Lake Dives Into Online World With Full-Service Interactive Division

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List brokerage and management concern The Lake Group, Rye, NY, is the latest member of the list community to stake a claim to cyberspace with the launch of its new Web division, L@ke Interactive. In addition to offering e-mail list management and brokerage services like its parent company does for postal list clients, L@ke Interactive will concentrate on providing back-end services, including e-mail database management, list deployment, and campaign tracking and real-time reporting.

It is a tactic that has been embraced by several of its list-company counterparts who are offering a range of Web-based services as they seek to apply the knowledge gained from their experience in customer acquisition and retention in the expanding world of electronic media.

Ryan Lake, vice president of interactive services and a son of The Lake Group founder, is heading up the L@ke Interactive division along with Robert Sanchez, vice president of sales.

"Basically, we started analyzing the needs of our clients, and everyone was coming to us saying, 'E-mail, e-mail, e-mail, do you have any e-mail?' " said Lake.

He said clients of The Lake Group wanted to do three main things with the Internet: have one-on-one communication with their current customers, handle renewal efforts through e-mail and conduct customer acquisition and prospecting through e-mail.

Lake said that unlike the offline arm of the company, the interactive division will be much more involved in helping companies build their e-mail lists and conduct e-mail marketing campaigns.

"If you have 100 hits on your Web site in one day, and that afternoon you wanted to deploy an e-mail to those 100 people that haven't purchased anything from you, you could do that through our system," he said.

He said the division was in the process of hiring two salespeople to handle the list-management side of the online business and others who will focus strictly on deployment, updating databases, executing the opt-in procedures and helping with renewals.

The company is outsourcing some of the services that the division offers to an Internet service provider, Sanchez said.

Because of the dearth of available e-mail response lists, L@ke Interactive has been facilitating some exchanges of e-mail lists, primarily between catalogers but also between some publishers. Lake said the company's online client mix has skewed more toward catalogers than its traditional list division does.

Other list companies that have established Internet divisions include American List Counsel Inc., Princeton, NJ; Acxiom/Direct Media, Greenwich, CT; Millard Group Inc., Peterborough, NH; Worldata, Boca Raton, FL; and Edith Roman Associates, Pearl River, NY.

A spokeswoman for Millard Group, which launched Millard Interactive in May, said the company already serves "several dozen" clients in the interactive realm. Dale Moore, director of Millard Interactive, provided online consulting services for Millard for a year before formally launching the division this spring.

In addition to online marketing, consulting and e-mail list management and brokerage, Millard Interactive also conducts online research, an extension of the research arm of its traditional business.

The company has eight different online research programs, including real-time online focus groups, online surveys and a mystery shopping service called "Secret Surfer."

"We really want to offer our clients a wide breadth programs so that we can help our clients throughout the entire process," said Lilliane LeBel, director of marketing services and corporate communications at Millard. "That really enables us to become a strategic partner with them, too.

"We have been getting very good feedback from our clients that they really appreciate this type of support from us," she added.

Other list companies that have been stepping up their Internet-based efforts concurred that the demand exists for list companies to offer Internet-based services.

"The space is booming," said Eric Zilling, executive vice president at ALC and the head of ALC Interactive. "The biggest challenge is keeping up with the demand."

Zilling said this year's revenues from ALC Interactive will be more than four times what they were last year, and will exceed $10 million. The division, which is being spun off as a separate company from ALC, has about 15 employees and more than 100 clients, Zilling said.

He also noted that making an interactive division work is more difficult than it might appear.

"It's easy for list companies to say they have an interactive division, but I haven't seen too many companies that are really doing too much in the space," he said.

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