For most businesspeople, effective electronic marketing is still a little like the paperless office – sounds great in theory but very difficult to translate into reality. 

E-marketing remains a frustrating experience for many marketing executives as they wrestle with the strange, unfamiliar and expensive world of HTML, pay-per-click and viral marketing.
Now a young Cape Town company, Electric Fire, is attracting increasing attention as a result of its success in unlocking the potential of e-marketing for an growing number of businesses, mainly in the hospitality industry.
The Electric Fire formula is to first understand the client’s business and their marketing requirements and then provide an outsourced back-office service comprising super-smart software, savvy techies and creative designers.
Electric Fire is a four-year-old company headed by Richard Toms (34) who cut his business teeth in the competitive world of event management and conference organising.
Toms saw the future when he moved to a company specialising in using Global Distribution Systems (GDS) and online Web-based technology to generate bookings for hotels through a worldwide network of travel agents.
Electric Fire blends a mix of technology, a team of techies with creative minds who know how to get the best from this technology.
One of the company’s success stories is the Vineyard Hotel & Spa, which has embraced e-marketing through Electric Fire.
The Vineyard’s Stewart Banner says e-marketing winter campaigns produced outstanding results for the hotel. In the first six months of the financial year, to August 2006, Electric Fire’s e-marketing has produced 7 000 room nights for the Vineyard – 80% ahead of the same period last year.
Banner adds that the Vineyard’s Web site, managed by Electric Fire, is now averaging 300 000 hits a month.
Electric Fire has a growing list of clients comprising mostly individual hotels or small chains. The company is currently negotiating a multi-million rand e-marketing deal with one of South Africa’s biggest hotel companies, and is also making inroads into other markets.
In 2005 there were 1,07-billion Internet users globally; by 2006 this number had grown to about 1,21-billion and there will be 1,35-billion using the Internet by the end of 2007.
Online marketing spend grew to an estimated $10-billion globally in 2005 and that figure was expected to grow by 41% in 2006 to more than $14-billion.
On average, Internet users now spend a quarter of their weekly media time on the Internet and the Internet is now the second most commonly-used medium after television.
In practical terms, Electric Fire becomes the outsourced e-marketing back office for its clients.
The company’s e-marketing uses the twin strategy of generating new business from the client’s existing and potential customers and providers and to also penetrating new markets.
This strategy entails the use of E-mail banners and dedicated electronic distributions to get special offers and other information to the client’s existing data base. Toms and his team also helps the client find new customers by designing and managing the visibility of the client Web site, together with the launch of specific viral marketing campaigns.
 Toms says research shows that the average office worker receives and sends about 1 600 E-mails each year from their workplace computer.  Using sophisticated software Electric Fire ensures that every E-mail going out from a client’s business contains a carefully controlled marketing message.
This is done by automatically attaching an attractive banner to each E-mail. This not only provides a uniform corporate brand for all company E-mails, but also enables the client to use each E-mail as a focused marketing tool.
The Electric Fire technology allows the client to vary the marketing message at will and it is even possible to vary marketing messages for different employees. The banner also contains a click-through back to the client’s Web site.
Electronic distribution of creatively designed marketing messages.