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iPass changes over to direct

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In February last year, iPass acquired its third company in three years. In three short years, it had gone from a company with a single-product focus—global dial-up connectivity for IT professionals—to one with multiple products for the IT community.

The company's services enable mobile workers to connect securely to the Internet from remote locations and access corporate LANs. Customer satisfaction ratings consistently come in at 99.8%, according iPass. It has more than 300 provider partnerships with telecommunications and network providers globally. IPass had a good story to tell, but its brand was not well-known.

"We work with Verizon and MCI, and AT&T and all those folks to resell their network essentially to our customers," said Natalie Graff, senior manager, marketing campaigns and brand identity at iPass.

The company needed to find a way to raise brand awareness and educate its customers about its breadth of services, which now include such things as device management services, device identity and protection, and home and office fixed broadband connectivity.

"As of late last spring, we began to re- evaluate who we are as a company," Graff said.

Up until last year, iPass was not using direct marketing. Instead, its advertising budget was spent on print ads in IT-specific trade publications and online banner ads; but, with the multiple product suite it now offered, iPass decided to turn to direct marketing to improve targeting and generate leads.

"One thing that stayed consistent was my budget over four years as our business changed considerably," Graff said. "It was easier to take that money and brand iPass with that one product [we marketed]. But with multiple products, we wanted to brand ourselves to a more targeted set of prospect companies."

The budget for the campaign was $269,000, and the company wanted to create new sales leads for the sales force at a cost per lead of $200 or less. The next step was the creative.

Working with its direct and database marketing agency, Protocol B2B, a division of Protocol Integrated Direct Marketing, Graff created a marketing campaign consisting of a die-cut direct mail piece, follow-up postcards and telemarketing.

Before developing the campaign itself, though, Graff worked with Protocol to analyze the company's existing marketing database of all leads generated in the past six to nine months. That helped it develop a list of the top SIC codes, then identify five or six of the top 10 verticals that harbored its best customer prospects.

"These are the industries we need to broaden our presence [with]," Graff said.

Graff then further broke down the segmented list to the top five vertical industries. "We custom-built a list within those top five verticals," she said.

She purchased compiled data on those verticals through data giant Dun & Bradstreet and developed a list of contacts from that, a process that included calling each contact to verify that they were the right recipients and add or remove any contacts as necessary.

The direct mail piece was a custom 8½ x 11 envelope die-cut with windows that resembled a Christian Advent calendar. Each window was a lift-tab that, when opened, showed a mini-case study of a well-known client.

The idea was to borrow the name recognition of its customers as a way to tell prospects about the array of iPass products.

"We borrowed the brand strength of some well-known customers and put those on the front cover of the mailer," said Douglas Parr, account director, Protocol B2B.

Graff added, "We were trying to get attention by leveraging those well-known brands to get the customer to open the piece. Even if they didn't open the envelope, if they peeled off the Advent tab on the front, it was a pretty strong message. Inside was a brochure that went through case studies in more detail," as well as testimonials from existing clients, she said.

The call to action directed prospects to download a three-part podcast series on mobility. Recipients who downloaded them were entered in a drawing to win a 52-inch plasma TV.

A total of 12,000 direct mail pieces were sent, then two follow-up postcards. Telemarketing followed that, with as many as three attempts made to reach the prospect.

Response rates were particularly strong. Fourteen percent of recipients downloaded the podcasts. In terms of lead conversions, the direct mail and phone marketing combined yielded a 4.5% conversion rate.

"Typically, we expect to receive a 3% lead conversion rate for a [direct] mail and phone program," Parr said. "The Advent program performed somewhat better than what we would typically expect."

Parr said that reinforces the need for marketers to create so-called "multitouch campaigns."

Graff said that iPass will continue to use the direct mail-plus-phone strategy. "You want to have that initial creative touch [through direct mail]," she said. "It tends to improve overall response rates when combined with phone."

Print and banner ads have been left in the dust, and now Graff said she will continue to use direct marketing exclusively to promote iPass.

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