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Aesop.com's solo strategy nets fabled ROI

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Like many small b-to-b technology start-ups, Aesop.com is keen on saving money bigger companies might spend on outside agencies. This means the Hollywood-based company develops and runs its own direct marketing campaigns in-house—something it has done with a good deal of success.

Aesop, which develops and markets application service provider software and search engine technologies, as well as other related products to small, home-based businesses, prefers to conduct its direct marketing campaigns via e-newsletters. The e-newsletters, mostly internally produced, cover topics including e-business and technology. Aesop places its direct e-mail missives—with links to its site to make online purchases—in the e-newsletters, making sure the products being touted are related to the content.

Every little ROI counts

One such embedded e-mail ad, marketing Internet author David Garfinkel’s new e-book, "Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich," through an affiliate relationship with the publisher, was placed in an Aesop e-newsletter sent out earlier this month. The permission-based e-newsletter, "Killer Tactics Journal," goes to 500,000 readers and provides e-marketing content. The early October edition contained a review of Garfinkel’s e-book and a link to Aesop.com, where it could be purchased.

Two-hundred and fifty "Killer Tactics Journal" readers bought the book, and Aesop received $12 out of the $27 cost, netting the company $3,000. While that may not seem like that much, the campaign took very little effort to produce, said Mark Joyner, CEO. "When people click through, we’re making money on those sales," Joyner said. "The actual hard cost of this campaign was zero dollars, and the man hours, maybe a couple of hundred dollars."

Aesop is careful to make sure its e-newsletters’ content is pertinent, high quality and worth readers’ time. This makes readers more receptive to embedded direct marketing missives, Joyner said. "People don’t like to have their time wasted," he said. "[The e-newsletter] has to be what you promised, and it has to be interesting, or people will get your newsletter and ignore it."

Home-grown approach

Aesop chose to go it alone instead of getting help from a direct marketing agency because the company believes that its expertise and niche understanding of readers can only be found among its 30 employees. "I have faith in knowing what I do," Joyner said. "If I were to outsource it to a company, they wouldn’t understand the dynamic between the reader and the newsletter."

Bill Babcock, CEO of direct marketing agency Babcock & Jenkins Direct, said that while in-house campaigns can be a good technique for cash-strapped small companies, larger companies may launch second-rate campaigns if they take the same route. He also said that some smaller companies risk running amateurish campaigns if they think creating a campaign is easy, simply because they have access to do-it-yourself marketing software. "Buying a hammer doesn’t make you a carpenter," Babcock said.

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