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?CAMPAIGN
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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