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Fitness equipment maker finds strength in military campaign

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Woodway, a global manufacturer of treadmills and fitness equipment for sports organizations, fitness clubs and medical use, already had its foot in the door with the U.S. military.

"We had GSA [U.S. General Services Administration] approval as a federal supplier and, through general advertising, trade shows and customer referrals, we sold our equipment to more than 95 U.S. military installations, including 12 military ships and the White House," said Eric Weber, national sales and marketing manager for Waukesha, Wis.-based Woodway. "Our initial success was a determining factor in deciding to pursue the government market more aggressively."

Woodway asked Johnson Direct, a Brookfield, Wis.-based marketing agency, to help it sell deeper into the government market, specifically targeting military personnel with audience-specific messaging. "Woodway's products are especially applicable for this market because many servicemen and women require specialized training," said Denise Hearden, director of measurable marketing for Johnson Direct.

The visibility challenge

The agency determined that about 70% of the military market was not familiar with the Woodway brand or its premier equipment. "Woodway's biggest challenges in further penetrating and aggressively competing within the military market were visibility and differentiation," Hearden said.

Johnson Direct formulated a marketing campaign with three primary goals: Increase the number of military GSA inquiries; create demand from the recreation/fitness directors at military installations for Woodway treadmills and other fitness equipment; and educate military purchasers as to the long-term cost and efficiency benefits of Woodway products.

The first thing Johnson Direct did was develop a military-specific theme that would resonate with the audience, both specifying recreation/fitness directors and practical GSA purchasers, Hearden said. The agency came up with the campaign tagline "Shouldn't our nation's heroes have the best?" and drove the messaging home with images of troops doing drills.

Replacing generic ads

From that theme, Johnson designed a full-page ad to replace the generic one Woodway had been placing in Government Recreation and Fitness magazine . The agency also researched and developed a high-quality, targeted mailing list to reach its ideal audiences in all branches of the military, and created and shipped out a large direct mail piece to these audiences.

Johnson supported the entire campaign by creating a Web microsite featuring an easy-to-use form that enables qualified prospects to request a quote, Hearden said. At the site, potential military buyers also have the option to download a military-specific product brochure and request a free demo unit.

The direct mailer dropped in mid-September 2005 and was delivered to more than 1,000 military fitness and recreation directors and purchasers. Almost simultaneously, Woodway placed the first ad in the September 2005 issue of Government Recreation and Fitness .

The campaign reaped early and lucrative returns, Hearden said. "The first converted lead nearly returned Woodway's entire campaign investment," she said. "And in September alone, the sales value of the leads was estimated at more than five times the campaign investment."

The long-term response has been even more impressive. "Several months later, unit sales have paid for the campaign nearly five times over," Hearden said.

In addition, more than 400 unique visitors continue to land at the microsite each month, resulting in an average of 12 quote requests monthly. "Initially, the ad and direct mailer were the primary drivers of traffic," Hearden said. "Now the search engine-optimized microsite receives most of its traffic from the likes of Google and MSN Search, as well as from Woodway's main Web site."

Woodway executives have been more than pleased with the campaign. "The military theme really resonates with this target audience," Weber said. "And the multichannel approach increased our reach and made it very, very simple for this audience to respond to our campaign offer. Seven months later, qualified sales leads continue to come in every week."

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