It was there he learned how to connect the dots with data: A customer who filled out an order form with a pen was considered more creditworthy than someone who used pencil. A single order form could glean 30 or so similar tidbits of data, which helped Fingerhut make safer bets when issuing credit to consumers.

“Behind the scenes, they were 10 years ahead of all the marketers and all the banks in terms of using data for marketing,” said Meyer, 61.

Now he’s taken the helm of St. Cloud-based Dayta Marketing as the agency embarks on new growth, clients and a promise to reinvent marketing for smaller enterprises.

“Marketing has gotten extremely complicated, and that complexity has created more of an issue for small- to medium-sized businesses compared to their larger counterparts because the larger companies can throw people at the problem often,” said Luke Riordan, founder and president of Dayta. “We try to help them focus on what internal resources they can leverage … and what part of their business they should outsource.”

Dayta offers fractional marketing services, meaning a company hires it for one part of its strategy. The agency uses five-person pods to provide the services from branding and advertising to media management, search engine optimization and website development. This allows companies to compete in the complex marketing world at a fraction of the cost of maintaining a full-time marketing staff.

The pod structure also allows Dayta to grow differently than big agencies. Instead of finding bigger clients with bigger budgets, it can add pods as it gains new small and midsize clients, Meyer said.

“That creates a natural opportunity for the underserved market,” Meyer said. “It’s not easy to be able to give high-quality services at a price that fits [smaller] businesses and still works for us.”

Dayta started in 2012 with two employees — Riordan and his uncle. Now it has 42 employees serving 150 clients across 15 states, although most clients are in Minnesota or its contiguous states. Meyer declined to share the company’s annual revenue but said it grew by 35% from 2020 to 2021.

Meyer joined Dayta in February as its new chief executive, at the same time the agency hired Chief Technology Officer Daine Billmark, who previously led development teams at TransUnion and eBureau.

Meyer sold his three St. Cloud-based companies for $210 million collectively. RiskWise, which used predictive scoring to help businesses avoid fraud, was sold in 2000 to LexisNexis. EBureau and TruSignal, which used analytics to help companies decipher which leads would likely convert to sales, were sold to TransUnion in 2017 and 2019, respectively.

Meyer said the “unprecedented innovation” at Dayta attracted him to join the executive team.

“We will grow,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”