Incremental Media’s Dave Smith on Taking an All-in Approach

By Shahnaz MahmudAugust 17, 2015

Famed American banker Peter A. Cohen once said: “There is no one giant step that does it. It’s a lot of little steps.” That ideal is not lost on Dave Smith, founder and CEO of Incremental Media. In fact, it’s the very reason he chose the name of his company. Incremental Media helps companies acquire new customers cost-effectively through insert media, print, direct mail and digital channels.

Smith will be speaking at the upcoming LeadsCon New York conference at The New York Hilton Midtown August 24-26. His session is “How to Utilize Offline Channels to Cost-Effectively Generate Quality Leads.”

A Classic Tale
His is a classic tale of building businesses for other people and eventually wanting the same for himself. Smith, a 22-year veteran in the marketing world, was serving as chief marketing officer for a division of Cablevision just before founding his company. He reported directly to legendary entrepreneur Charles Dolan, who founded HBO and Cablevision. His resume is also marked by such titles as SVP of Marketing at the Direct Marketing Association — a role he was personally recruited for — and VP of Marketing positions at Columbia House, Cendant and Bertelsmann.

Having covered many media channels, including television, digital, radio, email, direct mail and insert media, all of his experience culminated in starting a business that casts a wide net for clients for maximum effect. “The concept was whatever channel you are in will help you be successful overall,” says Smith.

Incremental Media just celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this month. Its success was almost immediate, growing exponentially from the get-go. Why? With a healthy Rolodex of TV contacts, particularly from his Cablevision and DMA days, Smith targeted the infomercial world and soon included huge direct response television marketing clients catering to anything from vacuums to weight loss to hair removal. “Once we had a success story, we grew so quickly and became the biggest agency within the channel in four years,” says Smith.

The Focus on Offline
In an about-face (well, sort of), Incremental Media does not focus heavily on the digital landscape. The company is primarily offline and centered on the print and insert world. The company defies the notion that print is dead. “We are thriving,” emphasizes Smith. “The thing that’s better about the leads that we generate is they are not shared leads that are being sold to multiple people; they are your leads,” he says. “There’s no one else but you, and the quality tends to be considerably better. There’s no fraud — all of those things you have concerns about for online; you don’t have when you generate offline leads. While it’s ‘cool and hip’ and we ourselves have gotten into email and Facebook marketing for our clients, it’s still the offline world that is alive and well.”

The company has become involved more recently with email and Facebook, applying the same concept it follows in the offline world. “We’re targeting people through demographics, through potentially geographic information and through other things that make sense,” Smith points out. These are “logical extensions” of what Incremental Media does now.

A first-time speaker at LeadsCon, Smith will provide conference attendees with an overview of the different types of print media channels available, such as shared and direct mail, as well as things like package inserts, and email and programmatic in the online world. Smith also wants to give attendees insights into what they can expect to pay and some sense of results regarding what a lead would typically cost in each channel and for different types of products. Smith will also address the key elements to consider with creative strategy. “The idea is to give [LeadsCon attendees] a sense of what the various options look like [and] their sources so they can develop a good media strategy,” says Smith.

This points to what Smith believes to be the biggest challenge for the lead generation crowd. “In general, it’s testing different offers and different creatives and the different channels to try and figure out what is the best cost-per-lead and the quality of the lead to understand the conversion,” says Smith. “It’s to ultimately undertake that so marketers can optimize a return on investment where they are investing their marketing dollars.”

Click here to register for LeadsCon New York 2015.

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