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Xcert Uses E-Newsletter to Comb for Customers

December 14, 2000

Xcert, a provider of software that allows for secure e-commerce solutions, is providing its target audience with an electronic newsletter that represents one of its first major marketing efforts.

During the first and third weeks of November, Xcert sent more than 10,000 copies of the premier issue of Xcert Press to medium- and large-sized brick-and-mortar companies as well as to dot-coms. The firms were compiled from visitors to the company's Web site as well as from people who contacted Xcert at trade shows. Xcert has experienced an 8 percent response rate representing people who want to subscribe.

According to Deanna Anderson, director of corporate marketing at Xcert, the idea is not to use the e-newsletter to make a hard pitch for its software suite called Sentry or its services, but to let case studies do the selling.

"I believe that letting our clients talk about the success they've had using our product does just as good a job of selling our product as a straight-out offer would do," she said. "It's a subtle pitch, but it's an effective way of doing it. Not only does the newsletter provide information on us and our services, but there are also a number of general-interest articles included."

Information was not available regarding the conversion of subscribers into customers.

"With our product, we have a long sales cycle and we need to be in front of our clients on a frequent basis," Anderson said. "And most of our competitors are large corporations, and by having a newsletter it helps us appear as a large, established and credible company within the marketplace."

The total cost of the campaign was $20,000.

Next week Xcert will send between 3,000 and 4,000 versions of its second newsletter, costing between $10,000 and $12,000.

This second version will primarily go to those appearing on a list of new names acquired since the completion of the first mailing. Those who subscribed after receiving the first newsletter will receive this one as well.

Howard Sewell, president of Connect Direct, Redwood City, CA, the direct marketing agency that created the e-newsletter, said Xcert has not decided whether the newsletter will be monthly or bimonthly.

"We have to make sure that we are going to continually have content that is of value," said Sewell, whose firm specializes in creating direct marketing campaigns for hi-tech companies. "Seeing if we could maintain that quality on a monthly basis is going to be the challenging part."

Sewell said other hi-tech companies that Connect Direct works with are also looking to develop e-newsletters, and it is currently creating a few. But the one it did for Xcert was the first to be broadcast.

Anderson believes an e-newsletter offers the best way to stay in front of people.

"This is something we will definitely be doing for the next couple of months," she said. "But down the road we are going to analyze the results and the [return on investment] and see if it has [proved] to be beneficial."

Xcert has more than 150 customers, the majority of which are brick-and-mortar companies in the financial and insurance industries.

Michael Bush, DM News


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