August 20, 2002
Case Study

How to Make Really Expensive Direct Mail Campaigns Pay Off -- 5 Tips on Dimensional Mailings

SUMMARY: How do you get hundreds of high-level execs working for the world's biggest companies to agree to meet with your sales rep? Jill Snyder, VP Corporate Marketing Aprimo Inc, decided to invest in a dimensional campaign where she sent a box with a gift to each exec.

If you havve ever considered a similar campaign, check out this Case Study for useful tips on:

- How to choose the right gift

- How to build the perfect mailing list

- Using the Web as part of the campaign

- Follow-up telemarketing

- How email surveys can improve your sales reps' feedback

Includes a photo of a gift box campaign, and a sample of a sales rep email survey feedback form.
The term "dimensional" mailer means any direct mail campaign in which the marketer sends something that is not flat. Letters, brochures, and anything else sent in a typical envelope is flat.

A dimensional mailer has more dimensions, usually it is a box.

Dimensionals are famous for grabbing sales prospects' attention. After all, if you got a box along with your regular mail, what would you pay attention to first?

They are also famous for being really, really expensive to produce. Extra postage, fulfillment costs, printing boxes, buying something to put inside the box, it all adds up to a per piece cost that is incredibly risky financially compared to a traditional mailing.

Jill Snyder, VP Corporate Marketing Aprimo Inc, decided to take the risk.

Aprimo's sales team needs a steady flow of leads that are marketing executives in the Global 2000 who are qualified to spend an average of $450,000 on software.

Snyder says, "It's a tough audience, probably the most critical of any campaign. We really needed to make an impact."

Snyder has tested and refined her dimensional campaigns for the past two years. She now mails dimensionals on a regularly schedule every couple of weeks most of the year, with the exception of the winter holidays when her boxes might be confused with vendor gifts. (The staggered mailings help with sales lead flow.)

Here are the five keys to her campaigns that we thought other B2B marketers could learn from:

Key #1. Picking the right item to insert in your box

Snyder admits she had a hard time finding the right item to put in her boxes at first, "You start going through the trinkets catalogs and everything looks the same. You don't want something they'd take home, or give to their admin assist, or toss in the trash." She ruled out apparel immediately for all three reasons.

Instead, Snyder tested three different wooden toy sets. A set of Chinese checkers, a Brio train with tracks, and a Tinker Toy set.

In each case, the toys looked classy enough to remain on an executive's desk, and had enough room somewhere on them to stick on Aprimo labels.

"When you give an item that's uniquely fun or of high value, when you call that individual, they are receptive to your call and willing to spend some time with you on the phone."

Key #2. Sending the box to the right person (harder than you think)

"No list exists for the people we're trying to target," says Snyder. Part of the problem is that no list is up-to-date enough, "Our audience is incredibly transient."

Also, you can not always count on title selections giving you the person with the right responsibility. "That title may be different nine or ten times. Whatever we're pitching may not be necessarily the responsibility of the VP who you'd assume would be right for this."

Since dimensionals cost so much per piece to send, you can not just blast them out to everyone who might be right and hope for the best.

Synder uses an in-house research team to gather names. First they select companies based on industry vertical and size in Hoovers. Then they call each company, often repeatedly, until they find someone who can tell them exactly which exec has functional authority in the right area.

This can sometimes take up to 10 phone calls.

Snyder carefully staggers this research throughout the year, so that each new name can be mailed a dimensional box within a week of that research, and there are not ever too many names for sales to follow-up with at once. No name sits and waits to go out. Otherwise it might go bad.

Key #3. Offering recipients a Web page to sign in on

Although Synder's inside sales team are primed and ready to call each prospect (see below), she includes a flyer in each dimensional asking recipients to sign in at a special Web page to get an additional gift, such as more tracks for their toy train.

She started this practice as an experiment last year because she wanted to learn how many prospects would take the time to go to an online form.

Plus, there is also a huge benefit of getting folks to go online, Snyder's inside sales team can track it and call prospects
while they are on the site.

"If you're on our Internet page, the odds are very high you're sitting at your desk. So instead of making five calls hoping to reach you, we're making one."

Key #4. Following up via phone (quickly and relentlessly)

Snyder's inside sales team make up to five attempts to reach each the prospect, generally within the sweet spot of one-to-three business days after they estimate that prospect got the box.

Although Synder provides a script, her inside sales team are highly experienced (she even has them attend the same sales training as her field reps) so they are generally not literally reading word-for-word from it.

The goal of the call is to additionally qualify leads and then line up a date for an in-person meeting with an Aprimo field sales rep.

The inside team have access to reps' calendars so they can schedule appointments on the spot.

Key #5. Requiring sales reps to answer an email survey after each separate sales call

Most B2B marketers share a common frustration. You work hard on a big sales lead campaign, and then have to pull teeth to find out if the sales reps thought the leads were any good.

Snyder has circumvented this by setting up an automated email survey system that sends reps a survey 24 hours after each of their scheduled appointments. (See sample survey below.)

Reps hate to type, so the survey is super-easy to fill out, featuring questions they can answer by ticking on the right button. In addition there is an area for notes, but Snyder admits reps rarely use it.

Questions focus on how good was the sales lead. Are they prepared to buy soon? What is their budget?

If the rep does not answer a survey, the system automatically generates an email 48 hours later to both Snyder and Aprimo's CEO.

Snyder explains why this is so critical: "I determine how I invest in a marketing activity by how many appointments were set and what were the quality of those appointments. For example, if you go to a trade show where you swipe 500 cards, what was the quality? At the end of the day so many of those leads aren't qualified."

Aprimo's dimensional campaigns average a 10% appointment rate. For every 1,000 boxes Snyder's team sends, 100 wind up in face-to-face meetings between her sales reps and pre-qualified, interested prospects.

More results:

- All of the classy wooden toys have worked well, but the trains were an especially big hit. "I was surprised at the number of times when the rep went in for a call, and the train was going around the phone on the prospect's desk."

- About 2% of total boxes sent result in a prospect visiting the Web page. Snyder's inside sales team has been able to reach 40% of these on the phone when they were still on the site, thus saving those additional rounds of follow-up calls.

Interestingly this 2% figure has held steady over a number of variables, including different gifts offered, time of year, and US versus UK prospects.

- On the very few times the package was sent to the wrong executive, their administrative assistants were very happy to pass along the name of the right person to Aprimo. "It's amazing how their admins felt compelled to tell us who the right person is, and often offered to forward the box to the right person. It's because it was a perceived item of value. That just blew my mind."

- Recipient's administrative assistants also sometimes volunteered the names of additional appropriate executives to send the package to. "An admin might say, 'This person is traveling, so it might be a good idea to send one to this person who she reports to.' It's a result of the campaign I could not have foreseen."

- Currently 100% of Snyder's sales rep surveys are filled out on time. The request has only escalated to the CEO level a very few times.

Snyder explains, "They love doing it. They love offering their opinion. They know if they answer it that they're going to get more leads. They know that by telling me how well it went, it will determine what type of leads they will get in the future."

"Reps don't like to prospect," Snyder adds, "If you can tell a sales rep, 'I'll do the prospecting for you', there's nothing better."

Link to sample of train box and sales rep survey form:

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