Last September, Encounter Collaborative's Marketing Director Sandy Cahill began considering her options for an important niche trade show for the training industry in February.
She couldn't afford a splashy booth or a big show party. She planned to attend the show and walk the floor hoping to mingle with enough of the paid attendees to gather some leads.
But Cahill's sales department needed more leads than a pocketful of business cards.
And, Cahill was aware that just as her budget had been cutback due to the slow economy, her prospects' budgets were cut too. So, far fewer people would probably be able to attend the show at all this year.
"I knew it would be a fairly small show with under 500 attending, but there were thousands of elearning people who would want to be at the show."
How could she create a campaign based on the credibility and excitement of the show that also reached out to those qualified non-attendees?CAMPAIGN
Cahill figured that since everyone in the training industry was feeling the pinch, some might be open to combining forces to create a co-operative marketing campaign.
She called up an acquaintance who led marketing for InFocus, a hardware vendor in the training field. Turned out InFocus wasn't budgeting for a booth at the show this year either... and, yes, they were definitely interested in partnering.
Next, InFocus' marketer called up a friend who ran marketing for third related (but non-competitive) vendor in the training field. She was also psyched about the idea, too.
The three women held a brainstorming conference call, quickly invented a campaign and set schedules and responsibilities.
-> Step #1. Inventing the campaign
Cahill definitely wanted to use two offers in the same campaign to maximize the number of leads that it would generate. Different offers appeal to different people, so this way the campaign might get more leads.
Offer a: Webcast seminar
The team decided to see if they could tie into the show by webcasting the most famous speaker's presentation live.
The show organizers were a bit uncomfortable with this -- they worried it might cost them ticket sales -- but Cahill managed to convince them to agree by emphasizing it was only one speaker, and by promising the show that it would get lots of valuable publicity from email campaigns promoting the webcast.
In the end, the fact that four of Cahill's final co-marketing partners purchased booths made a big difference. Plus, Cahill agreed to run the webcast at a separate time from the speaker's actual show speech. (See details below.)
The famous-name speaker asked for a fee for the use of his name, image, and time. The team negotiated with him to get the amount lowered (after all, it was good PR for his consulting practice) and then split the final amount between themselves so it wasn't a significant burden.
Offer b: Sweeps
Cahill wanted a sweeps offer to gain leads who might not want to attend a webcast (either because they didn't like webcasts or they would be at the show itself.)
However, she definitely didn't want to run a standard luxury prize. "We're always trying to educate people about elearning and the tools available. By taking the focus off elearning and offering something like a cruise we wouldn't be furthering our industry's needs."
On the other hand, product sample offers can seem very ... dull.
So, the team decided to bundle their donated prizes together to create something that sounded more valuable as a whole -- "a free Interactive Classroom - worth more than $15,000."
They branded the offer with a new made-up name -- TrainingXpert Sweepstakes -- which also made the offer feel more valuable than just a vendor donating stuff to get leads.
-> Step #2. Get partners on board
The team decided they wanted between 5-10 total partners involved in the campaign, including themselves. "We didn't want logos galore all over the place, but we wanted enough stuff to provide a worthwhile grand prize," notes Cahill.
Partners would have to:
o Not be directly head-to-head competitive with anyone else involved, while still sharing an identical target in terms of prospect demographic.
o Own a permission-based house list of email names they already mailed to on a regular basis (so the list was presumably clean and used to getting branded mail from them.)
o Be willing to send two email blasts, or comparable ezine ads, to their list using creative given to them by the team.
o Be able to donate some item of high perceived value that would flesh out the interactive classroom offer.
In the end, eight total partners join the campaign, including the trade show organizers and a business magazine (which promoted via its email newsletter). Partner's lists ranged from 20,000 to 200,000 in size -- for a total of about 600,000 names.
-> Step #3. Creative and logistics
Creating a campaign by committee is always hard, especially when everyone works for different companies. Cahill spearheaded the effort, giving partners a laundry list of what she needed from them (a logo, a four-line company descriptor, etc.)
