In the summer of 2010 Nufarm, a leading international manufacturer of crop protection products, found itself in a tight spot. The Chicago area company had just launched generic wheat seed treatment products it needed to push.
In agribusiness, seed treatment, which fends off fungi and other pests, is a highly specialized growth industry. The seeds are coated prior to planting. Nufarm officials say this approach to planting reduces the need for spraying fungicides and insecticides on emerged plants and could save farmers as much as $60 an acre. It also shaves costs off of expenses like renting airplanes to help with the spraying. “It is a proactive, preventative practice,” says Nathan Wright, director of sales for seed treatment at Nufarm. “It’s good insurance upfront.”
Problem was, Nufarm had only two salespeople assigned to pitch this product in its primary target market area, a swath of the continent that encompasses more than 10 large states and stretches from North Dakota to Texas to the Rockies. Further, both salespeople were relatively new and had had little or no time to develop large numbers of prospects in the market.
On top of all this, winter wheat planting season was just a couple of months away, so Nufarm knew it needed to get the word out about these products — and fast. “We were looking to generate contacts and leads for our salespeople in a very tight geography,” recalls Brian Rund, Nufarm’s director of branding and marketing services.
So Nufarm developed its “Treat the Seed Right” campaign, an integrated marketing effort that blended personalized direct mail with personalized URLs (PURLs). Using multiple sources, including farm journals and dealer lists, Nufarm identified hundreds of strong sales prospects.
A strong idea takes root
The campaign had four objectives: Inform middlemen and growers about Nufarm’s broad range of seed treatment products; identify those already using Nufarm products; single out those willing to meet with a sales representative; and, perhaps most important, generate new sales leads.
Early in July, personalized, full-color, 4- by 6-inch postcards with images of wheat and wheat fields on the front landed in the mailboxes of more than 1,500 dealers, distributors and growers. The postcards included the name and contact information for the Nufarm salesperson for that area.
“A great seed starts with Nufarm. Treat it right with Nufarm seed solutions,” blared the green and gold lettering on the front of the card. The card also included the recipient’s name, his PURL, a list of several Nufarm seed treatment products and a $50 gift card offer.
As an incentive, recipients received a Nufarm hat for visiting their personalized web pages, which included a brief flash video featuring Nufarm images and branding before being directed to a page that asked five questions covering a variety of areas like use of crops and knowledge or interest in seed treatment.
As an additional incentive, each recipient got a $50 gift card if he agreed to a visit from a Nufarm sales representative.
“We were trying to take advantage of the ‘personability’ of direct mail and the PURL to get a response,” Rund reveals.
Growing business from the ground up
In all, Nufarm mailed out three sets of postcards between July 5 and August 31. The second and third mailings were reminders for the non-responders.
The mailings got smaller with each successive wave. The second postcard carried a message that addressed the recipient by name and added “Your seed is waiting.” The third told the recipient that the opportunity “won’t last.”
“People who participated in rounds two and three probably wanted to participate after the first direct mail card but needed a reminder,” says Sherry Mitchell, marketing director of Laser Image Printing & Marketing, a Durham, N.C.–based printing and marketing company that handled the campaign’s microsite design as well as printing and mailing. “This is typical for direct mail campaigns: the second and third mailings are reminders.”
In the end, the $6,500 campaign got Nufarm — and its new salespeople — off to a good start with the seed treatment products in this market. Nearly 6% of the recipients visited their microsites and 4.5% answered the survey questions and agreed to a visit from a Nufarm sales representative. As a result of the survey responses, Nufarm representatives got more than 60 promising sales leads.
Mitchell says the campaign’s strategy of setting its sights on targeted prospects was a major contributor to its success. “This campaign had the right combination of elements,” she says. “It had a targeted list, a clear and relevant message with a strong call to action and a well-designed and well-printed piece.”
Rund figures that attaining this level of success without direct mail would have been impossible. “We use a lot of different tools, but direct mail for this market is the cornerstone,” he says, adding that in this kind of business direct mail is more likely to generate responses than e-mail or other forms of communication like radio or television advertising.
The wide dispersal of potential clients, the technical nature of the product and the relatively low cost of the campaign, he explains, made direct mail the ideal fit for this campaign.
“The nature of what we sell lends itself to a direct mail platform,” Rund says. “This is primarily a business sell. If you’re getting direct mail in a business context, you’re probably more likely to take a look at it.”
Integrated Marketing, Technology