Responses Flow for Tank Mailers

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Paul Cummins set the modest goal of a 2.5 percent response rate for each of two three-panel foldout direct mail pieces designed to generate leads for his company.


The director of sales and marketing at Baker Tanks, which rents liquid and solid containment solutions, saw results that exceeded his expectations for the campaign, which asked recipients to complete a survey online or by an attached business reply card.


The first effort, mailed to 21,000 recipients June 23 and again June 30, generated a combined 7.5 percent response rate, representing those who submitted the survey.


"It's my belief that you have a very optimistic approach if you think people will see the piece the first time around," said Lenn Grabiner, creative director/principal at Grabiner/Hall, Inglewood, CA, the marketing design firm that conceived, produced and managed the effort for Baker Tanks, Seal Beach, CA.


The same group was targeted with a second mailing that dropped Sept. 22. The first mailing's non-respondents produced a 3 percent response rate. Those who responded to the first effort received a piece containing a different survey designed to obtain further information, and 23 percent of that group completed the second survey.


Two more pieces are planned -- one early next year followed by one in April -- as new prospects will be targeted.


"Now the sales team has to convert," Cummins said. "Assuming a 2.5 percent response ... we assumed that 25 percent [of them] would become new customers. A new customer will bring in on an annual basis between $15,000 and $1 million, depending on whether they need tanks, pumps, filtration or roll-off boxes that hold solids such as dirt."


Grabiner described the target audience as decision makers occupying different levels of management as well as those "who are in the trenches." An 80-20 split favored prospects over Baker Tanks' house file. Prospects were obtained from four lists.


Size and type of facility, the titles held by recipients and revenue size -- above $25 million to $50 million in terms of annual company-wide revenue -- were among the factors in name selection.


As for mailing to the house file, Grabiner said, "One of the big problems with Baker is they had such a large offering that there were some missed opportunities where existing customers needed to be educated. Some have contacted Baker for tanks and pumps, but they also have a knowledge of filtration systems."


The first mailing's main image was of a not-too-happy "biker guy" with his arms folded. "WHY IS THIS GUY SO HAPPY?" appeared next to him. "WE WERE AFRAID TO ASK." appeared when the piece was opened, followed by, "But chances are it has something to do with the way Baker Tanks just whipped his toughest CONTAINMENT SITUATION into submission."


"Our approach was to take interesting-looking characters and place a question that might be in contrast," Grabiner said. "With the biker guy, he doesn't look happy, but we ask, 'Why is he happy?' It's meant to get them curious and to open the piece. Then the message is not what they thought it was going to be. It's a grabber to get them inside."


The first piece offered a T-shirt as an incentive while the second offered a mug.


Along with the business reply card, each piece provided a toll-free number and unique URLs -- gettanked.bakertanks.com for the first piece and bakertanks.com/getmugged for the second. Questions were designed to build a profile that would outline the prospect/customer's containment needs and the frequency of those needs, plus other factors.


"Getting them to respond to a unique landing page that we implemented as a tracking device would enable us to build an accurate profile of the prospect and allow us to establish a relationship that could lead to them becoming a customer," Grabiner said. "This allowed us to collect information that would let us know if their need was immediate or down the road.


"I'm a firm believer in self-mailers rather than a letter with a brochure stuck into a No. 10 envelope. We were a little unsure of their technical savvy, and that's why we included a business reply card in case they didn't want to go online to fill out the survey that was identical to what was on the card."


Cost per piece was placed around $1, which included agency fees, online and database work, production, postage and list acquisition.


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