Then she edited and wove their materials into email blast creative, an email newsletter ad, and a campaign landing page. (Link to sample creative below.)
She gave everyone samples and a limited amount of time to reply back with tweaks. It was clearly understood that if you couldn't reply in time, the campaign would move forward anyway. (This negative approval option is critical when dealing with a large number of decision-makers in a tight time frame.)
One of the partners donated legal language for the sweeps from their legal department, which helped save money and time.
Cahill notes that while the email creative was a snap, creating the registration form was harder than expected. "It was like a 15-pager, we had a lot of information to organize which was the hardest part."
One element that made this a bit harder was the fact that Cahill insisted prospects should be able to pick their choice of offers:
- entering the sweeps only
- signing up for the webcast only
Why would some people not want to enter a sweeps?
"People are suspicious of emailed sweeps offers. Some think their email address is going to be put in a junk mail pile. I didn't want people to not come to the webcast because they were concerned about the sweeps."
Once the creative was finalized, each of the partners was required to send out at least one email campaign in late October/early November before the holiday slow-down and one campaign in the new year before the webcast.
Everyone added their personal email addresses to each other's house lists so they would all get samples of the campaigns as they went out.
-> Step #4. The actual webcast itself
Since the show would not allow the webcast to be broadcast live during the speaker's actual speech, Cahill arranged to rent a small room at the event's hotel to broadcast the webcast from.
She notes that just like sitcom actors on TV, webcast speakers tend to come alive and do a much better job when they have a live audience to play off of. "If the speaker has eye contact with a few people and someone's nodding back at them, attendees get the feeling that it's exciting and happening right there and now."
So, one of the marketing partners, who had a booth at the show, agreed to round up some attendees to serve as a live audience for the webcast.
"At the booth they had handouts and wore buttons 'Ask me about TrainingXperts'." About 25 attendees wound up in the hotel room cheering the speaker on for the webcast.
4,258 people clicked through to the registration form and filled it out entirely for one of the offers. However, some of them didn't come from the partners' email sends -- it turns out the offer was picked up by a sweeps news site and about 350 registrants came in from that link.
At first Cahill was thrilled by the extra traffic. But then she reviewed the actual leads that sweeps news site generated - and they stank. "They were just kids entering to win stuff they didn't even know about."
Luckily, the legal language on the site stated clearly that only qualified professionals could win the prize. So, anyone under 18, or not working in the field of training, was automatically disqualified.
More results data:
- The campaigns to legitimate partners' lists generated in total roughly a .7% response (that's registrants from all sends added together and divided by the total lists.)
- Cahill notes that some partner's lists did significantly better than others. Generally this was due to the amount of effort and enthusiasm the partner put into the campaign. Some did the bare two mailing minimum, others mailed multiple times and promoted the campaign in other vehicles.
Also, lists that are mailed frequently with other offers sometimes didn't do as well as less frequently mailed lists.
- The response breakdown was:
36% (1550) of registrants accepted both offers
30% (1296) of registrants accepted the webcast only
33% (1412) of registrants accepted the sweeps only
Note: if you deduct the 350 non-qualified names that sweeps news site sent, these numbers change slightly with 33% of registrants accepting the webcast but *not* the sweeps.
This data is food for thought for any marketer relying on a sweeps-only offer today!
- Roughly 60% of webcast registrants actually attended. Ann Murphy, VP Sales Encounter Collaborative, says, "Usually about 40% of persons who register for web conferences actually show up."
She explains this higher-than-average attendance, "nearly 70% of the registrants indicated the speaker was the reason they came." It's worth paying a bit for a famous name.
- Nearly two-thirds of the leads generated asked for more information from one or more of the partners. Murphy notes, "The more normal figure is 35%." So, these were unusually qualified leads.
Murphy adds, "I won't get actual results for another month or so, but I estimate than an average customer from this campaign gives us twice the amount of business we get from our other programs."
Why? It's the power of marketing to partner's house lists.Useful links relating to this article
Samples of the HTML email and registration page used in this campaign:
Sandy Cahill's consultancy (she's set up shop on her own recently):