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Pop Quiz: Name This Company

Posted by Scott Kirsner  September 15, 2009 07:00 AM

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john_rizzi.jpgHere are your hints:

    - This company was founded in 1997, and focuses on e-mail marketing for big companies, including JetBlue, Dell, the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins, and The TJX Companies.

    - It just moved into a new headquarters facility in Burlington that's 50 percent bigger than its old digs.

    - It began the year with 254 employees in Massachusetts, with plans to end 2009 with a headcount of around 300.

    - It was acquired last year by a publicly-held Pennsylvania company for $157 million.

    - It is holding its sixth annual client conference this week in Boston, with more than 200 attendees.

Give up? Answer after the jump...

The company is e-dialog.

I spoke with CEO John Rizzi last week; his company is in a business that's growing steadily -- fortunately for him, and perhaps unfortunately for some of us.

Forrester Research forecast recently that spending on e-mail marketing is growing in the low double-digits annually, and could hit $2 billion by 2014; by that year, the research firm expects that each of us will be receiving about 9,000 e-mail marketing messages a year.

"E-mail marketing used to be part of a 'slush fund' budget," Rizzi says, "where marketers spent a little bit of money on it, but it didn't get much attention at higher levels of the business. But over the last few years, more senior people started to look at the channel as very important to the business -- it's often the most frequent out-bound 'touch' they have with customers." As a result, Rizzi says, "a lot of companies have been moving marketing money out of other media and into e-mail." He's careful to explain that e-dialog supports opt-in e-mail campaigns only (not spam), where a consumer chooses to get regular updates from a company or hear about special deals.

E-dialog has offices around the world, in cities like Seattle, New York, and London, and Rizzi says they've hired 73 people globally in 2009 so far.

I asked about the challenge of consumer "inbox overload" that those 9,000 messages a year will likely create. He responded that e-dialog provides the technology to make marketing e-mails "relevant, delightful, and meaningful. You can't send everybody the same thing, with their name at the top the only piece that's customized. If you get the American Airlines last-minute airfare e-mail, for example, you'll notice they highlight deals departing from the city where you live."

The company's client conference kicks off today at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel in the Seaport District, with an evening event at the New England Aquarium. Though clients attend the conference for free (paying just travel and lodging), Rizzi says it'll be the largest gathering in e-dialog's history.

Growth, unfortunately, has been a rare phenomenon this year...

(One more interesting tidbit: while e-dialog, which focuses on big customers, was sold for $157 million in January 2008, the other local e-mail marketing company, Constant Contact, which focuses on small businesses, remained independent and today is worth much more: Constant Contact's market cap is north of $500 million. The two companies shared a venture capital firm in their formative years: Waltham-based Commonwealth Capital Ventures.)

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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