Case Study - 404

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Target Audience:
Maintenance and/or Engineering Equipment Managers at Potato Processing Plants throughout the US. We identified 150 plants in the US that process potatoes for chips, french fries, and other food products.

Description of Product Advertised:
Industrial Centrifuges and Systems for extracting starch from the wash water used in potato processing plants.

Single Most Important Marketing Communication Objective:
To "start" to convince an old, stale (pardon the pun) industry to "stop doing it the way it has always been done" and to warm up to a totally new, and somewhat radical, production concept.

In the potato processing industry, starch is an unwanted by-product of the dicing / slicing operations. The starch has to be extracted from the wash water and disposed of at a cost to the plant. The residual starch that isn't captured causes problems with machinery, increases the cost of wastewater treatment, etc. Scrap potato peels and pieces also cause similar problems. These problems have always existed in this industry and they are well-accepted. The audience is basically a hard-working, blue jean bunch that doesn't like change. So imagine trying to tell this group that the starch they hate so much can be sold for a profit, and that the goal shouldn't be to make as little of it as possible, but rather, to make as much of it as possible and to capture it (i.e. with a centrifuge… which we just happen to sell). After they stop laughing, then we can tell them that they can create a substantial profit increase for their plant, but that they have to adopt a whole new production mentality and change the entire production line. No problem, right?

With an "its way too good to be true" story to tell, and an "I don't believe anything and I don't like change" audience, we determined that anything that even remotely looked like "slick advertising" may not be considered. Thus, we used a no-frills, logical, white paper and case study type approach to get right to issue. We sent the designer on vacation, and prepared an ultra-simple, low-cost piece in-house that used bold and colored text to make key points stand out in an instant, and we incorporated obviously non-professional (but "very real") photos to illustrate the story. This simple mailer contained only a cover letter (A) and a two-page write-up (B) We spoke in the audience's language, we backed up our claims with facts, we offered a case study booklet (C - this was typically emailed as a PDF) for additional information, and we enticed them with a money back guarantee. One key to the project was the list, which we developed internally. Another key to the project was the follow up calls we made on the client's behalf to encourage the recipients to take action.

It wasn't an awesome print piece, it's creative was in its simplicity, and it was one of the most least expensive projects we have ever done… but the results were absolutely amazing! Over 50% of the list (79 of 150 plants) requested additional information. Capital equipment has a slow sales cycle time, especially in the potato industry, but this initial marketing effort generated 10 face-to-face meetings across the US (this is 7% of the total list). 5 on-site tests were conducted and 3 plants purchased centrifuge systems for a total of $800,000! 2 more systems are expected to close in the near future for another $450,000, and the client is estimating that this effort will generate another $10,000,000 over the next 3 years as plants work the cost of the system into their annual budgets. The client stated that they heard over and over again, "…you really caught my attention with that mailer you sent out…". The client stated, "these are not easy sells by any means, we still have to work for them, but the mailer and the targeted marketing approach did exactly what we wanted it to do… catch the attention of a tough-to-please audience and get them interested… it is obvious from the results that it worked exceptionally well.".

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