage coupled with smaller mailing lists has resulted in direct marketers looking for solutions to complement direct mail campaigns. For the most part, direct mailers are embracing the Internet as a channel that meets their requirements of measurability. Some categories have been faster to move. For example we have seen a reduction in business to business mailings steadily over the last 5 years. Most of these companies have invested in online media.
*One Degree: My gut says that smart direct marketers are making the move to search engine marketing – it fits their way of thinking perfectly. I hear that Cornerstone is about to get very active in search marketing – can you tell us a bit more about your plans?*
Absolutely. Like most businesses we’re in, search marketing fits the need of our client base and plays heavily to our strengths. Our new search business provides a complete service from the development of key words and advertising right through to landing page creation – and more importantly – customer database management. Many companies don’t have the blend of tools to be able to complete the loop. While intuitively they are equipped to build key word lists, they may not have the expertise on hand to easily create campaign driven web sites and secure online forms and databases. We do this all day long for a range of clients from fundraisers, publishers, banks and more.
*One Degree: Do clients come to you with any “only in Canada” problems with adopting search marketing?*
Yes. I’d like to think that we understand the Canadian marketplace better than any other media company of our kind. And because we are a Canadian company, we devote much more attention than other firms. Not that I blame companies for ignoring Canada as a market unto itself. Lets face it, with the size of the American marketplace we’re a rounding error at best. However, Cornerstone has had considerable success being a proudly Canadian organization. Not that we ignore US marketers. In fact, over 40% of our Client base are US companies doing business in Canada. We’re approaching search the same way.
*One Degree: Canadian firms seem to be a little more timid about new channels like search marketing. Is there anything you can do to help companies get their feet wet?*
Nothing gets attention faster than success. Its incredible how successful this channel has been for our clients. The other thing is trust. There seems to be a lot of players that have come into this space that have no track records or are not necessarily financially stable. Search is a direct response channel and we need to help demonstrate to Canadian companies that this can be a valuable and highly measurable way to spend direct response dollars.
*One Degree: The search marketing community is largely made up of one- or two-person shops (particularly here in Canada) and we haven’t really seen any big SEM shops evolve. Why is that?*
I think its mostly because there are few companies that have the expertise or technology to understand how important it is to be able to provide a complete service and how important it is to be able to integrate the channel into other channels. There is a consulting arm to this business and, although I have high respect for consultants, lets face it, the good consultants are good because of their experience and they only really grow through word of mouth. I think we have a lot of small one-person companies hanging up a shingle and saying they are experts. However, there’s a big difference between being an academic expert on a media and knowing how to run a successful media company. We are fully committed to search marketing and we plan on being the largest search marketing company in Canada.