TechWeb Turns Dumb IT Questions Into a Smart Campaign

“When it says ‘click the right mouse button,’ do they mean MY right or theirs?”

“Where’s the ctrl-alt-delete key?”

“Can you help me find my document? I don’t remember what I named it.”

Argh. If someone presented me with those questions, I’d probably tear my hair out in frustration, and I can hardly imagine anyone actively soliciting these types of questions. But TechWeb did and, in the process, created a lighthearted, clever online marketing campaign.

TechWeb, a division of CMP Media Inc., is an online source providing industry news and analysis for IT professionals. In an effort to drive more traffic to its web site, TechWeb teamed up with interactive agency IN2, a subsidiary of TMP Worldwide Inc., to develop the “Rags to Roadster” campaign. This campaign increased TechWeb branding and built up the email address database by utilizing online and offline channels.

The message of the campaign was “Send us the dumbest IT question you’ve ever heard, and you may win a BMW Z3.” The goal was to reach and speak to the target audience in a way that would be fun and generate interest and it worked on both counts.

Here’s how it was carried out. The company started with banner buys (beginning in mid-April and running for about a month) on a variety of sites that targeted IT professionals, such as Advertising.com, and 10 buttons also were placed on various pages of CMP property sites. In addition, radio spots in markets known for large numbers of IT professionals, such as Austin, San Francisco, and San Jose, were run to reinforce the message. The banner ad and buttons took individuals to a landing page where they would submit their name and email address along with the dumbest IT question they had ever heard.

The initial results were great; the campaign garnered approximately 23,000 unique entries, many of them submitted by individuals new to the TechWeb database. The follow-up email sent to these individuals thanked them for their contribution and gave them the chance to become TechWeb “subscribers” by opting in to TechWeb newsletters.

TechWeb didn’t stop there. Next, TechWeb posted the top 50 entries on a web page and sent an email out to the database (as well as promoting the contest from within buttons on CMP sites) encouraging individuals to vote on their favorites. This generated a nearly 16 percent click-through rate, and visitors to the page were also prompted to “make someone laugh” by sending them email directing them to the page.

There’s another key metric here. You might well ask yourself as I did how qualified these new individuals were. Were they simply entering the contest for the shot at the BMW or merely viewing the page for laughs?

Whatever the initial reasoning for visiting the site, the content hooked the new visitors once they discovered the TechWeb site. IN2, using its proprietary ClickMaps software, tracked the page views of these new individuals and discovered that they were 71 percent higher than the average page views per visitor of those not added to the database in this campaign.

So the next time you hear, “You mean that Excel could have done all the calculations for me?” or “Why would I want to back up my work when I’m making such good progress?” think about how your company might turn a good laugh into a marketing opportunity.

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