infoUSA bolsters e-mail capabilities

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InfoUSA Inc., a 31-year-old company known for its compiled databases and list management services, is making a big move into the e-mail services arena.

Last month, the Omaha, Neb.-based company announced it had purchased CMGI Inc.’s Yesmail Inc. for $4.5 million in cash. The deal followed infoUSA’s acquisition last March of DoubleClick Inc.’s e-mail list services division for an undisclosed sum, and its December purchase of ClickAction, an e-mail marketing company, for $4.1 million.

InfoUSA, which got its start compiling business databases from telephone directories, plans to integrate its mail data and phone data expertise with e-mail capabilities. "What we’re finding is direct marketing, telemarketing and e-mail marketing work together," infoUSA Chairman-CEO Vin Gupta said after the ClickAction deal was announced.

Attractive prices

Gupta also said at the time that prices for acquisitions had become more attractive in the current economic environment, providing added incentive to gather e-mail database capabilities under the infoUSA roof. "The prices were too high before; now they’re reasonable," he said.

After the Yesmail deal was announced, Gupta said, "E-mail is expanding faster than anything else right now. That’s why we bought these three companies."

The Chicago-based e-mail list management and brokerage portion of Yesmail’s business will be merged with Walter Karl Inc., infoUSA’s list management and brokerage division.

The union of Yesmail’s list business with Walter Karl provides significant benefits both in terms of market share and expertise, the company said. "We acquired talented list brokers and managers on the e-mail side of the business," said Ed Mallin, president of Walter Karl. With the Yesmail network, the company adds 25 million opt-in e-mail addresses to its roster.

Meanwhile, Yesmail’s e-mail marketing services division will continue to operate from San Francisco and will be merged with ClickAction to form one e-mail marketing entity.

"We decided we had two smaller businesses that could benefit from being one larger business," said Ed Henrich, VP-client services for Yesmail. Henrich will become president-general manager of the merged unit, which will initially be known as Yesmail ClickAction and eventually as just Yesmail. ClickAction President-General Manager George Grant will become exec VP-business development under the new arrangement.

Distinct customers

Although ClickAction and Yesmail compete in the same space and there is some overlap in certain functions, they have distinct customer lists. While ClickAction has had particular success with retailers and catalogers, Yesmail has a strong portfolio of technology and financial services clients.

Henrich, who has been with Yesmail for five years, said he can recall only once competing head to head with ClickAction for a client.

InfoUSA’s own data expertise will provide clear advantages to Yesmail, Henrich said—particularly on the b-to-b side.

"Business data is where infoUSA got started," he said. "One of the things that’s been missing from the e-mail marketing industry is the data intelligence and analytics that have had a long legacy and history in the postal environment."

Providing that missing link has created instantaneous client demand, according to Henrich. "As soon as they heard about the acquisition, two of our top three customers were asking me proactively to come down and talk to them about the infoUSA data story because they want to be able to improve the performance of their e-mail marketing programs," he said.

The new relationship is expected to prove beneficial to infoUSA. "It gives us the technology to deploy e-mail and also offer e-mail communications systems to our existing customers," Gupta said.

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