PR WEEK AWARDS 2001: Campaign - Business to Business Campaign of the Year 2001. Sponsored by Rubenstein Associates




Ketchum and Visa USA - Visa Start-Up 2000

Visa had a reputation to shake. Viewed primarily as a card for consumers only, the company for years had been falling behind rivals American Express and MasterCard in cracking the small business market. Visa decided to target so-called SOHO (small office/home office) companies, which have 20 or fewer employees - a market estimated to be worth more than dollars 100 billion a year.

Research showed that a new business was starting in the US every 30 seconds, and that Visa's rivals had never specifically targeted SOHOs. Research also showed 81% of small business spending was still transacted in cash or checks.

Ketchum set out to build Visa's small business image with a dollars 462,000 campaign to promote the company as a multi-faceted financial resource for small companies trying to get off the ground. That meant tapping into the concept of the business incubator, and making people think of Visa not just as a financial tool but as a one-stop source for information, financing and business education. The campaign would not only get SOHOs to use Visa, but link the Visa brand to the SOHO community.

The linchpin was a national business plan competition, the Visa Start-Up 2000, in which 530 small businesses eventually took part. Three winning companies shared dollars 75,000 (see above), and underwent a year-long incubation that included advice and access to some of Visa's business partners, including Compaq, Office Depot and the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Getting the word out on the competition was a challenge. The market was diverse and scattered - mostly extremely small-scale entrepreneurs, many of whom weren't necessarily plugged into industry press or the usual channels for reaching a business audience. Ketchum used various means to publicize the contest, including developing a Web site with a toll-free number, and using direct mail, e-mail and a radio tour with a Visa spokesperson.

The campaign reached 41 million SOHOs, spiking a 300% increase in monthly hits to Visa's small business Web site. The toll-free number got calls from 665 small businesses, and the business plan contest secured 253 million media impressions in popular SOHO outlets, including Business Week online, USA Today online and Bloomberg News. Over six million radio listeners heard details of the contest.

Meanwhile, USBank (which issues Visa Business cards through direct mail solicitation) got names, addresses and descriptions of the hundreds of businesses that entered the contest, helping it build a detailed database of potential customers.


RightFreight - Market Positioning campaign

New York-based RightFreight had eight employees and just two marketers working with a dollars 200,000 budget to help get the company into the massive transportation logistics market. A few months later, RightFreight had established itself as a player. The company worked the industry press, focusing on small and medium-sized manufacturers, as well as Fortune 1000 companies, who had shipping needs. It used direct mail and real-time Web presentations to educate the target audience about the potential of Internet-based moving management services and within eight months 1,506 manufacturing companies registered with the site, exceeding expectations by more than 300%. The strong showing helped it recruit 49 new US employees.


HSR Business to Business and Hobart Corp. - Waking the Sleeping Giant

Hobart was the world's premier commercial food equipment maker, but was seen as a one-dimensional company. To build its reputation as an industry leader, it turned to HSR for a three-year, dollars 375,000 campaign. Research showed Hobart's customers wanted help from their suppliers on how to solve business problems, so HSR's campaign recast Hobart as a source of knowledge about the commercial food business. Hobart executives spoke at industry conferences on topics such as food safety, and the company developed a custom publication for industry professionals. Surveys subsequently showed a dramatic increase in the number of people who saw Hobart as an industry leader.

Winner 2000: Carmichael Lynch Spong with ASV - Blowing the Lid Off the Best Kept Secret in Compact Work Vehicles

The Award

The award honors campaigns within a niche business sector or the business community at large.

Finalists 2001

- BSMG and - Brand Awareness campaign

- HSR Business to Business and Hobart Corp. - Waking the Sleeping Giant

- Ketchum and Visa USA - Visa Start-Up 2000

- RightFreight - Market Positioning campaign

- UpStart Communications and ChemConnect - B2B Chemical Exchange Blasts Off


One of the world's largest and best-known independent public relations agencies, Rubenstein Associates serves more than 475 clients with a professional and support staff 160 strong. It operates across the complete spectrum of practice areas and offers all the capabilities and resources necessary to the conduct of modern public relations.

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