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BTB Campaign Banks on 2-Way Communication

When Cleveland-based KeyBank was looking to open the lines of communication with commercial prospects in the Northeast, it didn't dash off an e-mail or even pick up the telephone. Instead, the company opted for a more unusual means of communication: walkie-talkies.

Actually, the walkie-talkies are the premium in a direct mail campaign intended to raise the visibility of the company in the metropolitan New York and Boston areas where it has few bank branches.

The first element of the multistep campaign, which began in July and is ongoing, is a teaser postcard printed with the tagline “It Takes Two.” The mail campaign is targeting chief financial officers and chief operating officers of middle-market companies who have already been approached by the sales force without prior success.

The postcard is followed by a box containing a Motorola two-way radio, a brochure about KeyBank and a personalized letter. Since one walkie-talkie is useless without another, recipients are prompted to make an appointment with a KeyBank representative to receive its mate.

The final step in the campaign is a phone call, placed by a KeyBank salesperson.

As of mid-August, 218 kits had been mailed, 71 appointments scheduled and 20 proposals made. Several deals had been finalized, totaling $15 million in asset management, $6 million in defined pensions and an average of $8 million in each of four deposit accounts. The cost of the campaign was $54,000, including the 500 kits produced by Epsilon, the relationship marketing company that created the campaign.

“The 'It Takes Two' theme refers to the invaluable connection made between the client and their relationship manager — one in which the relationship manager is able to learn their business well and combine expertise in the industry to bring the right ideas and insights … to the table,” said Martha R. Reiss, senior vice president of field marketing at KeyBank.

Since there are numerous competing banks in New York and Boston, many willing to spend significant amounts of money on advertising, the challenge that KeyBank presented to Epsilon was to create a campaign that would cut through the clutter and gain an audience with top prospects. It also needed to reflect KeyBank's points of difference, which include its ability to provide industry expertise via a single point of accountability — the relationship manager. Another is the significant credit authority that exists at the local and regional levels, enabling quick turnaround on many requests, according to Reiss.

The “It Takes Two” theme also is meant to convey the message that commercial businesses need both resources and expertise in a banker, something KeyBank can provide, said Tanya Villarreal, vice president and general manager at Epsilon. This is reflected in copy that appears on the box with the walkie-talkie, such as “If you don't have both . . . your solutions are only half as effective.”

“Typically, we don't do many three-dimensional pieces,” Villarreal said regarding the box with the 2-way radio. The return on investment on anything other than an envelope or postcard isn't worth it, she said. But in the case of the KeyBank campaign, which is targeting prospects with the potential to open accounts of a significant size, the expense makes sense.

It's also unusual to give a premium to all recipients, Villarreal added. Unless, as in this case, a premium “can help effectively communicate the message.” she said.

There is another unique aspect to the campaign: Only those sales representatives who are interested in the campaign are using it to contact prospects. Anyone who doesn't want to use it doesn't have to.

“Initially, we forced all the sales representatives to use it, and the ones who didn't embrace it weren't successful,” Villarreal said. Those who are enthusiastic about it, on the other hand, find it to be a successful tool. Based on its success, the campaign will continue indefinitely.

“It's now one of the many valuable prospecting tools we provide the sales professionals for their arsenal — available to order in any quantity at any time,” Reiss said.

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