June 25, 2014
Case Study

Customer-centric Marketing: Cincom's Curveball campaign scores a 236.7% increase in CTR

SUMMARY: "In marketing, there's lots of hot gossip floating around and things are always changing," explained Carey Hoffman, Copywriter, Cincom. "But one thing that has been talked about a lot in the past year or two is this concept of making the customer the hero of your story."

Cincom took on the trend by pitching a curveball-themed campaign that positioned its customers as the all-stars. Read on to discover the tactics that scored this solutions company a 236.7% increase in clickthrough rate and a 98.5% increase in Sales handoffs.
by Allison Banko, Reporter


Whether they revolve around fiery hot sauce or toy transformers, Cincom's marketing campaigns have a consistent message: a competitive advantage.

The software and service solutions company communicates its edge through quarterly multichannel campaigns the team calls "service selling campaigns," or an s2.

The purpose of these 10-week campaigns is to support the sales team's calls to customers about a new solution or product, explained Patty Tomley, Marketing Manager, Cincom.

"We want to warm the calls that they are doing," Tomley said. "So we are trying to raise awareness, put something out there so that when our sales team follows up with a phone call, it's not so cold."

Cincom has run s2s for years, learning and building from each one. The team has found the recipe that works best for these campaigns includes:
  • A dimensional mailer

  • Emails

  • Postcards

However, it's that direct mail piece, the dimensional mailer, that sparks the most intrigue.

"We've found that they get a lot of attention, and that's exactly what we were trying to go for," she said.

All of the s2 materials have a call-to-action for recipients to visit a designated microsite where they can learn more about the product or solution, and engage further. Each s2 revolves around a fun theme that inspires the imaginations of Cincom's creative team.

Because the company’s solutions and services are highly sophisticated, marketing to customers in a relatable way has been key.

"It's a very technical solution," Tomley explained. "We try to find the simplest way to get the point across, especially when we're talking to nontechnical people."

Some past examples of these campaigns included the "Transform Your Business Into a Selling Machine" effort, encompassing three different dimensional mailers, one of which revolved around the message "Bring the Heat to Your Sales" containing a bottle of hot sauce calling for recipients to see Cincom's "secret sauce."

The campaign earned one of B-to-B Magazine's Best Awards, something that Cincom Copywriter Carey Hoffman said was "a nice bit of acknowledgement that what we were doing was making an impact at a level that we hoped it would."

When it came time for the team to market Cincom Acquire (a configure price quote solution) for this past October's s2, it needed a new theme that would both keep to its creative track record and embody that competitive advantage message.


Cincom's fiscal year runs from October to September and this s2 ran during the front end — the beginning of October.

"I'm thinking, 'What's going on?'" Tomley said. "When a marketer can leverage an activity that's going on in the world, then we have a little bit more of a platform to go off of, and we can grab a little bit more attention with that."

She added that she and Cincom Campaign Strategist Dale Wolf had toyed with doing a baseball-themed effort before, but they knew it would be best suited to run during baseball season. For fans of America's pastime, October is the most coveted month of the year due to Major League Baseball playoffs and, ultimately, the World Series.

"I thought it would get the attention," Tomley said. "I thought that, with everybody thinking about baseball, and the playoffs and the World Series, this would be a good theme to put out there right now."

Diving deeper into the diamond, the team decided to title this its "Curveball campaign."

"We know that our solutions can throw a curveball to the competition," Tomley explained. "It can be a competitive advantage, and that is the one theme that we have been trying to keep throughout our campaigns."

The game plan

Cincom pitched the Curveball campaign to key players within companies exceeding $50 million in revenue. These included individuals that hold the following positions:
  • CEO

  • CMO

  • CPO

  • CIO

  • CFO

  • Director level and above in Sales and Marketing

  • Director level and above in IT and Engineering

  • Individuals within the manufacturing industry (industrial machinery, HVAC, specialty vehicles)

  • Individuals with the industries of telecom, utilities, finance, insurance, oil and gas

In total, the Curveball campaign crossed the plate of about 12,000 targets. Like most companies, Cincom doesn't have an unlimited budget for its marketing campaigns.

It couldn't realistically distribute 12,000 dimensional mailers. The team divided the campaign materials based on differing targets, sending 825 dimensional mailers, 3,500 postcards and 8,000 emails.

Though the deliveries of the curveball differed, the call-to-action across all three remained the same: to visit the Cincom Acquire microsite. The microsite housed additional information on the solution along with lead generating forms that Cincom could use to collect targets' information.

Play #1. Build campaign creatives and CTA

While Tomley and Wolf developed the bare bones of the baseball theme, it was the creative team's challenge to bring it to life. Hoffman would draft the copy while Cincom Designer Justin Klefeker would tackle the graphics.

"You get our creative team on it, and they really see some ideas that we didn't see," Tomley said. "They add to our original thoughts, and that's how we came up with this whole campaign."

