Revamped Space Ad Boosts Leads Sixfold for Command Vehicle Marketer

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When a firm markets a high-tech mobile command vehicle costing upward of $500,000, getting nine leads per month from space ads might not seem so bad. But direct marketing agency Johnson Direct thought it could do better.


LDV Inc., Burlington, WI, manufactures custom-made mobile command units and other vehicles used in hostage negotiations by SWAT teams and for similar on-scene law enforcement needs. Government agencies at the federal, state and local levels are the market for these vehicles.


"They have never done any other direct marketing aside from space ads," said Denise B. Hearden, director of communications at Johnson Direct, Brookfield, WI. "They have an internal sales team to react to inquiries and a Web site, but they are not doing anything special like search engine optimization."


Johnson Direct began work with LDV in December, reviewing the old space ad the firm had been placing in law-enforcement-related trade publications with an average pull of nine leads per month.


"It was not an effective ad," Hearden said. "The original ad had a telephone number and a URL for the company's home page, but no real call to action. It was a very weak message and did not give you any idea that they are actually the No. 1 supplier in this field."


The ad also was going into half- or two-thirds-page spaces where it could be overpowered by a better ad, she said.


Johnson Direct reworked LDV's space ad and media plan during the next two months. The new version is a four-color advertisement with two distinct calls to action.


The first is an offer for a free VHS or DVD copy of "Extreme Trucks" that appeared on The History Channel last year. The program, which included a segment featuring LDV and its mobile command centers, focused on law enforcement agencies and their need for vehicles of this type. The second is an offer of a free information kit for LDV and its vehicles.


Another change to the space ad was the inclusion of a new toll-free number to process telephone requests and a microsite to handle Web inquiries.


"We decided that the calls should not go through the front desk to ensure that all the leads are tallied and processed correctly," Hearden said. "The toll-free number service is an automated system that collects the information quickly and easily. The microsite collects the visitor information into a prospect database in real time."


The revamped ad went in several controlled-circulation publications starting in early February, including Homeland Protection Professional, Police Magazine, Law Enforcement Product News and Law Enforcement Technology. The ad, which has run a total of seven times in six publications, appears as a full page in regular-size magazines and as a half-page in larger, tabloid-size publications.


The space ads cost an average of $3,000 or more per full-page, four-color ad.


Response to the new ad has increased more than six times with an average of 60 leads per month. Of the leads collected so far, 80 percent have come through the microsite.


Though it is too soon to tell how many leads will convert to sales since the sales cycle generally runs 12 to 18 months, LDV and Johnson Direct are devising another space ad campaign.


"LDV just built a $475,000 mobile command center called In Command with all the latest gadgets," Hearden said. "They will be putting it on tour so that people can actually go to see it. The new call to action will be to go to another microsite to see where prospects can see this vehicle in person."


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