P.S.: Postscript

Last year's headline: Lennox fires up direct marketing furnace...

Last year’s headline: Lennox fires up direct marketing furnace

Synopsis: In an attempt to tone down the effects of natural gas deregulation in Ontario, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) company Lennox switched its direct marketing efforts on high. The Woodbridge, Ont.-based retailer teamed up with Toronto agency Vickers & Benson Direct + Interactive (VBDI) to help break through the clutter in an industry where developing an emotional bond between consumers and product is a hurdle. In late 1998, it kicked off The Lennox Home Safety Quiz, which made use of direct mail, radio, newspaper, and direct response TV. The program offered free inspection of HVAC equipment, as well as a carbon monoxide detector to those who filled out a survey. Then in the fall of 1999, Total Lennox Comfort, a multi-tiered, multi-product effort, debuted, targeting consumers whose equipment had had a major repair within the previous two years and whose warranty or maintenance agreement was on the brink of expiring. Subsequent efforts included air conditioning and humidifier initiatives, as well as a couple of seasonal campaigns.

Plan snags 300% ROI

One year later: Total Lennox Comfort resulted in a 300% ROI, and the company is currently running a 10% close rate, according to Peter Boggs, senior VP at VBDI.

‘We’ve been able to successfully go into dealer centres, take their invoice data and piece it together to figure out who’s been buying what and proactively go after them,’ he says. ‘In a category where you may talk to customers [once] every 10 years, we now talk to them on an ongoing basis.’ Plus, adds Boggs, Lennox technicians also have access to the information and are therefore able to further build on customer relationships at ground level.

Due to the initiative’s success, the agency has been asked to roll out the same strategy for Dallas-based Lennox affiliate Service Experts this spring. The American retailer recently purchased 150-odd service centres, which will in turn provide it with a valuable customer database. This time, however, VBDI faces a bigger challenge in that Service Experts is not a known brand. ‘It comes down to creating common values and attributes of the different centres, so that the company comes across as professional and trusted,’ says Boggs. The effort won’t include any mass advertising, but will encompass an acquisition phase whereby direct mail will be sent to homeowners in specific zip codes.

Last year’s headline: Tech school learns marketing lesson

Synopsis: OgilvyOne Worldwide created a direct response program for Halifax-based Information Technology Institute (ITI). The strategy, which promoted the institute’s 1-800 number, included DRTV, radio spots and print ads in addition to a limited direct mail component sent to fewer than 1,000 households. As a result of the campaign, ITI president and CEO Gary Blandford expected the number of inquiries to double within a year.

In June of 1999, an audit had uncovered that ITI received a failing grade when it came to communicating that it offered e-business training, as well as the regular programming language and application development and design programs offered at most centres. (OgilvyOne recommended a commercial that featured a quick-moving montage of images, to imply the flexibility and speed of ‘Internet time.’) Meanwhile, the organization also planned to establish a new Web site and a centralized client-service centre in Halifax, whereby callers would be routed to one place, sorted and sent to the appropriate ITI location.

ITI has ups and downs

One year later: Gary Blandford’s expectations were fulfilled, as the campaign reeled in 33,000 inquiries during 2000, an increase from about 14,000 in 1999. According to Blandford, 60% of those inquiries were driven by the television ads.

Although enrollment shot up by 29% and revenue by 42%, ITI’s DRTV effort experienced problems with clearance late last year, and the company witnessed a substantial drop in the number of respondents through December and January.

‘In Canada, you order 20 spots at a time,’ he explains. ‘One week we only cleared 20%, which can really affect business.’

As a result, ITI has invested in a satellite tracking system that not only sends an alert when its TV ads are broadcast, but also follows which stations and programs elicit the most response. Meanwhile, ITI will continue to invest in radio and print advertisements where it makes sense.

‘Summertime is better for radio because people are out and about, and don’t watch a lot of TV, while print relies on the type of person you’re trying to attract,’ explains Blandford. ‘You can’t put something in the business section of the Toronto Star and hope teens will call you.’

Although ITI’s direct mail effort wasn’t very effective the first time around, the institute does plan to follow up with respondents who didn’t enroll, via direct mail and telephone calls. In December a CRM system debuted, as did ITI’s redesigned Web site, through which people can now buy and register online.

‘Sales online are small because it’s difficult to sell a $25,000 item without actually seeing somebody,’ says Blandford. ‘But it does provide information and enhances communication with the customer.’