When the concept was first presented to the creative team, Hoffman said that they thought they would be developing something along the lines of the actual techniques of a curveball and other pitches in a hurler's repertoire.

"When we looked at that in light of what the campaign wanted to achieve, it didn't exactly fit into what we wanted to do," Hoffman explained.

After collaborating, the team arrived at the idea of making the Cincom customer the hero of the campaign — a rising trend in marketing, Hoffman explained. The challenge was how to fit that with the curveball theme. In baseball, the heroes are the players themselves, glorified on baseball cards.

"We had an evolution where we actually thought we could do the baseball cards that would make our customers literally the heroes of our story," Hoffman said. "We were able to tell the story of how we've been able to help a number of companies that we have dealt with, and we did it within the theme and the storytelling that comes with these baseball cards."

Cincom developed the campaign around the curveball theme by featuring six of its clients as all-star pitchers.

For the mailer, the creative team developed:
  • Personal letter

  • Squeeze baseball

  • Booklet

  • Baseball cards highlighting client success stories

The team also developed the creative for the email and postcard. Each individual piece directed to the scrolling microsite which contained interactive elements to "engage them in a way that they feel like they want to keep learning more," Hoffman said.

Play #2. Draft picks for baseball cards

To draft picks for its all-star team, Cincom went through a comparative process looking at clients that had past successes, and how these stories could fit into the baseball theme.

Tomley said she wanted to choose companies or success stories that others wouldn't recognize and that would speak to targets in their industries.

"We tried to envision them as baseball pitchers," Hoffman explained. "What could you say about them? What kind of nickname could you give them? What kind of baseball cache could you put behind their story?"

For example, on one of the cards the team featured Cincom customer Smeal, a fire truck manufacturing company. The front of the card featured a retro image of a baseball player with the nickname "Big Hook Smeal." The back of the card featured copy about the company's killer curveball — or its successes with Cincom's services.

A trip down memory lane

"We literally made our customers the heroes of the presentation," Hoffman said. "And I think that's one of the most unique aspects of the campaign."

Klefeker remembers collecting baseball cards when he was a kid — he still has a bunch in his basement. He said that the team thought that the target audience for this campaign likely remembers collecting baseball cards themselves.

"The whole novelty of baseball cards still has a deep-rooted pastime to many people, and when you start looking at the age bracket anywhere from 35 to 60, they're still going to really remember that," he said. "[This campaign] creates something that is not just fun, but something that sparks an interest."

Play #3. Deliver direct mail to "hot" targets

With the Curveball campaign creative complete, Cincom was ready to play ball.

Each salesperson was asked to produce a lineup of about 200 players — hot targets that were dubbed as a great fit for Cincom, but for one reason or another, were balking. In total, 825 direct mail pieces were distributed.

Play #4. Close with emails and postcards

Cincom customers that didn't make the dimensional lineup received an email or a postcard relaying the Curveball campaign.

If Cincom did not have a target's email address, they received a postcard in hopes that the customer would visit the microsite and fill out the lead gen form with that information. If the Cincom team already had a customer's email address, he or she received the campaign via their inbox.


Cincom’s Curveball campaign resulted in a huge "W" for the team as their best s2 effort ever, scoring:
  • 236.7% increase in clickthrough rate

  • 98.5% increase in Sales handoffs

The Curveball microsite outperformed microsites of previous campaign by 387.8%. The Cincom team attributed much of the success of the Curveball campaign to its timing.

"These literally went out during the baseball playoffs and World Series time," Hoffman said. "In a lot of offices, people are talking about baseball and what went on the previous night. So you're kind of tying in from a timeliness point of view to something they're already talking about, and that was a positive aspect of this campaign."

Tomley added that the team has learned how crucial it is to gain buy-in from the sales team with these campaigns. She admitted that sometimes, Marketing isn't in-tune with what Sales wants to say or what they feel comfortable saying on the phone when performing follow-ups.

If the sales team doesn't believe in a campaign, then it's difficult for Marketing to leverage the campaign as much as they want to, she explained.

However, the Curveball campaign was designed to support Sales while Marketing opens the door.

"The sales team loved this," Tomley said. "They can relate to it, too, they understood it. They like talking baseball also. It's getting that buy-in from the sales team that was important."

Creative Samples

  1. Curveball dimensional mailer

  2. Letter

  3. Email

  4. Postcard

  5. Baseball cards

Campaign Team

Carey Hoffman, Campaign Copywriter
Justin Klefeker, Designer
Patty Tomley, Marketing Manager
Dale Wolf, Campaign Strategist

Related Resources

Cincom’s Curveball microsite

Multichannel Marketing: Direct mail, phone and email combine to lift executive briefing calls 50%

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Multichannel Marketing: How a B2B's Road Trip campaign produced a 45% response rate

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