I recently caught up with Janine Popick, founder and CEO of VerticalResponse. Like many other hosted email services, VerticalResponse gives you easy-to-use tools for creating and executing email campaigns—pre-built HTML templates, list management and segmentation, click-through reporting, etc. Unlike many other services however, VerticalReponse prices its service on a pay-as-you-go model rather than a monthly or annual fee. This is great for organizations that send out email blasts on an irregular or ad hoc basis.
Here's our conversation.
WebMarketCentral (WMC): What did you do before VerticalResponse?
Janine Popick (JP): I've been in Direct Marketing for about 17 years in one fashion or another. In the late 90's after a merger with XOOM.com, NBC.com and Snap.com to form NBCi, I formed NBCi Direct, the direct marketing division of NBC Internet. Before that I served as VP of Direct Marketing and Ecommerce at XOOM.com the 12th most trafficked website and was an officer of the public company.
In the early to mid 90's I managed Direct Marketing at Claris Corp. a wholly owned subsidiary of Apple Inc. as well as Insignia Solutions and Symantec Corporation. I've mostly been around high technology companies.
WMC: How, when and why did you get started in this business?
JP: After just a year and the beginning of the dot.com bust, it was time for a break. My husband John and I headed to Paris, but not just for relaxation. We had invested in a Parisian email marketing company and went to apply experiences to help them. I worked there almost daily for 4 months.
While in Paris, I developed the idea for VerticalResponse, the successful online marketing solution enabling anyone – regardless of technical expertise – to get up and running fast with email marketing campaigns – the perfect solution for small businesses. I've not strayed from what I set out to do 6+ years ago. Small businesses need tools to grow and we feel we built a pretty darn good one for them.
WMC: Who is your ideal or typical client?
JP: We focus on smaller companies but because we've got a great solution, we often find ourselves with customers from smaller divisions of very large companies. Our typical customers mails weekly or every two weeks and needs a wizard-based solution enabling them to build their own graphical email.
WMC: What sets you apart from your competition?
JP: I think our customer service and attentiveness is probably the biggest thing. We care about them, we talk to people and help them with any issues. Once, one of our engineers couldn't replicate a problem a customer was having, and he happened to be a 15 minute drive, so he drove over to the customers business. Now that's customer service.
We also have a pay-as-you-go model which small business seem to like. They don't want to have to pay for something they don't necessarily need on a given month.
One more differentiator: As easy as it is to create and launch an email marketing campaign using VerticalResponse (in minutes really), you can also design and launch a direct mail postcard campaign to your postal addresses. It's a nice one stop shop for direct marketing for small businesses.
WMC: How do you market and promote your business?
JP: You name it! We have an award-winning blog, email marketing campaigns (of course!), an easy-to-navigate website, tons of marketing resources, PR, tradeshows (we're going to eBay Live in June!) outbound newsletter sponsorships, online advertising buys, radio, we even have an outdoor advertising campaign! However, the most special promotion we can get is word of mouth. Watching our customers tell others about our services is just the best.
WMC: What's the biggest or most important marketing lesson you've learned since you started VerticalResponse?
JP: Being a direct marketer I really discounted PR in the beginning. There was very little in the way of tracking anything. That's what direct marketing is all about. Now with social networks, blogs, reviews, you've got to put a ton of effort into PR since your PR is really in the hands of anyone who can publish to the web. If you do but effort behind it, and you do it right, it really works all the way to your sales goals.
WMC: Anything else you'd like to add?
JP: It's more important than ever to track what people are saying about you. Now more than ever you've got user feedback that's instantaneous. Talk about being able to make changes to a product or service you have by "listening" to your users...what a concept!
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The only Minneapolis-based agency focused exclusively on marketing and PR for B2B technology companies: KC Associates
Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com