To tackle the challenge, the Sybase team catered to the data elite's natural competitiveness - Peter Kim would call it an "ego trap", but regardless of what you call it, it's great marketing.
Enjoy the case study, it's from Digital Body Language:
Sybase: Buyer Profiling for Micro Segment
For one of its key data-management products, Sybase IQ, Sybase needed to engage with a specific set of its customers: “the data elite” – people who needed fast response times in a solution to tackle extremely high volumes of data. The Sybase IQ product leveraged a new approach to data storage and querying that resulted in performance improvements of many orders of magnitude. The target buyers, however, in many cases were not aware that such a solution was possible, and may have been grudgingly purchasing ever larger hardware in order to tackle the problem.
To connect with this audience, the Sybase team leveraged the naturally competitive nature of administrators of huge volumes of data, and their desire to compare themselves against their peers. The campaign targeted a scrubbed list of existing Sybase contacts and asked them for information on the extreme challenges they were tackling - data volume, response time, or both. Based on their answers, one of three cartoon icons guided them through an information-gathering process where they were ranked as a Pro, an Expert, or Elite by comparing them to their peers.
With this basic knowledge, the campaign guided them through five stages - from collecting basic information through to fully engaged, through sharing thought leadership from industry gurus and case studies of similar professionals becoming corporate heroes through delivering massive performance increases. At each step, the content and detailed information provided was tightly matched to the individual’s biggest challenge and rank. By observing their interactions with available content, the campaign transitioned the customer from one buying stage to the next.
By cultivating that competitive spirit among database experts as to who tackles the larger data challenge, Sybase engaged with the “data elite” in ways that enabled the company to better understand who would be an ideal audience for the product. By catering to this competitive spirit, Sybase was also able to develop the opportunity to present to them possible solutions, that they had never thought possible, to a very real challenge they were having.