Most b-to-b executives have at one time or another signed up for what seemed a useful e-mail newsletter on, say, ASPs, only to soon find their in boxes flooded with marketing offers on everything from servers to IT conferences in Barbados. Mailshell.com, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based start-up, intends to stop this from happening.
At first glance, Mailshell.com seems little more than another portal and permission-based e-mail provider. Its home page has sections such as news and media, travel, and business and economy. Subscribers get an e-mail address, choose the subjects they are interested in, and enlist to have relevant news and information sent to them.
Yahoo! and several other portals with more extensive content than Mailshell.comâs offer much the same thing. The similarities, however, end there. Mailshell.comâs main purpose is not to be an information gateway, though it does that. It aims to keep b-to-b users from getting any e-mails that they did not expressly ask for.
ââWeâre a free service to stop junk e-mail,ââ said Eytan Urbas, VP-marketing. ââCurrent e-mail infrastructure is based on a system of trust. But the volume of e-mail suggests that this trust has broken down.ââ
Mailshell.com uses filtering software that searches for keywords and automatically blocks irrelevant messages from getting into a userâs mailbox. For example, if a user signs up for an e-newsletter on customer relationship management from a technology company, Mailshell.comâs software will block other messages that the company tries to send--for example, pitches for automation platforms. Subscribers can either go to Mailshell.comâs site to retrieve their messages or have them forwarded to their company or personal e-mail address.
Mailshell.comâs launch arrives as privacy and spamming issues become increasingly important to direct marketers, who fret that a backlash among targets will prompt Congress to enact crippling anti-commercial e-mail legislation.
Mailshell.comâs service is intended to save time for executives, Urbas said. ââJunk mail is not just spam,ââ he said. ââItâs anything that makes you less productive.ââ
Indeed, most reputable b-to-b marketers go to great lengths to ensure that their opted-in targets donât get outright spam. But many also sneak in the occasional new product offer along with information the target asked for. For executives who have subscribed to many opt-in lists, the end result can mean muddling through a tsunami of e-mails they have scant interest in to get at information they care about.
Mailshell.com lets users adjust the filtering system that determines which e-mails they get. For example, a user might sign up to receive Web consulting news flashes from Internet.com, one of Mailshell.comâs information partners. If the user signs up for a high filter, he would get only those flashes. With a medium filter, he would get news flashes not only on Web consulting but also on, say, IT consulting. A low filter would allow information of less relevance to pass through.
Mailshell.comâs plan is to make money by charging marketers to rent space on its site, Urbas said. Posting is now free, but Mailshell.com will begin auctioning off space within the next few months, he said. Companies and magazines such as The Industry Standard have signed up so far.
Urbas said his companyâs main benefit to marketers is that its specificity delivers only involved subscribers. ââMarketers are only getting qualified, receptive users,ââ he said.
Another industry watcher said that Mailshell.com might help distinguish credible marketers from dubious outfits that are currently giving direct marketing a scurrilous image. ââThirty-percent of e-mail is pornographic and 30% is get-rich-quick. All marketers risk being put in the same bucket,ââ said Josh Siler, an Internet strategist at Babcock & Jenkins.