July 05, 2011
Case Study

Combining Offline and Online Marketing: How HP built relationships, boosted sales 2,050%

SUMMARY: Your current offerings might not be enough to attract a new group of prospects. Highly valuable niche communities might prefer a tailored experience and targeted content that you don't have -- but that you can deliver via email.

See how Hewlett-Packard created an email database, website and content to connect with a niche audience. The effort increased sales to the subscribers by 2,050 percent. Learn how the marketers built the list, nurtured subscribers, and focused on driving sales.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter


Hewlett-Packard (HP) knew it could better communicate with IT managers on college campuses. The computer hardware manufacturer wanted to convince them that HP had the expertise and hardware necessary to make the IT managers stronger assets to their schools.

"There is all sorts of information we can arm them with so that when it does come time to make a purchase decision, HP is top-of-mind and they realize that HP really knows and cares about higher education," says Kathleen Barrett, Manager, Marketing Communications, Hewlett-Packard.

However, HP did not have tremendous penetration into this market. Its marketers needed to build a targeted email database and website before they could engage the audience with content and encourage sales.


HP built an email database of college IT professionals and sent a monthly newsletter with high-quality content and soft promotion of its products. The content was hosted on an HP microsite called the InformEd resource center, which also linked to HP's products.

Here are the steps the team followed:

Step #1. Create microsite to host content

HP centered the campaign on the InformEd microsite . The Flash-based site featured a library of articles, whitepapers, case studies, videos and reports aimed at helping college IT managers improve their performance and infrastructure. HP updated the microsite's content each month.

HP created the content internally as well through partnerships with computer processor manufacturer Intel Corporation and technology research firm Gartner Inc. The content primarily discussed IT-related issues and secondarily suggested related HP products. Occasional pieces were "brand agnostic" and discussed topics without suggesting products or emphasizing the brand.

The microsite included:

- Segmented content

By clicking the "Campus IT" or "Faculty" tabs on the microsite, visitors could view content specific to each audience. The content was also sub categorized into groups such as:

o Videos
o Resource library
o Technology refresh
o Others

- Product information

The "HP Product Highlight" tab revealed descriptions and prices for products related to higher education IT. The site's footer also featured a phone number to HP's sales team, as well as buttons to shop online or locate a nearby reseller.

- Email newsletter subscription

The site also featured a "Subscribe" button in its upper right-hand corner, which brought visitors to a simple registration form for the campaign's email newsletter.

Step #2. Launch lead-generation campaign

HP's marketers needed to build a database of IT professionals in higher education. Starting from scratch, they planned a campaign to drive targeted traffic to the InformEd microsite where visitors could browse content and register for the email newsletter. The marketing collateral that promoted the page would also encourage people to register.

The team created two incentives to offer separately: a free t-shirt and a free $10 gift card for coffee to anyone who registered for the email newsletter.

To launch the program, the team worked with a handful of industry publications that specialized in campus technology, university business and other related topics. The team targeted these lists with the following tactics:

- Direct mail

The team sent a direct mail piece to IT directors, managers and other targeted titles within the partners' databases. The piece encouraged recipients to visit the InformEd microsite and register for the newsletter to receive a free tee-shirt.

Note: HP refreshed the microsite's colors and design several times during this 18-month campaign. At launch, this direct mail piece matched the microsite's aesthetics and gave the effort a unified message and feel.

- Email

The team emailed the full subscriber lists of several related publications to promote the microsite. Some emails used the publication's typical header and footer, while others were specific to HP. The emails also included:

o Several personal salutations
o Several references to recipient's school
o A sample of available content, or a list of overall InformEd highlights
o Incentive: $10 coffee gift card
o Call to action: "Join HP InformEd"
o Links to the InformEd microsite

- Print advertising

The team's partner publications had small, niche audiences. In response, the team included a printed insert into the magazines, thinking it would capture more attention than a print ad. The insert listed the microsite's URL and encouraged recipients to visit and register.

Step #3. Nurture and engage the audience

The team sent monthly email newsletters to the newly built database. The newsletters were based on the content published on the InformEd microsite each month and were the primary mode of communication after launch. Their goal was to encourage subscribers to visit the InformEd microsite where they could learn about various IT topics and browse HP products.

"We wanted to be their trusted advisor," Barrett says. "In that first year, it was all about how much traffic we could drive to the page and how many people we could get to register."

The emails featured links to one primary and two secondary pieces of content that were hosted on the InformEd microsite. One of the secondary features often described an HP product that related to the primary article.

- Continue to build the list

The team worked to build its list throughout the campaign. This included linking to the microsite from relevant pages on HP's website, as well as promoting the site at industry events, such as Educause, which focuses on IT in higher education.

Step #4. Emphasize products to generate demand

The campaign's first year focused on building and nurturing the email database with high-quality content. In its second year, budgets shifted and generating demand became a priority, Barrett says.

In response, the team shifted the newsletter's focus away from general content and toward product information. The emails featured messages tailored to the higher education market alongside descriptions of computers, tablets and other hardware.

- Continue to use the content

"The [microsite] remained for the entire campaign. It always grew," Barrett says. "It evolved even its look and feel. We had built quite a library of case studies, custom articles, and whitepapers and such. So, even when we were advertising a product with a price we would still point to that hub because it had so many layers."

"The analysis was done and it was very crystal clear that those schools that were registered as InformEd members definitely had an impact on the bottom line in a positive way," Barrett says.

The approximately 18-month campaign generated:

o More than 4,000 subscribers within its first year.

o 2,050% increase in revenue from subscribers during the campaign (comparing total revenue from subscribers during the first month to total revenue from subscribers during the campaign)

o 100% higher average revenue per subscriber than HP's average revenue for a general higher education customer

"Everyone was happy with that," Barrett says. "This was the first time we had done a relationship building-type campaign where we took the approach of really wanting to educate and inform the IT decision maker."

- InformEd email newsletter average metrics:

o Open rate: 20.48%
o Clickthrough: 3.86%

- Launch results:


o Generated: 11% of subscribers
o Open rate: 14.33%
o Click rate: 1.36%

Direct mail:

o Generated: 84% of subscribers

Print insert:

o Generated: 5% of subscribers

Useful links related to this article:

Note: HP refreshed the campaign's colors and design several times over the 18 months. The creative samples below represent different periods throughout this effort. When launched, the marketing materials aesthetically matched the microsite.


1. Microsite
2. Microsite tabs
3. Microsite product description and prices
4. Email newsletter signup form
5. Launch direct mail
6. Launch email 1
7. Launch email 2
8. Email newsletter
9. Email newsletter - secondary feature

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Oliver Russell - helped HP design and execute the campaign


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