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October 06, 2005: A Case for Personalization

A direct marketing campaign that includes a drive to personalized sitelets is building brand awareness for two financial services companies.

A joint SAP America and Accenture direct marketing program is helping both companies market their products and services to the top 100 banks in the United States.

Boston-based J. Winsper & Co., a brand advertising and integrated marketing communications agency, created the program. SAP America hired the firm in late spring 2005. SAP America is a subsidiary of SAP AG, the world's largest inter-enterprise software company and the third-largest independent supplier. SAP America, with annual revenues of $7.5 billion, is located in Newtown Square, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. Worldwide, SAP has 12 million users, 96,400 installations and more than 1,500 partners.

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 110,000 employees in 48 countries. Annual revenues last year were $13.67 billion. 

According to Jeff Winsper, president of J. Winsper & Co., both companies elected to partner together in order to provide strategic services and software solutions for the financial services industry in the United States.

"SAP America and Accenture wanted to leverage their respective strengths but realized they needed a strategic plan and a sophisticated communications architecture in order to effectively build brand awareness, generate leads and develop new clientele," says Winsper.

Winsper adds that the financial services market is in a state of transition -- there have been numerous consolidations, mergers and acquisitions, and competition is fierce. The partners asked the agency to formulate a direct marketing program that would reach what Winsper refers to as the "C-Suite" audience -- chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, chief information officer, chief marketing officer, chief risk officer, vice president of retail banking and vice president of human resources.

"We had to first introduce both brands and the value of the alliance to each person, and then quickly develop a presence of credibility and authority," he says. "It wasn't easy as we had less than two months to launch the program. And since each C-Suite title has individual, departmental and enterprise-wide agendas, the communications had to speak to each on their terms."

Winsper says the direct marketing campaign (he declined to reveal how much SAP America and Accenture are spending for the program), launched in late June and slated to run for a year, features a number of online and offline components, some of which include:

* Twenty-four versions of flat direct mail (three for each of the C-Suite titles) for building momentum. Winsper says each mailer was dropped over a three-week period that took prospects to a landing page for an industry research paper regarding the vision of banking for the next five years. 

* Each person then received a personalized 3-D mailer (individual names and company names were part of the content). Headline titles included a posing question, almost a challenge to entice them to continue the dialogue with the brand. For example, the CEO mailer headline was "How do you transform your title from CEO to chief equity officer?" The COO mailer headline was "How do you transform your title from COO to chief opportunity officer?" Inside the mailer, their name and company was introduced with the offer being an industry comparison key performance indicator (KPI) report so they can compare their performance with competitors. 

* Each person was invited to review his or her personalized sitelet. These individual personal URLs, or PURLs, are personalized message portals that feature the customer's name in the URL. Winsper says they are essentially mass customized personal websites. They can be temporary and used for a single promotion, or permanent and used as part of a long-term relationship-building effort. He added that the content presented to each customer is programmatically assembled based on conditions defined in a database. Winsper built about a 1,000 personal websites The sitelets tracked the readers' behavior and the information they provided, and notified the appropriate salesperson in real-time so they could decide when to contact a prospect as they advanced through the site. The offer was then downloaded.

* There was also pre- at- and post-telesales for qualification in order to start funneling the opportunities to the sales force, and mid-campaign tele-research to determine receptivity.

Both SAP America and Accenture, says Winsper, have been pleased with the initial results for the direct marketing program. Key performance indicators are encapsulated as follows:

  • 10 percent for identification of pilot/budget considerations
  • 27 percent lead response by company
  • 32 percent went to personalized "sitelet"
  • 40 percent problem identification through telesales qualification
  • Over 40 percent downloaded customized KPI reports
  • 47 percent penetration of brand awareness

"The financial services industry is a tough vertical to gain attention, especially with the highest ranking C-level titles," says Frank Donny, SAP America's financial services marketing principal. "The direct marketing program has proved to be an effective holistic approach and has provided a solution that centers SAP America and Accenture squarely in the market in a short-time period."

Winsper adds that the direct marketing program has helped reduce the chasm that often exists between sales and marketing departments.

"Facilitating and working upon pre-agreed metrics and real-time lead distribution have made the program seamless and frictionless for all parties," he says.

Neal Leavitt is president of Fallbrook, CA-based Leavitt Communications, an international marketing communications company with affiliates in Paris, France; Hamburg, Germany; Hong Kong; London, United Kingdom; Bangalore, India; and Sao Paulo, Brazil. He writes frequently on internet and high technology topics.

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