Fun @work: Viral Marketing for the Office

Let’s have some fun, shall we?

Today’s case study is one of the more entertaining ones I’ve done in a while. Lest you think this is all fun and games, let me reassure you. A fairly staid company uses entertainment to create results in an appropriate, although surprising, manner. You might expect flashiness from a greeting card company or video game manufacturer, but you might not expect it from a business-to-business (B2B) organization.

Conference Calls Unlimited, also known as uConference, offers Web and audio conferencing services. UConference is relatively unknown (it’s based in Iowa’s “Silicorn Valley”) and competes against much larger players. The company needed a cost-effect way to advertise its services to potential clients, who are primarily in the SOHO market.

UConference was founded in 1998. Until the end of last year, pay-per-click (PPC) search engine advertising was its primary online media buy. High costs were a huge drawback, however. UConference was spending thousands of dollars each month and not getting much for the investment. So, the company began to experiment with email marketing.

The marketing team discovered the “snow globe” campaign by e-tractions. The campaign used Flash to create a fun online game to garner viral publicity.

UConference liked the idea of using a humorous piece to virally spread the word about its services. So it worked with e-tractions to come up with the @work office. Click here to check out the campaign.

You should see a captivating scene, with miniature office workers doing all the tasks at a typical office, such as typing, filling the coffee pot to overflowing, and break dancing in rolling desk chairs (really). All this is accomplished initially with four workers. If you want to add more workers, you must tell a friend about the site by clicking an “add staff” link. Fill out the email invitation form. When your invitation is accepted, a new worker is added. Site viewers can fill the form out up to four times, for a total of eight miniature workers.

All the programming is done in Flash. According to e-tractions, the technical challenge was to make the scene slightly different each time a recipient sees it without having to write complicated scripts. E-tractions considered automatically adding new characters to accomplish this, but that involved lots of back-end work. Instead, the programmers wrote code relying on random behavior. Each character can be involved in multiple situations.

The first email message went out a few weeks ago to e-tractions’ own database of about 97,000 opt-in recipients, largely composed of uConference’s target demographic. It was headlined “Sneak a Peek. @work” and began:

Last year, over 15 million of you joined us in celebrating the holiday season by visiting our Snowglobe promotion. Now we bring you @work, our celebration of the American workplace. We hope you enjoy it and it brightens your work day.

The forward-to-a-friend message was similar. It, too, was headlined “Sneak a Peek. @work,” and it started off:

Your friend Heidi Anderson thought you might need a quick break. Why not turn off your brain for a while and leave the drudgery to somebody else for a change? Here’s your chance.

It followed with an invitation to click a button titled, Take A Peek.

The results so far:

  • Sent email messages: 97,293

  • Visitors to @work site: 23,443
  • Referrers: 7,952
  • Referrals: 27,865
  • Visitors from referrals: 14,385
  • Total visits: 68,517
  • Click-throughs to uConference site: 6,582

What do these numbers really mean? Notable is those who took advantage of the forward-to-a-friend option did so an average of nearly four times, the built-in maximum. Visitors arriving from these referrals were more than 50 percent of the total, compared to 24 percent of visitors from the original email. (This should put to rest any doubt a friend’s word is better than even a trusted sender’s.)

More important, though, is what this ultimately means to uConference. Exactly 6,582 people clicked through to uConference’s Web site, about a 28 percent CTR on the original open rate. Remember, this mailing went to e-tractions’ opt-in list, not to uConference’s own list. Those numbers likely represent potential customers, not current ones.

And a key result: The campaign was executed at roughly half the cost of uConference’s earlier PPC model. It took just under eight weeks to create the initial engine, and the piece can be modified and recreated at a much lower cost for future campaigns. That’s some serious cost savings with a fun campaign!

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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