CFN Lets Consumers Decide What's the Best Deal

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The Consumer Financial Network will send out 1.2 million direct mail pieces next week as it looks for ways to drive customers to its new online service, YouDecide.com. The drop is part of a $10 million direct response campaign crafted with ad agency DMW Worldwide, New York, that includes TV, radio, newspaper inserts and Internet advertising.


YouDecide.com offers consumers the opportunity to comparison shop online for insurance and other financial products. The site, which originally was created as a means for companies to provide financial information to their employees, allows consumers to fill out online applications for insurance and loans. YouDecide.com then submits the applications to its network of providers and presents their offers back to the customers in a format that makes it easy to shop for the best deal.


The company determined that the site was viable as a direct-to-consumer product after a direct mail test received a response rate this summer that was "nearly in double digits," said Caroline Vanderlip, executive vice president of marketing at CFN, Atlanta.


"It did well enough to convince us that we should put $10 million into an overall campaign, of which direct mail is an important component," she said.


The test was sent to nearly 1 million homes based on a merge of 12 different vertical and compiled lists targeted to the company's primary user group, which Vanderlip described as homeowners 35-54 years old, married, with children and with a $50,000-plus annual household income.


Tim McCreight, management supervisor at DMW, said prospects were selected from the lists based on Internet availability and interest in financial services products, as well as demographic criteria. The test was so successful, he said, that the cost per respondent was about half the $21 that had been projected.


The pieces being mailed next week follow three weeks of direct response advertising through other vehicles, including TV, radio, print and free-standing inserts. The campaign was launched with umbrella ads describing the overall benefits of the site, followed by more specific ads describing the individual categories of products.


The direct mail portion includes one umbrella piece touting the ease of using the site that has the frenzied look of the campaign's first TV spot and three pieces specifically promoting auto insurance. Each of the variations will be sent to 300,000 prospects, but Vanderlip declined to reveal how the prospects were selected for each of the pieces, citing competitive reasons.


McCreight said the list selection for the upcoming campaign did not vary much from the selection process used in the test.


"The new mailing really tweaks the product offering more than the lists," he said.


The campaign emphasizes both the simplicity of comparison-shopping on the site and the cost savings it can produce, both of which are exemplified in the campaign's tag line, "Surf less. Net more."


Two of the product-specific pieces are self-mailers, while the third piece uses an envelope with a sweepstakes-style personalized message geared toward savings. Copy in the pieces emphasizes how complicated it can be to find ways to save money online.


"The campaign is meant to both introduce the site to consumers, as well as, more importantly, to drive registration," Vanderlip said. "We believe that once they get there, there are things that they will want to do that are very important to their lives."


The company will track response rates based on the code that consumers use to access the site. A different code was issued with each of the four mail pieces. In addition, Vanderlip said the campaign was deliberately rolled out in stages so the company could better gauge which media were generating the most responses.
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