Imagine an Internet-based, hosted solution that is designed to replace printed brochures and traditional marketing materials with interactive multimedia-packed messages called eBrochures. Imagine eBrochures that can be delivered to sales prospects instantly via e-mail and that the prospects won't need any special software or super bandwidth to open them. MindArrow's Virtual Prospector is a new solution that offers these e-mail marvels.
eBrochures look and behave like TV commercials that are embedded in tiny Web pages and feature a highly compressed multimedia file that consists of several data types, including video, audio, still images, text tickers, graphics, animation and Web hyperlinks. They are delivered as an e-mail attachment or a Web page download via the eComNetwork.
Virtual Prospector also integrates with most existing CRM systems and provides real-time tracking and reporting, allowing sales representatives to monitor each recipient's interactions with an eBrochure. The sales rep can then assess a potential customer's interest level.
When used with a CRM application, Virtual Prospector gives users the ability to send and track eBrochures directly from within the CRM application's interface. This provides advanced electronic literature management, marketing campaign automation and sales prospecting capabilities that will complement the core CRM application and, says Metagroup analyst Jeffery Nelson, deliver significant added value.
Recipients' responses to an eBrochure appear immediately on the Virtual Prospector's Activity page, producing a real-time report every time a recipient looks at or forwards an eBrochure. Senders will know each time the eBrochure was opened, how many times the prospect viewed the video message, which links he clicked on, how long he spent interacting with the eBrochure and whether he forwarded the message to a friend. Salespeople can also be notified by e-mail or an alpha-numeric pager when an eBrochure has been opened, and Prospector can help prioritize each sales person's call list instantly, also in real time.
"This allows you to perform a very sophisticated but easy-to-execute analysis of your marketing campaign. Are people looking at the message? Repeated times, or just once? Were they interested enough to forward it to their associates? All of these are excellent markers of the success of an advertising initiative," Nelson says. Nelson also feels that eBrochures nicely maintains that delicate balance between "cutely compelling and sophistication. You don't want to do anything too gimmicky, nor do you want to be so straight-laced that you lose the audience's interest. eBrochures tread the middle ground very nicely."
David Rethers, an electronic privacy advocate and author of the forthcoming book The Millennium Marketplace (Carlton Books, Spring 2001) applauds MindArrow's policy of requiring each customer and partner to agree contractually that both parties will use their mutual best efforts to ensure advertising campaigns result in a positive e-mail experience for all recipients receiving an eBrochure.
"In the mad rush to personalize interactions and reach out to clients and prospects electronically, many of us forget that people are becoming very wary of being tracked and tagged like species that are under scientific observation. Although I'd prefer MindArrow to announce up-front to recipients of its eBrochures that they are being monitored and allow them to instantly opt in or out, I feel that the company is handling this somewhat better than many others."
Rethers adds that clients might not be thrilled to be called right after they open an e-mail. "Some people would find that spooky. You need to carefully gauge your prospect's response to that sort of hands-on monitoring. It's more acceptable if you have an established relationship with him."
Mike Pennell, vice president of marketing at MindArrow Systems, says the company is careful to make sure that each recipient of a MindArrow brochure is happy to see the eBrochures in her e-mail box. "We require that all our clients respect and adhere to our no-spam policy and strictly conform to all state and federal spam legislation." Pennell notes that while Virtual Prospector does report all of an individual's interaction with an eBrochure that has been forwarded to them by another user, the identity of the recipient of a forwarded message remains anonymous to protect their privacy. "And in addition to our strict opt-in policy, MindArrow provides a global opt-out option for recipients so that if they should inadvertently receive an unwanted e-mail message from one of our customers, they can choose to opt-out of any future communications from any MindArrow customer."
eBrochures are designed by eComstudio, MindArrow's in-house design facility. Prices for eBrochures and the Virtual Prospector service vary according to a client's needs.