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E-Mail Service Uses Opt In for 1-to-1 Targeting

Electronic messaging technology firm e2 Software Corp. this month debuted an e-mail marketing service designed to automatically process sales leads based on preset directions. And more than just help clients sell products, e2 CEO Jeff Farris said he expects the service to protect his customers from accusations of spamming.

Too often people find their mailboxes full of unwanted e-mail messages “just because [they] went to a Microsoft site and forgot to check a box,” Farris said, referring to the common e-mail marketing tactic where Web surfers get unwanted digital messages because they neglected to overtly opt out of them.

The new e2 product — called 1-to-1 Web Site — is designed to gather opt-in e-mail addresses of people who visit businesses' Net destinations, and then contact them with preset messages that vary depending on, for example, which products they say interest them.

As 1-to-1 corresponds with potential customers, it might ask the quantity of goods they want, at which point it can automatically hand over their contact information to sales staff who contact individuals directly. Clients will design the “flow” of preset e-mail responses.

Farris's philosophy falls strictly in line with the opt-in camp. He said that for e-mail marketing to truly be 1-to-1 — and for it to be truly effective — it must reach out to consumers who have requested information on particular products and then cull the best prospects based on discourse with those individuals.

“The corollary is the direct mail environment,” Farris said. “Just because you get a $3 piece of correspondence from somebody with lots of envelopes, and a letter from the president, and reply cards and stuff like that doesn't mean that's 1-to-1 marketing. It has to be targeted and … I think ultimately it has to have permission.”

He predicted that e-mail marketers that work without overt permission are likely to find themselves under government scrutiny similar to what telemarketers increasingly face on the state level.

Unlike the software e2, Plano, TX, has licensed since 1997, the new service will be hosted on e2 servers. Clients will be given secure access to an online “campaign portal” that shows them how many leads are coming in. Marketing reports will be available, as well as general profile information, Farris said.

The company plans to charge customers on a per e-mail basis, plus a setup charge that will vary based on design complexity, ranging from about $2,000 to $20,000. Early 1-to-1 clients include the Boise Technology unit of Boise Cascade Office Products Corp., and HomeStyles Publishing and Marketing Inc., an online publisher of home blueprints.

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