Jorge Villar was working at a direct marketing company in Clearwater, Fla., in 1994, when he was asked to speak at a Chamber of Commerce event.
A financial advisor approached Jorge. He was looking for an effective lead generation system. His biggest challenge, he said, was finding older Americans who would trust him to make decisions regarding their finances.
Identifying a need
Jorge understood people often shy away from advisors. They would be reluctant to visit an advisor’s office or welcome one into their homes. On the other hand, he reasoned, prospects would be much more likely to attend a presentation in a neutral setting.
When he returned to the shop, Jorge developed a personalized invitation. By coincidence, the advisor’s brother-in-law managed several restaurants for a well-known seafood chain. This became the location.
Providing a service
Jorge sent out 5,000 seminar dinner invitations on the advisor’s behalf. It was wildly successful, generating 350 RSVPs. The advisor hired two receptionists just to manage the phone calls and coordinate the event.
The following year, Jorge left the marketing company and launched Response Mail Express (RME) in Tampa. Soon, he was serving 400 financial advisors tired of struggling to find clients 55 and older with retirement questions to be answered and income to invest.
RME was changing the way financial industry professionals across the country did business.
In the early days of seminar marketing, the information gathered on prospects was basic: name, address, city, state and ZIP code.
Gradually, data collection and analytics became more sophisticated. RME incorporated income, behavior patterns, hobbies, lifestyle and more into its targeting strategy. As a result, the company took client prospecting and acquisition to a new level – and potential investors took notice.
In July of 2008, RME was acquired by Huron Capital, a private equity (PE) firm in Detroit. Four years later, RME bought IM Solutions (IMS), a digital marketing agency in the Dallas metropolitan area providing client acquisition for attorneys. This added legal industry services to the company’s portfolio.
Harnessing the internet
By 2014, RME had been in business for nearly 20 years. Company leaders changed the name to RME360 reflect the full circle of services offered to clients.
In October of 2015, RME360 acquired Resource Solutions (RS) in nearby Oldsmar, FL.
Direct mail remained an important part of the overall lead generation strategy. However, as more and more companies began doing business online, so did RME360.
Growing and adapting
When web and digital client acquisition tactics were introduced, this greatly broadened the company’s reach. To keep up, RME360 added employees in sales, marketing and operations.
During this period, Inner City Ventures Partners (ICV), a New York-based PE firm specializing in mid-market companies, was following the company’s expansion. ICV bought RME360 in May of 2017.
Evolving with the times
In July of 2019, to unify the brand, RME360 adopted the LeadingResponse name. Clients of RME, IMS and RS can all expect the same high-quality lead generation and client acquisition capabilities they have come to rely on.
Today, LeadingResponse has promoted over 1 million dinner seminars and educational workshops in over 1,800 cities across the country.
Using over two decades of response data, the company has targeted more than 22 million qualified prospects for the financial, legal, estate planning, senior living, elective medical and home services industries.
With 160 employees and annual revenues of $70 million, LeadingResponse stands at the forefront of professional services client acquisition.
The future of the company Jorge founded has never looked brighter.