Government // Enterprise Architecture
Commentary
12/1/2010
09:54 PM
Kevin Casey
Kevin Casey
Commentary
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Email, Social Media Level Playing Field For SMBs

Partnership between StrongMail and Net Atlantic spotlights continued integration of email with social media and other digital marketing channels, and increased technology access for small and midsize business.

If social media is online marketing's current marquee star, email is its veteran performer: It may not generate the headlines, but it dutifully shows up for work each day. The tactic has often appealed to small and midsize businesses (SMBs) because of its relatively low costs (compared with, say, print or TV) and scalability.

Email can be an effective, cost-efficient way to reach an audience of 5,000 or 5 million, depending on the budget and the business, while a full-page ad in USA Today is, well, a full-page ad in USA Today -- a very visible pulpit, if you can afford it, but one less likely to suit resource-constrained SMBs or their particular markets.

Social media offers a similar appeal, but that doesn't mean the death knell has tolled for email. A key word these days for online marketers is integration. Put another way: Email is still very much alive for marketers and vendors alike, but it is increasingly just one player in the digital ensemble, rather than a solo act.

"Customers are looking for more of a multichannel platform," said Bill Reich, president of Net Atlantic, an email marketing service provider. "That's the next level of email marketing: email, mobile, social media, couponing, SMS, on one platform."

The integration trend has been underway for some time: An April study by interactive marketing agency eROI found that nearly two-thirds of marketers surveyed were already integrating email and social media. And in July, a report from another interactive marketing firm, ExactTarget, found that 40% of consumers visited Facebook and Twitter to find additional information after receiving marketing emails from companies. (Ironically, IT vendors have been slower to adopt social media in their own marketing and partner communication strategies.)

But integration could mean more to SMBs than just the ability to communicate cohesively across multiple channels -- it could also increase access to technology and services previously reserved for Fortune 500 companies and their big-business brethren.

Wednesday's announcement of a partnership between Reich's Net Atlantic and online marketing firm StrongMail is a good example: Prior to the deal, a company sending fewer than 1 million emails every month would not have registered a blip on StrongMail's radar, according to CEO Sam Cece, who added that some of the company's customers send up to 100 million emails each month. StrongMail counts among its clients names like Charles Schwab, McAfee, InterContinental Hotels and Sony Online Entertainment. Now its technology will be made available, via Net Atlantic, to firms that do a much smaller volume, anywhere between 10,000 and 1 million emails per month. Net Atlantic currently serves about 1,800 customers, primarily in the SMB market.

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