Aprimo Makes Winning Move With Chinese Checkers Promotion

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One of the greatest challenges for organizations engaged in direct marketing is to find ways to break through the clutter - to create dynamic pieces that stand out and have enough longevity to engrave a message in the minds of busy recipients while enticing them to answer the all-important call-to-action.

Aprimo Inc., a developer of Internet-based marketing management solutions, attempted to tackle such a challenge. The goal was to design a fun, eye-catching direct mail piece that would become a permanent addition to the offices and break rooms of its prospects and would encourage them to visit the Aprimo Web site for an interactive demonstration of the company's Web-based marketing management solution, Aprimo Marketing.

Plan a winning strategy. Before embarking on the campaign, the marketing team developed a strong, clear strategy for effectively reaching its prospects. The winning idea was a Chinese checkers game board. The centerpiece of the campaign, a solid- wood game board, 10 inches in diameter and screen-printed with the Aprimo logo, was placed in a box that read, "Before You Lose Your Marbles, Check This Out."

In addition to a set of hand-selected, colorful glass marbles, each board was accompanied by a marketing flier that promoted the Aprimo Marketing solution using copy that was driven by game-oriented catchphrases such as "winning marketing strategies," "taking command of the game" and "playing by the rules." To ensure that the marketing flier would not be thrown away or set aside, Aprimo placed a complete set of instructions for Chinese checkers on the back of the piece.

During the first three weeks, the campaign enjoyed a response rate of more than 12 percent. And officials at Aprimo have received positive feedback from numerous other recipients, including, "Best direct mail I've ever seen," and, "This is so creative. What a neat way to reach people."

But a successful direct mail campaign is more than just an interesting give away. It requires thorough preparation.

Perform research before making your move. One of the keys to a successful direct mail campaign is establishing a good, clean list. Knowing this effort would be costly - each piece costs about $20 to mail - Aprimo targeted only top-tier prospects. The team identified the hi-tech industry as its target because of its past success in this market.

One of the most important elements of any direct mail campaign is the list. Since the price per piece of the Aprimo mailing was high, much of the effort was spent validating this information before the first drop. To ensure that its mailing list was accurate, Aprimo placed calls to confirm names, titles and addresses. In the end, the team compiled a database of 2,000 key contacts at hi-tech companies in six markets that have emerged as leaders in the new economy.

Play out the program. Working within a tight time frame, the marketing team planned the campaign launch. During the months leading up to the first drop, individuals in marketing departments and key supplier organizations submitted their plans, budgets, concepts, documents and artwork via the Web-based Aprimo Marketing solution for real-time review and approval.

The product's Web-based architecture made it possible for anyone with proper authority to review, add comments and suggestions and approve activities related to the project. This was key to the campaign's rapid implementation and execution. Six drops were mailed from late September through late October. Each set of mailings consisted of 350 pieces.

Stay on top of the game with strong analysis. The effectiveness of even the best campaigns can be diluted without a strong program for monitoring results. Using the built-in analysis capabilities of its own software, the marketing team is able to continually identify and compare results of its investment in the campaign.

For example, as follow-up to the mailing, the company's inside sales department will contact each recipient up to five times to secure a meeting with a sales executive. The status of each prospect will be tracked within Aprimo Marketing, as will other activity measures such as lead generation and cost per lead. Finally, the Aprimo solution will be used to track return on investment data and compare projected results to actuals. This information will be critical in determining future marketing activities directed to these prospects, as well as in determining whether Aprimo should repeat this campaign in other cities.

The high return rate generated by the campaign proves that an unusual piece that conveys a message and gives the recipients something they can use for work or play, combined with solid planning and execution, works wonders for the bottom line.

• Jill Snyder is vice president at Aprimo Inc., Indianapolis.

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