Direct Mail Success Is More Than Just a Fable
Not too long ago, in lands not too far away, a small telecom service provider sent a B-to-B direct mail campaign that put a new twist on the old narrative format. The moral of this tale is that a little direct mail innovation can go a long way.
Covad Communication's story began in summer 2004, when it ran a series of four radio spots in three of its major metro areasBaltimore/D.C., San Francisco and Manhattaneach playing on a different fable, including "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "The Three Little Pigs."
The purpose of these spots, according to Chris McGarry, senior manager, customer acquisitions for Covad, "was not to generate response, but to increase response for the direct mail campaign that was to follow." In September, the first two pieces of that campaign made their way to the Who's Mailing What! Archive.
The first piece is a 6" x 8" self-mailer designed to look like a storybook, with the title, "The Emperor's New Clothes, Episode II" (Archive code #837-605039-0409A). The mailer opens to reveal an eight-page booklet, the first two pages of which are a letter, and the subsequent pages, an illustrated sequel to the fable:
... the Emperor regained his former glory by building a formidable business empire. But, to stay on top, the emperor needed high-speed DSL. ... So the Emperor ordered Covad Business-Class Broadband. With Covad's performance guarantees, he achieved the results he projected, got the speed he needed ... And was never caught with his pants down again.
This may be an unusual concept for a B-to-B mailing intended to sell a high-end technical product, and a distinctive take on the narrative format, but that uniqueness is exactly what Covad was going for. As a small company in a large market, Covad's biggest challenge is cultivating brand awareness, which it hopes to do with the one-two punch of radio and high-impact direct mail. "We would probably get more response from a straightforward business letter," says McGarry. "However, we also want to have impact and a lot of integration with the radio campaign. We started big and tried to leverage as much of the integrated campaign as possible up front. And once we've gained the awareness, then we pepper [prospects] with the business letter."
That business letter follow-up takes a more traditional B-to-B route: a white #10 envelope with a one-page business letter and a brochure that tells the emperor's tale (Archive code #837-605039-0409B).
For Covad, this multi-layered strategy seems to have a real fairy-tale ending. It has seen business rise about 30 percent in each of the three targeted markets. In addition, it conducted a test in Philadelphia without the radio ads and has seen sales increase by the same 30 percent. "We are convinced of the ROI of the direct mail program," says McGarry. "Direct mail is very important for all of us who sell off of a network because it allows for highly targeted messaging."
Covad intends to continue testing, with some cells receiving just the self-mailer and others just the #10, to determine empirically which format works best. "We suspect that the business letter is going to get higher response rates," says McGarry. "But the self-mailer is going to be big, impactful, interactive; it's going to make an impression."
Whatever the outcome, it looks like this telecom and its mailing plan will live happily ever after. "The strategy of going big followed by smaller #10s is what we think is going to work for us," adds McGarry.