Ciena soft sells the ‘arrival’ of new Ethernet products

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Ciena Corp.'s global customer base already included major communication service providers, corporations and governmental agencies that all rely on the network specialist's systems and software.

But when the Linthicum, Md.-based company introduced new Ethernet products to its portfolio earlier this year, Ciena knew it had to reframe how the marketplace viewed them.

A prospecting campaign had to extend the brand, explain the new products and entice decision-makers and recommenders to seek more information. "We wanted people to consider us a specialist in Ethernet technology," said Joe Cumello, senior director of global marketing at Ciena. "We were trying to educate the whole market at once that we had this technology and it was available for people to get."

The company looked to Babcock & Jenkins, which it has worked with the past three years, to help it craft a direct marketing effort introducing its FlexSelect for Ethernet.

To soften the market for the messaging that was to come, Ciena launched an integrated media campaign March 1, a few weeks before it dropped its first piece of mail. Banner ads, webinars and e-newsletters were used to set the stage, and all used the tagline "Now arriving." Ciena also increased the number of Ethernet events it attended by more than 25%.

Then in late March, a simple intrigue piece of mail landed on the desks of 16,957 decision-makers and recommenders worldwide. Polybagged and designed to resemble an airline boarding pass, the mailer didn't offer any details about the new Ethernet architecture, just that it had arrived.

Recipients were directed to a microsite,, and could use a personal PIN supplied in the mailer to learn more details. On that microsite, the only personal information they were asked to input was how soon they would make a purchase and their role in their organization. Those who went on the site could access white papers and product information and could request more from Ciena.

Three weeks later, another mailer arrived—this one in a red polybag and much more detailed in its explanation of the architecture. Again, recipients were invited to visit the microsite, using the enclosed PIN number.

Finally, three to four weeks later, Ciena sent e-mails to 7,000 people—those on the original list for which it had addresses—asking them to visit the microsite.

In developing the campaign, Cumello said Ciena had to walk the fine line between contacting prospects just enough and too much. Unless recipients opted in for more information and specifically asked to be contacted, Ciena didn't pass the leads along to the sales team.

Meanwhile, Ciena began building cultivation tracks, based on the answers to questions and the type of information visitors downloaded, and then sent prospects other relevant materials and directed them to the company's main Web site.

"If someone goes to a landing page and downloads five papers on a certain topic, they may not say they want to be contacted immediately, but they certainly have some intent," Cumello said. "We think four weeks is a good time and then we retouch them."

The campaign, which performed above Ciena's expectations, generated an overall response rate of 7%, a registration rate of 4.25% and produced 721 unique leads. Of those leads, 74 asked to be contacted immediately. More than 75% of all responders opted in to keep receiving materials from Ciena.

Cumello attributes its success to both the campaign's strategy and execution.

"The whole pinning technology makes it so easy for a person to register, and it clearly increases response," he said. "When they come to your Web site and only have to check two or three boxes, it's pretty efficient.

"The three-touch strategy on this project was pretty good," he added. "You're making them aware, giving them the goods and then you're doing an electronic or e-mail touch that is different."

Cumello, along with Babcock & Jenkins, also said that first intrigue mailer—rarely used in b-to-b marketing—set the stage for a successful effort.

"A lot of times, clients want to provide thought leadership or really position themselves," said Lauren Goldstein, VP-strategic planning at Babcock & Jenkins. "The luxury we had is because there were two direct mail pieces, [the second one] could provide the whole kit and caboodle."

It also helped, Goldstein added, that Ciena didn't view the direct marketing campaign as a one-hit wonder that could have produced mediocre sales leads.

"This campaign had that drumbeat to keep the audience warm," she said. "You really have to pace yourself and keep the momentum going."

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