STAGE TWO STRATEGIES: ASSETS INTERNATIONAL LLC

By Dustin Walsh | 2010

Assets International LLC
Location: Southfield
Description: Asset recovery firm specializing in locating missing heirs around the world for clients
President: Michael Zwick
Founded: 2001
Employees: 18
Revenue: $1.5 million in 2009, with $2 million projected for 2010

Problem to be solved: Because cases are typically referred by probate attorneys and trust administrators, company growth is limited by how much these attorneys and trust administrators know about Assets' services, said Zwick.

“We reached a point last year where we were doing great, but we weren't able to get our name out there and grow,” he said.

Zwick said his company lacked a business development and marketing presence. He knew he had to hire a business development professional who would drum up relationships the company could build on.

Solution: Assets hired Pamela Kramer as vice president of business development in August. Zwick expected Kramer to attend networking conferences, implement social media campaigns and generate e-mail blasts.

But Kramer instituted a timeless approach to business development: Going door to door.

“Honestly, I had my doubts about the effectiveness of this approach,” Zwick said. “I didn't think these professionals would be very receptive to having a person come to their office with this off-the-wall service.” But the approach is working, Zwick said.

“This kind of old-fashioned, shoe-leather salesmanship has made a world of difference for us,” he said. “It's hard to ignore a living, breathing person sitting in your office.”

Kramer's efforts have secured services for Fifth Third Bank and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. locally.

Considerations: Zwick said he gives all of his employees leeway to pursue business methods but had little hope Kramer's method would work and also was concerned about the amount of time and money required to visit law firms. Instead, the approach has proven to be cost-effective.

“It costs several thousands of dollars to send her to conferences where she wouldn't be getting much one-on-one time anyway.”

Expert opinion: Ken Seawell, owner of Ferndale-based consulting firm Seawell Business Solutions LLC, said business always will be about building relationships.

“Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, are social, but they are not very personal,” he said. “Building a personal relationship creates trust between the two parties, and that's irreplaceable.”

Kramer's door-to-door style is a perfect fit for Assets' narrow industry, Seawell said, and fits within the budget.

“I call it "pavement marketing,' “ he said. “Hitting the streets and making connections is a good investment for a small company.”

Seawell said a company has to evaluate which marketing methods produce the best results, whether that be pavement marketing or social media or both.

“They are both competent pieces of the marketing strategy,” he said. “But the easiest way to get in contact with potential clients might not always be the best.”