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Marketers urged to fly eSolo

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Even as dot-com start-ups begin to fall, new Web ventures, like soldiers of fortune trying to take a beachhead, keep coming in waves.

The latest dot-com in the marketing industry is eSolo.com Inc., San Francisco, a Web site aimed at helping marketing professionals make use of marketing e-services. Designed to simplify the job of marketing executives in an era of increased outsourcing, the site launches officially on Monday.

The site, which had a soft launch in August, is designed to allow marketers to search a database of Internet-based marketing services companies, to help them develop marketing plans and to keep them apprised of marketing news.

While many technology companies have expanded their marketing departments in recent years, companies in other industries have reduced their marketing staff. In many cases, the marketing department doesn’t exist, and sales managers or other executives handle the marketing communications duties.

“The marketing department has been put in a precarious position,” said Arthur Gutch, co-founder and CEO of eSolo. “When a company wants to cut costs, the first place they look is the marketing department, which means the marketer has to figure out how to do more with less.”

On many levels, the Internet has only made the marketer’s task more complex. Not only do marketers have to outsource traditional advertising disciplines, such as creative and media buying, they are now responsible for making best use of Net marketing techniques, such as e-mail newsletters and e-customer relationship management.

Enter eSolo. The company’s Web site promises to lend efficiency to wading through the increasingly complexity of Internet marketing. It provides three main services to marketers:

•It’s e-Services Marketplace is a searchable database of more than 1,300 e-services offerings from such com-panies as B2BWorks Ad Network,iLanguage.com Inc.’s Globalization Solutions and GotMarketing.com’s Connections.

•The M.A.P.s (Marketing Action Plans) section helps marketers search for companies based on the task—such as “brand your company” or “increase sales leads”—they want to accomplish.

•The MyRadar service automatically informs marketers of marketing news and new e-services.

Josh Gabriel, chief of consumer products at Beatnik Inc., an interactive audio software company, oversees Internet marketing as one of his many responsibilities. He has found eSolo’s M.A.P.s feature useful. “Trying to figure out the best way to market stuff and get the word out is tough,” he explained. “It’s a full-time job to keep up on all that. It’s easier to let them keep up on all the newfangled services that people are offering.”

ESolo plans to eventually launch an ad campaign to support its site. Its initial marketing efforts, however, will focus on syndicating the Web site’s services to corporate intranets and other sites that attract marketers.

Drawing in users

Like most San Francisco start-ups, the company has its eyes set on an initial public offering. But some observers question whether eSolo’s business plan is ambitious enough. With outsourcing a growing trend in the marketing industry even for offline services, eSolo is limiting itself to e-services and not venturing into helping marketers select printers and ad agencies. “Certainly, to focus only on the Internet is a risky strategy,” said Mark Withington, research director ofe-business at the Aberdeen Group Inc.

Gutch countered, “Many marketers have a Rolodex of providers they use in the brick-and-mortar world. What we’re saying is we believe the next step in the evolution of the future of marketing is about using e-services or Internet-based services to be more productive.”

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