VerticalResponse founder Janine Popick on direct e-mail marketing

The CEO and founder of VerticalResponse, which provides e-mail marketing, online surveys and direct mail services to small businesses and nonprofits, recently received an award for entrepreneurship at the 2009 Stevie Awards for Women in Business. VerticalResponse is offering free services for nonprofits over the holidays.

What is the difference between spam and direct e-mail? We cater to a lot of small businesses — about 55,000 — and a lot of our customers are in the Bay Area. Small businesses have a more personal relationship with their customers. Realtors, dentists, wineries — they all have a human connection with their customers who want to receive these e-mails because there’s a connection.

You started your company in the middle of the dot-com bust, and here we are again in a recession. Any advice on starting a business in lean times? You have to have a thick skin. … If you can get any money, loans, credit cards, venture capital — just persevere and keep going.

Social networking sites are threatening to take over traditional e-mail. Does that change your game plan? They can definitely coexist. We send a lot of people on Facebook and Twitter, we take those tools and send them over to the e-mail campaign. There’s a really nice mix to it.

Is there a new technology on the horizon in regards to marketing? The thing that affects us, in our world, are the new bells and whistles that are attached to e-mail services like Hotmail and Gmail.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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