Conventional wisdom would assume that SunGard has had a relatively easy time of things, marketing-wise, in the aftermath. After all, the worst-case scenario turned out to be much worse than anyone could have imagined. (SunGard itself lost several employees who were in the Twin Towers with clients.)
That, however, was not the case. SunGard, founded in 1978 as Sun Data by the Sun Oil company and eventually spun off, was victimized by the next wave of terror in the United States. The anthrax scare of late 2001, which struck fear in the mailrooms of corporate America, essentially put the kibosh on the company's already flagging direct mail lead-generation program.
"Probably the nail in the coffin on [our] direct mail was the anthrax scare," says David Palermo, vice president, marketing, SunGard Availability Services. "It just dried up. It absolutely stopped dead."
The company, which as recently as 1995 was doing 100 percent of its lead generation via direct mail, realized it needed to change course, and quick.
It picked up the phone.
SunGard was not entirely unfamiliar with teleservices at the time. In 1997, says Palermo, the company added an in-house telemarketing component to qualify the leads brought in through its direct mail efforts.
"The sales force didn't necessarily want or have the time to pursue something that might close in six months or a year," explains Palermo. "But we didn't want to let [these leads] just go away either." Instead, the telemarketers kept the leads warm with occasional check-up calls.
Direct mail had been on a downward trend for the company, even before September 11. According to Palermo, from a peak of around 2-percent response when the program began, "We were losing about a quarter percent of response every six months. … We just attributed it to list fatigue."