Chocolate's A Winner For BTB Campaign

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Lawyers are apparently willing to take time out of their busy schedules to send chocolate to mom -- especially if it's free.


In a recent A/B split test delivered to 19,800 attorneys via e-mail, an offer to deliver a free box of Godiva chocolates with a note to the person of the recipient's choosing pulled approximately twice as many leads as a nonchocolate offer.


The effort was part of a lead-generation push for the Practicing Law Institute's Web-based educational programs. The PLI is a nonprofit that provides seminars, conferences and other professional development services for attorneys.


Both versions of the test offered a free, two-week trial of the PLI's Web-based program.


As is often the case in business-to-business marketing, there was debate over whether a seemingly consumer-marketing incentive was appropriate. Some thought the free trial was enough.


"Lawyers can get CLE [continuing legal education] credit for this, and in 40 states, CLE is mandatory," said Arlene Bein, director of marketing, PLI, New York.


Both versions of the split were HTML e-mail featuring a fake billboard with a smiling mother and her adult son on it:


"My son, the bigshot attorney, hasn't phoned his loving mother in weeks. If you know him, tell him to call mom right away."


The body copy continued by pitching the Web-based program's time-saving benefits:


"It's an age-old dilemma. You certainly don't want your attorneys to neglect their families -- or their jobs. Fortunately, we offer PLI Web Programs. Your attorneys get renowned PLI content to meet CLE and other training requirements, without attending live events. Which means more family time AND billable hours -- a classic win/win."


"The whole ad campaign was different from what we generally do," said Bein. "We're a staid business-to-business mailer, so this is very exciting for us."


The initial results: 227 people, or 2.3 percent responded to the chocolate offer; 142, or 1.4 percent, responded to the nonchocolate offer.


"That's a 60 percent lift because of the chocolate," said Robert Rosenthal, president of Passaic Parc, the Wellesley, MA, agency that created the effort.


For the test, the PLI did an Nth select from its database of 80,000 e-mail addresses of previous buyers. The PLI's postal file consists of 430,000 names.


Average price for a live PLI program is from $1,000 to $1,200. The Web-based program costs $750, or $129 each for segments.


The two-week free trial offer had not expired at deadline, so the PLI had yet to determine the lead quality.


"I've got to tell you though, that thumbing through them, there's no difference based on firm or who they are," said Bein. She said seven respondents ordered the chocolate for themselves, but many included genuinely warm notes to their mothers.


"Some of them were quite meaningful," she said.


And while even a novice direct marketer would not be surprised at the lift, Rosenthal said the box of chocolate was more than an incentive for incentives' sake.


"I personally don't believe in putting out an incentive unless it's meaningful, and this particular offer tied right to the concept," he said. "Lawyers for big law firms are very busy and a lot of them neglect their personal life. This is the story of a mother whose son has been somewhat neglectful, so out of desperation she buys a billboard to get her son to finally call."


He said that Passaic designed text e-mail for recipients who could not accept HTML, but the effort did not test HTML against text.


"When we tested HTML e-mail against text [in previous campaigns], HTML was consistently winning by such a significant margin that it was like a clinical trial that got halted," Rosenthal said.


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