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Press Release: Intertech CEO featured in e-mail marketing draws users article in BizJournals

BizJournals June 25, 2003 E-mail marketing draws users, but recipients reluctant Sarah Brouillard Contributing writer/Tom Salonek, Intertech CEO featured in article Your accounting firm sends you its monthly newsletter via the U.S. Postal Service. Do you toss it? Pause a minute to skim it? Show it to a colleague? The accounting firm will never know what you do. That's one reason e-mail marketing is becoming so popular. Many companies now have the ability to track whether e-mails are read, deleted, forwarded to others, or serve as a gateway to the company Web site. Its users say e-mail marketing is an effective method to quickly reach their target customers, fine-tune their message based on recipient response, personalize information and save on postage costs. The results of e-mail marketing are measurable, say users. "We've seen a 15 percent increase of hits to [our] sites during the three days following an [e-mail] blast," said Tom Salonek, CEO of St. Paul-based e-business and e-commerce consulting firm Intertech, Eagan. As long as companies limit their audience to previous or current customers; to people who've "opted in" or provided their contact information via the company Web site; or to those who have opted in with other companies that sell that information, they aren't guilty of spamming, say industry observers. The technology used for e-mail marketing varies from the simple but most popular -- text-based updates and HTML pages that include graphics and photos -- to Macromedia Flash-based animation and downloadable Adobe Acrobat files. Salonek inserts hyperlinks into his companies' e-newsletters that enable recipients to click directly to the firms' Web sites. The Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce produces an HTML-format newsletter that features graphics and ads. Vencio, a St. Paul-based Web development firm, completes the layout and deploys the e-newsletter. In exchange, Vencio receives an ad in each edition. Chamber members also can purchase ads at a rate of $100 for two issues. "We don't generate a lot of revenue, nor is that the goal, said Kristi Stanislawski, the chamber's director of communications. "Our biggest goals with the newsletter are to get the information out in a timely fashion, reach a greater audience with one message, and save costs on marketing and promotion for some of our smaller events," she later added. Across the river, the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce sends weekly text-based e-mail updates. The "Chamber Weekly"contains introductory sentences to several news briefs that encourage subscribers to "read more" by clicking on hyperlinks that open a Web site with the rest of the story. "We use text only because our updates are purely informative, therefore text is the quickest and most effective way to get the information across quickly to our membership, in my opinion," said Nick Gehrig, manager of marketing communications. Stamp-free E-mailing a newsletter costs a fraction of surface mail costs. An e-mail marketing campaign costs 1.5 cents on average per recipient, said Douglas Rozen, partner and group director for digital@jwt/Imaginet's Chicago office, who oversees the e-mail marketing practice for the Minneapolis-based company. Companies may incur additional fees for Web development or consulting during the creation of a campaign. "Depending on the size and scope, [fees] can range from zero to infinity," Rozen said. Web development firms often sell tools and templates to help clients develop their own e-mail marketing campaigns. iE Mail, a product developed and sold by Minneapolis-based Internet Exposure, enables clients to create, fulfill and maintain permission-based campaigns. The product includes Web-based tracking of recipient response. Recipients also can unsubscribe or choose between HTML and plain-text format, said Jeff Hahn, CEO of Internet Exposure. At Edina-based Blue Missile, the staff develop "the look and feel" of a newsletter, maintain the client's database of recipients, write and edit content, and deploy e-mails, said John Hartnett, CEO. Like many boutique Web developers that work with small to mid-size firms, Blue Missile does most of the work on the front end. "It's quickly taught; ... we educate ourselves out of a job," said Hartnett. "Usually after two to three blasts, they get a handle on it." Boutique Web development firms on average devote about 10 to 20 percent of their business to e-mail marketing. Other firms devote themselves exclusively to e-mail marketing, such as Chicago-based Yesmail. Breaking through On average, a single account receives 254 e-mails a week, up from 159 last year, according to a study by Double Click, a New York-based online advertiser and e-marketer. Perhaps that's why e-mail marketing, though growing, is still slow to be embraced by consumers. According to a study by Standard and Poor's, print still remains the most popular newsletter format at 33 percent, vs. e-mail's 21 percent; 41 percent of respondents said they'd like to receive both formats. Public relations firm LaBreche Murray's newsletter, PRoof, is only available on its Web site or via surface mail. "We surveyed recipients about a year ago and didn't get a very good response on the e-mail option," said Maria Moeller, who was director of public affairs at the Minneapolis-based firm until recently. That puts the onus on e-mail marketers to make their e-mails worthwhile, said Salonek of Intertech. He said people will opt out of an e-newsletter if it's "just a bunch of hype" or ads. Real news, tips and articles should always be included, and consistency -- getting the e-mail out on a regular basis -- is key to building awareness and credibility. Doing that, Salonek said, has helped his business grow 10 percent over last year, which he attributes in part to effective e-mail marketing. "For an e-newsletter to be worthwhile, it needs to have real content." Sarah Brouillard is a Robbinsdale-based free-lance writer.

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