Neil Billock Takes Direct Marketing Expertise to Emerging Markets in Puerto Rico
After establishing himself as one of the superstars in the San Diego, CA tech industry, Neil Billock has decided that he needed another challenge.
So he moved his family to Dorado, Puerto Rico in 2016 and established a consultancy firm to help mostly American businesses get the best of both worlds, so to speak.
He conceded that the state of the economy of Puerto Rico is something that would scare away investors. “In fact, just the word ‘bankruptcy’ will be enough to get the American businesses running the opposite way,” Billock said. “However, savvy businessmen know that the instability in itself is an opportunity to gain huge profits if you have the right strategies and mindset in place.”
Of course, Billock knows where he speaks of. For years, he was a dominant player in direct marketing in San Diego. Since he joined the Vertical Direct Marketing Group (VDMG) in 2009, he’s proven himself very capable in the field of marketing, direct mail campaigns, business management, printing, and design.
In two years after joining VDMG, he was already named as a partner. However, it wasn’t his personality to sit behind the desk and let his subordinates have all the fun. This was the reason why he continued to hold the sales and marketing division, and personally crafted strategies to allow the company to grow. In most instances, he was the one who closed sales, which speak not just of his competence but also how his clients trust him.
Under his watch, the company held the accounts of such high-profile clients like National Football League, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Quickens Home Loans, Toyota Motor Company, Direct TV, and Gold’s Gym International.
In just four years, his name was included in the Top Tech Exec Awards. The recognition is only awarded to players in the tech industry who have proved to be leaders and innovators. In a nutshell, they are “superheroes of IT.”
Puerto Rico has been trying to institute reforms in order to encourage foreign investors to take root in the island. For instance, Act 20 gives any corporation to only pay 4% in taxes even if only one local employee is hired. This was one of the provisions added to the law when it was amended on July 11, 2017.
Business owners may also avail of the same privilege previously reserved only for residents, and that is the zero tax on passive income. The only condition being that they should be staying on the Caribbean island for at least 183 days each year. Any capital gains on assets they accrue while they move to the island will also be waived.
“There are many other financial concessions and tax holidays that the government of San Juan has offered to foreign investors,” he said. “However, you also need to get a feel of the local environment and bureaucracy. This is where our consultancy services come in.”
“Our task is to effect a smoother transition for American businesses coming to the Puerto Rican shores and for them to optimize all the benefits that the government has to offer,” Billock added.
Direct Marketing Superstar Neil Billock Proves Old-Fashioned Methods Still Work
With the advent of digital marketing, some people may say that direct marketing is past its time.
But San Diego native Neil Billock, the first marketing executive to have been named in the Top Tech Exec Award in 2013, believes that just because the strategy is old-fashioned doesn’t mean it’s obsolete.
In fact, he’s using the same strategies and even stubbornness that propelled him to partnership in just four years of working at Vertical Direct Marketing Group after joining the ad agency in 2009. Under his watch, the group handled multinational corporations and blue-chip companies such as the NFL, Wells Fargo, Toyota Motor Corp., and Quicken Loans.
Now, he’s taking all that knowledge to help businesses grow in an emerging market like Puerto Rico.
In a move that surprised everybody, Billock took his family in 2016 and moved to Dorado, Puerto Rico. But it makes sense considering the lower standards of living, lower real property market, and a climate that’s pretty much the same as in San Diego—warm to hot. The only downside, perhaps, is the Caribbean nation lies on the path of the hurricane.
But what makes the move very interesting is his great conviction that the island is an untapped potential despite the economy being in a state of flux. After all, Puerto Rico is on the brink. The brain drain strained the country’s workforce and with a mountain of debt that it really doesn’t know how to pay for, the government in San Juan is in a bind.
The country is saddled with $74 billion in debts and a $53 billion pension deficit.
In May of 2017, it sought relief in what was described as a financial process similar to bankruptcy. To put it simply, if the debts are not written off there’s no way for the country to recover.
Billock could have left behind and resumed his life in San Diego. His reputation would still earn him enough clients if he forms his own company in his hometown. “But I truly believe that the market is here,” he said. “There’s untapped potential here and businesses will benefit from our direct marketing approach, which is the same strategy that we successfully adopted for our clients back in San Diego.”
He said that another challenge is that some of the smaller businesses in Puerto Rico haven’t even heard of direct marketing, much less assess its effectiveness in bringing in customers. “The death of direct mail, for instance, has been predicted so many times that I’ve already lost count. But most metrics still show the value of direct mail in reaching the target customers. The success rate is also much better compared to the shotgun approach of social media marketing.”
Fortunately, Billock has personally seen the turnaround. “Not everybody wants to pay extra for advertisements especially with the economy being what it is now. But we’ve managed to convince them that this is exactly the perfect time to spend and create a niche for themselves in a fluctuating environment. Those who gamble more serve to earn more.”