There's DRTV and Dot-Com Gold in the Valley, the Alley and the Hills

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In the '70s and '80s, it was direct mail. In the '90s, it was direct response television. In the 21st century, it is the Internet. The boom is here, and, from where I sit, there is no end in sight. That may be because I sit in what is now considered one of the new hotbeds for growth in e-commerce.

In early 1984, a 19-year-old visionary started assembling and selling computers out of his Austin, TX, apartment. I say visionary not because he was making or selling a low cost alternative to IBM, but a visionary because of the tactics he used to sell these simple, affordable solutions. He was Michael Dell, and his innovative use of direct marketing put Austin on the hi-tech map.

Of course, it's true that there are several cities currently enjoying the phenomenal physical and economic growth associated with Internet-based business -- and perhaps the best known among them is the Silicon Valley in San Jose. However, giving the Silicon Valley a run for the money is The Silicon Forest, Seattle; The Silicon Alley, New York; and The Silicon Dominion, Washington. And then there is The Silicon Hills, Austin, TX.

Austin's hi-tech base, which enjoyed record growth in the early 1990s, served as the perfect platform for the launch of what is now considered one of the fastest growing Internet communities in the world. During the 1990s, major companies that had a significant presence in the Hill Country included 3M, Tivoli, Motorola, Dell, Applied Materials, Applied Micro Devices, Samsung and Cirrus Logic, to name a few.

With an estimated 25 IPOs in 1999 and more than 200 software and Internet companies per year expected to call Austin home, this is just the beginning. In fact, the Austin Business Journal expects more than 66,000 new jobs by 2002.

What does all this have to do with direct marketing? Everything.

E-commerce is direct marketing. The founders, CEO's and presidents of Internet based e-commerce companies are entrepreneurial in spirit and want to see quick returns on investment. That's where we come in.

No one knows how to generate a better return on marketing dollars invested than the direct response television industry. We have found that by combining a good product or service with proper positioning and marketing and an ad budget less than most CEO's salaries, we can create a brand.

Which is exactly what every dot-com needs. In an industry that reinvents itself every 18 months, patience is a foreign word. For well over a decade, DRTV has been making impressive profits by creating new product categories, brands and television personalities.

The dot-coms of today have the benefit of years of hard-learned lessons by the direct response industry. We know what it takes to get a customer as well as keep one. Marketing, fulfillment, shipping, order processing and customer service are just a few of the areas where the experience of transactional television can be beneficial to a start-up e-commerce company.

With more than 100 dot-coms in Austin and more starting every day, I look forward to working with more of these blue jean clad entrepreneurs and their agencies for many years to come.

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