For some Americans, the football season defines their social lives, as friends gather around TV sets to watch their favorite teams attempt to reach the Super Bowl.
For e-commerce retailer Second Act, which almost exclusively sells high-definition large screen televisions, the football season defines its business calendar as one of the busiest times of the year. Many of its prospective customers are avid sports fans looking to upgrade to the picture quality of an HDTV.
Second Act specializes in closeout, overstock, open box and factory refurbished merchandise coupled with factory warranties on all products. This past fall, the company wanted to increase its Web site visits from existing customers as well as acquire new customers and e-mail addresses.
E-mail helped build community
However, instead of launching a sales-driven e-mail campaign, Second Act worked with e-mail service provider Silverpop to develop a brand-building program focused on fantasy football, using a “pick ‘em” format, in which players choose which teams they think will win each week throughout the season.
“We have very loyal customers, but people don't often buy multiple big screen TVs, so we wanted to give them a reason to come to our site and interact with the brand even if they weren't in the market to buy a TV,” says Mark Redetzke, COO of Second Act. “Football is important to many of our customers and we wanted to give them a fun experience.”
Second Act invited customers on its master e-mail list to join the fantasy league. Participants who opted in were sent an e-mail with a link to a landing page that listed the week's games and let players select the teams they thought would win. The person who selected the most winning picks at the end of the season received a television. Those who participated were also directed to Second Act's blog on the fantasy football season.
The campaign proved fruitful. During the 17-week promotion, 1,000 customers participated in the game. Every week, the company added about 100 new players. Of the e-mails that were opened, 65% clicked through back to the Second Act Web site from the e-mail. Every blog post received about eight to 10 responses from engaged customers, adding up to about 150 total posts.
“We are proving that even though you are using e-mail, you don't have to hit people over the head with a ‘salesy' kind of pitch,” says Elaine O'Gorman, Silverpop's VP of strategy. “This is a wonderful message for e-mail marketers who sometimes only use e-mail to really push sales. I think that Second Act's customers saw this as a service, rather than just a marketing message.”
The promotion also helped Second Act build its in-house e-mail list. The company's existing list of 5,000 was collected through a sign-up form on its site and at the point of purchase.
“E-mail is our main form of communicating with our customer base and is a way to generate incremental sales without having to spend money on the acquisition of new customers,” Redetzke says. The firm attributes 2,000 additional e-mail addresses to the fantasy football campaign.
In addition to the TV giveaway, prizes such as free iPods and a 5% discount on all purchases during the football season were also offered during the promotion. The promotion also resulted in more than $100,000 in related product sales.
Timing is key for motivation
As part of the campaign, Second Act also encouraged participants to invite friends and family and sent invitations to a variety of football chat rooms. “The key to a good social e-mail campaign is to know how your audience spends their time and to create messaging and interactive games around things that are important to them, so they will get engaged and share it with their friends,” O'Gorman explains.
But just creating a social campaign is not always enough — a hook to create stakes in the campaign may be necessary to make people respond in a timely manner. “The trickiest part of using e-mail for community building is timing,” O'Gorman points out. “If you just create a message board where people can go anytime, they may not feel the urgency to go right away. But if you create a time-sensitive event, people are motivated to participate in the moment.”
In the future, Second Act plans to use more interactive games within its e-mail program. They will include a mix of social interactions to make the Second Act shopping experience more personal.
“With this campaign, our customers literally began to call us by our first name and we called them by theirs,” Redetzke recalls. “It was a tremendous way to connect with them in a way that was not designed to create a sale implicitly, but by creating a connection increased ROI for sales directly attributable to people in the program.”
Tackling e-mail success with a social twist
Score a few campaign touchdowns — and avoid fumbles — with these tips from Silverpop's O'Gorman
1. Get engaged. Find an onlineactivity that encourages recipients to engage with each other. “A typical advergame isn't enough to harness this phenomenon,” she says.
2. Go for viral appeal. O'Gorman suggests letting your recipients “do your acquisition for you whenever possible,” with activities tied into communities like sports.
3. Introduce urgency. “Activity level is spurred by deadlines,” she explains. Without that sense of urgency, she adds, marketers struggle with social outlets like bulletin boards.
1. Don't forget your focus. Your activity should be product-logical, as Second Act's was by connecting its HDTV products to what sports fans enjoy.
2. Stay away from self-promotion. An audience maydisengage if your company's messaging balance appears heavily weighted towards promotional content.
3. Don't oversend. As with all e-mail campaigns, “Do what you can to moderate the number you send out in any given time period,” she says.