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Direct Mail Campaigns That Actually Convert

Author - Martin Gontovnikas
Martin GontovnikasSVP, Marketing & Growth
Company - auth0
What you’ll learnWhat you’ll needThe ProblemThe HypothesisThe Solution
Define objectives and start testing ideas
Take your early learnings and iterate
Develop a proof of concept
Iterate… again!
Hone your list of target accounts
Start a conversation
The ImpactNext playbook
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What you’ll learn

  • How to use high-touch tactics such as direct mail to break into target accounts
  • How to iterate on creative campaigns

What you’ll need

  • A list of high-value target accounts
  • A direct mail production vendor
Article Headline Icon - The Problem

The Problem

Auth0 faced an ambitious goal: they needed to double their annual recurring revenue over the coming year. They were growing quickly but 95% of new business was coming from inbound leads. While a solid source of revenue, inbound traffic wasn't always predictable. Martin “Gonto” Gontovnikas, Auth0’s SVP of Marketing and Growth at the time, knew that if they were going to hit their 2x annual goal, they would need to find a predictable and incremental way to drive more volume.

Auth0 started with email and ads, but quickly learned how saturated these channels were. They wanted to find a tactic that was less crowded, and required fewer barriers for their prospects to engage with them. They needed a dedicated outbound channel that wouldn’t drown their message out in the digital noise.

Article Headline Icon - The Hypothesis

The Hypothesis

While the Auth0 team started out by executing outbound strategies in email and ads, they hypothesized direct mail would really set them apart, increasing meetings booked and pipeline revenue.

But just focusing on a less saturated channel wasn't enough. The team knew they would only be successful if they found a way to make an impression—a simple letter campaign wouldn’t cut it.

Gonto thought they would find the most success if they could land on a dramatic and effective outbound campaign. His team had no shortage of fun and attention-grabbing ideas, and they just had to roll them out and wait for the results.

“What we knew is that we needed to generate a way for people to have to reach out to us, and we actually had to give them something they wanted in return.” 

Article Headline Icon - The Solution

The Solution

Define objectives and start testing ideas

“We knew we needed some way for our target account prospects to engage, but we also wanted something that was security related since Auth0 is a digital security company.”

With those two objectives in mind, the team started to test out ideas. Unfortunately, the first couple of ideas fizzled. 

“Our first campaign was a digital transformation campaign. We gave out Transformers toys to people inside the company and asked them to look for others who had also been given a Transformer toy. Nobody gave a shit. So we tried another tactic—a newspaper. It was a fake New York Times or Washington Post, depending on where the company was located. And what it said was that they lost millions and that their competitor was doing great because of Auth0. That actually scared people. It didn't work out.”

Based on early feedback from these tests, Gonto and his team knew what didn’t work. The newspaper scared people, making them unwilling to initiate contact. The transformer campaign required action, but didn’t get anyone excited enough to participate. If they could correct these problems, Gonto and team hypothesized, they could create a campaign that differentiated Auth0 while also initiating the right response.

Take your early learnings and iterate

After brainstorming with his team—led by Rachael Tiow, who leads global account-based marketing at Auth0—they came up with an idea: a box with a gift and materials about Auth0 inside—but one that required a passcode to unlock. To get the code and reveal what was inside, prospects would need to contact the Auth0 SDR team.

Develop a proof of concept

This is what an early iteration looked like. Inside, it contained a free Tile as a gift:


Gauge audience response

Gonto and his team sent the box to a short list of trial accounts. But not everyone knew what to make of it. Unfortunately, the free Tile gift inside the box unexpectedly started to beep, leading a few to worry it might be a bomb—so much for not scaring their prospects.   

“To figure out how we could iterate, the ABM team talked to customers. We contacted people on LinkedIn saying ‘Hey, we sent you a box. I'm happy to offer you $500 if you give me 20 minutes, or if you reply here, to tell me why it's not working and what could be better.’ And we saw common patterns with everybody that they didn’t know what was inside, and were either scared or uninspired to find out.” 

Iterate… again!

They went back to the drawing board, experimenting both with the box design and what they put inside it. Several iterations later, they emerged with a winning idea: another locked box, but this one had transparent sides. 

It allowed the receiver to see exactly what they’d be getting. Inside was a gift targeted to the specific account—an iPad, for example, with an Auth0 video queued up.


Hone your list of target accounts

Once the idea of their transparent box was validated, it was time to identify their list and scale the campaign. The team started big: 5,000 global companies and startups with a certain level of funding. 

“We looked in Crunchbase to find attributes that gave us insights into whether a company was at the right stage to talk to us. We were looking, for example, at websites and whether they were using different programming languages in different parts of the product. And whether that was changing, to see if they were adding to their technology stack. We looked at their hiring, to see if they were hiring privacy experts. Things like that. 

We defined this criteria and then used a service called FunnelBeam to feed that information to us. That’s how we came up with the companies we focused on in a given quarter.”

Start a conversation

The code to open the box gave prospects a reason to call or email. But the metric that really mattered was the number of people who stuck around when the SDR team transitioned that call into a conversation about Auth0. 

The Impact

Auth0 started conversations with 22% of the people they reached out to, with a conversion rate of approximately 7%. Based on these conversion rates, the campaign drove an average 8x ROI. These results were over 3x what they saw in their initial direct mail campaigns. But there was also a response they hadn’t been expecting.

“Some people recorded videos of themselves destroying their boxes—throwing them onto the floor and things like that. And they were tweeting about it. So even those that didn't convert as a part of the campaign were at least driving some brand awareness for us --  they were talking about Auth0 and sharing what they were doing with our boxes.”

And the cherry on top? These tactics really rallied the marketing team, with several team members pitching ideas for future iterations. Gonto also gained leadership buy-in to continue outbound strategies, which were previously doubted compared to inbound marketing. Gonto says:

“The CFO, CEO and CRO were very happy to see that we could have more predictable revenue coming from outbound, and that we could leverage this to inject more money and drive more ARR, so we can continue our streak of doubling revenue every year.”

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