The mailers look like green flying saucers, but the thinking behind software provider Merant's campaign is down-to-earth direct marketing.
“What we were trying to do was get in the mind of the target audience,” said Melissa Stevens, vice president/account services at The Hacker Group, Bellevue, WA, which created and executed the business-to-business mail campaign.
“They take pride in being quirky and different, and that's been our experience in communicating to the software developer audience,” she said. “The original assignment that came from the client was to test the idea of a dimensional, high-impact piece to get a boost in response rate as opposed to a more traditional mail format.
“Our supposition was that the dimensional package breaking through the clutter allowed us to double the response rate [versus previous campaigns] since they had to open it because of its compelling nature.”
Merant, Hillsboro, OR, used the 5 1/4-inch-diameter discs to generate sales of Merant Tracker, a software product letting users track defects, issues and bugs in the software development process.
About 20,000 prospects were obtained from four lists. Targets included software developers and team managers in several industries at companies with at least 500 employees.
Mitzi Sandman, marketing communications manager at Merant, said the aim was to exceed previous efforts, which typically generated “around a 4 percent response rate from this market.”
The overall response rate was 8 percent.
Sandman described what was done to alleviate risk.
“We knew, because it was such an interesting piece, that more people would open it, and we also knew we might get more tire kickers — those who are responding just to get some of the premiums,” she said. “We instituted a telemarketing step. She [the telemarketing representative] filtered those out, and only those respondents who answered questions in a certain way were forwarded to the sales force.”
About 55 percent of respondents were forwarded to the sales force after the outbound telemarketing was conducted to screen responses. And about 6 percent of those leads have become what were described as pipeline leads, which are in the process of being converted to new business for Merant. A typical single deal size for an initial sale is about $10,000.
“The alien campaign,” as it was called, mailed April 17, with most of the responses received in the summer, though some are still coming in.
An even, random split was used, with half of the recipients getting an offer of a free strobe pen while the other half had a chance to win one of 30 Alien Specimen Lamps.
“Once you establish a baseline and you generate leads on an ongoing basis, you can try outside-the-box stuff to break through the clutter in order to get much higher response rates and better sell-through rates,” said Spyro Kourtis, The Hacker Group president.
“It's higher risk, but if you stay with tried and true, you know what to expect. If you want a substantial increase in performance, you have to go outside the box. We've always had a solid return, but with this we said, 'Let's try to get a home run.' “
A CD containing a flash demo of the product was included in the piece along with a single sheet instructing recipients to visit a dedicated URL where they could “enter the Priority Code from your mailer label, or return the enclosed postcard to get your free White Paper, 'Gain Productivity by Combining Defect and Version Management.' ” A 30-day evaluation copy of Merant Tracker also was offered.
Along with the business reply card, a five-panel foldout piece was included that mentioned the site and a toll-free number. Its title was: “Guide to Tracking Alien Code.” Opening the piece revealed the image of an alien with the copy, “Been dealing with me lately?”
Response for the pen offer was 9.5 percent while the chance to win the lamp drew 3.5 percent.
“We had a higher success rate when everyone felt they would get some value as opposed to, 'I might or I might not,' ” Stevens said. “We would now almost always recommend a premium or offer that everyone was eligible for to generate a higher response rate.”
Pass-along was credited for boosting overall response to 8 percent.
“We took the records of everyone who responded to the URL, sent back the card or called the toll-free number and matched them to the priority code or name and business address from the original mail tape,” she said.
“We got responses that didn't match the mail tape, and we believe people who didn't think the product would be for them passed along information about Merant Tracker to others who might have an interest in it.”
Cost per piece was about $5, including 52 cents for postage.