An estimated 50 million individual investors, as well as the majority of institutional and retail investors have turned to the Web for information. So, public companies' Investor Relations (IR) departments have realized they need a really good site that's properly updated. However as PR Newswire's Michelle Savage explains, "Oftentimes you'll find the IR department is last in line for getting the attention of the Web group in the company."
PR Newswire spotted the opportunity and launched vIRtual IQ, a service that builds and maintains IR sites for public companies. It looks like part of the company's site, but the IR department doesn't have to rely on their own Web team to implement or update it. The only problem? How to convince IR professionals that a newswire is the best company to get Web site building services from. Savage admits, "It was definitely a hurdle."
Luckily, IR departments tend to be fairly small, with only 1-3 executives involved in buying decisions. Savage says, "It's a great market because they are very engaged. Our clients are buying things like contact databases and they know they have to understand them really well. They are very interested purchasers. When you go to trade shows they are very interested in the booths, they see them as educational." PR Newswire's biggest challenge at trade shows was internal, "We have lots of other products so we had to consciously pick vIRtual IQ as the one we would focus on at the booth."
PR Newswire's 50-year track record of being a trusted brand, made a difference. When the company reached out, customers were willing to listen. Savage tested three very different direct mail campaigns to communicate with them.
The first was a classic 6x9 envelope, stuffed with a letter, reply form and various "traditional inserts." The second was a self-mailer -- a tri-folded card, with a clever tagline, that included a business reply card to set up a meeting with a sales rep in return for a promised discount. The third was what Savage calls a "high impact promotion." About 1,000 targeted prospects in selected vertical industries were mailed a box containing a single walkie-talkie. Then within a week of receipt, they also got a phone call asking if they'd like to set up a sales meeting and get the second walkie-talkie free.
Almost 400 companies, including BF Goodrich, Egghead.com and Lands End, now pay an average of $12,000 a year to use PR Newswire's vIRtual IQ investor relations site service. The client list is growing quickly -- it doubled in the past year.
The winning campaign was the inexpensive tri-folded card which brought in a 5% response rate. The walkie-talkie promotion also pulled well albeit expensively, with about 50% of telemarketed recipients agreeing to meet with a sales rep. The classic 6x9 direct mail package was the loser. Savage says, "It was below 1%. It showed people don't want to open something that looks too promotional, but something catchy and fun that has a good tag line will attract their interest."
Interestingly, PR Newswire has learned many clients are not interested in a pure ASP model. The vIRtual IQ service is currently hands-off for clients. IR execs simply call or email their assigned IQ producer when they want to make site changes, then everything is handled for them. IQ is introducing a self-service content management system in early 2001, but Savage doesn't think everyone will want to use it, "A lot of companies prefer having someone there for them. They don't want to do it themselves."
NOTE: Yes! Savage is interested in talking partnerships with a variety of players. She's already discussing deals with Web design shops that want to offer IR sites to their clients, "but don't want to figure out how an income statement or a balance sheet should look." She's also interested in partnerships with content providers that could add additional value to her clients' sites. Contact her by emailing email@example.com
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