Objective: Netezza Corp., a data warehous-ing company acquired last year by IBM Corp., wanted to connect with CIOs at major corporations and position its company and products as innovative.
Strategy: Because its technology has a high average price point, Netezza needed to break through the clutter and connect directly with senior executives. The company last year rolled out a direct mail campaign, sending an Apple iPod touch to executives at about 100 companies. The devices were customized for each individual, featuring videos and other content about how Netezza could help the executive meet his or her business challenges.
Results: The campaign has had about a 35% response rate—getting a meeting with the target executive.
Marketing to C-level executives is a notoriously difficult undertaking, so when IBM Corp.'s Netezza Corp., a Marlborough, Mass.-based provider of data warehouse appliances and solutions, sets out to connect with CIOs at major corporations, it usually woos them with the kinds of sales meetings to which they are accustomed: pricey dinners or deluxe suites at sporting events.
Last fall, however, the company tried out a direct mail campaign that was “high-touch” in a different way: It sent customized Apple iPod touch devices to executives in its target audience.
The goal, said Will Pringle, VP-worldwide demand generation at IBM Netezza, was to land meetings with CIOs at large enterprises and demonstrate that the company's products are innovative and easy to use. Because Netezza's technology has an average price point of $1.2 million, the campaign had to be flashy enough to grab the attention of the most senior executives at large companies, he said.
“With that kind of price point, the senior guys have to sign off,” he said. “It's a different ballgame, and therein lies the challenge.”
Netezza sent each recipient a clear tube containing a customized iPod touch, along with a letter and business card from a Netezza general manager. The devices were personalized for each recipient, with a welcome screen featuring a picture of the Netezza product; customized icons that launch a welcome video featuring Netezza's general manager for the recipient's industry; customized content such as white papers and other videos; a Google map of Netezza's headquarters location; and an alarm set to remind the recipient to call their sales contact.
“The videos addressed them by name and the message was customized for their business, discussing how we understood what their business challenges are,” Pringle said.
From a branding perspective, Pringle and his team liked the idea of the iPod touch. “It would associate Netezza with Apple,” he said. “Everyone wants to be associated with them because they're so innovative.”
The iPod touch was the ideal Apple product for the campaign because of its usefulness, its size and its price point, he said. “It wasn't overkill like an iPad or a laptop,” he said.
Pringle said he wasn't sure how Netezza's request to customize the iPod's interface would be received by Apple. “You'd think they would hang up the phone, but they were interested,” he said. “They have a whole effort around getting companies to use their technology, not just consumers.”
The packages cost Netezza between $800 and $1,000 each, Pringle said, including the cost of the device, videotaping, assembly, shipping and handling. Campaign design work cost an additional $25,000 up front, he said. Netezza worked with Drew Allison Brand Expression, Boston, to create the campaign.
Netezza began with a beta test of the campaign last August that involved 15 CIOs at major retail companies. It got an almost 50% response rate for that vertical, landing meetings with seven of the target CIOs, Pringle said.
Netezza's marketing department worked closely with sales to ensure that targeted executives actually received the direct mail piece. “If we could, we'd talk to the person's admin and let them know the package would be coming,” Pringle said. “They get a lot of that; but, in this case, when the admin opens the package, they're not going to not put it on the CIO's desk.”
Netezza has continued to roll the campaign out to other industries, sending about 100 devices so far. Average response rates have been about 35%, Pringle said.
“A lunch at T.G.I. Fridays might be great for some people; but [others] you might have to go to Morton's Steakhouse to have a conversation, or above that,” he said. “A direct mail piece is no different, and the quality you get in the Apple product and what we put together helps us break through to the high-level guys who otherwise wouldn't have time to respond.”