VeriSign uses Net incentives to promote new services

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Since it was founded in 1995, VeriSign Inc. has shrewdly marketed its main businesses, digital trust and domain name services, to the point where its brand is ubiquitous in those spaces.

Since buying Network Solutions Inc. last year, however, VeriSign has tried to build awareness for some of its newer, less well-known services, including e-mail marketing and Web site development platforms. As a core part of this marketing strategy, it has turned to online promotions.

In doing so, VeriSign, like other b-to-b companies, is discovering what consumer marketers have long known: Online promotions, if implemented strategically, can drive client adoption and loyalty as few other e-marketing schemes can.

VeriSign goes to Amazon

Over the past several months, Herndon, Va.-based VeriSign has turned to online—and offline—marketing promotions ranging from $10 Inc. gift certificates, to company T-shirts, to special discounts on business cards.

The idea, said Ron Greene, president of VeriSign’s online marketing agency of record, Devon Direct Euro RSCG, is to use hard-to-miss marketing tactics to highlight VeriSign’s expanded product roster. "They’ve gone from being a marketer of a single product to a portfolio of products that are developed for the small business and SOHO [small office/home office] marketplace," he said.

Earlier this month, VeriSign launched an e-mail marketing and banner ad campaign offering a $10 gift certificate redeemable at Amazon. The offer is awarded to those who refer clients to VeriSign’s dot com mail, an e-mail address platform. VeriSign offers new dot com mail enrollees a gift certificate as well.

VeriSign decided to market the promotion across all of its Web channels to give the deal legs that e-mail alone couldn’t have. First, the company e-mailed dot com mail’s client base, which consists of "hundreds of thousands" of mostly small-business users, said Mary Beth George, VeriSign’s director-marketing services.

Then VeriSign posted the offer on banners at strategic points across its Internet network, including account registration sections.

Amazon gift certificates were chosen because of the company’s brand ubiquity, George said. "Amazon’s a brand that people recognize, they see value there," she said. VeriSign also chose Amazon because its stock is nearly limitless—a real asset should a campaign yield higher-than-anticipated results.

While George would not disclose the campaign’s conversion rates, she said it has been highly successful. "We’re very happy with it. We’re actually going to spin it off and open it to other [VeriSign] products," she said.

Typically, VeriSign’s online promotion efforts yield greater than a 2% conversion rate, compared with the less than 1% typically garnered by online promotional efforts, George said. Devon Direct’s Greene indicated that VeriSign’s online promotion-driven conversion rates have climbed even higher than 2%.

VeriSign has also run offline direct mail promotions for other products. For example, it has awarded domain name clients discounts at Kinko’s Inc. franchises on new business cards that contain URLs.

With online promotions, making sure that your company’s brand is touted as much as the brand in the offer is critical, said Craig Binkley, senior associate at Atlanta-based consultancy Zyman Marketing Group. "The challenge is building your brand as you provide these incentives," he said. Whenever possible, your company’s slogan or logo should be integrated into the offer, he said.

Neither George nor Greene would say how much VeriSign is spending on its online promotions. But Greene said its efforts are less expensive than traditional b-to-b client acquisition programs.

"This really allows us to grow VeriSign’s customer base and revenue at a price that’s far less than going into the acquisition marketplace," he said. "There are 60 or 70 companies out there marketing domain names, so we’re competing against that whole bucket."

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