Underwriters Laboratories Generates Leads by Getting the Lead Out

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With the clock ticking on a new European Union law that could have a big effect on some U.S. manufacturers, product testing firm Underwriters Laboratories Inc. recently expanded an integrated campaign designed to raise awareness of the issue.


Underwriters Laboratories, Northbrook, IL, tests products in various industries to ensure they comply with certain standards. Its mark, the letters "u" and "l" inside a circle, can be found on many electronics sold in the United States.


After the EU's Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive was signed into law in February 2003, Underwriters saw a chance to help North American companies gain compliance. The law restricts the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical or electronic equipment, such as lead or mercury, that is sold or used in the EU after July 1.


"Within the manufacturing community, there was very little understanding of the RoHS initiative and how serious it would be," said Marc Blumer, creative director at Slack Barshinger, which created the campaign for Underwriters.


Not only are fines possible for noncompliance, Blumer said, but so are criminal proceedings and jail time.


Underwriters realized that because the law is so restrictive, the process of gaining compliance would require commitment from manufacturers' senior levels. As the company is more familiar dealing with product designers than chief financial officers and chief technical officers, it asked Slack Barshinger to create a campaign that would present Underwriters as an authority on the issue of RoHS compliance and generate leads for consulting projects from senior executives.


The first stage of the campaign launched early last year and included a white paper, search engine marketing, PR to editors of industry publications and a dedicated landing page, www.ul-rscs.com. Interested parties can register to download the paper on the landing page by answering several questions about their company including how close to compliance they are.


Blumer admits there's nothing innovative about a white paper but said the agency did its research to ensure the paper "is truly a value to people." As a result, the paper, "Restricted Substances Compliance: Implications and Strategies" had traction.


"If we had had a white paper that was just a sales piece, this program wouldn't have worked," he said.


The white paper was the focus of the search marketing campaign and PR outreach to editors.


"When our major PR stories hit, there was a measurable spike in the number of downloads of the white paper," Blumer said.


In December, the campaign expanded with a banner ad on industry Web sites such as conformity.com, and a second white paper, "Addressing RoHS: An Organizational Approach for Manufacturers," was added. Whereas the first stage of the campaign was geared to large manufacturers who had some awareness of RoHS, the new banner ad and white paper target smaller manufacturers with little or no understanding of the issue.


The online ad features a game with pieces of plumbing pipe that need to be assembled. Each piece represents a different division of a manufacturing firm, and the game is supposed to illustrate how a misaligned operation cannot comply effectively with RoHS, Blumer said. Slack Barshinger settled on a game as the centerpiece of the ad because "engineers like to play with things," he said.


Search engine marketing and PR also are part of this second wave.


Since the campaign began, it consistently has drawn an average of 300 leads monthly for Underwriters. This remains true since the expanded version started in December except that now many of the prospects come from smaller manufacturing firms, Blumer said. After 13 months, 3,800 leads have been collected at a cost of $27 a lead. Blumer attributes the relatively low cost per lead to the pivotal role PR has played.


Other results include that prospects engaging with the banner ad spend an average of 45 seconds on it. According to Slack Barshinger, this is 3.5 times the industry average.


Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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