Next Marketing Wave: E-mail Sponsorships

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As direct marketers, we have positioned ourselves to keep an open mind and a close track on the Internet's trends and technologies that pertain to new marketing opportunities. The Web continues to progress with offerings of enhanced, media-rich banners while opt-in e-mail is going through its own progression of acceptance, ethical practices and standardization.


However, there is something relatively new within the electronic mix that may even slip ahead of straight e-mail marketing in the Internet marketing timeline. I'm speaking specifically of e-mail sponsorship, which offers both targetability and end-user acceptance (the best of both worlds) -- and it offers them now. Let's take a closer look at what may be the next wave in electronic marketing.


Sponsorships are built on top of the e-mail-based continuity programs between a company and its clients and/or prospects. Such continuity programs could include a magazine publisher who offers article extracts/highlights from its most recent issue; a software publisher who keeps its valued development community up to date on the latest programming tools and techniques; a manufacturer who is continually telling the story of how his products are deployed by end-users; or even a cataloger who keeps customers abreast of new product additions or special sale items.


Overall, these e-mail-based continuity programs keep a company and its products/publications in the foreground of a specialized group of individuals. These informative e-mails enhance product and subscription purchases with current customers, while also captivating a targeted prospecting universe for future conversion activities. Individuals receive these e-mails from an opt-in, usually during the time of initial product purchase or Web-based inquiry/registration. The bottom line is that the recipients welcome the e-mails and avidly read their content.


The boon to direct marketers is that many of these organizations will allow an external company to sponsor the weekly or monthly broadcast e-mail. You've probably seen them yourself, where, imbedded at the top or bottom of the e-mail message, is a brief amount of text (and a URL) stating, "This issue was brought to you by ABC company, which offers widgets at substantial savings. Click on www.widgetsl.com for additional information." Asterisks with the word "Advertisement" in the middle typically border the sponsorship.


So how is this different from renting a company's e-mail list? For one, the e-mail list may simply not be available for rent. This could be based on the company's policies when the data was collected. You also have a very fundamental difference between renting an e-mail list and deploying an e-mail sponsorship. With the sponsorship, your ad is integrated with content in an e-mail that will be opened and read by the recipient -- the marketing challenge is whether or not they will continue with your sponsored link. In the case of an e-mail rental (where your offer stands alone in the message), it's whether the recipients will even open the e-mail. Both present a unique set of electronic marketing challenges.


Pricing between e-mail rental and sponsorships also are very different. Whereas e-mail lists, with transmission services, typically range in price from $175/M to $300/M, the sponsorships are available at a much lower price, with typical ranges from $10/M to $65/M. CFO Magazine offers monthly sponsorship on 60,000 e-mail-based subscribers for $3,000. HomeArts, which targets women, offers sponsorship at $25/M, covering 60,000 individuals a week. ComFind, a popular Internet-based global business directory, offers up to 40,000 e-mail-based newsletters a month at the price of about $60/M.


Unfortunately, structured programs for e-mail sponsorships are not widely available. From an industry standpoint, such programs are just starting to take form. Companies currently offering sponsorship opportunities view the sponsorships as a premium that is offered only when a banner ad is placed on their sites.


Also, such companies use the sponsorships as vehicles to "make good" for banner ads that fall short of the desired impression quantity. It's a mindset that will most likely evolve as that stand-alone potential for formalized sponsorship programs are realized.


One important point to note is that the organizations offering sponsorship opportunities view them more as the norm when compared to stand-alone e-mail list rental programs. With this, it sets the stage for us, as direct marketers, to explore, negotiate and further develop this avenue of electronic marketing that adds another targeted and measurable tool to our overall mix of direct mail, e-mail and Web-based marketing activities.


Roy Schwedelson is CEO of Worldata Inc. (www.worldata.com), Boca Raton, FL, a list marketing, electronic marketing and database services company. His e-mail address is roy@worldata.com.
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