By John Egan
In 2003 – one year before Facebook opened the book on social networking, three years before Twitter flew onto the tech scene and four years before the iPhone answered the call for better cellphones – Jim Eggleston and his business partners bought a more than 50-year-old marketing company that was failing.
Cole Information got its start in 1947 as a producer of print directories full of contact information for lead generation. But by 2003, database technology was making print directories obsolete. As the new owners, Eggleston and his partners saw an opportunity to move Cole Information into the 21st century.
“We did that by seamlessly integrating our information with online technology that makes the data actionable – and invaluable – to [business] professionals, creating instantly accessible marketing databases tailored to the user’s specific needs,” Eggleston said.
Fifteen years after Eggleston and his partners took over the company, Cole Information is flourishing in the residential real estate vertical, as well as in insurance, home services and other sectors. Today, Cole Information specializes in hyperlocal marketing technology and services for small and midsize businesses, in addition to marketers, lead publishers, lead generators and lead optimizers. Thousands of users take advantage of Cole Information’s subscription-based platform.
Cole Information is a Gold sponsor of LeadsCon Connect to Convert, set for Oct. 3 to 5 in Boston.
Eggleston, who’s CEO of Cole Information, said the company isn’t in the business of producing or selling leads. Rather, at least in the case of the Cole Realty Resource unit, it serves as a “hyperlocal marketing service that empowers agents, teams and brokers to pinpoint target areas and take their marketing skills to the next level,” he said.
“The fact is, there are other companies out there selling marketing lists. But we’re the only one with the power to help agents define precisely who they want to market to and where – right down to ZIP code, neighborhood and house.”
Brook Venture Partners recognized that power when the private equity and venture capital firm, along with co-investors Resolute Capital Partners and Eagle Private Capital, bought Omaha, Nebraska-based Cole Information in 2017 from private equity firm MCM Capital Partners. MCM had owned Cole Information since 2008.
Under the Brook Venture Partners umbrella, Cole Information plans to expand into other small and midsize business (SMB) markets, and to grow both organically and via acquisitions. Today, Cole Information maintains mounds of data regarding more than 130 million U.S. households and 19 million businesses, including cellphone numbers and email addresses.
“Cole Information has carved out an exciting niche in the SMB space by leveraging an incredibly strong brand, exceptional customer relationships, easy-to-use online interface, and a robust nationwide consumer database,” Eggleston said.
That “exciting” hyperlocal marketing niche has staying power, as experts say it’s not a fad – it’s here to stay.
“Business success will come from further focusing on smaller, very specific audiences,” said Kyle Golding, chief strategic idealist at The Golding Group. “Going extremely deep with customized messages and specialized platforms to a highly receptive and loyal audience will replace wide-approach ‘shotgun’ marketing.”