Janine Popick: Bulk e-mail for small businesses

Janine Popick has found something hot. So hot, an online lounge she launched in May to discuss it has more than 1,000 unique users and a Facebook group based on it went from zero to 60 friends overnight. It has also won numerous awards — most recently, the Stevie for Best Overall Company — Up to 100 Employees.

What Popick, 39, found is VerticalResponse. VerticalResponse, co-founded by Popick and two others in February 2001, is a self-service e-mail marketing and direct-mail company that has garnered 30,000 unique users since it opened and run millions of e-mail campaigns. Customers range from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce to Mavericks Surf Ventures.

“There was nothing really out there for the small business for e-mail marketing,” Popick said. “We started out with a clear vision. We wanted it to be easy to use and we wanted to target the small guy.”

When small-business owners send mass e-mails themselves, they can’t track whether or not the e-mails are opened, whether the links are followed, and who has unsubscribed. With VerticalResponse’s bulk e-mail utility, they can. When a customer opens the e-mail, follows a link, or unsubscribes, he or she is instantaneously redirected to VerticalResponse’s Web site where the information is recorded, before being passed on to the small business’s Web site.

VerticalResponse also provides industry templates for e-mails ranging from pizza parlors and wineries to real estate agents.

Finally, to make it easier for small businesses with less cash flow, VerticalResponse sells its services on a pay-as-you-go model. Most customers send 1,000 to 2,000 e-mails, which costs them $15-$30. It costs 1.5 cents per e-mail, but drops to 1 cent if the customer sends multiple e-mails.

“There’s no barrier to entry in building what we’ve built,” she said. “The barrier is customer service and reputation. We do things the right way and we’re teaching our customers to do things the right way.”

While VerticalResponse will coach customers so an e-mail is most likely to end up in someone’s inbox, the company will not provide e-mail addresses, and will check to make sure people being e-mailed agreed to receive e-mails from the company.

VerticalResponse has 32 employees, and offices in San Francisco and Boston.

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