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Saab Cars USA gleaned more than 16,000 qualified leads for dealers via a four-part mailing that backed the new turbocharged 9-5.

"We wanted to put together a multistep interactive program so that we could talk to people on their terms about their interests and how the 9-5 is tailored to meet their needs and interests," said Chuck Mayer, recently promoted from manager of promotional marketing for Saab Cars USA to global relationship marketing manager for the Swedish carmaker.

The initial piece, via the Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., dropped the last week in November 1997 to 200,000 current and prospective Saab owners. It contained an introductory letter, a business reply card to gather data and a brochure five months ahead of the 9-5's launch.

The overall goal was "to offer customized information to prospects," Mr. Mayer said. "The people who initially responded received a customized package based on their responses to the questionnaire," with a focus on topics like safety, luxury or performance.

The follow-up mailing dropped in January 1998. The third, in March, included the custom-published "Road & Track Guide to the Saab 9-5." The car launched April 1, but the volume of vehicles hadn't reached the showrooms as expected. The guide was a way to deal with the delay, to keep prospective buyers interested, Mr. Mayer said.

Outbound telemarketing ran from March through this month to set up test drives; a test drive kit began to mail in June, including a product brochure and a contest.

To date, Saab can track 600 sales as a direct result of the mail program. Of that number, 200 were prospects, or "non-owners."

"The program's already paid for itself in terms of profitability," Mr. Mayer said, adding the cars are currently sold out. "That's never happened before."

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