Freebies Get Results for Grainger

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Which would pull a higher response: a direct mail piece offering a free Palm VIIx from Palm Computing to all who reply or one that includes a Stanley hammer and no obligation to reply.


That's what W.W. Grainger wanted to find out in a business-to-business campaign promoting its National Accounts Program. The effort marked the first time the distributor of maintenance, repair and operating supplies targeted senior executives instead of mid-level management and its first departure from catalog-type mailings.


"Since we were going after these executives for the first time, we wanted to see what they would respond most to," said Ed Franczek, senior vice president of marketing at Grainger, Lake Forest, IL. "We wanted to see if a piece with a free offer and an appointment tested better against a free gift with the mail piece. They both did right around 12 to 13 percent each."


No figures were available on how many respondents have joined the National Accounts Program. Grainger mailed 1,000 pieces, split evenly between the two mailers. The first wave went out in March, with another in April. Most recipients were prospects, though some were low-volume customers that Grainger wanted to move into the National Accounts Program.


Grainger worked with Aspen Direct, Chicago, on the campaign. The theme of both pieces was the same -- that Grainger could help companies reduce the time, money and labor spent on procurement costs -- but each used different language and design. The piece with the PDA offer was an 8-inch-by-10-inch green box with the question "Are you wasting time, money and effort on Procurement?" across the front. Inside was a replica of a Palm VIIx and a personalized letter discussing the benefits of the National Accounts Program from the company's vice president of national accounts. Included were his business card and a toll-free number to get more information or schedule an appointment. Those who set up a sales appointment received the Palm VIIx.


The other piece measured 8 inches by 16 inches and contained the hammer. The outside of the box displayed a hammer fastened to a table by rope and nails and read: "When your procurement costs exceed the cost of your product, you need a solution."


Inside was a letter from the vice president of national accounts and his card. Also included were bullet points about the National Accounts Program. The right side of the box contained the hammer and copy that read: "Let's hammer out a solution for you with the Grainger National Accounts Program. Don't let your procurement process cost you hundreds when the cost of the hammer is $18."


Since the pieces went to senior executives, they were sent by overnight delivery, Franczek said, so "we could get them past the gatekeepers." The PDA mailer cost $22 per piece to produce. The hammer mailer cost $28 per piece.


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