Thursday, June 07, 2001

The Cyber Scene in Denver ~ by Suzanne Lainson

The Colorado Internet Keiretsu ( had another one of its roundtables on June 7, again at Softbank's ( offices in Superior. This one, presented by Derek Scruggs ( as on email marketing. Derek had been with MessageMedia, but now works as an email consultant and a "satellite entrepreneur" at Softbank. As if that weren’t enough, he is also starting up Commercial Email Network.

Derek began his presentation by talking about 1-to-1 marketing, which involves identifying, differentiating and interacting with customers before customizing messages to them.

In order to identify those customers, he recommends that you start by asking for email addresses at every opportunity. Put this request on point-of-purchase materials, on direct-mail postcards, on billing statements and on order-fulfillment forms. You can also ask for those addresses when offering collateral materials (such as white papers), as well as in your "on hold" phone voice-overs, and in online and print ads.

If you choose to obtain names from a list broker, find out how they obtain email addresses. In order to protect yourself if the list is bad or misdirected, make sure the broker sends the messages for you. That way, the broker will be the offending party if the list turns out to be a spam list. Conversely, if you have developed your own email list, don't rent it to brokers because that reduces its value to you. If you want to share your list with other companies, it is better to create your own branded opt-in program that customers can choose to join.

Derek recommends that you put an opt-in form on your home page, rather than on a separate page. That way, visitors can easily sign up to receive email from you. And when they opt-in, ask if they prefer emails to come to them as text, HTML or rich media. Give them a choice of frequencies (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally), and make sure that the emails you send clearly indicate who is sending them and why.

When you make an initial contact with customers, ask them for a minimal amount of information. You can collect more as time goes on. Remember that customers want something from you, so make sure you deliver value with every message. Make opt-outs a simple process, and ask customers to recommend their friends to you. But don’t assume that you have those friends' permission to market to them.

Once you know how to contact your customers, there are ways to differentiate them, such as clickstream tracking, transaction analysis, and collaborative filtering. But a lot can be learned simply by asking them. Then once you know them, you can create dynamic messages which reflect their individual interests. Baby Center, for example, collects email addresses and due dates. Then it can target messages based on the stage of pregnancy and beyond. It doesn't bother to ask for income or location because those are unnecessary pieces of information.

There are many opportunities to individualize messages: offers, branding, banner ads, URL links and core content. Test everything you can.

Derek also displayed a massive chart showing all the various factors that should be considered when doing email marketing – a complex task that you’re better off outsourcing to specialists. You can find that chart, "The E-mail production cycle," along with the rest of Derek’s presentation at

Like the last roundtable, the event boasted a full house. Among those in attendance were Softbank gurus Brad and Dan Feld, Jon Otsuki from GVLabs, Carl Kalin from the Jedi Group (, Bernice German from Peak Achievement (, Scott Price from CustomerCentrix (, David Tabor from Tabor Interactive (, and John Dick from Cooperative Data Products (

Given that this meeting started at 8 a.m., the coffee, bagels, juice and muffins were a nice touch.

On June 8, creative agency SpireMedia ( and cross media art and engineering firm Goog ( held their "Hot as Hell" party at the Goog Studios. This was a must-go party. I was told that more than 800 people had RSVPed. Spire Director of Marketing and Business Development Brandon Shevin seemed relieved that they didn't all arrive at once. Instead, people came in a steady stream throughout evening: first the after-work crowd, then the early evening crowd, then the party people. There were very few couples; most came by themselves or with friends.

Upon arrival, we picked out name tags from a big bowl. Well, you can't really call them name tags, since they didn't have our names. They were more like identifiers. Everyone was pawing through them to find a tag that fit. I took "I am defined by this tag." Someone else had "I'm horny." Another, who happened to be black, wore "I like white people." I also spotted one guy wearing "I like meat" and another with "Your father pays for my apartment."

Since no one had name tags, I could only note the familiar faces. Billion-dollar man Jared Polis (he founded and sold made an appearance. Erika Brown, founder of NetGoddess ( was there. So was the above-mentioned Derek Scruggs, who remembered me from his presentation the day before. There were assorted Spire folks, including President Paul Schrank, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Doug Meer, V.J. Patel and Brett Madden. CEO Mike Gellman introduced me to one of his best friends, someone from Chipotle Mexican Grill ( I think Mike said his friend was the marketing director. I didn't catch the name, and he didn't have a business card. But he did give me a card for a free burrito! Also in attendance were Donna Crafton, Jen Hofmeister and Marissa Peede of LH3 ( I had a long talk about energy and the environment with Curtis Hart of (

Mike wrote on the invitation that the porta potties would be ready – and they were. If there were real bathrooms in the place, I didn't see any. The building was semi-industrial, with offices in the front and machine tools in the back. Mike also promised 12 DJs. Since there were two music stations, I presume the various DJs took turns throughout the evening, though I didn't attempt to keep track.

Lots of sushi and lots of vodka and beer kept our mouths busy. But no one was drinking to excess, at least not while I was there during the first half of the evening. And I was looking for displays of decadence. I had a conversation with an actress named Sarah about that. We decided that Denver's cowtown roots were probably too deep for the city to ever become truly decadent.

I suspect, however, that things got much livelier after I left. Around 9 p.m., it was getting to be wall-to-wall people. I even spotted a few costumes. Someone arrived in a tutu, and I caught one group with shaved heads, leather and chains (I'm guessing they were a group of DJs). Then I spent some time outside talking to Brad Spirrison, managing editor of eMileHigh (, and Jon Fetzer, co-founder/VP of TamTam (

Around 9:30 p.m., I went back in for one more tour. That’s when I ran into a wall of sound and decided that the decibel level had hit my pain limit. It was time for me to head back to Boulder. But I left knowing that, in true Spire fashion, this party was hitting its stride and the energy level was cranking up.

I stopped in at Boulder's Central Park on June 12 to catch Kari Nelson's Play for Life event ( I wasn't sure what I would find or be coerced into doing, but it was fun. There was a test-your-strength carnival attraction where you had to ring the bell by slamming down a mallet. I was terrible at it. Then Kari and I rode around on a tandem bike that seated us side by side, rather front to back. If you pedal together, you go in a straight line. If only one of you pedals, you pivot. (I can see its potential for team-building exercises.) There was also a group of attractive jocks batting around enormous balloon-like balls. Several others were racing each other on the bungee run. The program will be happening all summer on Tuesday evenings and Wednesdays at noon. Each week will feature different activities and themes. A number of people brought their kids, so it looks like it might be a good way to combine business networking and family time.