Gator Promo, Controversy Gets a Mitt Full of Leads

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Nothing drives response to a business-to-business campaign like personalized, relevant offers sent to a clean and well-qualified prospect list. But a little industry-wide controversy no doubt helps as well.


On the heels of a well-publicized dust-up with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Gator.com just wrapped up a BTB prospecting campaign that reportedly has resulted in fistfuls of leads that even its sales reps are happy with.


"If we get in front of a client, we close more than half of them," said Scott Eagle, chief marketing officer, Gator.com, Redwood City, CA. "Our salespeople said, 'Get people to take a meeting with us.'"


The e-wallet and database marketing company last month sent 6,100 personalized lead-generation packages to executives at 1,000 companies directing them to promotional Web sites with their names and companies in the URLs - www.SeeTheGator.com/WidgetsInc/JohnDoe, for a hypothetical example. Respondents were greeted by name and urged to view a six-page pitch explaining Gator.com's advertising services.


The results, Eagle said, were the following:


· At least one person at 80 percent of the companies finished a presentation.


· Half of those asked to be contacted.


"At eight out of 10 companies, we were able to say to our rep, 'Here's the name of a person [who completed the presentation],'" Eagle said. Gator.com already has closed one deal that paid for the campaign, he said.


Gator.com targeted executives at consumer packaged goods companies, auto manufacturers and other Fortune 500 firms. It also prospected 500 large ad agencies. The packaged goods and Fortune 500 campaign packages were delivered to a range of executives from brand and product managers to vice presidents on up. At ad agencies, Gator.com targeted media strategists, principals and other senior executives and also senior creative people.


The campaign consisted of three packages, the most involved of which went to Fortune 500 executives. It was a black box wrapped in gator-skin vinyl with the recipient's name on it. Inside was a card held in a tabletop gator clip with the personalized URL on it. Though the gator clip was a nice touch in terms of brand continuity, Eagle candidly admits the effect was unintended.


"I always just thought of it as a roach clip," he said. "Then someone called up and said 'Wow! A gator clip for Gator.com! You guys are brilliant!' Sometimes you make your own luck; sometimes you're lucky."


The other two pieces were simple invitations.


On the back end, Gator designed five types of sites aiming to appeal to executives in the following categories:


· Financial services


· Auto


· Advertising


· Retail


· Travel and entertainment


Before mailing the packages, Gator.com spent "in the low tens of thousands of dollars" making phone calls and trolling Web sites to ensure the list was accurate. Gator intends to continue telemarketing efforts to keep the list clean.


Plans also are in the works to begin reaching other executives within those same companies.


"There are only 1,500 companies that we care about, and 400 that really matter," Eagle said.


Recent controversy surrounding Gator.com also has given the campaign a boost.


Established in June 1999, Gator.com's first product was a virtual "smart companion" that automatically fills out order forms and speeds shoppers through online checkouts. Gator users also can opt into OfferCompanion, a service that delivers offers based on registration information and user behavior. However, one service -- the so-called Companion Pop-Up Banner -- obscured existing banners.


As a result, the IAB earlier this year complained that the Companion Pop-Up Banners infringed on the trademark, copyright and intellectual property rights of Web publishers and advertisers, and threatened to take action. In a pre-emptive move, Gator.com in August filed a lawsuit against the IAB, saying it was protecting its right to serve the banners.


"Suddenly the noise level surrounding Gator was huge," Eagle said. "So people wanted to talk to us for lots of reasons."


In November, the two announced an agreement to put aside their differences and work together to develop a new version of the banners.


"We've put this in hibernation while we try to work things out," Eagle said.


According to Gator.com, 10 million people use its service.


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