As part of our ongoing P1P Interview series, we managed to chase down the president and co-founder of Advanced Telecom Services, 20-year telemedia veteran Robert (Bob) Bentz. With a background in television advertising, Bentz is at the helm of the company behind several dating sites, text message marketing and other forms of tech-based consumer engagement.
We’re not sure where he picked up the habit of being a “good sport” from his baseball hobby, or if he was just born that way. Thankfully, Bentz was kind enough to let us lob him a few pitches. In the interview below, you’ll learn what he says is the best way to get something done, some industry secrets and even a few of his tips on dating.
Q. Lots of us are familiar with mobile marketing, but some of our readers aren’t. As president, would you tell us about Advanced Telecom Services?
A. Advanced Telecom Services has been in business since 1989. It started out as a service bureau providing IVR solutions, mostly business-to-business 900 numbers. Over the years, the company has continued to service the same customers – advertisers, advertising agencies, and media. What has changed, however, has been the medium for reaching the end consumers, which has evolved from the landline phone to the internet and most recently to the mobile phone.
Q. You transitioned from TV advertising to telemedia…how has the change been for you?
A. Really, the reason that I did transition was that while working in television advertising, I saw the need for providing interactive telephone solutions to establish a one-on-one relationship with consumers. After 23 years, I still consider myself to be a media guy and not really a telecom guy. I’ve learned about telecom, but my passion has always remained in media.
Q. You’ve got a couple of blogs going and I really enjoyed your post about Santa Claus. Where do you draw your inspiration for your business ideas?
A. If you surround yourself with good people and allow them to feel free to contribute ideas, you end up doubling the amount of new business ideas that you have. Take custom QR Codes, for example. That business was one that I just didn’t see when we got into it since QR Codes are essentially free on the internet. My team, however, saw an opportunity, I let them run with it, and we’ve become one of the foremost experts on custom, branded QR Codes in the world.
Q. How effective is text message advertising? As with any industry, there are inevitable challenges. Do you see the “opt out” potential that sacked telemarketers as a threat to your industry?
A. As an ex-television guy, I’ve seen the power of television advertising. Text message marketing, however, is the single most effective promotional medium in the world today and clearly offers the best ROI. It’s incredibly inexpensive and unbelievably effective. I can’t say enough about it. I often wish I owned a local retail store so that I could use it myself.
Q. Do you have any tips or suggestions for companies and other online businesses?
A. I have two:
“People are your greatest asset.”
“If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”
Q. I saw your post about SEO and the Penguin/Panda updates. It is interesting stuff. Do you anticipate more troubles for SEO-heavy sites or have the “negative” results been over-played?
A. I always tell the team here that Google is the smartest company in the world and that you can’t make shortcuts to fool Google. That wasn’t entirely true in the past if you knew a lot about SEO. With the Penguin and Panda updates, it’s become more and more difficult to use SEO to gain top rankings. Now, you have to run your website like a real business and if you do what real businesses do, you will ultimately win the search engine rankings.
Q. Ok…you have to humor me….I was going to ask you something about the telemedia industry, but then I noticed that Advanced Telecom Services also runs some dating sites…so first things first: how does a single person get a date out of an online dating service? Is the secret to love having season tickets to the Phillies? (Bentz (his pseudonym is Dug Out Bob) is a long-time fan of the sport of baseball and writes a blog about fantasy baseball.)
A. You recall that Advanced Telecom Services originated to offer business to business 900 number services. In the 1990s, one of the most popular of those was newspaper-based classified promotions of dating services via a 900 number and automated credit card program.
When the internet came along, the web was able to offer a very important element of dating that the automated phone services could not – you could see a picture of the person. So, we evolved into internet dating. Today, very few newspapers still run traditional voice personals and we now offer an online dating and mobile phone dating solution to our newspaper and radio station customers.
Having worked in the dating industry for a long time, I do have some tips on how to get a date. Most important is to have a professional picture done of yourself and then some that also show your personality. If you are in good shape, be sure to use a full body shot. And, don’t ever use a picture where there is some arm around you (likely of an ex-boyfriend or husband).
Having season tickets to the Phillies or the theatre wouldn’t hurt your chances of getting a date, but the best thing you can do is to take time in writing your profile. Make sure you appear to be interesting and be honest, casual, and funny. And, don’t ever, ever, say you “like long walks on the beach.”
Q. Dating sites seem like they’d incredibly competitive sites to run. Really though, we’re all in competitive fields if we’re online. Can you share your pointers on making it work, on making those sites stay on top?
A. Our model is a bit different from just having an online dating site and going head to head with Match.com and eHarmony. That would be silly in my opinion. Our business model is to partner with digital newspapers and radio stations and have them do the promotion and we do the technical end.
People have an affinity for their local digital newspaper and their favorite radio station. I always say that a person that likes pop can date somebody that likes classic rock, but a person that loves country music must date somebody else that likes country.