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Nat Sherman Fires Up E-Mail Push for Web Store

New York cigar maker Nat Sherman International next month kicks off an e-mail campaign for natsherman.com to arouse interest in its newly redesigned site.

The first batch of 100,000 e-mails drops in mid-April, a month after the site at www.natsherman.com was relaunched for the third time since it started selling cigars, cigarettes and accessories online nearly three years ago.

“It will reach consumers that they're not reaching in their day-to-day marketing and try to build that consumer brand all around the country,” said David Weiss, president/CEO of The Coastal Group, New York, whose Redscope LLC division is Nat Sherman's interactive agency.

About 20 percent of the names, or 20,000 names, for the e-mail push came from an in-house database of online customers and visitors and those that shopped at Nat Sherman's flagship retail store on New York's Fifth Avenue. The other 80 percent came from American Express Gold and Platinum card user lists and cigar magazines' subscriber files.

One of three drops, the first e-mail is styled like a postcard. Bearing a unique code for discounts, the e-mail aims to drive traffic to the online store when clicked. The e-mail can be forwarded to friends.

The second drop is slated for the end of May. It will feature an online contest with sports team partners. Consumers who haven't bought from natsherman.com will be asked to register on the site to participate.

While the date is not set, the final e-mail most likely will give recipients play money to invest in an online trading company that partners with Nat Sherman. The wisest investor may win free cigars.

“On the response side for the [first] e-mail, we're trying to hit between 3 [percent] and 4 percent,” Weiss said.

This latest effort is part of a campaign to push the 71-year-old Nat Sherman brand through public relations, event marketing, online alliances with sports teams and trading sites, and the traditional staple, direct mail. All marketing is meant to drive traffic online.

Natsherman.com was redesigned to serve as a portal both for consumers and wholesalers. Changes on the business-to-consumer front include the ability to conduct live online chats, better product display and the integration of the e-commerce transactions engine with Nat Sherman's accounting systems.

The site's look and feel is that of old New York, with Prohibition-era photographs and scenes. Mellow jazz greets visitors when they enter the site through a Flash page.

“What we're trying to do is to educate people as to the products … and create that ambience online, create that luxury perception around the products,” said Bill Sherman, vice president of the cigar company founded by his grandfather.

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