DRMA Spotlight: Hitting a Marketing & Production Home Run1 Aug, 2014 By: Thomas Haire Response
Frank Battisti says teaming with Rob Albert to form Grand Slam Direct provides clients with the best of both worlds.Frank Battisti says teaming with Rob Albert to form Grand Slam Direct provides clients with the best of both worlds.
“When Rob Albert and I formed Grand Slam Direct, we didn’t want to be just another production company,” says Frank Battisti, co-founder and executive producer at Carlsbad, Calif.-based Grand Slam Direct (GSD). “With Rob’s experience selling hundreds of millions of units of his own products at retail, it made complete sense to be marketers — but with my 14 years of experience in production, we agreed to provide a great production service and take on both in-house and outside projects.”
The Direct Response Marketing Alliance (DRMA) member company is just more than two years old today, but has found solid success — even though the learning curve was steep early on for Battisti. “It’s been a learning experience, in terms of how to run business from a co-founder perspective,” he says. “I was very familiar with the production aspect, but it was difficult first several months, juggling the business aspect with the creative mindset.”
Battisti’s history in the direct marketing business tracks back more than a quarter century. “I started out in direct mail in 1988,” he recalls. “My responsibility was to test different creative messages and find out what worked for each ZIP code. That was my first introduction to direct response, and it taught me the importance of knowing your audience and crafting a creative message and offer that specifically targets them.”
In 1998, he relocated from Los Angeles to Orange County and was hired by a leading direct response production company. “After working as an account manager for a few years, I was promoted to executive producer and served in that role for eight years.”
In 2012, Battisti met Albert — who had enjoyed massive retail success with his own product that sold hundreds of millions of units. Seeing an opportunity to pair product and retail leadership with powerful production capabilities, the duo decided to form GSD.
“There are a lot of differences in what we have to offer compared to others in this space,” Battisti contends. “We have more than 22,000 square feet of space, including a fitness studio, a three-wall cyclorama (or “cyc”) stage, an insert stage for less complex shoots, two state-of-the-art editing suites, a voiceover booth and media viewing room. We’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment — an abundance of high-quality HD cameras and stage lighting that rivals anything in the country. We even have plans to build an interview set that will create a turnkey host shoot environment for clients.”
What does this array of technology provide to GSD customers? “Keeping everything in house allows us to save time and pass along the extraordinary savings, all while maintaining the high quality our clients deserve,” Battisti says. “That savings comes in handy given all the other costs associated with launching a successful direct response campaign.”
Battisti also says the company’s location gives a big “Wow!” factor when prospective clients visit. “I welcome them to go other places first,” he says.
And his reputation in the industry doesn’t hurt either. “When you have the reputation of honesty and integrity to get that initial call, and then they come here and see that there’s something very tangible that accompanies the great reputation, it really helps seal the deal,” Battisti says.
His — and GSD’s — reputation is well earned. “During my career, I’ve had great success in nearly every category, including supplements, fitness, hardware, housewares, business opportunity, and — recently — beauty,” he says. “My team’s job is to become expert in not just product knowledge, but also the category and what the driving forces are that can assist in making our client’s campaign a mega-success.”
Unsurprisingly, GSD has earned a steady stream of business since its opening. “In the past two years, we’ve produced more than 20 campaigns for clients such as HAAN, Robert Bosch Tool Corp., Good Feet, ProFlowers, New Vitality and many more,” Battisti says. “And we recently acquired a client who hired us to shoot an infomercial for a high-end hair care product that features a celebrity hairstylist and A-list celebrities.”
Building a such a solid base for business will be even more important for GSD given the challenges the company — and everyone, really in the direct, digital and data-driven marketing space — is facing in coming years.
“Digital is probably the hottest topic today,” Battisti says. “It’s something that can no longer be ignored by DR marketers, and as a producer, it’s my job to be educated in every single aspect of a campaign in order to ensure our clients’ success. Reaching the largest audience possible is key, and with this growing medium, it’s a huge factor in a campaign’s success.”
Another hot topic, according to Battisti, is the deepening challenge of making short-form and long-form DRTV work in today’s marketing atmosphere. He admits, in today’s climate, it is more challenging than ever to produce huge profits from TV alone.
“This environment requires more than the traditional approach,” he says. “In today’s climate, if you don’t have a continuity component, strong retail and a digital platform — plus shopping channel alliances — it’s very hard to make money. Over the years, we’ve made it a point to align ourselves with companies that can provide great service in the areas we don’t offer in order to maximize our clients’ chances of success in this space.”
Those alliances will likely prove very important as GSD looks to grow its business in the coming years. “We plan on continuing to scale the company without becoming too big and too busy,” Battisti says. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking on every single project that comes our way — for financial purposes — but I would much rather do a great job with a handful of projects per year, as opposed to trying to juggle numerous projects and doing a mediocre job on each one.”
At the same time, the company is in the process of launching a digital and social media division to address growing demand. “It’s no secret traditional media rates continue to increase and cable and broadcast TV viewership continues to decrease, so we either adjust to this paradigm shift or get left behind — and the latter is not an option,” Battisti says. ■
Better Business Building: Quality and Service
When your business is in the first couple years of its existence, challenges can come at you in a hurry. It’s been no different for Frank Battisti and Rob Albert at Grand Slam Direct (GSD) in Carlsbad, Calif.
But with those challenges come opportunities, and the GSD team has had success during its first couple years in capitalizing on those opportunities. Battisti says the company has enjoyed a number of key accomplishments, in fact.
“First, we’ve added a three-wall cyclorama stage that can accommodate everything from a small testimonial shoot to a three-camera host shoot,” he says. “Let me tell you, as an executive producer, it’s great to have that in-house so we can retain control of the entire production, which ultimately benefits our clients, especially in the budget area.”
At the same time, the reputation of GSD’s leaders has helped them build a solid base of business right out of the box. “Our business has doubled organically, based solely on our reputation, which we’re very proud of,” Battisti says. “We attribute that to our ongoing commitment of quality and customer service to each and every project that comes through our door.”