Light Mailer Works for Serious BTB Topic

A successful lead generation campaign last fall using a cartoon character named Gus led to a second effort in February by a marketer and manufacturer of machine coolant.

Houghton International Inc., Valley Forge, PA, used a 6-by-9-inch postcard to target 8,000 manufacturers with fewer than 100 employees. The initial campaign dropped Oct. 17 and was split evenly between names obtained from trade magazines Modern Application News and Tooling and Production. Recipients were offered a free five-gallon sample of Hocut 795, a liquid for cooling tools used in the manufacture of metal components such as engine blocks, transmissions and farm implements.

Why use less-than-serious creative for a business-to-business audience?

“I've sent the conservative, straightforward approach from my company and other companies, but for this campaign we wanted to have some fun and hit the machine tool operator where he lives,” said Hank Limper, marketing manager for the metal cutting division of Houghton International. “We portrayed Gus as the sad sack machine tool operator spending eight hours a day in these stinky, smelly environments with what we call 'brand X' coolants.”

The company has a direct sales force that deals with major customers such as Boeing, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and Rolls Royce.

“We have the time to call on them,” he said, “but what was missing was the grass roots — the ability to reach 'Manny's Machine Shop' — the small guy working out of his garage that we don't have the resources to call on.”

“Get the Stink Out of Your Sump” appeared above Gus at the top of the card. The sump contains the fluid that is delivered to the tool that must be cooled.

“Since everybody we sent a postcard to might request a free pail, we started out conservatively,” Limper said. “If we didn't define the number of employees at the companies we targeted, we could've given away 165,000 five-gallon pails.

“Of those 8,000 postcards that went out, we got a return of 565 who responded, and they all got the free sample,” he said.

Recipients interested in the free sample could call a toll-free number or visit

“They have to provide their company name and address to get it,” he said. “We had a system of checks and balances to qualify leads and guard against competitors taking advantage of this. We forwarded the leads to our direct sales force and they, or our distributor network, delivered the pail. The direct sales force would later follow up and try to effect a sale.”

The back of the card includes the headline “Hocut 795 coolant cuts the smell — and your costs.” Limper expects 95 percent of the 565 respondents “most probably” will become customers.

The second phase, using the same piece, dropped in mid-February to 9,000 manufacturers with 100 to 250 employees. Names were obtained from the same two magazines.

“The hardest part of it is to get them to put the product in the sump,” he said. “To use this they've got to stop production, dump the sump, replace the coolant, clean the sump and recharge it with our product. Providing the free sample allowed us to tell the story.”

Total cost for the first phase was $11,355 with the second costing $6,500 since the creative was factored into the cost of the first phase. One new customer could pay for the entire effort.

“They could spend $5,000 per year or $100,000,” he said. “If they've got less than 100 people, it's probably $5,000 to $10,000 for us, but he may buy other items from us, such as rust preventives, cleaners or hydraulic oils. But for phase two, a typical customer could spend from $100,000 per year up to $500,000, with the add-on business possibly being higher.

“If each [respondent] from phase one bought $5,000 per year, it would be excellent. We are extremely pleased with phase one. By June, I'll have a good idea of how successful this has been. By June, I'll know if it adds $1 million or $10 million to our bottom line.”

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