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How a B2B Company Went From Zero Brand Awareness to 190 Leads With Its First-Ever Direct-Mail Effort

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Company: Truition, Inc.
Contact: Mike Hennessy, VP of Marketing*
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Industry: E-commerce
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: Fewer than 30

Quick Read

Truition, Inc. is a provider of hosted on-demand e-commerce solutions. Its technologies power online stores for retailers and brand manufacturers such as Sirius Satellite Radio, Philips, Major League Baseball, Dell Financial Services, and ShopNBC.

Despite having some well-known clients, Truition was not well known as a major e-commerce player. The challenge for Mike Hennessy, Truition's VP of marketing, was to find a way to get Truition onto prospects' radar screens, quickly establish trust, and generate quality leads for the sales force in a fiercely competitive industry.

Using a classic direct-mail package and a brilliantly simple strategy for getting through the mailroom and onto their prospects' desks, Truition earned a quick campaign return on investment (ROI) of 200% and flooded its small sales force with leads. All that was achieved with its first-ever direct-mail initiative.


Challenge

With Q4 on the horizon, looking at his company's revenue targets for the year ahead, Hennessy faced the perennial dilemma common to many B2B marketers: how to fill the sales funnel with quality leads now to get an early jump on sales-cycle activity in January.

The challenge was to execute a compelling campaign that put his small e-commerce company on the map but also established the company as a knowledgeable, expert e-commerce partner.

"We needed a compelling way to get our name in front of busy marketing executives at brand manufacturing companies which, for the most part, had never heard of us," says Hennessy. "This audience is marketed to constantly, which makes breaking through the clutter difficult at the best of times."

That problem was exacerbated by the fact that Hennessy needed the campaign to launch in late October, when executives in Truition's target market are distracted by frantic pre-Christmas sales activity.

Knowing that most of the marketing noise directed at his target audience took the form of email and online campaigns, Hennessy made a lead-generation play that many technology companies dismiss as passé: direct mail.

"Despite all the regular predictions we see about direct mail's certain demise, I kept seeing examples of effective B2B direct-mail campaigns, so I had confidence that the medium still worked very well," Hennessy says.

Campaign

Not losing sight of the fact that an unknown company needs to first earn the trust of its target prospects, Truition's direct-mail campaign made no direct sales pitch but instead offered prospects the opportunity to download a report, titled 2008 eCommerce Guide for Brand Manufacturers.

The 30-page guide was created specially for the direct-mail campaign. Filled with e-commerce best-practices for the year ahead and authored by an industry expert, the report was highly relevant to the target audience.

Simplicity is what carried this direct-mail package through corporate mailrooms, past gatekeepers, and onto the desks of the targeted marketing directors and executives. The package consisted of a plain-looking, white 6 x 9 outer envelope, a two-page sales letter, and a small booklet insert.

The outer envelope featured no logos, branding, or color. It had just a simple headline that read "Inside: Your 2008 eCommerce Guide Brief for Brand Manufacturers," along with the instructions "DO NOT BEND" in bold block letters.

The minimalist design and language was intentionally chosen to give mail handlers and gatekeepers the perception that the recipient actually ordered the material inside.

The booklet insert made the package heavier, adding to the perception that the envelope contained something of value and should be delivered to the addressee. The booklet inside was an eight-page "Brief" version of the 30-page Guide.

The sales letter acknowledged the reader's business needs but was written in an engaging human tone. It highlighted the pressures the prospect faced by being at the helm of a company's e-commerce presence and the need for expert information to guide critical e-commerce decisions. Within the sales-letter copy, the 2008 eCommerce Guide for Brand Manufacturers was presented as the source for such expert guidance.

The letter described the content of the guide in specific detail and drove readers to a landing page where they could download the complete guide instantly, for free, in exchange for contact information.

The mailing was sent to approximately 10,000 names using primarily rented lists and a small number of names from Truition's house list. Since this was Truition's first major direct-mail effort, the rented lists were 100% unproven.

Results

  • In B2B direct mail, a response rate of 1% is typically viewed as a success. The Truition mailing achieved virtually double that rate —1.98%—pulling in 190 new leads for Truition's small sales team.

    "We did not expect 190 leads from our first direct mail effort, especially with so many factors stacked against us," says Hennessy. "We were thrilled with the results."

    For a B2B company to achieve nearly 2% response with its first-ever direct-mail effort—using an unproven list—is extraordinary.
  • Shortly after the mailing, Truition secured new business in excess of $150,000, for an almost immediate ROI of more than 200%. (Total campaign costs were less than $45,000.)

    Moreover, ROI stood to grow exponentially as Truition's small sales force began nurturing the leads that flooded in from the campaign. (The exact ROI to date is not known, as Mike Hennessy left Truition not long after the campaign and is now VP of marketing at IntelliResponse, Inc.)

Lessons Learned

Establish trust by giving first and selling second

"Resist the urge to trumpet the benefits of your products and services in your lead-generation campaigns," says Hennessy. "Especially if you have no established trust with a prospect, bring something to the table first and earn trust. Only then can the sales conversation begin."

Remember you're selling to humans

Truition's sales letter spoke to prospects in a human tone and hit on the emotional factors that come into play when making critical business decisions. Hennessy says that was a key contributor to the campaign's success.

"Many B2B companies shy away from using human language in favor of stiffer corporate-speak. But if you want your reader to take action, you must inspire that action with human language. Find a copywriter who can write in an engaging, human voice and don't stifle him or her by insisting that your sales-letter copy be 'more corporate.'"

Don't dismiss traditional marketing tactics

Although B2B marketers are enamored with the shine of online campaigns and social media, sales cycles in B2B are actually growing longer.

"Considering it takes multiple touches to win over a new customer, variety in your marketing is important as a way to keep showing up," Hennessy says. For Truition, that meant adding the proven tactic of a classic direct-mail package to its regular online-marketing efforts.

Related Links

*Mike Hennessy is now VP of marketing at IntelliResponse Inc.


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Pete Savage is a bestselling author, marketing consultant, and copywriter who helps marketing directors and business owners create content, including video, that drives sales. Get a free copy of Pete's new e-book B2B Marketing with Online Video.

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  • by Kirsty Wertz Fri Jan 22, 2010 via web

    Very similar to an approach we took at GE Money with help from The Kern Organization but we use pURLs for the landing pages to help personalize things.

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