“For some time we were looking for ways to quantify the value that videoconferencing brings to an organization,” says Marjorie Agin, Manager, Global Corporate Communications, Tandberg. “We definitely were being asked to put some hard ROI figures to that question, but most people think in terms of travel reduction and the cost of plane tickets and hotel rooms. They don’t think about the whole picture of what’s lost when you take a trip.”
Over the past year, that picture has expanded to include a new element: the environmental costs. In a world where Al Gore has won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work raising awareness about climate change, Agin and her team realized that a green marketing angle could attract prospects to the company’s videoconferencing services.
Still, they felt they needed some kind of hands-on, interactive feature that would show the environmental advantages of videoconferencing compared to business travel. So the team decided to test online calculators as a way to quantify both the economic and carbon-emissions impact of business travel. CAMPAIGN
The green campaign grew out of an initiative from the company’s European office, which had built a long, detailed calculator to show prospects in that region the economic and environmental impact of their business travel. Agin’s corporate marketing team adapted that tool as the centerpiece of a global campaign that combined the calculator with a new green marketing microsite dedicated to the environmental benefits of videoconferencing and remote working.
Here’s how they built the calculator and microsite:
-> Step #1. Determine the type of calculator to build
Agin’s team started with a review of the carbon-footprint and travel-related cost/productivity calculators already on the Web. From that research, they determined that existing calculators focused on only one of the two topics: either the CO2 impact of travel or the cost and time spent on business travel.
As a result, they decided to combine the two elements. “We wanted to get the productivity message, the hard dollars and cents, and the green message all in one place.”
The team decided to create calculators for individual and organizational travel:
- The first was a simple tool that estimated the impact of one person’s travel habits. Users had to answer a handful of questions about a trip itinerary, mode of transportation and travel frequency. The site did not require users to register to use that tool.
- The second tool estimated the impact of an entire organization’s travel habits. That calculator was more detailed; it asked several questions about the size of the organization, number and types of employees traveling, typical range of trips (e.g., domestic or international), interest levels in the ROI and environmental impact of travel, and current use of videoconferencing tools.
It also required users to register before completing the travel questionnaire, requesting:
o Job title
o Company name
o Email address
o Phone number
-> Step #2. Compile data for calculator’s engine
For the calculator to deliver reliable estimates of travel impact, Agin’s team had to assemble a database of statistics on which to base calculations.
The key to delivering meaningful results was finding third-party sources that were authorities in the field. Some of the sources they turned to were:
- Travel organizations, such as the International Air Transport Association, to provide distances from point to point.
- Environmental organizations, such the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the UK, which had a database showing how much CO2 is produced by different modes of transportation.
- Industry groups and human resources associations, which provided salary estimates for different levels of employees at large, medium and small businesses in different industries. These estimates were used to calculate the value of lost time due to travel.
The company provided its own assumptions for the percent reduction in travel that could be achieved through the use of videoconferencing technology based on actual customer experiences.
To establish the credibility of the calculators, Agin’s team provided a PDF download outlining the different assumptions and databases used to establish users’ estimates. “People were very surprised until we laid it all out, line item by line item, and showed them what all the assumptions were behind it.”
-> Step #3. Build the calculator and test for usability
After licensing data from different sources, Agin turned to her Web development team to write the calculator code. Each calculator took up to 1 1/2 months to develop and required several testing steps to make sure it was simple to use.
Testing focused on discovering disconnects between the way Web users would enter data and the system’s design, resulting in several usability changes:
- For travel distance calculations, the team had to create models for itineraries that weren’t already in the database. The database used to calculate flight distances only included point-to-point flights, which meant that for some hypothetical travel itineraries -- say, Boston to Fiji -- users would have had to choose multiple legs and connections to create the complete trip.
That process would have required too many steps to make the calculator easy to use, so the team created models for the complete distance of those flights based on assumptions about connections a traveler would have to make -- say, Boston to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Fiji. This way, a user could simply pick a starting city and an end city, and still receive a general estimate of travel time and CO2 emissions.
“The bottom line is that when we loaded in this database and went into testing, we found it was more important to make the calculator easy to use than to make it absolutely 100% accurate.”
