Accrue Uses E-Mail Campaign to Tout Web Tracking Software

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Accrue Software Inc.'s marketing campaign for its new Web-visitor tracking technology will reach out to prospects in a way that might make the most sense for an electronic product designed for buyers in the electronic realm - through electronic mail.

The Sunnyvale, CA, company this week rolled out Vista, an addition to its existing Accrue Insight software. The technology is one of several packages on the market that Web sites can use to track the visitors who peruse their pages. Commerce sites examine the data to figure out better ways to hold traffic, attract visitors and sell them products.

For Accrue, selling software that its customers interact with through the Internet can be a more complicated task than marketing something concrete like credit cards, shoes or flowers. The company has a complicated message it must take to businesses operating in a virtual world.

"It's tough because it's not tangible. When we market this stuff, we have to really show the value to end-users. You know, 'This is how we're going to make you successful,'" said Alyce Menton, Accrue's director of marketing. "And the challenge is getting the message right because we talk to various people in different professions and different markets."

Primarily, that means e-mail. "Our prospects respond a lot more through e-mail than they do through hard-copy snail mail," Menton said.

Accrue plans to send digital messages to its existing customer base beginning this week, offering companies that already operate Accrue Insight a discount if they buy Vista within, roughly, a two- or three-month period. The company had not yet determined the size of the discount by press time, but the campaign is likely to run through December, Menton said. Accrue recently closed its third quarter and will push for bringing in revenue from Vista in the fourth quarter.

A second round of e-mail will follow, this time to prospects. Accrue manages a database of 33,000 possible buyers - names it has gathered since 1996. Several of the prospects registered at the firm's Web site to receive a white paper explaining Accrue technology. The company made contact with others at trade shows, through references from corporate partners or at seminars. Accrue plans to send messages to newer inquiries first, such as names acquired from the Fall Internet World '99 Conference in New York this week.

Accrue also will target the prospect database formerly owned by Marketwave Corp., Seattle. The company acquired Marketwave, another maker of products for analyzing Web traffic, in September.

Still other names come from lists the company buys. Accrue purchases names from online publications, as well as offline finance, publishing, technology and e-commerce publications.

Accrue's digital efforts extend beyond electronic mail. The company hosts Web seminars on a monthly basis, using that opportunity to show how its products look on users' computer screens and illustrate in a detailed way the different ways they can be used. Usually 75 to 100 people sit in on the seminars, which are beamed directly to their PCs live through the Net. Those people will be hit with promotional e-mails as well, Menton said.

Accrue tries to reach out to its most potentially valuable customers, and that's exactly the pitch it makes for Vista. The technology is designed to show site operators which sets of visitors are most valuable, including determining which outside sites are sending over Net surfers who stick around longest or spend the most money. Businesses can use that data to decide where to spend online ad dollars, for example.

"You can ... compare different customer segments against each other to see ... how successful is AOL at bringing me real customers relative to Yahoo or relative to some other campaign," said Accrue vice president of marketing Vito Salvaggio.

Vista is designed to run with Accrue's existing Insight technology, and its data is accessible through Web browsers. The company will license Vista on a subscription basis, charging businesses $1,000 a month for data access for three individual employees. Extra "seats" cost more. The seat system marks a new fee structure for Accrue, which charges a fixed subscription when Insight is used alone.

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