Damark Targets Small Businesses With Membership Program

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Direct marketer Damark International Inc., Minneapolis, announced yesterday that is rolling out its first membership club that offers discounts on products and services for small businesses.

Membership in the Small Business Alliance will give small-business owners access to discounts on a variety of services, including legal advice, payroll, bookkeeping, Web-site hosting and collections. Members also can receive discounts on more than 10,000 office supplies through Office Direct. Other supplier-partners Damark has enlisted for the program include market-research firm Find/SVP, payroll processor ADP, Big Easy Bookkeeping and teleservices provider Cable & Wireless.

Damark negotiates to purchase products and services in bulk at discounted prices from its partners based on enrollment projections, and passes the savings on to members, who are recruited through telemarketing.

The company traditionally offers its membership-club programs to consumers, but the company saw an opportunity in the small-business market, according to Wiley H. Sharp III, vice president and treasurer.

"An awful lot of lot of our customers are small-businessmen, so this was really kind of driven by the perception of market demand," he said. "We think there's a lot of opportunity out there in the small-business market."

There are some 24 million small businesses in the United States, Wiley said, and their number is increasing.

The company has been testing the program for the past three to four months with some of its inbound callers, he said, and has "had a nice response."

"We expect the program to do very well," he said.

The company is launching outbound telemarketing to pitch the SBA both to its own customer lists and to the customer lists of its partners. Damark has more 1.7 million members in its clubs and manages and markets 12 discount membership programs, including the Small Business Alliance. The company also mails some 150 million catalogs annually, offering computers, consumer electronics, home office, home decor, home improvement and sports and fitness products.

In other news, Damark recently began offering telecommunications products from Vicom Inc., New Hope, MN, through two of its membership programs.

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