A former Life Time Fitness ex helps companies shape up marketing.
As a U.S. Navy diver, Mike Brown was trained in nuclear propulsion and the atom-splitting process of fission powering the fast-attack submarine he was aboard.
Today, at the helm of Minneapolis tech start-up Fision, Brown offers to help companies create "brand energy" by using his online resource management and distributed marketing platform to control digital materials ranging from logos and signs to TV and radio spots.
"We're taking the old diesel boat submarine and we're putting a reactor core in it," said Brown, who was speaking figuratively, no doubt inspired from his five years in the Navy at Pearl Harbor.
The enemy Fision aims to defeat is what Brown terms "rogue marketing and rogue sales activity" -- the uncontrolled use, or perhaps misuse, of a company's brand content and assets.
The payoff, Brown said, includes cost savings through greater efficiencies, with marketing employees spending less time fulfilling requests for localized materials that field employees now can handle themselves. That leaves more time for the marketers to create new materials and campaigns. Fision also can help increase sales by turning prospects into new customers and by developing a closer relationship with existing customers.
The technology also documents and measures every action taken with each marketing element, to find out what works and to help fine-tune future materials to improve customer response, said Brown, also a former Life Time Fitness executive.
Fision is set to gain additional throw-weight this month with the launch of a social media platform within the Fision engine. The new platform will enable companies to provide social media recommendations and content through their employees, who can choose to post recommendations or content on their social networks or create their own social content to post based on preapproved material from the company.
"The problem we're solving is how to close the gap between the company and their customers and potential customers by providing relevant, personalized content that can be leveraged by the most valuable asset of a company, which is their team members," Brown said.
He started the company in 2008 and the self-financed Fision platform, developed in-house, launched quietly in 2009. Fision has 15 employees and plans to hire half a dozen or more this year. Brown projects revenue this year of close to $5 million, which he said would represent a 300 percent increase from last year. Fision, which supports close to 85,000 users in 21 countries, generates revenue primarily from monthly licensing fees.
The company began searching for growth capital in late 2011, with Brown making presentations to local private equity and angel investors as well as to an angel group in Palo Alto, Calif. The plan is to raise capital this year to accelerate Fision's sales and marketing efforts and then seek a full round of financing to expand the company and invest in the platform.
Clients include Century Link and Life Time Fitness, Brown said. Fision targets a number of industries, including health care, hospitality, financial services and insurance, franchises and software and technology companies.
Brown's goal is for Fision to do for marketing what enterprise software giant Salesforce.com has done for sales with its cloud-based, customer relationship management products. Marketing resource management is a $5 billion business, growing at 25 percent a year. While Fision faces larger, older competitors, no one dominates the market.
A point of differentiation that Brown emphasizes is Fision's focus on user experience, making sure the platform is easy and engaging to use. He honed his focus on user experience during a decade as senior vice president of operations at Life Time Fitness, where he was responsible for sales and operations at 70 club locations.
"I'm solving problems for businesses but just from the marketing side, not their guest services side, by using a very similar system," said Brown.
Brent Zempel, chief information officer at Life Time Fitness and Brown's long-time colleague there, said the attention to detail Brown brought to making the look and feel of the clubs and the user experience is apparent in Fision, which he said is intuitive, user-friendly and easy to learn.
The expert says: Mike Harvath, president and CEO of Revenue Rocket Consulting Group in Bloomington, said marketing resource management is in high demand, especially solutions that tie in social media, which Fision's platform is to include soon.
Brown's timing with Fision is good, he said, because as the economy continues to improve, companies will continue to invest in sales and marketing.
"If someone can crack the code on how to leverage this space, they're going to be very successful," he said.