Web tool aims to automate event marketing, direct mail

A Canadian firm is offering a subscription-style service for a portal product that promises to automate the creation of seminars and direct marketing campaigns.

The Partner Marketing Portal was officially launched last week but has already attracted the attention of Intel of Canada as well

as Microsoft Canada’s corporate parent. It consists of three Web sites — one for the administrator at the firm that uses the portal and front-end sites for that firm’s customers or reseller partners.

David Uguccioni, a partner with Toronto-based Partner Marketing Works International Inc., said the product began as a project for Microsoft Canada, which wanted to assist its reseller channel in the development of marketing events around some of its software suites.

“”These kinds of companies offer market development funds, but they either don’t get used or the companies don’t ever know what happened to the money,”” Uguccioni said. “”It becomes hard to measure the results of your investment.””

The Partner Marketing Portal allows a company like Microsoft to store standard PowerPoint presentations about its products that resellers could use in a seminar to their customers, as well as a form letter inviting them to attend. Resellers accessing the partner site within the portal are able to add their own logos and customize these files or upload their own presentations into the system.

Once the partner has keyed in the seminar date and location (in a form that will be prepopulated with the partner’s location to save time), they can add a list of invitees. This is done either by uploading an Excel or Access file, or dragging and dropping customer information from their e-mail address book directly into the portal. When all the data has been submitted, the portal automatically sends electronic files to commercial printing service The Printing House, which will create all direct marketing and event materials and deliver them to the seminar location within 48 to 72 hours.

Uguccioni said the portal will alert the administrator when invitees register for seminars and generate e-mail reminders prior to the event date. The registration page is also a place to ask attendees questions about their purchasing habits and generate leads, he added. Following the seminar, the portal will also generate e-mail thank-you notes to all who attended and provide feedback forms to assess the seminar’s results.

Peter Carson, president of Toronto-based solution provider Envision IT, said his firm helped develop the portal using ASP.Net and Visual Studio running Windows Server 2003. “”In some ways it was a way to showcase Microsoft technologies,”” he said. “”While it is a portal solution, we tried to include a great deal of flexibility so that customers can customize it to fit their needs.””

The costs of the portal are tied directly to its success as marketing tool, Uguccioni added. Partner Marketing Works is charging a monthly licensing fee of $1,000 as well as an additional $1,000 licensing fee for each seminar and $750 for direct mail offerings, which can be used for up to one year. Portal administrator training costs $1,000 and users can also opt to have the portal hosted for $1,000 a month. Up front costs for designing the user interface, uploading of pages and management of the project costs about $23,000.

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