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Sep 25, 2001
Case Study

From Brochureware to Global eMarketing -- Otis Grows Sales and Lowers Marketing Costs in 52 Nations

SUMMARY: Otis Elevator is one of the most famous brands in the world, with customers in more than 200 countries. Scott Gaskill, Senior ecommerce Manager, says, "Otis' presence is second only to Coke."

How do you take a giant 150-year old B-to-B marketing company, known for printing lengthy four-color brochures, and turn it into a global e-company? It's not easy. (Note: if you have to convince far-flung sales, marketing or other divisions that they should participate in your Web site initiative, this Case Study is absolutely worth reading.)

Otis has operated a standard corporate Web site for years -- but it was mostly in English and it was hardly interactive. We're talking brochureware. By early 2000 management agreed it was time to dramatically upgrade Otis' Web presence in order to increase sales and lower marketing costs.

Gaskill and Dilip Rangnekar, Senior International Communications Manager, described both the logistical challenges of creating dozens of national Web sites; as well as the internal politics of getting marketers and sales reps around the world to buy into the project.


First the team had to decide whether to create separate Web sites for each country or one giant Otis site for the whole world. Marketers in about a half dozen countries had already started putting up their own Otis sites. Should this continue?The answer was no.

Gaskill explains, "We decided we needed to create a global site that would give a global image of Otis. One reason is from a branding standpoint -- you didn't get the same look and feel country to country before. Plus, installing and trying to maintain and manage 200 Web sites around the world would be very cost inefficient."

However, there are drawbacks to one central site. Due to national building codes and practices, many of Otis' products are different for each country. Plus, most of Otis's customers prefer to visit sites in their own native languages, and Gaskill strongly believes that simply relying on a translation firm doesn't work. He says, "They don't do a good job of translating local cultures."

Therefore, the central development team created a series of templates which each country's marketers could use to create their own local Web site within, including:

- Common navigation bars (in 26 languages to start)

- Standardized page layouts

- Rules limiting individual page content sizes to 30k each for speedy load times (especially critical outside the US)

- Interactive features including user registration and a handy "Plan Your Project" tool

- A series of email-based request-for-information forms that fed into a centralized email management system which in turn fed out to local customer service and sales reps

Each national headquarters was asked to select a staffer to be in charge of Web content management, and a marketer to be in charge of Web-related marketing. Sometimes these were the same people in smaller countries; and, sometimes this meant additional hires, especially for larger countries. Because the Web's purpose is to communicate effectively with customers and prospects, Otis chose Web content managers with corporate communications backgrounds, rather than hiring more technically oriented staff for this job.

To kick off the local sites, content managers from Otis' 15 largest countries in terms of sales flew to the US for four intensive days of training. They learned by doing -- by the end of the four days they'd created enough content pages for their own country that their local site was ready to go live.

Next Otis formed a 15-member global Content Managers Council. The Council met weekly (now monthly), via an online conferencing service, to share ideas and solutions. Plus, Council Members were each put in charge of training and mentoring the content managers in smaller countries in their regions. For example, the Council Member for France is in charge of getting Belgium's Content Manager up to speed. This saved lots of money on travel and sped local development without undue strain on global HQ. Within 18 months the number of local Web sites at exploded from 15 to 52!

As each site went live, marketers in each country were educated to, as Rangnekar puts it, "Question the need for a printed brochure." He explains, "We had an extremely huge amount of printed matter for every country. Now as we reprint, two questions are asked of the marketing teams -- 'Do we actually need to have brochures, because if the content's available on the Web site, let's direct them there' and 'If a whole lot of local customers are not yet savvy with the Web, then give them printed matter but just give them enough to force them to the Web to get more. Give them a two page fact sheet, not an eight page colored brochure.' It's an axiom we sent down like a blanket for the whole world."

He reinforced this ruling by constantly reminding marketers that, "The moment you print a brochure, it's outdated. That automatically gets anybody's mind to think, 'I'm going to spend months working on this to get it printed and then it could need a change today.' When it's on the Web, you can change it right away." This would have been impossible if Otis hadn't already put easy content management tools and authority in the hands of local offices.

Marketing was on board -- but what about sales? Rangnekar says many sales reps initially felt threatened by the idea of changing from traditional sales to an ebusiness culture. He says, "We had to educate internally that we're not taking away your job, but complimenting the sales process."

As sales figures came in, it was clear that the clients and prospects that used the interactive project planning tools at the site ended up being bigger and better accounts. So, Otis sales reps were asked to help their clients set up their first project plan at the site during personal sales calls. Plus, Otis started measuring sales reps' success by reporting on the number of saved projects per client, per rep and per local region.

In addition, Otis started measuring the amount of time it took for each site-generated email enquiry to be answered by a real human (not an automated message.) To encourage faster responses, local sites are measured against each other. Rangnekar says, "If one country responds more quickly than another country, they have to explain it at the next monthly videoconference meeting. I've seen how embarrassing it can be for some countries." Sharing global response times has helped foster a healthy internal competitiveness.


Since the first revised global site launch in March 2000,'s traffic has grown 150% to 120,000 unique monthly visitors. With the help of a now-eager sales team, an astonishing 67% of unique visitors are registered members. (Most B2B sites are happy if this number is above 25%.)

The interactive features of the sites have been an enormous success. Registered members have used the interactive project planning process to create and budget for more than 20,000 Otis purchases. As mentioned above, people who plan a project online are far more likely to end up purchasing from Otis.

The number of emailed requests for information generated through has grown nearly ten-fold. Approximately 40-50% of emails received are solid sales leads. Once the sales reps began to see how valuable these leads were, their average response time dropped dramatically. Globally Otis' average email response time is now just above seven hours, and it's under four hours for many countries.

Gaskill says, "We've gotten emails from customers as far away as the Vanuatu Islands [near Australia] that turned into large sales. It's becoming a great sales tool." Rangnekar adds, "Our sales guys have learned to react quickly. In the US somebody sent an email [to us] about training programs to train their people about elevator safety. They weren't our customer. Within 48 hours that person became our customer. We sold $400,000 in equipment because our sales guy picked up that innocent training enquiry. So email is quickly becoming an amazing catalyst in their sales business."

Otis marketers worldwide have also been able to cut the amount they're spending on print materials "substantially." The numbers of printed brochures have gone way down, and expensive direct mail campaigns (once a company mainstay) are now considered just "supplemental" to site marketing. Plus, the pace of new promotions has accelerated, because marketers can add special offers to the site -- such as something free with order during the next 30 days -- quickly and easily without waiting for art, mail or printing. Marketers in 21 countries have begun "narrowcasting" emailed promotions and newsletters to registered site visitors in their region.

Otis continues to refine its site design to maximize registrations and emails. The Web team studies data-mining reports showing how visitors interact with the site in order to learn how to make it more effective. Look for a new home page design in the next few months.

Otis Elevator
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