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Email: Still a Killer App

Email Still a Killer App

Unleashing the Killer App. Remember that book?

For me, it brings back a rush of memories. The dot-com startups for example. One I watched closely raised $140 million in VC funding, was lead by Wharton graduates, and shuttered in 2000 or 2001.

I cannot recall. It’s a blur. Almost surreal.

Harvard Business Press published that book in 1998, but a number of posts or studies of late on the topic of email got me to thinking about it again. I pulled it off the shelf to have a look and thumb through the pages I carefully highlighted and tabbed a decade ago.

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No Twitter handle on the back cover. No Facebook fan page. No blog link. Only a website.

I was new to PR then. Bright eyed and ready to seize the world in the glory days.  That PR firm actually paid someone to come in and water the plants.

As for the Wharton graduate led-startup?  It targeted the MRO industry, which stood for maintenance, repair and operations. In simple terms, the company provided small businesses with needed supplies — paint, ladders, hammers, whatever — with the benefit of savings. The idea was through this startup, those businesses could pool resources, buy in bulk and save money.

The startup would take a small slice. Seemed like brilliant in concept, but only in concept.

My supervisor at the time was working on a case study and interviewed a small business owner that provided some insightful market research: when I need a ladder….I need a ladder. I can’t wait around until 10 other people want ladders so that I can save twenty bucks.

We knew then the clock was ticking. It was the killer app that couldn’t.   When the startup imploded, I recall a managing director commenting to the effect that someone should go to jail over the $140 million.

For all the love of social media, there’s one killer app that has stood the test of time: email. It still is an effective medium for direct marketing and media relations, provided the content is timely, targeted and relevant.

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Email providers, especially the old-school Web-based providers like Hotmail missed the boat. They might have been Facebook, long before Facebook’s time. Plaxo almost got there, but now that it’s gone, despite the utility of Outlook plugin.

And so my thesis remains that e-mail is still the sole killer app.   A chance interview I heard on the Diane Rehm show  reinforced that notion.  One of the guests said something to the effect:

When college kids first get to school they want two things — first an e-mail address and second, a Facebook account. They want the e-mail address so the can get a Facebook account. You can’t get a Facebook account without an e-mail address.

In fact, it’s virtually impossible to open a new account with any social media outlet without an e-mail address. Not MySpace, not Twitter, not LinkedIn, not Delicious, not Digg….come to think of it, I don’t think you were able to open an account with that startup without an e-mail address.

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Photo credit: Flickr, mattwi1s0n, Internet Email (CC BY 2.0)

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