Incentive Systems Seeks Leads With Sweepstakes, Carrot on a Stick

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Software maker Incentive Systems, Burlington, MA, is using a sweepstakes-style self-mailer as a lead-generation tool and an unusual dimensional mailer to follow up to those leads in an effort to introduce its compensation-automation software, Incentive.


The company is sending about 30,000 humorous self-mailers to compensation analysts and sales managers, offering the opportunity to win a paid vacation for two by visiting Incentive Systems' Web site. The theme of the mailers, which are different for compensation analysts and sales managers, is that antiquated compensation systems can be a headache.


Those recipients who visit the site are asked to identify the person at their company who is responsible for administering the compensation program.


"Part of the challenge is that we don't really know who in the organizations 'owns' this problem," said Patty Lehan, director of marketing communications at Incentive Systems.


Compensation can fall under the auspices of any of several high-ranking officers at large corporations, from the chief executive to the vice president of sales, Lehan said. The campaign, which was created by Direct Results Group, Boston, is designed both to identify which of the officers is responsible for his or her company's compensation program and to build awareness for the Incentive Systems brand.


In the first few weeks of the lead-generation effort, the company culled about 140 names from the self-mail sweepstakes, and this month it began mailing a dimensional mailer to those individuals. In addition to the names obtained from that effort, the company also is sending 100 dimensional mailers every two weeks to the top executives at major corporations that have a sales force of at least 150. A total of 1,000 of the dimensional mailers are being sent.


The dimensional mailer, about the size of shoe box, attempts to reach all the possible leads at each company by enclosing four different letters, one each for the president/CEO, the vice president of sales, chief financial officer/controller and the chief information officer. Along with the letters is a rubber carrot attached by a string to a stick, which is a well-known symbol for an incentive and also an interpretation of the company's logo, which is a carrot.


"We thought the real bang for the buck would be that they would remember receiving such a wild thing," Lehan said.


The four letters are inserted into a platform inside the box so that only a fold-over tab is visible. Each tab is addressed to a different title: "For CEOs & Presidents," "For CIOs," etc., so that the person who receives the box can pass the letters on to the other individuals at the company. The letters carry the same basic message but are worded differently for each officer.


A separate cover letter also encourages the recipients to share the box's contents with other executives.


"We were hoping they would just get a kick out of the carrot on a stick and walking it down to VP of sales' office," said Lehan. "If I was the CFO and I received this package, I would enjoy sharing it with the VP of sales knowing that he might be struggling trying to figure out compensation for the sales guys and that it might be something he might actually care about."


Mailing one package to each company rather than a separate package to each individual at that company also helped reduce costs, she said. Although she did not reveal the costs of the campaign, she said that one sale of the software system - which costs up to $500,000 - would pay for the entire effort.


Incentive Systems is offering a free book, Bill Gates' "Business @ the Speed of Thought," to anyone who responds to the dimensional mailer by calling Incentive Systems for more information or by returning a business reply card. In addition, the company is following up with sales calls about a week after the mailers go out to make sure the right person is receiving the package.


As the campaign progresses, the company expects to mail about half the planned 1,000 dimensional mailers to names obtained through the self-mailer sweepstakes effort.


"It will be interesting to see which responds better," said Jim Porter, vice president and account manager at Direct Results Group.


Aside from generating leads, however, a major goal of the campaign is to create awareness for the brand.


"We wanted to get out there and make some noise and make an impression, and do something that was memorable," said Lehan.
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