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Oct 12, 2006
Case Study

How to Convince Prospects Your Offering Beats the Competition Hands Down --- Clever Flash Ads

SUMMARY: Is your product or service superior to your biggest competitor's in any particular way?

Check out MarketingSherpa's new Case Study on two brief-but-high-impact Flash ads created by a B-to-B marketer to educate key prospects. (Her reps loved the ads, too, because superior marcom can win accounts):
The Web conferencing marketplace is fiercely competitive. When Citrix decided to enter it three years ago, several big-name brands already had a firm foothold.

Nevertheless, the team hoped their product innovations would win over the marketplace. But, just because you built a better mousetrap doesn't mean your prospects will abandon their current vendor to come running to you.

Initially, the team won by targeting small business niches that were underserved by the established players. But by 2006, it was time to expand into larger accounts where competition would be fiercer.

"We market like mad," says Ashley DeVan, Director Integration Marketing. "We do a lot of search engine campaigns, host a lot of webinars, run a lot of email campaigns." As a result, the in-house sales team had a healthy prospect database of larger potential clients to go after.

Now DeVan had to switch from lead generation to prospect persuasion … in many ways a far tougher job.

"I'm a visual person," DeVan says. She wondered if some of the prospects might be as well. Could a visual presentation drive home product differentiation points more effectively than yet another copywritten page or spec list?

DeVan decided to test two Flash-based short commercials that the sales team could show prospects via email hotlinks. The entire process took three months this summer:

Step #1. Research

*Before* diving into the fun creative work, DeVan conducted three quick research studies:

o Competitor Overview

Which brand name competitor was currently used by the largest segment of prospects in the database? Who was she enticing the prospects to leave? DeVan decided for the highest-possible impact to focus the campaign solely on a single competitor.

o Sales Cycle

How far along the sales cycle were most of these prospects? True, they were hand-raisers; but, just because they'd agreed to attend a webinar or read a white paper didn’t mean they were truly interested in switching vendors. DeVan decided her creative would treat them as being only lightly interested in the product.

They were not so far down the sales consideration funnel that they'd sit through a presentation longer than a minute. And it had better be darned compelling.

o New Client Survey

Every month, Citrix routinely surveyed brand new clients to discover, in part, what made them switch providers. DeVan pored over the past six month's results looking for pain points. She knew why she thought her service was so great -- but what moved the needle on the prospects' side?

Step #2. Creative Production

Devan was inspired in part by countless TV ads she'd seen over the years that used a split-screen to compare-and-contrast two products in action. Although Web conferencing might not be like a vacuum or a stain remover, the split screen idea was powerful.

For maximum credibility, she hired an outside research firm to take screenshots showing the Citrix product and its top competitors in action. Then the creative team wrote a script for both on-screen words and a voiceover. (See link to creative samples below.)

Key -- you don't know if prospects will have audio on or not when they view your presentation, so it has to work with and without. "It was more difficult than I realized getting the visuals, the voice script and the timing synchronized," DeVan notes.

Each Flash ad focused on a single comparison point. This is very different from a product demonstration or full sales presentation where you can talk about multiple things. DeVan knew she would only have enough of her prospects' attention to make a single point. Plus, more focus equals more impact.

DeVan's team chose a male actor to do the voiceover. His first try had to be junked because he sounded too confident. "It came across as a little cocky. We wanted this voice to be very matter of fact -- unbiased. Here are just the facts."

Both Flash ads ended with a still screen featuring three optional calls to action. The viewer could re-see the ad, forward it to a friend or click to contact a Citrix sales representative.

Step #3. Promotion

Again, DeVan used the simplest, most focused creative. In this case, she created two text-looking emails (one for each ad) with fewer than 50 words inviting prospects to click to see the ad. (See link to samples below.)

After an initial small sample drop, she sent the campaign to all the applicable names in the prospect database except for those few where a rep felt the contact might be disruptive of a close relationship in progress.

In every case, the email was sent "from" the named sales rep assigned to that prospect. The first email's subject line mentioned the competitor by brand name, the second named a top pain point.

Clickthroughs -- even from emails forwarded virally -- went directly to the Flash ad without any registration barrier. That's because DeVan wanted maximum marketplace exposure to her ads and also because much of the data was already in her database. And, of course, anyone truly excited by the ads could use the action items at the end to raise their hands.


"It's been one of the most exciting things I've ever worked on honestly," says DeVan. "How often can you answer the question, 'Why should I buy your product versus the competitors?' so easily? It's a marketers' dream."

The first email sent featuring the competitor's brand name in the subject line had a 25.3% open rate and a 7.73% clickthrough to view the ad.

The second email sent a week later to the same list, this time featuring a top pain point in the subject line, had a 9.24% open rate with a 4.27% clickthrough.

Biggest surprise? Very few of the final responses came from the call-to-action buttons at the end. Instead, most respondents went back to their email box and replied to the email with a note. This shows you business prospects prefer replying to a human being than clicking on a button that might contain an automated form … even if the button is easier.

If you are not already, you may want to have your routine prospect email campaigns, newsletters, etc., sent "from" named sales reps instead of "from" your organization as a whole.

Last but not least, DeVan is happy to report the campaign has helped snatch accounts from the competition. "Within a week, a relatively large deal was in negotiation."

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples of both emails and the Flash ads they linked to

Duarte Designs -- the agency Citrix used to produce this campaign

Citrix's GoToMeeting Division

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Comments about this Case Study

Oct 12, 2006 - Mihir Karia of Searce LLC says:
Very interesting campaign. Simple, elegant and effective. Congratulations to Ms. Ashley DeVan. I have one observation. From my personal experience and indeed from the perspective of some marketers, our eyes move from left to right since that is what we are used to while reading (unless you're reading Arabic or Urdu or some such language that is scripted from right to left). When objects are lined up left to right, we end up giving prominence to the object on the right since this is where our gaze ends up. In both flash campaigns, the competitor, WebEx is on the right while GoTo Meeting is on the left (interestingly, as I wrote the names of the products above, I remembered WebEx but had to revisit the flash page to get GoTo Meeting!). I wonder and I'm very curious, whether conversion rates might be affected by switching the positions of the two products in the flash ads. If Citrix tries this out, I would very much appreciate it if they would share the results with us. Mihir Karia

Oct 13, 2006 - Mike Scott of O2Give says:
All comes to naught if no one rings you back. Sales response in Australia does not support the creative work outlined in the case study. Sad because it was the creative that propomted me to source out contact details for a local representative.

Oct 16, 2006 - Angi of C&M Auto Service says:
My compliments to the marketing team on very simple, straightforward and effective messages to potential clients. I wonder, though, if two e-mails are enough to catch the attention of and to encourage responses from busy professionals? (We always hear that a consumer must see an ad seven times before it even registers with them. Is it the same way with e-mail solicitations?) Does Citrix have plans for follow-up e-mails--perhaps a series of them, each with a different point? I'd also be interested in seeing more campign results. The final quote in the article leaves us wanting more.

Oct 17, 2006 - Charles Hall of Ryan Consulting says:
I agree with the compliments - it was a very clean and compelling ad - well executed. I did try the second landing page without the audio - it was not effective at all - and would have lost many viewers if they did not have audio. Maybe a series of text boxes with the key points would have kept the audience engaged and following the logic of the piece. The first ad worked a bit better when veiwed without the audio, but there are still long pauses when the audio is explaining something, but nothing is happening on the screen. Were you able to tell whether any viewers exited before the end of the ad? I agree with the concept of creating an ad that works without the audio - either they do not have audio, or are uncomfortable playing sound if they are in open concept office layouts.

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