By GREGORY ZELLER //
There’s a unique theory of evolution in effect at Melville tech developer Digital Donations, not following humanity’s ancient origins but formulating the species’ not-too-distant future – at least, the part concerned with electronic payments.
This particular evolutionary chain represents the theoretical machinations of Keith Orlean, who in 2014 launched Digital Donations to capitalize on the payment-processing expertise he’d gathered over a dozen years as president of Digital Processing Solutions, a prior payment-processing sales organization Orlean launched in 2003.
But his years in the business taught him one key lesson above all others: In a payment-processing marketplace where cloned competitors replicate virtually identical services and offers, differentiation is a rare and precious commodity.
“Everybody’s pitch is the same,” Orlean told Innovate LI. “A bunch of robots going out and saying ‘we’re going to lower your rate.’
“It leads to what we call constant ‘churn and burn,’” he added. “You bring on two customers and you lose three.”
Based on Orlean’s experiences, Digital Donations would employ an innovative tact. With margins shrinking to virtually nothing as payment-processing competitors engaged in an endless price war – “All you can offer is lower rates,” Orlean quipped, “and eventually, you wind up paying [the customer] to do business” – the startup would go beyond pedestrian solutions like loyalty programs and gift cards and give its customers, and its customers’ customers, something truly unique.
By offering products and services directly to nonprofit organizations, and engaging merchants in “cause marketing” efforts as part of their own digital-marketing initiatives, Digital Donations would carve a fairly exclusive niche.
But as with any good evolutionary process, Orlean’s big-bang idea was just the start. Servicing nonprofit and retail customers gave the company copious insights into customer spending habits – a Big Data bonanza that positioned Digital Donations as a potentially powerful ally for its growing customer base
“You start to analyze all this point-of-sale data and you see customers’ buying habits, which can ultimately lead to an overall digital marketing plan,” Orlean said, and while selling digital marketing plans to the masses “is a very difficult endeavor for any company,” Digital Donations now had a bona fide new vertical.
The latest link in Orlean’s evolutionary chain launched in mid-2017, when the innovator and partner Danny Votra, Digital Donations’ executive vice president and resident digital media expert, flipped the switch on Position Marketing, a new division focused exclusively on sales and media optimization.
By marrying online activity with offline data, the idea is to create new opportunities for cross-channel targeting – a real-time protocol offering real-world insights and customer-relationship advantages.
With so many competitors in the electronic-payment space still scrambling to attract customers with cut-rate offers, Position Marketing will look to drive up revenue based on an unprecedented examination of customer data.
“We’re coming into an industry in need of new products and services to enhance revenues – a new story to tell, as opposed to the same old ‘we’ll lower your rates,’” Orlean said. “The conversation now is more about helping clients build their business and market their business online utilizing digital media.”
The conversation got more interesting in December, when Position Marketing announced an Agency Partnership Agreement with ReachLocal, a Gannett Co. subsidiary that provides regional digital marketing solutions to businesses of all sizes.
The alliance is “major for us,” according to Orlean, who said partnering with ReachLocal – part of Gannett’s USA Today Network – will go a long way toward introducing Position Marketing’s services to “sales organizations looking for other ways to earn money and needing to differentiate themselves.”
“In the United States alone, there are more than 6 million merchants with a credit card-processing terminal,” Orlean noted. “Most don’t have the knowledge to handle their own digital media and payments.
“A partnership with a well-known brand like the USA Today Network gives us instant credibility when we’re introducing our services.”
Orlean and Votra will market the new division primarily through ReachLocal and through select advertising in industry publications, along with a hefty helping of digital and social media marketing via Google and Facebook.
“Everything we sell, we’re going to be using as well,” Orlean noted.
And the new division is shaping up as just the start of a big year for the Melville maker, which is still in the $5 million crowdfunding phase of its CoinGIV equity effort, with the new cryptocurrency poised to become the focal point of the GIV Ecosystem – a complete blockchain technology-based digital-currency network encompassing such components as CrowdGIV (a charitable crowdfunding platform) and PayGIV (a digital wallet).
Expect the launch of the full ecosystem in the second half of 2018, according to Orlean, who’s thrilled with the evolution of his electronic-payments enterprise so far and can envision a December 2018 when “we’re publicly traded and our cryptocurrency and our digital wallet have successfully launched.”
“If all that happens,” the founder said, “we will have had an incredible year.”
What’s It? Digital-marketing expertise culled from point-of-purchase sales and other vital customer data
Brought To You By: Keith Orlean, Danny Votra and the big brains at Melville-based, niche-carving electronic-payments expert Digital Donations
Status: Partnered with Gannett and ready to rock