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A Winning Combination: Software-as-Services Plus Business Consulting and Process Services
By Laurie McCabe
January 30, 2004

It’s all about the technology. That could be the motto of e-mail marketing service provider EmailLabs.

“We have a very good reputation from the technology side of the business where most of our competition is more marketing-oriented,” David W. Sousa, EmailLabs CEO and co-founder, told ASPnews. “Top-down, they’re more of a marketing and sales organization where we are viewed more as a technology company.”

Sousa considers EmailLabs to be in the “high-end self-service e-mail marketing business”, meaning the company provides sophisticated e-mail marketing and communication functionality to customers on a self-service basis.

“They’re using the application and we’re hosting it and supporting them in that usage. It’s slightly different than some of our competition in that we don’t focus on the marketing consultant side of e-mail marketing,” he said.

EmailLabs’ solutions start with the basic functionality necessary to send and track e-mail campaigns. These components include things like auto-sensing HTML and text, being able to filter a database by any field, handling the delivery, and purchase tracking. Pricing starts around $1000 per month for up to 20,000 e-mails per month. The price goes up based on added features, customizations, integration work, or volume of e-mails.

“There are hundreds of granular features that form the base. And then products like dynamic messaging assembly, API integration and triggers are above and beyond those,” Sousa said.

Dynamic message assembly allows customers, based on user profile, to have a template message and have that message be different for each recipient. For instance, Delta Vacations uses this so that in a user’s profile, they select which city they are willing to travel to, and in the newsletters that go out, they get only content focused on those particular locations, he said.

A triggering system can be set up so that based on a user’s response and actions within an e-mail that was sent to them, automated triggers will be set off when those events occur to notify the company to follow up or to cause another event to happen.

Earlier this month, EmailLabs opened up its Application Programming Interface (API) to developers in a bid to push its platform as an e-mail marketing technology standard.

“We have an API that lets our customers seamlessly tie in their applications with ours and merge their in-house data systems with our data systems so they can maintain the sync between the data,” Sousa said. “Companies can start using our functionality as a web service and tying us into their complementary applications. We also do it with our customers so their developers can start integration.”

EmailLabs doesn’t do any type of list business, choosing instead to develop tools on the customer-facing side of e-mail marketing. “We’re more focused on the CRM side of it where customers are using their existing client databases or newsletter sign-ups or prospect lists, and using our application to communicate and track those customer touch points,” Sousa said.

The company has more than 260 customers, including Jupitermedia Corp. (the parent company of this site), three divisions of Agilent, Delta Vacations, Brio Software, NEC, Honeywell, Silicon Valley Bank, Nokia, and Business 2.0. Clients range from publishers to consulting firms to telecommunication to software to travel.

While the Global 5000 is viewed as the “sweet spot” in terms of customer size, Sousa said that a company’s attitude matters more than size. “Frankly we have a lot of customers that are smaller than that but have a higher technology need or have embraced marketing communication more than others.”

Companies in different industries may use the same product in different ways. High-tech companies will use it as a way to generate leads and communicate with their community to better understand their market, while publishers will of course use it for publishing their content.

Even within a company, each department may find its own way to use the product. While most customers have tended to be marketing-focused, more and more sales and customer support people are using the application in their role, Sousa said. Some are using e-mail marketing technology as a means to automate communications and follow-ups, or to communicate more effectively with their customers in a sales, customer support or marketing role.

To better serve these customers, EmailLabs plans to release modules for their applications with new interfaces to adapt it to the way that a sales person or a customer service person would work.

“It’ll have different process flows and functionality. A sales person using our application is not going to be sending nearly the volume of e-mails, but understanding in real-time how their prospects are responding to those e-mails will become more important. If something happens, they can immediately follow up with a phone call,” Sousa said. “A big thing to us is workflow, and usability is a huge factor. These different user interfaces make it work. If it’s an interface that people aren’t comfortable with, or is tedious, then it won’t end up getting used.

EmailLabs often competes head-to-head with larger rivals like Responsys or Digital Impact. According to Sousa, when EmailLabs wins a customer over one of these competitors, it usually comes down to a basic value proposition — getting more for less. A full feature set and an aggressive product upgrade model is a strong selling point, especially since, as an ASP, the product is automatically updated — formally every six months, with features updated and workflow improvements made each month.

“Where we are exceptional is that there are very few things that we don’t cover. Usually if someone is looking for a solution in this space, we have all the bases covered, so that keeps us in the running,” Sousa said. “If we’re competing with Digital Impact or Responsys in the space, then we’re priced cheaper. We’re not enforcing a professional services component on our customers. Our product can do a lot more for less money.”

Other factors that can affect a customer’s decision include usability concerns or the reputation of the provider. While some customers will be won by the availability of an API, others will choose EmailLabs due to its flexibility and willingness to accommodate customers. “There are always one or two hooks that win you a deal, and often they’re different for each company. It depends on the particular client,” he said.


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