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NEBS, NetLedger in Marketing Alliance

New England Business Services Inc., a direct marketer of customized checks, forms and other office products for small businesses, this week unveiled a marketing pact with NetLedger, which provides online accounting software that enables small firms to store and access their accounting data in a Web environment. The deal will give NEBS, Groton, MA, another point of contact in the online world, and will give NetLedger a direct connection to NEBS’ 2.5 million customer database.

“Our principal marketing objective is to sell our products, but we increasingly are seeing the value of establishing these alliances and partnerships,” said Timothy D. Althof, vice president of investor relations at NEBS. “I think it will be good for both sides. Our customers are perfectly suited to using this product.”

NetLedger, Menlo Park, CA, has done very little marketing since its 1998 launch, although it has received some media attention in trade publications, and last month started a limited print advertising campaign. The company will seek to leverage its relationship with NEBS to experiment with its first direct mail effort, a piece targeting accountants that is scheduled to drop in the next two weeks.

The four-page piece, which will mail to about 110,000 accountants from NEBS’ database, will explain the Web site and seek to recruit accountants as marketing partners in promoting the use of the NetLedger site to their small-business clients. The letter will contain an endorsement from NEBS as well as explain the marketing relationship between the two companies, according to Jodi Maxson, vice president of business development for NetLedger.

NetLedger also plans to mail directly to the small businesses listed in the NEBS database, possibly in mid-March, as the company increases its marketing efforts. And brings on a vice president of marketing. NEBS also established a NetLedger extranet at its Web site, where customers can purchase checks and accounting forms that are compatible with the NetLedger software. “I can’t tell you how important that was to be able to order checks and forms online,” said Maxson.

NetLedger will have prominent placement in NEBS’ catalogs, about 95 million of which go out each year, and the company may also be promoted in the NEBS e-mail newsletter, Althof said. For now, NetLedger is conducting e-mail campaigns to its own database of businesses that have registered at the company’s Web site, www.netledger.com. Last week, for example, NetLedger sent 1,500 e-mails to businesses that had used the site for a 30-day free trial last year, offering them the opportunity to sign up for another free trial.

The alliance with NEBS, www.nebs.com, is one of several that NetLedger is developing, including one with ADP of North America Inc., Parsippany, NJ, offering a Web-based payroll service. For NEBS, the partnership is its second online alliance seeking to boost traffic at its Web site. “It’s a nice, growing part of our business,” said Althof, who added that the NEBS site was tracking at about a $5 million to $6 million annual run rate.

In addition to the NetLedger alliance, which currently is being promoted on the front page of the NEBS site, NEBS also has a marketing partnership with Webnow.com, which offers a free Web-hosting service for NEBS customers. “The intent there is to provide some sort of value-added service to our customers,” Althof said. And the NetLedger agreement can be seen as more of a direct sales tool.

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