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Client: AeroVironment (AV)
The Sherlock Holmes Mystery
Background: General Motors (GM) maintained a long-time relationship with AV and had invented a material called DuoFlx with unique material properties. GM developed DuoFlx as a fabric that would have spring-like "give" to replace traditional metal car seat springs. GM only utilized about 25% of the product capacity and asked AV to investigate and identify additional applications and markets for the product. AV asked me to participate in the brainstorming sessions along with several other technical team members. In these sessions, we identified a list of potential commercial application areas.
Since we didn't know precisely how a prospect company might use the product, we focused on the senior R&D executive, typically either a Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, or Director of R&D. Through helpful relevant media resources, I was able identify and generate a list of about 400 such executives in these potentially interesting application areas.
The objective: Create something interesting for bright R&D executives that would catch their attention and inspire them to respond with specific application suggestions. Whatever we created would have to be really attention to achieve any kind of significant response from this notoriously cynical and non-responsive target audience.
The solution: We developed the theme based on Sherlock Holmes, since he was the penultimate fictional investigator, somewhat comparable to these various directors of research. The cover letter (below) invited the recipient to participate in the 1st Sherlock Holmes Application Mystery. We noted that we were entering all respondents into a drawing in which five Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hats would be awarded. We also offered a cash bonus of $500 if any of their suggestions turned into commercially viable applications accompanied by an order. We taped a sample with about 10 yards of DuoFlx onto the bottom of the cover letter.
The second page detailed the physical specifications of DuoFlx, but presented each physical characteristic as a "Clue" under the heading of "Dr. Watson's Clues." The third page was a preprinted fax response page. We folded the three 8.5" x 11" sheets in half and mailed them in a padded manila envelope.
The Results: Over the course of the next few weeks, AV received approximately 50 faxed responses, a response rate of over 12%. Many of the suggestions were excellent and at least ten were deemed sufficiently worthy to establish technical contacts and follow-up.
Double-click on each of the thumbnails below to download p. 1 and p. 2 of the mailer in .jpg format. Each page is 1 MB.
Background: Following the "dot.com" crash in 2000, many device manufacturers found that their markets had dried up. Such was the case for innovative fabless semiconductor company, Andigilog in Tempe, AZ. The company's founder and CEO, Carl Liepold, had developed the means to produce and rapidly test temperature sensors which delivered far superior accuracy compared to competitive products. The company had just launched and landed several impressive customers. I wrote and placed several articles for the company (see "Writing Samples" page). Unfortunately, the company was also experiencing a severe cash flow crisis.
I suggested that we try an innovative email program to identify strategic partners by category in the semiconductor industry. I identified and gathered email addresses for approximately 100 contacts on our "key companies" list. I then sent an email designed to entice the recipient to contact us about a potential strategic relationship.
The Result: We received a 10% initial response to our email. One of our recipients forwarded our email to senior executives at the Israeli specialty fab, Tower Semiconductor. This initiated strategic discussions and within a matter of weeks, Tower and Andigilog reached agreement resulting in a six-figure cash infusion into Andigilog, sufficient to tide them over until subsequent venture financing fully funded the company.