Affinity uses direct mail to prompt dialogue over cup of coffee


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First, Affinity and Goodman divided up the entire universe of prospects into more potent tier one segments, those groups that were sufficiently large for Affinity and also that consisted of high-income members.

One segment was made up of 200 associations with no current insurance offerings; the other, 200 groups that had insurance plans for members but were potential “switchers.”

Then they considered the form the campaign should take.

“[Affinity] only budgeted $20,000, which is a very tiny campaign,” said Denise Williams, director of strategic marketing in Goodman's Philadelphia office. “But I asked myself: For new-business development, how do you get people to meet with you?”

Williams' solution was to create an invitation to each contact to meet personally for a chat over a cup of coffee with a key sales executive. Enclosed with the invitation would be a $5 gift card from Starbucks Coffee Co.

“It's true. The best things in life are free,” proclaimed the gift card holder, proffering the offer as a way to “relax while discovering how to get the most out of a group insurance portfolio.”

“Back in the 1970s and 1980s, I remember research studies suggesting the value of sending people a $1 bill,” Williams said. “Why? To make them feel a little guilty. With this campaign, we loaded the cards up with $5, which is nice for a couple of cups of coffee.

“But this was really just to start the dialogue,” Williams said. “The buy cycle for b-to-b begins with the first connect, so they might consider you at a later date.”

Cover letters were tailored to each of the two target groups—one stressing the value of offering additional member benefits, the other urging a re-evaluation of current insurance providers. Also included was an overview brochure highlighting Affinity's expertise. Prominently displayed on the outside of the mailer was the message, “A special invitation for professional associations—like yours. Free gift enclosed!”

To help ensure that the envelopes were not thrown away, Affinity and Goodman employed Boxpilot, a company that specializes in “guided voice mail.” On the day before each of four mail drops, Boxpilot delivered prerecorded phone messages to the next day's recipients, alerting them to the pending arrival of a high-value package.

“Now, the recipient has a heads-up that the offer is coming the next day,” Williams said. She said the process also helped clean the list if the intended recipient's phone was answered by someone else.

Mail drops took place on June 2, June 16, July 24 and Aug. 7. In addition to pre-drop guided voice mails, Affinity's inside sales executives placed personal follow-up calls to each contact.

The results have been encouraging for Affinity. Devlin said sales received a total of nine “really good, solid leads” from the 400 mailings.

“There's a lot of things still in the pipeline, and we won't know total results until sales understands what kind of revenue the campaign will generate,” Devlin said. “But it should more than pay for the mailing and the gift card.”

Williams said the “really good, solid leads” represent potential revenue of $1.85 million.

For 2010, Affinity Insurance plans to refine this initial effort with such offers as white papers, promoted via e-mail, to drive prospects to the Affinity Web site.

“This isn't about just touching prospects once a year to invite them to have coffee,” Devlin said, “but rather a series of communications that keeps Affinity in the forefront of their attention, with touches that provide real value.”

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