Rimm-Kaufman Remembered for Brilliance and Wit

Jul 22, 2009 8:48 AM  By

Austin Bliss remembers the first time he met Alan Rimm-Kaufman, founder of online marketing firm The Rimm-Kaufman Group.

It was in a crowded bar, but this isn’t a drinking story.

Rimm-Kaufman sat down with Bliss, founder and president of e-mail marketing firm FreshAddress, for more than two hours, and asked Bliss many questions about his business.

“Alan was a patient listener, a brilliant thinker and an inspiring public speaker,” Bliss said about Rimm-Kaufman, who died July 18 from leukemia at the age of 41.

“We have lost a gem of the business world,” Bliss said. “He was truly an incredible guy and I will miss him.”

Those who worked alongside and with Rimm-Kaufman remembered the search marketing guru not only for his attentiveness, but for his brilliance and wit.

Rimm-Kaufman was a frequent speaker at industry tradeshows and conferences, and was a judge for Multichannel Merchant’s annual MCM Awards. Before founding his own company in 2003, he was vice president-marketing for electronics merchant Crutchfield.

John Lenser, founder of the catalog consultancy Lenser, notes that when search engine marketing was just a buzz phrase, Rimm-Kaufman had developed a state-of-the-art software program at Crutchfield that managed over 10,000 terms based on return on investment.

During Rimm-Kaufman’s five years at Crutchfield, company revenues grew 48%, reaching $192 million in 2002. Internet revenues for Crutchfield grew over 450% during that time, reaching $80 million in 2002.

Later, that program became the core of his new business.

“Alan was one of the most brilliant direct marketing leaders in the industry,” Lenser said. “He was able to integrate the academic, cutting edge intellect with practical applications.”

Lenser first knew Rimm-Kaufman as a client when he was at Crutchfield, then as an affiliate service provider for Lenser’s clients when he began the Rimm-Kaufman Group, and as a colleague and friend at many conferences, dinners and MCM judging events.

“Alan was a real human being, loved by the staff who had the privilege of working for him, respected by those who supported him, and enjoyed by all who were his friends,” Lenser said. “His passing is a huge loss to us all. We will all miss his wit, kindness and the sheer pleasure of his company.”

Though she never worked directly with Rimm-Kaufman, Kim Painley said she was fortunate enough to have met Rimm-Kaufman within the Charlottesville, VA marketing circle.

Reached by phone after a funeral service Tuesday for Rimm-Kaufman, Painley, president the consulting group Kinetic Marketing Consultants, described Rimm-Kaufman as the most alive person she’d ever met.

“He was brilliant and creative and so easy to talk to,” Painley said while fighting back tears. “I loved watching him listen to people because I could tell he was processing all of it. He had a brilliant mind, but also had a great sense of humor.”

Painley said she would also remember Rimm-Kaufman as someone who was totally devoted to his family. Rimm-Kaufman, a 14-year survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is survived by his wife, his son, his daughter and his mother.

Jim Harkins, the vice president-marketing for Solutions and GoldViolin, first struck up a friendship with Rimm-Kaufman after the two met through NEMOA.

The two got along so well on a business and a personal level that Harkins eventually brought Rimm-Kaufman Group in to work on the Solutions website.

Harkins said he is deeply saddened by Rimm-Kaufman’s passing.

“Alan was both a visionary entrepreneur and a remarkably humble and approachable gentleman, in spite of his absolute genius,” Harkins said. “I will miss Alan on both a personal and business basis. His innovation, as well as his sense of humor, will be missed in the industry.”

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Alan Rimm-Kaufman Legacy Fund, CBI Preschool, 501 East Jefferson Street, Charlottesville, VA, 22902, and that individuals consider joining the national bone marrow registry.