Co-op promotions go high tech

With all the talk about driving Website traffic and generating leads, it’s no wonder that a new marketing concept that promises to do both-endorsed e-mail-has hit the cyberworld.

Endorsed e-mail is a high-tech twist on co-op marketing. And although still in its infancy, endorsed e-mail has some Web catalogers eager to test the concept, not only to build brand and loyalty among their own customers, but to entice more customers to shop online. In addition, endorsed e-mail can generate additional revenue for some catalogers because the “endorser” can negotiate a percentage of sales from the “endorsee.”

With endorsed e-mail, the endorser sends an e-mail to its own e-mail customer list, with the endorser’s company logo or catalog cover appearing at the top of the message. Typically, the endorser’s message recommends another cataloger, the endorsee. Below the message, the endorsee’s catalog cover may appear, along with a president’s letter and some merchandise examples. Most endorsed e-mail messages will have embedded links to both companies’ Websites.

“Endorsed e-mail works similarly to renting a list, in which you select the catalog customer you want to target,” says Keith Wardell, president at Fairfax Station, VA-based Shop2U, an online shopping community Website that delivers e-catalogs to members. “But some catalogers are finding that the list universe is shrinking, whereas the e-mail universe is expanding rapidly. And instead of the list broker doing the matchmaking, catalogers can recommend each other on their own.” By putting your name on the e-mail message, you’re also enhancing the relationship with your customer, Wardell says. “It makes you look like you recognize the needs of your customer beyond just selling product.”

Unlike the highly competitive print catalog market, “right now, the Internet is all about sharing customers and building an online audience,” says Stephanie Healey, new media manager at food catalog Omaha Steaks. “Endorsed e-mail helps create a positive experience for online shopping by getting our customers interested in another catalog, and vice versa.”

Omaha Steaks will test the endorsed e-mail concept this summer with other catalogers including Faith Mountain, an apparel and gifts mailer. “We don’t mind recommending another catalog to our customers, because we think it makes the overall shopping experience that much better,” Healey says.

List companies are also recognizing the importance of endorsed e-mail. Farmingdale, NY-based 21st Century Marketing has a co-op e-mail program in which a cataloger can “ride-along” with another cataloger’s e-mail newsletter or other promotional marketing broadcasts-sort of an “implied endorsement.” “We’re definitely getting more calls from our clients asking about e-mail lists and marketing programs,” says the company’s director of list management, David Todd Waldman.

Choosing a partner But several factors should influence a marketer’s choice of an e-mail partner. “Catalogers need to evaluate the best matches for endorsed e-mail, just as they do when renting lists,” Shop2U’s Wardell says.

For one thing, partner relationships need to make marketing sense. A religious products cataloger, for example, wouldn’t send an e-mail recommending an adult products or lingerie catalog. Along those lines, Omaha Steaks wouldn’t endorse the Butch Long Steaks catalog. “But we will endorse a catalog that is complementary to our business and targets a similar audience,” Healey says.

And endorsing a company that can’t deliver on its promise could backfire on your brand name. Omaha Steaks, for example, will research the companies it is considering endorsing by placing orders, evaluating customer service response and delivery, and then determining overall satisfaction with the product from the endorsee.

In terms of financial arrangements, catalogs can simply swap e-mail names, though each company should control its own e-mail file. But just as mailers rent their lists to others for additional revenue, catalogers can charge for their e-mail list on a cost-per-thousand revenue model. Shop2U’s program requires the endorsee to pay 20% of the sales generated from the e-mail message-10% to Shop2U and 10% to the endorser.

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