Nuance Communications' enterprise division specializes in speech recognition software—the kind used by automated call-center systems to recognize callers' verbal requests and route them to appropriate answers or call-center personnel.
It's a growing need, said Marcie Lascher, director-marketing programs for the $1.5 billion, Burlington, Mass.-based company. Many verticals with significant phone call volume—financial services, governments, utilities, insurance, etc.—are working hard to reduce call-center personnel and costs. So getting better at tapping into this need became a prime goal at Nuance.
“We had a challenge for years in that a lot of our business came from selling more products and services to existing customers,” Lascher said. “We desired to have a more concerted focus on helping sales penetrate "net-new' accounts we weren't doing business with but were ideal for us.”
What emerged was Nuance's Net New Business Initiative, a multitouch campaign launched in March 2010, driven primarily by direct mail and email to encourage in-person meetings with sales reps. Planning began with developing a precise database; determining 12 vertical profiles within the group for precise messaging; and producing microsites tailored to specific verticals to show off the company's expertise in each.
Nuance went to Babcock & Jenkins, Portland, Ore., to help develop the campaign. The campaign database of about 1,400 contacts at about 650 companies was refined by Catapult Direct Marketing, Campbell, Calif.
“Marketers are coming to understand that it's not simple to target top-tier prospects,” said Lauren Goldstein, VP-strategic planning at Babcock & Jenkins. “There has to be a strong relationship with sales to tackle targeted accounts together. Sometimes, these produce very small target sets.”
The campaign consisted of seven mutually reinforcing touches. Initial direct mail contained a giant “foam finger,” the kind often seen at sporting events. Each was personalized to its recipient (“Go Bob!”), and accompanying messages urged the recipient to visit a personalized microsite.
The foam fingers succeeded in bringing about a handful of sales calls, Lascher said. Emails with new content offers followed and helped drive non-respondents to the microsites, encouraging continuing interest.
Lascher said she was initially skeptical of the direct mail component.
“This was not a tactic we had previously used,” she said. “But through discussions with Babcock & Jenkins, we realized it's just not possible to reach your entire universe of people electronically. [But] sending something unique is a great way to start a campaign.”
The coup de campagne was a personalized dimensional mailing containing the book “Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us” by Emily Yellin (Free Press, 2009) about customer service and call-center issues. The book contained a positive case study of Nuance's work with passenger rail system Amtrak.
“Through personalization, all emails and mailings appeared to come from the prospect's actual sales rep,” Lascher said. “A follow-up email also "came from the rep,' asking prospects if they were enjoying the book and if they were interested in getting together.”
Lascher said she was pleased with the campaign. While the initial goal was to generate $3.5 million in new business in the pipeline, the program produced more than $6 million in net-new potential business. “Not all [accounts] will close, but the pipeline will get fatter, not smaller,” Goldstein said.
Nuance estimated that the program has garnered a 14-to-1 ROI to date.
The company is now tweaking its microsites, and plans to launch similar campaigns overseas.
Lascher said the Net New Business Initiative was so successful that it's been renamed the Targeted Accounts Program and will be directed at both current and prospective customers.