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Here's the Pitch: Advertising Customers Get the Right Message

By Andrea Caumont
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 18, 2004; Page E05

Consumers are constantly pitched new products and services through direct mail, telemarketing calls, e-mail spam, and television and radio spots. But how effective are the ads? Which ones actually make people want to buy a new cell phone or sign up for digital cable? Are advertising campaigns targeting the right audiences? Upper Quadrant says it can help companies answer those questions more effectively.

Reston-based Upper Quadrant, founded in January 2002, offers a subscription-based, Web-hosted application that enables companies to compile and share marketing information in a central database. "Companies are not taking advantage of the data they have because they don't understand it," said Chris Senio, the company's co-founder and vice president of alliances. "They don't have the time or resources to think beyond tactical execution." As a result, companies spend millions of dollars on what Upper Quadrant calls "faith-based marketing" tactics, which boil down to gut instinct and sticking with tradition.

Upper Quadrant co-founders Scott Rakestraw, left; Chris Senio and Bill Vance help companies make their advertising more effective by collecting and analyzing customer information. "We can consolidate all the data in a thousand spreadsheets into one usable database," Rakestraw says. (Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)

In Profile

Name: Upper Quadrant

Location: Reston

Big idea: Provides a Web-hosted application that helps clients centralize marketing data to understand what sales approaches work and why.

Founded: January 2002

Web site: www.upperquadrant.com

Who's in charge: Co-founders Chris Senio, Bill Vance and Scott Rakestraw.

Funding: Initially funded by the co-founders. They are not looking for venture funding. "We like working closely with customers and having control of our own destiny," Vance said.

Employees: 10

Partners: SPSS, a predictive analytics software company; Salesforce.com, a customer relationship management company; and Sitel Corp., a call center operator. Upper Quadrant is looking to establish partnerships with data aggregation technology companies and call centers.

Big-name clients: Upper Quadrant targets telecommunications companies, financial organizations, media entertainment companies and marketing agencies that do media buying. Clients include Nextel Communications, XO Communications, Lexis-Nexis, Kansas City Life Insurance Co. and Bell South.

Origin of company name: "The upper right quadrant is where everything is positive, where all growth occurs and everything good happens," Senio said. "It's the epitome of success."

Upper Quadrant determines what a business is trying to achieve and identifies where marketing data are being accumulated, then establishes data uploads that funnel the information into a central location accessible to the customer and its vendors. Marketing data come from a variety of sources, including direct-mail houses, call centers and point-of-sale information from retail stores. "We can consolidate all the data in a thousand spreadsheets into one usable database," said Scott Rakestraw, co-founder and vice president of program management. The database can be mined for information to help companies identify business trends and respond to them.

A company could collect data on where its products are being bought and in what quantities, then correlate that information to local ad campaigns to determine the effectiveness of a particular ad in a specific geographic region or among certain demographics. "That's how we link marketing to specific revenue," said Bill Vance, co-founder and vice president for customer acquisition.

Senio said Upper Quadrant helps companies match specific offers to specific individuals. "A 40-year-old man with three kids would get a different ad than a 16-year-old boy with a new driver's license." Cable television set-top boxes, which have unique identification numbers, could eventually allow companies to target TV ads to specific individuals.

Vance acknowledged that such personalized marketing tactics raise privacy concerns, but he focused on the upside: "Wouldn't you rather receive an ad or direct mail piece for products that you truly, honestly are interested in? Versus something you would never consider buying?"

© 2004 The Washington Post Company