H&R Block Turns Virtual Visits Into Trackable Traffic

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H&R Block has begun an Internet campaign aimed at both building on a tax-time experiment last year and turning this year's virtual visits into measurable office traffic.

Between Jan. 1 and April 15 last year, H&R Block's Web site at www.hrblock.com drew more than 10 times the traffic it had during all of 1996 as the result of an overhaul. However, H&R Block was unable to track how much of the online action translated into office visits.

"We were more interested in getting our Web site off the ground," said Fred Halfpap, assistant vice president of marketing at H&R Block, Kansas City, MO. "This year, we wanted to be able to go to management and say 'We spent X, and here is how much business we got as a result.' "

On Feb. 4, H&R Block started a "You Play, We Pay" promotion in conjunction with online couponer CoolSavings (www.coolsavings.com). H&R Block is inviting contestants to enroll at the CoolSavings site and answer entertainment trivia questions for a chance to win a grand prize of up to $5,000 of their taxes paid by H&R Block. Second prize is free tax preparation up to $150. Third prize is a last will and testament kit or a college financial aid kit.

One-year-old CoolSavings lets advertisers use detailed member-supplied demographic information to deliver targeted offers to the site and to special on-site member e-mail boxes. CoolSavings members download the offers as coupons redeemable at local retailers.

To be eligible for the coupon offers, CoolSavings visitors must supply their names, addresses, area codes and e-mail addresses. They also can supply the number of homes and cars they own, household income, profession, age, number of children and pets, household birthdays and anniversaries -- all with the promise of getting offers tailored to their interests. CoolSavings claims a database of about 320,000 households making up about 580,000 registered shoppers.

CoolSavings also reports that its database is growing by 17 percent, or 100,000 shoppers, a month. It projects membership to grow to 2 million households by year's end.

H&R Block has placed a run-of-site $25-off-premium-tax-preparation coupon on CoolSavings available to all You Play, We Pay contestants. By mid-February, the sweepstakes had attracted 6,000 contestants, 4,000 of whom had downloaded coupons, Halfpap said.

H&R Block is promoting You Play, We Pay with a link from its tax site at www.hrblock.com/tax to CoolSavings' site. CoolSavings has e-mailed each household in its database and placed 2 million banners on sites such as search engines Excite and InfoSeek.

Matt Moog, vice president of sales and marketing at CoolSavings' publisher, Interactive Coupon Network, Chicago, estimated that 30,000 people will participate in the promotion, which will give H&R Block wide- ranging online marketing opportunities.

"Next year, we will have a database of 30,000 households that not only have stood up and said they're responsive to coupons by registering with CoolSavings, they have specifically clipped H&R Block coupons," Moog said. "When tax time rolls around again, we'll be able to address those people specifically."

H&R Block also sees opportunity in the people who download coupons but don't redeem them, Halfpap said.

"We want to bounce the names and addresses off our database and see who came into the store," he said.

Moog added, "Most coupon distributors know how many they sent out and how many people responded, but they don't know how many people clipped and didn't respond."

Generally, half of CoolSavings members who download coupons redeem them, Moog said. Since clipping the coupons indicates interest in H&R Block whether they redeem them or not, "this is a way for marketers to go back to people who they know are their absolute best prospects."

Halfpap said H&R Block will be on the lookout for those who download coupons and visit H&R Block stores, but don't use the coupons.

"We want to find out if maybe the [promotion] will bring them in anyway," he said.

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