FierceMarkets keeps it in 'vertical families'

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Linda Streb, senior director of marketing at Access Co., which provides advanced software technologies to mobile markets, needed to punch up the company's presence in the U.S.

Although Access was well known in Japan, it was under the radar in the States, Streb said.

Enter FierceMarkets Inc. The online media company rolled out its first e-mail newsletter, "FierceWireless," in 2001 and has since grown to include 17 vertical publications spanning five markets: biotech, finance, health care, information technology and telecommunications.

FierceMarkets put together an online ad campaign in "FierceWireless" plugging Access' newly introduced mobile operating system, Access Linux Platform. The ads helped augment Access' presence at a CTIA (International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry) trade show in Orlando, Fla., in March.

"The reason we decided to go with "FierceWireless" is that it's a very targeted audience and everyone within our ecosystem gets that newsletter," Streb said. "We'll continue to look for opportunities to work with them, and it has become part of our ad buy. It's helped build awareness and given us a leadership position in the mobile Linux market."

FierceMarkets has carved a profitable niche by playing into marketers' growing efforts to reach their targets online with messages that go both deep and wide.

"By integrating the Web sites into `vertical families,' we are able to offer network buys as well as niche targeting," said Jeff Giesea, founder and president of Washington, D.C.-based FierceMarkets. "Marketers want targeted ads, but at some point they want quantity to reach the broader user base."

FierceMarkets' e-newsletters have a total circulation of 460,000. More heavily distributed titles include "FierceWireless" (71,000 circ.), "FierceBioTech" (56,000 circ.), "FierceWiFi" (48,000 circ.) and "FierceFinance" (41,000 circ.). Other e-newsletters include "FierceCIO," "FierceHealthIT" and "FierceVoIP." All their sites are being relaunched this month, Giesea said.

The company also creates Web sites, webinars and live events. Mainstay advertisers include IBM Corp., Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Oracle.

Media buyers say part of FierceMarkets' appeal is the markets it covers.

"They're in categories that enjoy a lot of spending," said Bill Hebel, senior VP-media director at b-to-b ad agency Slack Barshinger. "They're all solid properties and provide good value for what marketers pay."

Hebel said the real challenge for FierceMarkets will be how it weathers the next downturn in advertising spending. "When ad budgets tighten they're going to have to compete with some powerful venues," he said, pointing to Penton Media's Telephony and CMP's Light Reading in the telecommunications arena, for example.

Giesea stressed that because FierceMarkets debuted during the ad recession earlier this decade it has never lost sight of ROI. "We bootstrapped the company early on and had to focus on creating ad packages that would deliver value to b-to-b marketers," he said.

The name FierceMarkets was inspired by a quote from Winston Churchill: "You will make all kinds of mistakes; but as long as you are generous and true, and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her."

Giesea said FierceMarkets' formula—taking a controlled circulation model and melding it with distilled information—continues to resonate with b-to-b advertisers.

Digital Fountain, which provides software for the delivery of digital media, ran a sponsorship with "Fierce-IPTV" in January and has another one planned for later this year. "The returns have been phenomenal," said Jim Campbell, director of marketing for Digital Fountain, adding that the e-mail campaign garnered a 5% click-through rate and a 75% conversion rate.

"Normally, click-through rates are about 1% to 5% and conversion rates are at most 5%, so the numbers we're getting from FierceMarkets are unheard of."

Campbell also praised the newsletter's content. "It delivers extremely relevant content, and we know from the marketing side that people reading ["FierceIPTV"] are our buyers, so it's important that we go out and try to acquire them as customers."

Digital Foundation now devotes about 10% to 15% of its online marketing budget to FierceMarkets, and that percentage is likely to grow, Campbell said.

"When you consider the contacting opportunities, you might say, why wouldn't I spend all my money there?" he asked. "We're trying to reach C-level executives and the content in "FierceIPTV" is very attractive to that sort of person."

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