Top of the World

Technology Clears Way for Former Football Player to Focus on Relationships

Gone are yesterday’s accordion files and flip charts. Today’s sales force uses customer relationship management (CRM) software to track clients and PowerPoint presentations to review figures.

In Chicago, Fusion Performance Marketing has propelled its way to the forefront by embracing the new technologies.

Jim Micklos, BS business administration ’75, is vice president of business development. At Ball State, he was the Cardinals’ tight end from 1971 to 1974, playing under coach Dave McClain during the university’s transition to the Mid-American Conference (MAC).

To say that the former Ball State football player is a fan of technology is an understatement.

“I’m fortunate to be in a business that requires me to stay on top of these changes,” Micklos says. “Most 58-year-old guys aren’t talking about these things.”

He has seen a lot of changes. From postal mail and overnight services to e-mail and websites. From handheld calculators to mainframes to minicomputers to Excel and Access database programs.

“Things, almost all things, move faster and more efficiently,” he says, satisfied.

Open an e-mail from Micklos and you’ll find links to the company’s colorful e-brochure and a Flash promotional movie with a rock soundtrack. Talk to him, and he’s sure to mention his personal website, created so clients who google him will find a sharp, organized portfolio.

“Our business is all about telling stories that illustrate the benefit of working with us and do so in a way that enables our prospects and clients to understand, make sense of, remember, and take action,” he says. “Progressive companies are telling stories that people can watch on YouTube and can share on Facebook. People are focused on the Internet and their mobile phone, not TV and radio.”

Thirty years ago, marketing meant choosing among three TV networks, radio, and the community newspaper. Today, sales is in a different world.

One of Micklos’ clients mentioned that he wished he knew more about the contractors who worked with his product. The one-of-a-kind solution was to design an end-cap display of the client’s products all tied to a promotion. Contractors could swipe a QR (quick response) code on the display with their smartphones and enter some data about themselves and their jobs. In return, they’d receive a free tool and tool pouch—imprinted with the names of the manufacturer and the distributor—in the mail.

The results: The manufacturing client and its top distributor now have a database of information about contractors and a way to reach them with new product messages. The contractors have free tools and strengthened relationships with the manufacturer and distributor.

That win-win-win solution is always the goal. Technology is the means to reaching it. The foundational first step in the process—really getting to know clients and listening to them—is the key.

“I get to know them, and I treat them very well,” Micklos says. “I stay in meaningful contact with them by sending articles, information, and experts that help them solve specific challenges or seize new opportunities. I learn about their goals and preferences and adjust accordingly. “

He has kept his Ball State relationships, too, chairing the Sales Advisory Board and even stepping back into the classroom to teach a class one day in October.

And he’s quick to tell how a Career Services (now Career Center) contact helped him find his second job.

“It’s all about relationships,” he stresses. “The world is driven by relationships.”

Story by Christine Rhine, freelancer writer.