From Paper to Software CRM Entrepreneur Kirk King Rescued a Sinking Company and Launched Halo Programs
Imagine what it would be like to go through a name change 50 years after a company was founded. Interestingly enough, the potential brand upheaval for Kirk King is a fairly minor adjustment compared to what he went through when he purchased Continuity Programs in the middle of 2010.
Continuity Programs, which at that time was a marketing engine for companies looking to keep contact with their past clients, was working solely with paper. Literally, there were pallets everywhere, 20 tons of outdated preprinted mailings in the warehouse of greeting cards, client reminders and thank yous, and we would run them through a black and white printer to put the addresses on.
This was a great improvement from when the company was founded in 1973 as the inventor of the real estate "Client Follow-Up Program." "Back in the 70s, they had people working in the basement with paper cards stacked up next to enrollment forms," King said. "We are a software company now and no longer just a marketing company."
Continuity Programs, based in Walled Lake, Michigan, offers customer relationship management (CRM) software with automated marketing campaigns for companies throughout the United States.
The transition for King wasn't an easy one. Coming from BorgWarner out of the automotive supplier world as a salesman, he initially believed he was buying a thriving company with just a "sales problem." Still he was losing clients every day. But the eventual move to software programming and away from paper has permanently altered the company and put it on the progressive growth path it is today.
The company Kirk initially purchased looked nothing like it does today. Not only was the company out of step with technology, still selling fifteen paper mailings for $40, but Kirk says that five months after he closed on the acquisition, October 2010, ended up being one of the darkest periods of his life. At that point, he realized he had taken over a dated company, which had become irrelevant.
"We were losing customers so fast back then. I walked into work every day and the first thing I would do was open a preadsheet and make calls to customers who had left. And remember, it was 2010 in the middle of a recession. Most of those former companies and contacts were no longer there. All the phone numbers I had were disconnected. You can't sell services to companies that are gone. We started out trying to add technology to the mailing programs, like email marketing and online surveys but with very little success."
By the end of 2012, determining he had months, not years, to fix the company, Kirk immediately brought in software developers to shift the focus from material notifications to a highly efficient, online and developed CRM/Marketing system.
By 2014, the company launched some of its own proprietary software and Kirk announced to his team that Continuity Programs was now solely a CRM software company. Kirk, who admits he had a hard time convincing even his wife that the company was going in the right direction, launched his first CRM tool for the mortgage industry in 2016, followed by the real estate industry in 2018. The company has since added heating and cooling equipment distributors (2019) and air conditioning and heating dealers/installers (2020).
Continuity Programs now has three live software platforms and Kirk has successfully grown the company from zero to 35,000 users, with continued growth of 500 users per month. But as the process and goals of the company changed, he also thought it was time for a new brand - Halo.
"The name didn't come to me in a dream or anything, but the world has changed in the last 50 years and Continuity Programs didn't really explain who we are now," Kirk said. "Plus, if you type in the word 'continuity' in a Google search, you end up with a lot of FEMA or cloud server company hits." Continuity Programs hired Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Fulkrum Studio to improve the UI/UX, lead the re-brand, and build the company's new website.
Kirk emphasized that the brand change coincided with the fact they aren't just a "keeping in touch with clients" company but a software and CRM company built to reach out to business prospects, referral partners, and sphere of influence contacts as well as past clients. "It's no longer just about maintaining continuity," he added.
You can learn more about the company and the new Halo Programs brand at www.haloprograms.com.
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