Bronto, Raleigh-Durham

Bronto Featured in Triangle Business Journal

Bronto was featured in this week’s Triangle Business Journal (TBJ). The TBJ used an old picture of Chaz and me from a couple years ago. Fortunately, I am proudly wearing my Bronto belt buckle.

The article is fairly short and speaks broadly about our growth.

You can read the full article on their website or inline below:

Durham’s Bronto Software Takes Off

DURHAM – Bronto Software, the company named for a dinosaur, is looking to expand its stomping grounds.

The Durham company is set this month to start work that will triple its space on the American Tobacco campus to 13,000 square feet by the beginning of the year, says CEO Joe Colopy. Bronto currently employs 45, up from 29 at the start of the year, and Colopy anticipates adding more workers.

Colopy says Bronto’s expansion comes as more retailers turn to e-mail as a way to communicate with customers. He says Bronto also is getting new business from companies that had been doing their e-mail marketing in-house.

Colopy says Bronto will reach $6 million in revenue this year, and he projects that the company will reach $10 million next year.

“E-mail marketing is not just e-mail,” Colopy says. “It’s real marketing.”

Corporate interest in e-mail marketing has picked up over the past five years, says Heidi Hennink-Kaminski, professor of advertising at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She says companies use e-mail marketing to try to learn about customer preferences – a goal similar to the one businesses have had with traditional mail marketing campaigns. But with e-mail, Hennink-Kaminski says, feedback comes much faster.

Colopy started working on what would become Bronto’s software in 2000. He and company co-founder Chaz Felix both worked at Red Hat before starting Bronto in 2002. The company has taken no outside funding, though Colopy says he receives inquiries from venture capitalists.

Colopy says that in the early part of the decade, e-mail marketing was just sending e-mail messages to lists. But the industry has moved toward providing messages targeted to particular individuals.

Bronto’s software allows a retailer to measure e-mail campaigns so the content and the frequency of the messages can be adjusted. Message content also can be tailored to customer interests.

E-mail marketing is getting harder because spam filters block a lot of messages, says David Buffaloe, president of M-pact Marketing in Raleigh. Even if a message does get through, Buffaloe says, it must contend with dozens of others filling customer inboxes. M-pact works with clients to formulate their messages but does not offer e-mail marketing software.

Buffaloe says the value of software such as Bronto’s is its analytical power. Being able to measure how many messages get opened and whether users clicked on items in the message can help a company further refine its marketing efforts.

“Every time you do an e-mail campaign, you want to learn from it,” he says.

Bronto has not been trouble-free. A software upgrade in 2006 turned up numerous bugs. The company worked to fix the problems and offered the service to customers free for a month.

Bronto now claims 800 customers. Clients include the Duke University Alumni Association and seafood company Gorton’s. Waterloo, Wis.-based Trek Bicycle has used Bronto for two years. Web Marketing Manager Casey Kohner says Bronto helped Trek move from blasting e-mails to sending targeted messages. Kohner says the software allows Trek to segment messages, so the entire customer list doesn’t get the same message.

“Frequency is determined by what we know about them and how specific they want the information to be,” Kohner says.

Hennink-Kaminski does not see e-mail marketing replacing traditional advertising. Print and broadcast advertising helps build brand identity, she says. E-mail marketing gives more specific information to customers who want it. “I think you need both parts of the equation,” she says.