- For organization-wide calculations, the developers had to build intelligence into the calculator that would recognize inconsistencies in the information provided by users. For example, if a user indicated they came from an organization of 250 people, but then entered figures for senior and middle managers that equaled more than 250 people, the calculator would stop the registration process, highlight the inconsistency in red and prompt users to correct the information.
- Because it was a global campaign, the team also made accommodations for users from different countries. The calculators allowed users to specify several options, including:
o Currency choice (dollars, euros and pounds sterling).
o Distance measurement (miles or kilometers).
o Language (translations offered for 5 different languages).
-> Step #4. Create microsite to host calculators
The original calculator developed by the European office was hosted on Tandberg’s homepage. Agin’s goal was to use the calculator in a less product-specific, green marketing campaign that would attract prospects unfamiliar with Tandberg or videoconferencing technology. To do that, the team created a microsite that offered a broader look at reducing carbon emissions with the calculators as the centerpiece.
Links to the calculators were prominently featured on the homepage and in the top navigation bar. Other areas of the microsite downplayed company branding in exchange for useful resources, such as:
o Environmental news headlines.
o Links to third-party white papers and reports on environmental issues and carbon-footprint reduction.
o A quiz that tested users’ knowledge of green issues.
o Customer case studies outlining the environmental benefits of using videoconferencing technology
“People are interested in these issues and we wanted to be part of that conversation, providing meat around the message.”
-> Step #5. Promote the microsite and calculators
With the calculators and microsite up and running, Agin’s team promoted the campaign through multiple channels:
o Email messages to the in-house prospect nurturing database
o Online advertising with environmental sites, such as Greenbiz.com and Treehugger.com
o Paid search ads for keywords related to the environmental impact of business travel
In addition to those corporate promotions, regional offices were encouraged to use the calculator in their own marketing campaigns. Individual country or regional managers could promote the new site through:
o Email blasts to rented email lists aimed at specific audiences, such as corporate social responsibility officers or HR managers
o Public relations efforts
o Trade show appearances
o Local print advertising
-> Step #6. Multi-stage follow-up to deliver calculator results
The team designed the calculators to offer several ways to report results and continue interacting with users.
- The first stage of the reporting process delivered results directly on screen, providing links to other sections of the microsite to learn more about reducing carbon emissions or to the Tandberg site for more information on videoconferencing.
- Users who completed an organization estimate received an email report of their results. It featured hotlinks to the Tandberg site for more information and a note that a representative would be calling to discuss the results in detail.
- A member of the sales team followed up by phone with users who completed a calculation for the entire organization. Sales reps offered to discuss the results in detail or lay out how videoconferencing services could reduce the firm’s travel costs and environmental impact. RESULTS
The calculators have proven to be the kind of sticky application that Agin hoped they would be, attracting an entirely new target audience for Tandberg’s services.
After moving them off the homepage and onto the microsite, traffic to the calculators increased 25%. Those visitors have come from 99 countries, and the average visitor length on the microsite now ranges between three and four minutes -- an indication that users are exploring the materials provided there.
What’s more, the company-wide calculator, which requires user registration, is converting visitors at a rate 3-4 times higher than the average rates seen for company white papers. “We’re extremely pleased, from the instant measurement we can get in terms of customer interest to the long-term value of providing the tool to our current customer base and sales people,” says Agin. “This is something sales people can take into a meeting or do on the phone with prospects that gives them a new and different way to talk about videoconferencing.”
Agin says the company has landed at least four new customers thanks to the calculator campaign, based on interviews with those clients who said the calculator was their point of entry into the company’s sales cycle. And with the company’s typical videoconferencing system installation price points, which range from tens of thousands of dollars to upward of $1 million, four customers is a coup. “One customer who comes through this pays for it 10 times over.”
Online and search advertising have been the biggest traffic drivers to the microsite. The banner ads on Treehugger.com and Greenbiz.com are among the top-10 referrers. Google search ads have achieved a 2.78% clickthrough rate, with the best performance coming from an emphasis on the interactive nature of the calculators:
o Best performing ad: “Measure CO2 emissions”
o Best performing keyword: “Carbon calculator”Useful links related to this article
Creative samples from Tandberg’s Global Calculator Campaign:
See Green, the company’s environment-focused microsite: