Founded in 1986, InFocus Corporation (NASDAQ: IFC) designs, manufactures and markets projectors worldwide. The Company's primary marketplace -- Fortune 1000s, government executives, technology companies, and educators -- are all among the strongest adopters of the Internet.
By 2000, the projector marketplace itself was maturing rapidly. Sales growth was slower, and margins were tighter. Marketing and sales efficiencies created by a great online presence could make a real difference in profitability.
So, when Kathy Bankerd joined the Company as VP ecommercein June 2000, she was given two clear-cut missions:
1. Continuously bring all company Web sites up to a higher level, driven by Best Practices, so no competitor could ever outdo them on the Web again.
2. Smoothly mix multiple sales channels -- dealer sales, third-party online store sales, and the Company's own online direct sales -- for maximum profits, greater customer choice, and without confusing or annoying anybody.CAMPAIGN
First Barkerd laid out a firm set of priorities for the Company's main Web site InFocus.com, "We provide content first, transaction capability and customer choice secondly, and thirdly the services and support component." These priorities affect both navigation and content development.
The sheer volume of content the site provides to shoppers is impressive. (In fact, most B-to-B sites can't come close to matching it.) Visitors can take an easy interactive quiz to learn which projector is right for their needs, or they can click through to look at particular products. Individual product data includes:
- Warmly-written benefits overview
- Highly detailed technical specifications in HTML and PDF
- GSA contract number (for government shoppers)
- A color photograph
- A 3D "tour" of that particular product
- A link to related accessories for that product
- A tool to compare this projector to others
Plus, of course, links to directly purchase, or contact a reseller for that product. "Mitigating channel conflict is an extremely high priority," says Bankerd. So, the Web site design presents both options in as "agnostic" a fashion as possible. The choice is the customers'. Bankerd explains, "We've created a level playing field."
Customers who opt to purchase online, are directed to the InFocusDirect.com site. They can also purchase at a favorite third party eretailer such as CDW.com or MicroWarehouse.com. Customers who want to use a reseller because they may want to get an in-person demo or installation support, are shunted through the reseller lead generation system, which sends their contact information to the appropriate reseller.
While Bankerd supports the Company's resellers by sending them leads, and even "giving them advice on how to make their Web sites more effective as a selling tool", she is very careful with the sales lead database. InFocus never just hands off a lead and expects a partner to take over forever.
The partner has to earn the right to keep the lead, by getting all sold customers to register their purchases and identify the source of purchase. Bankerd notes, "If they didn't fill out 'who did you buy this from?', the dealer doesn't own that customer. If a dealer wants to own a customer, they have to service that customer. With the increased maturity of the projector marketplace, there's decreasing margins. Unless that dealer adds value, it's much more efficient for us to sell to the user direct."
InFocus gives dealers about six months to close a sale. After that, the company moves the lead to its general database and begins to try to convert that lead to a direct sale with emails introducing the InFocusDirect.com URL to them.
Rather than simply relying on the Company site, four years ago InFocus launched a second site, PresentersUniversity.com, to generate even more sales leads. "We wanted to drive customers who were in presentation mode -- a presenter researching information online who wants to find out 'How do I build a PowerPoint Template?' or 'How can I be a better presenter?'" says Bankerd. "There's a very large audience of potential customers out there. Experienced presenters are eventually going to want to buy a projector, and then they'll be highly affiliated with InFocus as the brand of choice."
The University site doesn't directly sell InFocus products. In fact, it's designed on purpose to appear to be a completely separate content site that's not even owned by InFocus. To the naked eye, InFocus is simply site's main sponsor. And yes, there are other sponsors, including GettyWorks and ZapIt! Media. The additional sponsors cover costs and increase credibility.
(Bankerd notes that InFocus doesn’t allow just anyone who wants to be a site sponsor, although many "beg us to get on the site." Sponsor's offers have to be a high quality to maintain the trust site visitors have with the University's brand. She also looks over sponsors' own privacy policies with a fine tooth comb to make sure they won't abuse any email addresses the site generates as leads for them.)
