E-mail may not exactly be your father's communication tool, but it's no longer the medium of choice for consumers. That's why e-mail marketing service provider StrongMail is looking to social media for growth and evolution. It will roll a couple of acquisitions announced today into an internal agency.
StrongMail announced it has acquired Conversa Marketing and Magnetik, two interactive marketing agencies with services ranging from e-mail and social media marketing to Web design and customer relationship management. The firms will be combined with StrongMail's existing strategic services team to form a new e-mail and social CRM agency called ThreadMarketing.
"Think of it as the consulting arm of StrongMail to leverage social media, expanding the conversation to talk about other pieces that impact e-mail," said Michael Della Penna, former CEO of Conversa, who will become EVP of ThreadMarketing.
The combo will not only give StrongMail, based in Silicon Valley, a presence in agency-centric New York, it will also give it expertise in some of the more creative and strategic aspects of marketing. Conversa's offerings include content and community development, as well as listening and monitoring services.
"For the last year, we've been blurring the line between e-mail and social media," says Sam Cece, StrongMail CEO, thanks to technology acquired with the purchase of PopularMedia last year. PopularMedia's social media marketing platform allowed StrongMail clients to deliver e-mail campaigns that could be shared via social media as well as forwarded to a friend. But, Cece insists, "E-mail is really the thread that connects our customers with every part of the customer lifecycle."
While he couldn't discuss specific customers, Della Penna gave an example, based on an existing customer, of how the newly integrated capabilities could work. "We built a strategy that moved our client from talking about products to engaging customers around their passions," he said. The team segmented the client's customers into five segments, and found that four of them were important. It then developed unique loyalty websites for each one where consumers could connect and converse. (Both Conversa and Magnetik have website development chops.)
Those websites were integrated with Facebook, and the client used Twitter to break offers and news, while showcasing its humorous commercials on YouTube. Fans were encouraged to share not only their passions but also offers and opportunities. The result: the ability to lift campaign performance between 10 and 25 percent.
This shift in StrongMail's direction is certainly timely.
Ben & Jerry's recently switched marketing dollars from e-mail marketing to social media - that's only in the UK, but it could presage similar shifts among other large marketers.
Not coincidentally, earlier this month, StrongMail announced new survey data showing that the majority of businesses are switching e-mail service providers faster than Kourtney Kardashian changes stilettos. That stat could mean pain or gain for any particular ESP.
But demand for social media integration is there: In June, GetResponse, another ESP, found that only 13.5 percent of its customers included the array of social-sharing icons in their e-mails, with small businesses being the biggest adopters of video and social media. But according to StrongMail's data, almost three quarters of businesses are planning to integrate e-mail with social media in 2010. So clearly, the company aims to be in an, er, strong position to capture some of that moving business with its new offering.
With the very rich data flowing from e-mail and social media into StrongMail's database, says Della Penna, "It enables us to create communications that cut across all media in a very compelling way."
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
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