Peer-to-Peer Mail

5 Oct

Software provider Centage addresses a letter to financial executives from its own chief financial officer

When mailing to a business audience, it’s always a challenge to get a package through the mail room, passed the administrative gatekeeper and into the right person’s hands.

Yet, getting into the decision maker’s hands is only half the battle. Once the busy executive has your message in hand, your mailing needs to immediately resonate with her or it goes straight into the recycling bin.

In its April mailing advertising Budget Maestro software, a financial management tool, Centage vied for credibility and relevance by tailoring its message specifically to its audience of financial managers.

The package arrives in an 11″ x 17″ kraft envelope with only a plain business address label. Enclosed are a one-page letter and a four-page, 8-1/2″ x 11″ glossy brochure. There is no reply device in the mailing, because the call to action directs prospects to call an 800 number or go online to find out more about the product and sign up for a 30-day trial or webinar (Archive code #836-699110-0907).

To establish credibility and relevance, the letter opens with a personal touch: “Dear Britt, Everyday senior financial executives like you, are analyzing their financial results … You’ve got to keep a tight handle on expenses and cash flow.” This “you-oriented” copy shows the prospect how Centage understands her professional role and how it can help meet her needs.

Another strength of the letter is that it’s written from Centage’s chief financial officer, John Orlando. Holly Intravia, director of marketing for the Natick, Mass.-based software provider, says that in the past she’s tried sending letters from the director of sales, but using the CFO as the signer adds a lot more credibility to the letter. There is also a paragraph about how Orlando was personally involved in developing the software to ensure it meets a CFO’s needs. “It adds some validity that our own CFO was involved in the product and is interested in sharing and educating prospective CFOs about the solution,” Intravia says.

In addition to the letter, a four-page, colorful brochure also addresses the financial executive’s needs head-on. “The brochure gives me an opportunity to convey more salient information in a different way than just a text-on-a-white-background letter,” Intravia shares. Budget Maestro’s benefits are clearly outlined throughout the brochure, along with snapshots of the software’s dashboard and reporting, to give prospects an image of what they can expect from the product. The copy, much like the letter, highlights how the product can help “you”—a financial officer—meet your goals.

There are bold, graphic calls to action throughout the brochure, and prospects have a choice of four responses: visit a landing page for a free 30-day product trial, visit a second landing page for a free webinar, call an 800 number or visit Centage’s homepage. The various calls to action help Centage determine where the prospect is in the buying cycle. “CFOs or controllers or VPs of finance don’t usually take that much time out of their day unless there’s some real interest in evaluating solutions,” Intravia says. For example, if a prospect signs up for a 45-minute webinar or a product test drive, he may be further along the buying path than someone who simply calls or visits the homepage.

When a prospect responds to the direct mail piece, the information is integrated into Centage’s CRM system, and a sales representative follows up with him. The company uses a tracking code and customer-provided data to attribute online responses to the direct mail campaign and to more accurately calculate ROI for the mailing. Intravia also says she does some email marketing to nurture those leads who come in through the mail and get them to sign up for a webinar.

Doing the work of a lift note, a Q-and-A on the back of the brochure, titled “5 Questions All CFOs Want Answered,” allays prospects’ doubts about the product. “You’re trying to anticipate their thinking, ‘OK, this sounds great, but how much time is it going to take? How much is it going to cost?’ … They’re reading the brochure and formulating these questions in the background, so now you’ve anticipated their questions and tried to put some answers to them,” Intravia comments.

Centage has been mailing a variation of this package for a few years, having also tested a postcard, a 6″ x 9″ self-mailer and a one-page letter with a 8-1/2″ x 11″ insert. This year’s mailing will determine how the larger, four-page 11″ x 17″ brochure will perform against last year’s smaller insert. Along with monthly direct mail drops from April through September, the company also advertises online and engages in email and telemarketing campaigns.

While it is too soon to calculate this year’s results, Intravia says the campaign is on track to perform as well as it did last year. She shares that past direct mail campaigns have brought in as much as a 300 percent total return on investment in revenue. “It’s much more than a breakeven,” Intravia notes.

Intravia plans to use her direct mail marketing’s healthy ROI to test more vertical messaging in next year’s mailings. Using design templates to produce variations on the mailing, she wants to address different industries’ needs with specific copy. “There’s certain industries where we’ve had a lot of success … I would want to test this package with very industry-specific messages. How our solution, the Budget Maestro product, can be tailored to help them budget for their particular industry needs,” she describes. The only challenge, she reveals, is finding new lists and further segmenting her lists to get enough volume and quality for a good return on a vertical mailing.

IDEA IN ACTION: Benefits of a One-Page Letter
You may be lucky enough to get your business mailing onto the decision maker’s desk, but you need more than luck to actually get your letter read. One tip to appeal to busy executives is to keep your sales letter short and sweet. “People are very busy these days, and there’s a lot of competition for their attention … So I think that a one-page letter, getting to the point as soon as possible, with the language that resonates with their daily challenges is sufficient to motivate them to take some action,” says Holly Intravia, director of marketing for Centage. “If you’ve got something attractive, interesting and engaging, and your message is right on, that’ll motivate the prospect to call you or go online to your website,” she adds.

(Originally published in October issue of Inside Direct Mail.)


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