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The small-business division of Dell Computer Corp. initiated an e-mail marketing campaign in March for its Dimension desktop and Inspiron notebook computers via opt-in e-mail lists.

One of the list sources Dell uses is called Postmaster Direct Response, an opt-in e-mail marketing service offered by New York-based NetCreations.

Judging from the number of times Dell -- the No. 1 U.S. seller of desktop computers in second-quarter 1998 and perhaps the most successful direct marketer in any industry -- has come back to rent e-mail lists from NetCreations, it seems to be working.

The campaign has included e-mailing to those six lists, rented from NetCreations' Postmaster Direct Response in March, April, June and July.

"We do a lot of direct advertising and direct communications, and this was on par with other proven lead-generation vehicles we use," said David Clifton, marketing communications manager for Dell's small-business division.

"The strategy behind this was to deliver up-to-date, real time information on our products and services directly to people who've indicated they're interested in receiving information about computers or technology," Mr. Clifton said.

"We also wanted to provide them a direct way to get back in touch with us," he said.

The all-text e-mail points interested consumers to an offer-driven Web site (

One factor in sending an all-text e-mail rather than fancy graphics was "for most offers, especially business and technology, plain text is what pulls better," said Rosalind Resnick, president of NetCreations.

"Technology-minded people don't have the time," Ms. Resnick said. "They're used to scanning their e-mail messages and looking at subject lines."

"This is a great marketing tool as long as it's used properly," Mr. Clifton said. "We want to make sure the right people are getting the right information."

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