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Mar 08, 2006
Case Study

Can You Generate Qualified Senior Exec Sales Leads With Giveaway Offers Cost-Effectively?

SUMMARY: Here's the dilemma about promo giveaways -- if you dangle an iPod or other exec toy as bait, will high ranking execs who are truly-honestly qualified leads fill out your form? Or will you end up giving out a bunch of pricey schwag to lower-level execs who couldn't care less about your products and services? You may be pleasantly surprised by the results in this new exclusive MarketingSherpa Case Study.

Glory be! Concur Technologies is the top business services technology firm in its niche for companies with more than 2,000 employees.

Only problem: 2005 expansion plans meant the marketing team had to generate piles of qualified and eager leads in a new market -- mid-sized companies.

"There just isn't as much awareness of Concur, or even that the business problem we solve exists, as there is in the larger company market," explains Jerame Thurik Director of Market Development.

His team had to do the infamous one-two punch: First, educating financial execs at mid-sized companies that they had a problem that needed solving, and then the same execs to raise their hands, ready to buy solutions for their newly-urgent need.

Thurik suspected a classic white paper or webinar offer coupled with a lead registration form wouldn't do the trick. Why would a CFO sign up for educational content about something he or she didn't think was a problem?

Thurik needed a more appealing carrot to dangle in front of prospects, but didn't want to blow his whole budget on costly schwag.

Thurik's team started with a test in November 2004 to figure out if promotional giveaway offers would work better than free info offers from an ROI basis.

They rented a double opt-in email list of CFOs and split the creative into three cells, measuring the response of each. Here are the results with costs including the price of the promotional item (link to samples below):

o Webinar and white paper offer with no other giveaway. Result -- highest cost per resulting lead

o Laptop light offer in exchange for completing a quick Sarbanes Oxley survey. Result -- $18 less than webinar/white paper cost per lead

o Jelly keyboard offer in exchange for registering for *and* attending a Webinar. Result -- $1.11 less than webinar/white paper cost per lead

As you can guess from the results data, offering promotional items helped lift responses so significantly that the cost of the promotional items was more than covered.

The unexpected good news was that executives responding to giveaway offers were just as likely to convert to becoming paid clients down the road as other leads. However, Thurik suspected this might not be the case if he hadn't super-carefully selected the list (which effectively pre-qualified folks). With that thought in mind Thurik's team crafted a series of campaigns for 2005.

Step #1. Create surveys and landing pages for campaigns

"We have a very, very strict definition around what we call a qualified lead. Just to respond to something, that is *not* a qualified lead," explains Thurik.

Therefore, the team decided to go with the quick survey route for initial campaigns to prospects. In order to claim their promotional gift, prospects had to take a one-page, eight-question survey that began to flesh out their profile in the CRM database so ultimately the sales team could decide if this was a lead worth pursuing. (Link to sample below.)

Next, Thurik cleverly solved his two biggest fears about offering giveaways:

o Hordes of freebie seekers crashing the party

Instead of opening the survey form to any and all offer-takers, the team posted a barrier page in front that required the respondent to input their personal 10-digit code. Once a code was used, it could never be re-used. This might stop a little viral pass-along, but Thurik figured it was worth it.

Plus, the passcode had a side benefit that survey responses could be tracked a bit more easily and the address contact info could be pre-populated on it to increase responses.

o Schwag nobody wants

How can you possibly guess at what schwag will thrill your prospects' hearts and what will be boring? "I am Mr. Shopper," laughs Thurik who constantly reviewed samples of new giveaway item ideas. Then he ran an ongoing series of tests. 80% of each campaign would get the current control schwag, while 20% would get an offer for something entirely new. Test schwag included a fancy desk clock; USB hub; USB memory stick and a world calculator.

Step #2. Send out direct mail campaigns targeting suspects

Thurik's team rented an ongoing series of postal mail lists carefully chosen by company size and job function. The direct mail packages which were expressly designed to focus the eye on the glory of the giveaway (link to sample below) included an oversized 6x9 "glama" see-through envelope; colorful lift note; and a printed survey response form plus URL and passcode for online replies if desired.

"We had no message about Concur," Thurik notes. "We just said 'Get a free' and then whatever the offer was."

The team also sent new offers on a routine basis to the portion of the house email list that hadn't filled out a survey to move further down the sales cycle yet. In this case, although they tested a range of subject lines, none used the word "free" so as not to be thought spammy or trigger replies from people who only cared for the free gift. (Note: Postal mail imposes a barrier by virtue of having to switch media to respond. Email is too easy to click on to respond and doesn't pre-qualify anyone.)

Step #3. Nurture leads generated

Thurik decided to have all schwag fulfilled in-house so he could keep tabs on the process. Naturally every giveaway was imprinted with the Concur logo and the packaging included a bit of informational content about the company.

Next, his team set up a series of half a dozen step-by-step nurturing campaigns for the new leads. Each campaign also offered a free gift for responding with a graduating value -- such as a free iPod shuffle in exchange for agreeing to take a 30 minute in-person meeting with a sales rep.


Overall the giveaway program has been such an outstanding success -- generating more than half of new business leads in the past year -- that Thurik continues to expand on it as well as testing new enhancements.

The particular gift really matters, although to some degree the actual cash value of the gift does not. For example, world calculators and clocks proved duds with a 2.5% response rate. On the other hand USB hubs were a huge hit with a 5% response rate.

Interestingly, only 16% of surveys come back via snail mail. The majority of respondents go online to respond. About 3%-4% drop off at the passcode page.

Email campaigns to the house lists also get widely variant response rates, depending on the particular giveaway. "They range anywhere from 18% to 43% response rate," says Thurik.

And yes, responses from both postal and email campaigns are converting well in range of other lead generation programs. "Once we know a little more about you [from survey responses] then we can help identify what your pain is, and then we're much more successful in being able to sell to that prospect."

Useful links related to this article:

Creative samples from Concur:

Past MarketingSherpa article, 'Research on the $16.9 Billion Promo Products Industry: Why T-Shirts & Pens Can Out-Do TV & Internet'

OnPoint Promotional Products -- the firm Concur sources its schwag through

Oceanos Marketing -- the marketing agency Concur uses for assistance with creative, production, and list rentals:

Concur Technologies

See Also:

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