Meet the Broker: Greg Branstetter
By Jim Emerson
Today we meet Greg Branstetter, president of Hippo Direct, a small Solon, OH-based list brokerage firm that evolved from a bookseller catalog that he launched in 1992.
"I realized there were a lot more growth opportunities for me on the brokerage side than having a catalog business," says Branstetter.
He learned the ins and outs of researching and testing lists as a mailer. His transition from selling books by mail to full time list brokerage started in the fall of 1997. "Now I'm exclusively in brokerage," he says.
Branstetter ran his own catalog business for five years, selling management and professional how-to books to nonprofit organizations. Before that going all the way back to 1986 he promoted seminars via direct mail.
"That period of time was for me was like the equivalent of getting an MBA in list brokerage," says Branstetter.
He started his broker career as a sole proprietor but now he works with four other brokers. By his estimation he spends 85% to 90% of his workday brokering lists.
"I'm still the primary broker," says Branstetter. "I do brokerage work because I like it. What I like most is being a part of my client's marketing staff."
He mainly works with publishing and seminar companies. Markets he specializes in include human resources training, management leadership and the medical and dental industries.
His list brokerage clients include Wiley/Jossey Bass, Ragan Communications, Chronicle of Higher Education, Harvard School of Public Health, Center for Business Intelligence and the World Research Group.
Branstetter is married and has two sons, 16 and 14. He likes playing tennis and enjoys pleasure trips to South Carolina, Florida and Las Vegas.
One of his favorite pastimes is watching televised sports, which he takes to an extreme. "Yes, I am a sports nut," Branstetter laughs.
"We have three TV sets in the living room so I don't have to click through channels and miss anything. My sons have grown up thinking it's normal to have three TVs in the living room," he says.
Do you perceive a generation gap in direct marketing?
"Working with 25- to 30-year-olds is very different than working with someone 45 to 50 years old," says Branstetter. "And I'm 15 years older than most of my clients."
The younger generation is much more comfortable working with e-mail and less insistent on traveling to have face-to-face meetings. "It's less important to sit down across a table with clients than it was 25 years ago," he adds.
Technology has brought more freedom to the workplace, according to Branstetter. "I'm located near Cleveland. I don't even have any clients in Ohio. All I need is a phone and an Internet connection to do my work."
He wonders if it might be someone with a nose ring who transforms the list business and creates a whole new market for lists derived from the vast quantities of data being generated from search engine marketing.
"We may all be doing search engine marketing in five to 10 years. Search engine marketing is the future of direct marketing, but so far I haven't seen anybody (marketing) lists, but Google has what it takes," he says.
Is peace possible in the jovial war between brokers and list managers?
"I have a four-second solution," says Branstetter.
"List managers can eliminate half their phone calls and e-mails they receive from brokers. It's simple to use a signature in Outlook to confirm receipt of orders and count requests. Here's what I use: 'Got it, thanks.' It takes only four seconds to use this as a reply to any message."
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