The University generates sales leads through its highly popular free downloads section, where visitors can get special effects such as animated figures for their presentations, handy how-to guides, and other useful presenters' tools.
In order to get the free download of their choice, visitors must to identify who they are by entering their email address. At this time they can also chose whether or not to have their email added to a mailing list. The wording reads:
( ) Yes! Keep me informed of Presentation Pointers, product updates, free downloads, and special offers exclusively from web sites affiliated with Proxima and InFocus Corporations.
Initially this opt-in box was pre-checked. However, about six months ago Bankerd has that pre-check removed to eliminate the possibility of a visitor joining a list that they didn't explicitly want to belong to.
Bankerd explains, "We continuously monitor against best practices benchmarks, and our email vendor Responsys, who track legal issues and customer sensitivities to various privacy policies spanning a variety of different markets, recommended it. As a publicly traded company we have to be very careful of these things. Remember, this site is to help our brand, not create problems for us!"
She adds, "The value of a name is to keep that person within your prospecting loop until they're ready to buy. If you anger them too early in the loop, you lose your ability when they are ready to buy. We're very strategic when we plan this. It's not just ad hoc."
As leads are collected from the University and other sites, they enter InFocus' email newsletter program. It's far more complex than the average B-to-B site's 'Here's our company newsletter, like it or lump it' program.
"We have a datamining plan for the week, so we can create granularity in the type of customers and how we engage them," Bankerd explains. Her email team produces five different weekly newsletters, plus variations depending on whether the lead is a customer yet or not. These are:
1. Presenter's University Newsletter
2. General Tips & Tricks newsletter for presenters
3. Educational marketplace newsletter
4. Government marketplace newsletter
5. Corporate marketplace newsletter
These newsletters all specifically veer away from blatant sales messages and Corporate "news" in favor of information recipients might find useful in their day-to-day jobs. "It's a soft sell in newsletters. It's a value proposition to keep them loyal and brand centered."
The content demands of both the newsletters and various Web sites are pretty heavy. Bankerd's team manages them by NOT managing them. First of all, every department and regional office has both the ability and responsibility of maintaining their own site content. Bankerd says, "We learned early on we'd never be able to harness the beast without distributed content. You can't have all Web site needs, requirements and execution all funneling through the marketing department!"
Plus, InFocus has outsourced all of the content editorial and publishing for Presenter's University to a part-time independent contractor so "it doesn't distract from the main focus of the business."
InFocus continues to be the leader in its marketplace and despite the sagging economy, grew market share in 2001 in part due to aggressive online marketing. Bankerd says, "We've had exponential growth as far as overall Web usage as well as online sales. The Web's become an extremely successful tool." She adds, "The University has also given us a huge return on investment."
- Close to 100,000 prospects have opted to receive news from Presenter's University. Opt-ins are down about 25% since Bankerd removed the pre-checked box, but she is highly satisfied with results and wouldn't have it any other way. "Some marketers say we're nuts for that. We're erring on the side of conservatism. We're not out there to invade privacy, we're going for the long term to create a relationship."
- The University gets significant daily traffic, despite the fact that it's never been overtly marketed except for search engine optimization.
- Newsletter timing tests have revealed that issues sent on Friday get significantly lower click through rates. Therefore, Bankerd's team now avoids Friday send dates. Mondays and Tuesday are the optimum send days.
- The most popular sections of the InFocus.com corporate site are as follows:
1. Product pages
2. Service information
3. Buying direct
5. Compare Projectors tool
6. "Which Projector is Right for Me?" quiz
Company news, PR, and other general information pages are less popular, which is as it should be.
Bankerd is not satisfied with this progress. The sites are definitely works-in-progress -- forever. To that end, she's hired a research firm, Socratic Technologies, to benchmark the sites against competitors, technology companies and sites reaching her general marketplace. She's also currently conducting newsletter reader satisfaction surveys in order to improve them further.Useful links related to this article:
Samples of InFocus' banner ads: