Exactis, a division of 24/7 Media, is an email service provider, sending close to 20 million messages a day on behalf of clients. Like most vendors, the company's business development team requires a steady stream of highly qualified sales leads to grow the business. Greg Scheider, SVP Marketing & Business Development told us about the direct mail campaign he's developed to feed them.
Schneider's top prospects were marketers with big budgets who were ready to make a change, "Very good targets are people who've been doing the email in-house and are having problems with scale. They've realized some of the challenges and they're ready to outsource to a solution provider." Few (if any) opt-in email lists are targeted this closely now, but luckily Schneider was able to find some great snail mail lists, so he created a direct mail campaign.
The package -- a white #10 (business-sized) envelope with a one page letter, buck slip and two-color reply card -- was very simple and plain compared to others typically seen in this marketplace. Schneider explains the creative decision, "Our experience is that this business audience are pretty savvy marketers, and they toss promotional mail. We didn't want ours to get lost in the clutter of all these flashy direct mail pieces. I get a ton and most go right in the trashcan. This package was also designed to promote a professional image in our communication."
About a month after the first package dropped, Schneider sent another, very similar-looking one, to the same lists. He says, "The second letter was slightly different, it said 'If you're not interested maybe you have a colleague who is.' It was designed for pass-along." Both packages offered a free report, "e-Precision: a Guide to Next Generation Permission- Based Email Marketing methods." Recipients could reply by mail or go to a Web site.
Next the business development team took over, converting these prospects to buyers. Schneider says, "The sales cycle can be 4-5 months on average. It's all about talking to marketing people. They're the ones who initiate the search for email service bureau partners. As we get deeper into it the sales guy will pull in a sales engineer to talk to their tech people. Sometimes they'll even come out here and inspect our facilities. But usually on the client side there's more than one person involved in making the decision. It's a team of people involved in the process and the key decision maker is a high level marketer."
Schneider first dropped this two-step campaign in the Fall of '99 and it was so successful he did it again in Late Spring of 2000. Both times it generated about a 7% total response rate. The first step was responsible for 4-5%, the second for an additional 2-3%. About 1/3 of respondents used the Web site instead of snail mailing back the BRC (business reply card.) Schneider noted this percentage has definitely grown over time.
Exactis' sales team has already converted five of the prospects generated this year into new clients. An additional five-ten prospects are still in the sales cycle and may become clients shortly.
COST: The entire campaign this year cost about $1.30 per piece. This includes creative, postage and printing. About $10k of this total cost was for creation and fulfillment of the premium white paper.
NOTES: In addition to direct mail, Schneider also runs print ads, some online ads and has had an aggressive speaking schedule at trade shows. He says, "We did about 20 speaking opportunities in the first six months of the year. Some generated 50 to 60-plus leads. So it's extremely successful."
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