Protocol Buys Dickinson Direct

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After 53 years of independence, direct marketing firm Dickinson Direct, Braintree, MA, has been sold to Protocol Communications Inc., an integrated direct marketing services company.


Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, although the son of Dickinson's founder confirmed that Protocol, Danvers, MA, had bought most of Dickinson Direct's assets.


"It really fits their model very well with what they're trying to do," said Reed Dickinson, executive vice president at Protocol. "They're a customer relationship management company, and they've got a lot of telemarketing, and they're adding fulfillment and marketing services. We bring a lot of the services they didn't already have."


Dickinson was president/CEO of Dickinson Direct before the sale and will continue to oversee the shop under the new arrangement.


Protocol, which is privately held, offers services such as pre-sales customer support, customer sales, market planning, fulfillment and data mining.


These services are delivered via direct mail, inbound and outbound telephone and e-mail, online chats, voice identification and response and click-to-callback. The company has 5,000 employees at 21 offices nationwide.


Protocol clients include Casio, Intuit, Shell Energy Services and Pitney Bowes.


In another deal that was almost in lock step with the Dickinson purchase, Protocol also bought CPU, Asheville, NC. The continuity fulfillment company fulfills steady replenishment items such as vitamins, cosmetics and tapes sent by membership clubs.


But the Dickinson acquisition "fills a strategic gap for us," said Steve McLean, president/CEO of Protocol. "We didn't have sufficient strength in the areas that Dickinson has strengths. It's one more step for one-stop shopping for our clients."


Dickinson Direct offers services from marketing strategy and creative development to list acquisition and research, data processing, printing and mailing.


The roster of Dickinson clients includes Digitas, Verizon, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Genuity, Bose, Fidelity Investments, the Automobile Association of America, Veritas, Travelers Insurance, myteam.com, Aquent Partners and Analog Devices.


Dickinson Direct last year posted revenue of $30 million. It has more than 225 employees.


Reed Dickinson, whose father founded the company in 1948, said the logic behind the sale was increased growth prospects.


"We weren't looking to sell the company," Dickinson said. "We were approached by Protocol, which was handling teleservices for us.


"We were profitable, we were doing great," he added. "We weren't feeling the pinch. Most of our clients have been with us for years."
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