How to (ethically) steal your prospect’s attention: 5 ultra-creative sales case studies

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We’re all cursed, and there’s a pile of research to prove it.

Thanks to excessive entertainment, reams of content, and a barrage of advertisements, we’re swamped with information that we struggle to process. 

To determine where to aim our attention and what deserves it, our brains constantly guess what’s coming next.

When we guess right, we switch off. 

This phenomenon is known as the “Curse of Knowledge”: When you encounter information that you’re familiar with—like a beaten-to-death professional title (*cough* self-described “thought leaders” *cough*), or a scripted sales message—your brain instinctively “doesn’t wanna know,” because you’ve encountered the same data before.

Courtesy of your ol’ pal BG

But, this “curse” can easily convert into an advantage. 

With a creative touch, you can imbue the element of surprise (which Harvard researchers have candidly described as “crack for your brain)” into your lead generation tactics

To get your creative juices flowing, I’ve listed five surprising sales case studies to inspire your next “out-of-the-box” campaign.

1. GumGum’s custom comic “wows” a unicorn client

T-mobile is a leading cell phone service provider with over $45 billion in annual revenue and 53,000 employees. When GumGum, an AI image recognition software firm, wanted to reach decision-makers at T-mobile, they knew that traveling the beaten path of sending outbound emails wouldn’t work. 

So after stumbling across the fact that T-mobile’s CEO John Legere is a huge Batman fan, they blazed their own trail by putting their personalized outreach on steroids

Collaborating with a creative team of editors, writers, and illustrators, they developed a custom, Batman-spoof style comic book called T-Man and Gums.

After finishing the comic, 100 copies were rushed to T-Mobile and its agencies of record, and the rest, as they say, is history. Within a few hours of receiving the comic, Legere sang their praise on Twitter. And within a few days, a meeting was set and GumGum won the account.  

Sales case study takeaway: Whether you’re B2B, or B2C, the fact remains that you’re still B2H—Business to Human. That’s why personalizing your lead generation around the human making decisions on the other end will almost guarantee that you earn attention.

Related: What’s the craziest thing you’re ever done to make a sale?

2. Jeremy Leveille’s brave B2B rap video

Have you ever had a sales rep rap to you? 

Probably not. And that’s why this brave B2B rap video from sales veteran Jeremy Leveille earned him the attention of the accounts he was targeting.

In what’s arguably one of the gutsiest sales case studies out there, Jeremy lip-synced the song “Welcome to Atlanta” while clad in an Atlanta Hawks throwback jersey. He concludes with a quick value proposition and then shouts-out existing customers in Atlanta that the prospect would know. 

The rap was a success. Not only did Jeremy impress recipients with his creative outreach, but he also received enthusiastic replies from leads that were eager to meet him:

Sales case study takeaway: Video is playing a bigger role in B2B sales. And with most of your competitors relying on the standard text-based cold email or call, using video is an effective way to stand out and add a memorable touch to your outreach campaigns.

(Note: We also included Jeremy’s rap skills in our roundup of B2B cold email templates.)

3. Dennis Oakley’s “soft” outreach earns millions in revenue

Question: You have a strong product, an understanding of your market, and a compelling value proposition. You also have no network. How do you get leads?

It’s a popular predicament that many founders face. For consultant Dennis Oakley, it was a situation he successfully coached a client through. 

As a startup in the B2B industrial vertical, his client grew frustrated when the phone failed to ring for two consecutive weeks. To rescue her startup from failing before it could even launch, Oakley and his team set up an aggressive outreach strategy with an unusual twist.

After identifying her ideal customer profile, which was mainly procurement managers at heavy engineering companies, Oakley and his team attended exhibitions to build a list of leads. 

At the exhibitions, however, they didn’t shoot straight for the sale when meeting procurement managers and sales reps. Instead, they spoke to over 1,000 contacts and took cards from the companies that were a good fit. Or as Oakley put it “we said hello and took their business cards.” 

Then, his team began an outreach campaign that focused on getting those sales reps to pass his client’s value proposition to procurement teams. 

Our first few emails were aimed not at the procurement managers but at the salesmen and getting them to forward the value proposition through to the procurement team.”

Within a year, this campaign took Oakley’s client from an unknown startup with zero business to one million dollars in sales. 

Sales case study takeaway: Borrow reputation and breed familiarity. 

This sales case study shows the value of finding relevant decision-makers and indirectly warming them up before you “go in for the kill.” For your next campaign, ask yourself: 

  1. Who are the ultimate decision-makers? 
  2. Is it better to be introduced by a middleman?
  3. If so, how can you make that introduction happen? 
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4. Robin’s unconventional content generates 20% more leads

Robin, a conference room scheduling software, is no stranger to content marketing that generates inbound leads. One of their most successful sales case studies, however, came about when they experimented with their content and social selling strategy. 

Steering their efforts towards social media channels where SaaS leads are harder to generate, they posted user-generated pictures of beautiful office spaces on the likes of Instagram and Pinterest.

robin instagram creative sales case studies
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People might not want to look for the tech, but they love offices. They love the bars, they love the chairs, they love the lighting, it’s kind of why Pinterest and Instagram exist.  So we decided, let’s highlight some of our customers,” said Ryan MacInnis, Director of Marketing at Robin.

To their surprise, the experiment paid off. The company’s web traffic increased by 50 percent and brought 20 percent more leads to their door. 

Sales case study takeaway: Search for a pond your competitors are not fishing in. 

If all your competitors are using identical channels and strategies to target and generate leads, be the first to experiment elsewhere. For Robin, this meant experimenting with alternate social media channels and radically different content. 

5. Ash Ambirge’s “lumpy mail” gets a 100% response rate

ash ambirge lumpy mail sales through the roof sales case studies
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Initially earning her the“crazy office chick” title, Ash Ambirge shares an impressive sales case study in her book, The Middle Finger Project, that eventually turned her into a top account exec. 

Selling ad space for a real estate magazine called The New Home Guide, she struggled to stand out. This led to her dragging a giant contractor’s tarp filled with roofing shingles through the office and sitting down for hours to inscribe them with the words:

“You + Me = Sales through the roof.”

After mailing her customized shingles to her prospects in the home-building industry, Ambirge was elated with the results. She achieved an unprecedented 100% response rate and landed deals with nearly all the companies she targeted.

Would a cold email or call have had the same response? 

I doubt it.

Sales case study takeaway: With so many marketers and reps now flocking to digital channels, direct mail with a touch of personalization is an underrated way to grab attention. Even when physical mail was the norm, legendary marketers like Gary Halbert stood out by attaching dollar bills to sales letters

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Great sales case studies have this one thing in common…

“The Curse of Knowledge” makes earning attention more challenging, but creativity is the key to countering it and having your voice heard. As shown in the sales case studies above, professionals who are more creative clearly perform better than their less creative counterparts. 

But, how do you form and execute creative marketing and sales initiatives? The answer is simple: 

Be willing to experiment. 

In all the sales case studies above, a team or individual was willing to experiment and fail by trialing a unique approach. If you want to revamp your lead generation campaigns, do the same. 

Don’t be afraid to rock the boat. 

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