But a recent assignment completed by interactive direct marketing shop SiteSpecific, New York, multiplied more than tenfold the online inquiries for one of the office supplies manufacturer's products, a $7,000 projector system. The result was a cost per lead that was far cheaper than print advertising and generated as many top-notch prospects as direct mail.
FINDING THE RIGHT AUDIENCE
3M Co. wanted to target trainers, trade associations, presentation software users and executives responsible for multimedia presentations, said Michelle Wadino, program manager for 3M at Harte-Hanks Communications. The company also wanted to begin building a database of potential customers for the next generation of the projector system.
Creative developed under SiteSpecific's Creative Director Jeremy Haft used different banners on different sites to target types of users. One banner, featured on the "Dilbert" page of United Media's site, featured the words "Do it with the lights on."
The ads garnered click-through rates in the 9% to 15.8% range (as opposed to the 2% range affiliated with broad Web banner campaigns). 3M spent a total of $128,000 on the campaign, which was managed by SiteSpecific's David Turnbull, director-new business development; Sean Brevick, account manager for 3M and Novell; and Mr. Haft.
Of that budget, $50,000 went toward a media buy of 1.4 million impressions during July. The campaign actually delivered close to 1.8 million impressions as of Sept. 18, because some sites with 3M banners overdelivered on impression buys.
SiteSpecific made buys on CMP Media's TechWeb, agent-driven site Firefly and search service HotBot. It also used New York-based DoubleClick's affiliate network, which uses SIC code technology to locate specific business domains the target audience might visit. Ads also appeared on United Media's site and ZD Net.
WEIGHING THE MIX
"It's one of the most successful campaigns we've worked on," said Robert Kadar, eastern regional sales manager at DoubleClick.
Among business-to-business efforts his company has handled over the past six months, only Web campaigns from Microsoft Corp. and Ziff-Davis Publishing Co.'s ZD Net generated higher click-through rates, he added. During the month in which 3M tested Web direct response marketing with SiteSpecific, it also used print and direct mail to target audiences.
In all, direct mail generated the most leads (4,037), followed by the Internet (1,470) and print (457). The most expensive medium, with a cost per lead of $138.35, was print; the Web cost $69.23 per lead; and direct mail cost only $20 per lead.
But while direct mail proved the least expensive method to reach a target audience, the quality of the leads it presented wasn't necessarily the most successful.
Harte-Hanks places customer inquiry data in three categories: A (most valuable prospect), B (less valuable), and U (unqualified).
A GOOD BENCHMARK
On a percentage basis, print yielded the most A and B leads, with 84% of inquiries in this category. As for Web-generated leads, 78% were qualified. Only 73% of direct-generated leads were qualified.
"We set the goal for interactive leads at between 1,200 and 1,500," said 3M's Ms. Wadino. "If we used this method every time we launched a new product, this would be a good benchmark for us."