DEARBORN, Mich.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Gamification and interactive advertising started before the Internet existed as we know it today. In 1987, consumers received a driving simulator game via 5 ¼- or 3 ½-inch floppy disks that was in reality an interactive advertising program. The games were created by a tech startup called SoftAd, who convinced Ford Motor Company and General Motors that technology was the best way to reach consumers who were no longer interested in buying American vehicles. SoftAd, since renamed ChannelNet, is now celebrating its 30th year in digital marketing.
In his book, Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution, and show author and NPR host Tom Peters credits ChannelNet’s CEO and founder, Paula Tompkins, with literally dragging blue-chip clients such as General Motors, Chase and Ford through the door into the 21st century.
“When we started talking to potential clients about using a PC to improve the marketing and sales process, they called me crazy,” explains Tompkins. “In 1985, the Internet, appropriate hardware with graphics capability and processing power barely existed.”
Today, digital accounts for 25 percent of the marketing budget, and the spending is expected to grow eight percent this year.
Tompkins stresses, “For clients today, customer experience is a top priority. It is critical that customer needs be at the center of a company’s strategic plans. However, that is not typically how organizations operate.”
According to Tompkins, today’s challenges are organizations’ siloed structures and the complexity of legacy systems. Experts agree that it is difficult for companies to provide one experience to customers across all devices and touch points. A study by Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company, reveals that customer experience is more important than product innovation.
“Paula and her company have always been on the cutting edge,” says Sam Inman III, ChannelNet advisory board member and President and CEO of Covisint Corporation. “The company’s innovation stems from its deep expertise. Most companies are either a marketing agency or an IT shop. ChannelNet is both, and that is rare.”
In 30 years, the company’s solutions have evolved from diskettes and CDs to client/server technology, the Internet, tablets and other mobile devices. Tompkins personally led the company’s transition from a custom software development company to a web-based solutions provider. The company holds two patents for its cloud-delivered software, ChannelNet SiteBuilder™.
- 1986 — Launched the first digital marketing campaigns in the world for BMW, General Motors, Chase, Chemical Bank and Ford.
- 1993 — Launched SalesExcelerator, a client/server-based sales automation solution.
- 1995 — Launched Ford.com and the world’s first dealer websites for 5,000 Ford dealers, creating a new source of online business for dealers.
- 2005 — Launched the world’s first personal customer microsites for BMW.
- 2010 — Received a U.S. patent for SiteBuilder™ software, a modifiable sales and marketing technology platform.
- 2012 — Received a U.S. patent for personalization technologies (an update for SiteBuilder™). This innovation allows companies to take a more laser-like approach using marketing automation. They can easily send out 1,500 different versions of the same email, each one customized based on the individual consumer’s preference and circumstance.
A software-as-a-solution (SaaS) provider, ChannelNet is a leader and a pioneer in delivering digital customer acquisition, retention and conquest services that integrate a multi-channel sales environment. The company specializes in marketing automation and sales solutions for corporations with retail outlets. Privately held, it was founded 30 years ago and is based in Dearborn, Michigan. It has a Western U.S. office in Sausalito, California. For more information, visit channelnet.com.