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Apr 17, 2001
Case Study

Keyva Gains 75-80% of its ISP Clients By (Carefully) Participating in Email Discussion Groups

SUMMARY: This Case Study is a *must read* if you want to test guerilla marketing tactics online by using email discussion groups and message boards to get your message out. Includes tips on marketing to execs at ISPs.

Jack Permison, President of Keyva, has one of the toughest online marketing challenges around. His target clients are owners of small and medium-sized ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and they passionately hate any type of marketing or advertising that's targeted at them!

Permison says, "They are a very defensive group. Any email sales pitch that is not asked for in advance is considered spam, so much so that our company policy is not to send emails to customers unless we are contacted and it is specifically requested." These are also the types of people who loathe telemarketing, toss all direct mail and block themselves from seeing banner ads on Web sites. What's a company targeting them to do?


At first Permison got started with word of mouth. He and his team came from the industry, so they worked their connections. However, connections have their limits. He says, "We tapped out our abilities on that end."

But, it gave him the idea to start marketing through word of mouth via email discussion groups frequented by ISP owners and executives. Permison says, "The community is very tight-knit, almost all use email discussion groups to talk to each other and help each other out." He decided to proceed very carefully. He says, "I've seen marketing people shunned from these groups. If there's a lack of a clue, if you don't understand the technical level, you have no business being there and you will be shunned."

Instead of sending any sort of marketing message, Permison only sends notes to the discussion groups when he has a useful contribution to make to an ongoing technical discussion. He explains, "If I see somebody asking for help, perhaps someone may want to know how to configure a router or something like that, I'll post a return email that says here it is. Nine times out of ten they'll respond and say 'Hey thanks, and what is it you do?' Then I can respond privately and talk about my company."

For this marketing-wary audience, Permison is even careful not to add a marketing message to his SIG (email signature) which reads very simply:
Jack Permison
Keyva Technologies Inc.


Reaching out through email discussion groups has proven outstandingly successful for Keyva. Permison says, "75-80% of our customers have come through this route."

He adds, "This is a defensive and tight-knit group. If you're not a member of the club you don't get in. You can't buy your way in. You have to prove yourself before you get in." Participation in email discussion groups has enabled Keyva to do just that.
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