A Small Biz Blossoms

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Getting word out about a small business can be daunting -- especially in a niche market. But three years after Orchid Book Distributers, an Irish seller of textbooks and training manuals for complementary medicine students, opted for email newsletters, provided by VerticalResponse, Orchid owner Ian Smulders says that business has dramatically increased: The customer base has doubled, sales have increased 78 percent, and the Web site’s seen a massive increase in hits.

"Small businesses need an easy-to-use, affordable tool," says Janine Popick, founder and chief executive officer of San Francisco-based VerticalResponse, which provides templates and support for clients deploying email campaigns. "You can’t be a fast-growing company without a product that really meets the needs of the customer."

Smulders says Orchid tried to reach a VerticalResponse competitor, but never got a reply -- not the best customer service strategy for a CRM business. Smulders liked VerticalResponse’s nonaggressive pursuit, and the company’s excellent communication with Orchid, especially during implementation hiccups.

"Because we’re a small company, we do get pushed aside quite regularly," Smulders says. "If we deal with big publishers, they kind of don’t want to know [us] because we only deal with maybe 1,200 to 1,300 people worldwide. Since last year, [we’ve been] dealing with colleges -- and now students -- and growing; I know this [growth] is due to a student passing a newsletter on to teachers."

Orchid’s email news has had a viral effect in the complementary medicine community. Smulders says that customers have forwarded the Orchid newsletters, resulting in business opportunities he never dreamed of. Orchid has since supplied its texts to universities and conferences, continuing to grow in its market and make a name for itself. 

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