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Awards case study: Autodesk’s direct mail campaign generates social media engagement and 193% ROI | B2B Marketing

Discover how Autodesk and Catalysis used direct mail (DM) to drive engagement via a social media competition and deliver 34 qualified new opportunities, all on a shoestring budget

The Shard DM was a highly effective campaign with a modest budget. With an ROI of 193%, it secured 34 new qualified opportunities across a highly-targeted list of 250 accounts, achieving Autodesk’s immediate objective of upgrading customers to its collaboration for Revit® software.

The Shard DM was designed to appeal directly to architects and engineers who, with their enquiring minds, relish creative problem-solving tasks. It highlighted the benefits of design collaboration and triggered an emotional response by drawing on the sense of satisfaction and pride designers feel when their models come together.


Autodesk makes software for people who create things, from architects to manufacturers to those working in visual effects. Its Revit® software is used by architects and engineers to plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.


Autodesk’s industry is changing. Customer demand for greater flexibility and enhanced collaboration is driving a shift from traditional software licensing to cloud-based models. For many architects and engineers, however, this transition still presents a huge mind shift.

This direct mail (DM), and the wider campaign in which it sits, lays the groundwork for Autodesk’s broader business objective of moving customers to collaborate in the cloud. It also raises awareness of the benefits of the cloud model and encourages architects to take the first step towards it.


The primary objective was to persuade users of Revit® to extend their design workflows by collaborating in the cloud, made possible with the addition of software collaboration.

The secondary objective was to build relationships with Autodesk’s Revit® customers with a view to expanding the use of other Autodesk software within their company.

A third, more general objective was to engage customers with the Autodesk brand.

Target audience

The benefit of collaboration for Revit® is that it breaks down traditional silos so that designers no longer work in isolation. The cloud-based, centralised workspace makes it possible for all project team members to collaborate on the same models, ironing out potential issues early in the design rather than the construction phase, during which changes are more lengthy, complex and costly.

Collaboration for Revit® saves time and money because architects and engineers can be assured when it comes to construction that everything will fit together perfectly.

To create an emotional connection with the audience and tie directly to the product messaging, Catalysis recommended the campaign drew on the sense of satisfaction and pride architects feel when a design ‘comes together’, while also demonstrating the benefits of collaboration.

For the DM piece, Catalysis proposed a flatpack model of London’s iconic building The Shard, comprising ten pieces and minimal build instructions, designed to appeal directly to architects and engineers, who were revealed by Autodesk persona research to be creative problem solvers who relish a challenge.

The Shard was chosen because of its iconic status, and because the team knew Autodesk software had been used as part of the design process. Recipients were encouraged to work together to build the model and then tweet a picture of their team with the finished Shard in return for ‘design collaboration expertise and beers’.

Autodesk analysis of the US collaboration for Revit® launch identified customers with four or more users of Revit® as most likely to buy. Autodesk ran this profile against the UK accounts to reveal the top 250 companies it thought it had the best chance of converting to sales. The personalised mailouts were sent to the key influencer (BIM manager) from each of these organisations.

Media, channels or techniques used

Direct mail was identified as the most appropriate, attention-grabbing channel for architects, who are often time poor and largely office based. Appealing to their problem-solving nature, the model challenged them to a different way of working: away from their computer screens and in collaboration with colleagues.

Autodesk adopts a policy that restricts the volume of unsolicited email sent to its customers, so wanted to explore other ways of generating engagement. Direct Marketing Association (DMA) research showed DM to be more effective, with a 3.7% response rate compared with 0.1% for email. Autodesk wanted to try something that would stand out in a world dominated by digital marketing, and complement its multi-channel strategy for this campaign.

A DM insert (A5 card) outlined the benefits of design collaboration and encouraged recipients to find out more by downloading the campaign hero content – a gated ebook. It also contained details of a Twitter competition to further encourage brand interaction and extend the campaign across social to reach a wider audience.

The recipients also received a telephone call from the sales team. As an icebreaker, callers could reference the company’s competition tweet or encourage them to take part if they hadn’t already. To make these calls as effective as possible, marketing briefed sales on the campaign and how to best position it. The sales team even tweeted a picture of their own Shard model collaboration.

“…the Autodesk Shard Model was a refreshing idea that sparked an instant discussion in our office”

Will Ardill, BIM manager, KSS Design Group

Autodesk curated the competition entries in Storify, creating a permanent record of the event. The joint-winners and third place runners-up were announced on Twitter. In January, Catalysis arranged an Autodesk-hosted informal knowledge-sharing event at the winners’ offices and set up a mobile bar serving craft beer with snacks and Autodesk-branded beer mats and pint glasses.

IP targeted display advertising was also used to drive people directly to the ebook, creating blanket awareness across social, as well as a consistent campaign look and feel across all channels.




     Planning and conception


     Collateral and DM developed


    : ebook published


     Display advertising ran


     DM mail out/competition opened


     Follow-up calls took place


     Competition closed


     Winners announced


     Winners’ events held





  • £11,475 for DM. This included campaign development and project management, model, insert, label design, printing, packing and shipping.
  • £4860 for social competition. This included project management, bar hire, beer, design and printing of Autodesk-branded beer mats and pint glasses.

Total: £16,335.


  • 34 new qualified opportunities with nine resulting in sales worth £47,851.
  • ROI of 193%. There are still 17 open opportunities.
  • 29 Twitter competition entries were received representing a 12% engagement.
  • 1200 Shard models given away at Autodesk University in Las Vegas and 600 in London.

“The DM was hugely successful from our perspective – we got four times the expected response rate and gained traction in our largest target accounts. The concept design and execution were very different from our normal 


 and clearly struck a chord with our customers. Sales and marketing alignment was key; our teams worked closely to understand our market and target our best prospects. The results speak for themselves.” – Tom Edmonds, sales director, Autodesk

B2B Marketing Awards 2017 – winners

This submission won the award for 

‘Best limited-budget campaign’

 at the B2B Marketing Awards 2017: ‘Catalysis Autodesk shard DM’ for Autodesk by Catalysis.

See the full list of winners

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