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How Micro Focus’ most commercially B2B successful campaign, achieved 100% of annual sales target within first six months

Find out how True’s award-winning B2B campaign for Micro Focus led to long-term brand value 


The holy grail of B2B marketing is to unite sales with brand building for long-term business stability. True was able to demonstrate how a balanced programme was able to achieve both short-term sales objectives, while building brand value that contributed consistent sales over the long-term.

Furthermore, this case study demonstrates the way long-term effects, generated by the campaign, were fundamentally different from how the short-term effects were produced. And how long-term effects are not simply an accumulation of short-term campaign results.

In other words, True shows how the sales achieved by executing a succession of short-term, response-focused campaigns added up to more than the total of direct marketing sales over the long-term. And how brand-response campaigns achieve year-on-year improvement to business success.

“True found emotional metrics were more likely to predict long-term success, while rational metrics were more likely to predict short-term success”

True was also able to show how an emotional message, developed as a ‘big long idea’ generated powerful ‘sticky’ memorability, and produced considerably more powerful long-term brand effects than rational persuasion ever could.

Conversely, rational messaging was more powerful at generating short-term sales effects once the prospect had ‘entered’ the funnel and engaged with our nurturing content.

True found emotional metrics were more likely to predict long-term success, while rational metrics were more likely to predict short-term success. To measure, it created a balanced scorecard of metrics capable of monitoring both short and long-term sales and brand effects.


COBOL applications continue to be at the heart of the world’s business transactions and power the majority of large organisations’ key business operations.

In any IT system, the customers’ business logic and data remain critical to their competitive advantage. The key is unlocking this competitive advantage through exploitation of the latest technology innovations such as ‘big data’ ‘virtualisation’ and ‘cloud’.

Micro Focus helps these companies by enabling them to link their investments in established technology with the latest innovation. For example, an application written 38 years ago in COBOL – before anyone had thought of Linux, Windows, virtualisation, cloud or wireless communications – can now work today in all of those environments.

Micro Focus’s Visual COBOL software development solution takes traditional COBOL coding into a more productive and efficient Windows development environment. Unlike the archaic ‘green screen’ coding environment which developers currently use, Visual COBOL has a modern, easy-to-use environment.

Strategy – the broader business issues

In 2012, COBOL solutions accounted for 20% of Micro Focus revenues, and there were more than one million licenced users of Micro Focus COBOL. Most of this came from repeat maintenance fees. So, to grow its market share, Micro Focus needed to convert more COBOL customers to its next generation solution, Visual COBOL.

The challenges faced in marketing were numerous. The new product had very low awareness, so many organisations were blind to the fact that they were doing the ‘old’ when they could be doing the ‘new’.

An audience-focused, content-led approach isn’t new, but it was a new era of innovation for Visual COBOL. True ensured that all its content was remarkable to grab attention and to cut through any negative perceptions of COBOL.

It had to dig deep, and together with the client’s inhouse experts, it developed five key themes under one emotionally led ‘innovation’ umbrella, each theme addressing a specific challenge that COBOL developers, their managers and the organisation face:

  1. Increase COBOL developer efficiency
  2. Tackle the organisational COBOL skills challenge
  3. Modernise solutions on new IT architectures
  4. Deliver mobile services underpinned by existing COBOL investments
  5. Deploy applications to cloud.

Content alone would not be successful, so to ensure maximum exposure, True used various channels to promote the content, such as paid media, eDMs, DMs, display advertising via its own programmatic advertising trading desk, social media, blogs, PR and events. It drove Micro Focus’ audience to the campaign website and specific landing pages hosting various assets. It also encouraged this audience to sign up for a free 30-day trial to test the product. Once someone had taken up the free trial it implemented an automated series of nurture eDMs via Eloqua, promoting useful content and offering the reader useful tips and tricks.

At every stage of the marketing funnel, True graded the importance of each piece and gated selected ‘hero’ assets collecting scored and nurtured leads for the sales team to directly engage. A win-win strategy emerged during the planning phase to ensure that brand-building activity (a brand platform) was in place to drive sustained long-term volume growth in tandem with short-term activation activity.

Target audience

True was targeting existing Micro Focus customers using relevant platforms as well as non-IBM mainframe customers.

  • Within the organisations it was targeting, the COBOL developer and their manager as well as the IT manager and CTO
  • Verticals – typical COBOL customers within finance, banking, retail, distribution, government and logistics, supply chain
  • Geographical targeting – global.

Campaign timescales

The campaign was first introduced in February 2013 and is still ongoing. True initially launched the campaign with the creative platform ‘Godfrey diving’ video. It then launched five successive product-based waves of activation, each lasting six months.

Media, channels and techniques used 

The campaign was delivered globally with the aim to guide its audience through the buyer’s funnel from awareness to consideration and conversion. Starting with the content first, based on True’s key themes, it mapped the buyer’s journey ensuring it was covering all the bases.

Across the buying funnel it implemented a five-point metric system:

1. Reach

To reach market saturation with the core message and ensure the right number of individual influencers and business decision-makers were exposed to its content, True implemented a broadcast approach, including:

  • Online display advertising via its advertising trading desk
  • Integrated PR
  • A creative platform.

2. Targeting

To ensure True’s individually profiled prospects were targeted, it executed direct marketing campaigns including:

  • Direct mail
  • Awareness emails promoting various content, driving traffic to the landing pages
  • Post-trial, it implemented a nuture eDM series via Eloqua and a scoring lead table to qualify leads for sales.

3. Engagement

To drive engagement, True created an integrated email and campaign microsite, hosted on Eloqua – the marketing automation platform. The site hosted all of its content including:

  • Videos
  • Interactive tools
  • Third-party whitepapers
  • Product demos
  • Step-by-step guides
  • HTML 5 business journey assets.

4. Socialised

According to True’s research, a typical buying unit for Micro Focus’s Visual COBOL development tools could exceed well over 80 individuals over a 18-month period, so it was critical to produce remarkable content that supported the various buying needs and could be easily shared within the four walls of the buying organisation, as well and across social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, industry forums and blogs.

5. Sales

The campaign metrics were tracked from front-end funnel to closed sales. COBOL development tools represent over half of Micro Focus’s revenue. Against this, the campaign achieved 100% of the annual sales target within the first six months.

“We have seen a ‘hockey-stick’ shaped growing sales curve for our Visual COBOL solution,” M

elissa Burns, global marketing, Micro Focus.

B2B Marketing Awards 2016

This case study was submitted as part of the judging process for the B2B Marketing Awards 2016. It won

Most commercially successful campaign:


‘Visual COBOL’ for Micro Focus by True.

See the winners

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