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TMCNet:  DRAG KING [NJBIZ (NJ)]

[November 26, 2013]

DRAG KING [NJBIZ (NJ)]

(NJBIZ (NJ) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Micro Strategies laps up attention as its racing founder touts the message at 160 mph Anthony Bongiovanni wakes up every day wondering how he's going to find new customers for his business, a systems integration company called JVlicro Strategies.


It's tough. Even Bongiovanni can admit that systems integration - building software and hardware for Fortune 500 clients - is not the sexiest business in the world. So Bongiovanni sells it in a far more exciting way.

Drag racing.

Micro Strategies has a team of drag racers, led by Bongiovanni, whose handcrafted Ford Cobra Jet speeds down straightaways around the Northeast at up to 160 miles per hour.

And although it may be tough to see at such great speeds, the logo emblazoned across the side of the roaring race car that reads "Micro Strategies" has been very good for business.

In fact, Bongiovanni feels it's been the highlight of a marketing strategy that has helped his company increase its revenues from a little more than $50 million to almost $90 million in the past four years.

"We certainly have picked up a fair number of opportunities just from people we've met at the race track," Bongiovanni said. "And from a branding perspective, we get a fair number of inquiries.

"When we do a business function at a race track venue, we get a better turnout than when we ask everybody to go to a hotel," he said.

Bongiovanni founded Micro Strategies 30 years ago. One of his first clients was the owner of a small tire retailer who was looking for a computerized inventory system that would allow him to check what tires he had in stock from the comfort of his cash register.

Now, the Rockaway-based company has about 125 employees and a client list that ranges from small businesses to massive corporations.

Systems integration, however, has never been in his first love.

Biogiovanni is a self-described "car nut" who attended his first drag race about seven years ago. At the time, he was looking to develop a relationship with a business contact at IBM who was active in the sport.

Soon after, Biogiovanni was, too.

He learned through trial and error and by teaming up with other car nuts how to build drag racing cars himself. Now, Biogiovanni has four Cobra Jets, all of which he and his team built virtually from the ground up.

"We do actually put them together," he said. "We have a company build the chassis because we don't build that. We have somebody build the motors, and then we put them together from there." And plastering the company's logo across the sides of the cars is an easy way to promote his brand.

"It became obvious to me that this was a great way to meet people and develop some branding outside the traditional channels," he said.

Micro Strategies also has purchased suites at the track at Englishtown and at the Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa. And they use them in much the same way a company would use a suite at MetLife Stadium: To schmooze with potential or current customers while savoring the excitement on the track.

"I think in the past few years, we've had hundreds of customers come out to the track," he said. "It's a low-key way to be able to spend some good time with someone, get them to learn a little bit about you, and enjoy it during the process." The Micro Strategies drag racing team has taken off, racking up 70,000 likes on Facebook in the past year. The trick now is to convert at least some of those fans into Micro Strategies customers.

That will be critical in taking his company to the next level: Bongiovanni said his goal is to hit $200 million in annual revenues in the next three to five years.

"Going national is not something we're looking to do," he said. "We want to be the dominant player in this particular geo." So, he said, "getting our name out there is critically important." And there may be no more unusual way to do it than by going 160 mph.

"It's so different from what most people do, and that part I like - getting out of the box a little bit," he said.

Anthony Bongiovanni says his race cars have helped spark a $40 million increase in revenue for Micro Strategies over the last four years.

-AARON HOUSTON Family affair The first time Anthony Bongiovanni went to a drag race, he brought his 8-year-old daughter along. She immediately fell in love.

"My daughter looks at me, and she goes, 'Dad I want to try that,"' Bongiovanni said. "That was kind of music to my ears, as a car nut. I wasn't that into cheerleading." Bongiovanni helped his daughter start racing junior dragsters - narrow, triangle-shaped cars that can run up to 85 mph. Eventually his older daughter started racing, too, and the sport quickly became a family affair - and a great way to grow the family business.

E-mail to: maryj@njbiz.com On Twitter: @mjohns422 (c) 2013 Journal Publications Inc.

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