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May 23, 2012
Case Study

B2C Content Marketing: How employee content drove 200 leads per day at Guitar Center

SUMMARY: The most valuable content for consumer marketers is often user-generated -- reviews, Facebook conversations, Tweets, Pinterest boards and more. One content resource consumer marketers might overlook, but many B2B marketers utilize, is the knowledge shared by company employees.

This article first ran February 23, 2012, in the MarketingSherpa Inbound Marketing newsletter. Read on to see how retailer Guitar Center generates leads by tapping into the expertise of its sales team. And learn how the company improved homepage traffic by featuring "store experts" in its display ads, and encouraged 66% of employees to create online profiles on the company website.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

CHALLENGE

When you need more content for your website, it's easy to jump into a platform. You might start publishing blog posts, for example, because that's what everyone else does.

Kirit Sarvaiya, Multichannel Executive, Guitar Center, took a different approach. Instead of starting with a platform, he started with his company's strengths. He considered the assets that separated Guitar Center, the world's largest retailer of musical instruments, from its online competitors.

"What really drives the difference between us and them is that we have stores," Sarvaiya says. "We have real people in there, about 6,000 of them, who have been working at Guitar Center for many years, and they really help customers figure out what is right for them."

The expertise of Guitar Center's salespeople was an asset. Sarvaiya's team needed to turn this vast resource into content that would attract more site traffic and sales leads.

CAMPAIGN

Sarvaiya planned to publish profiles for each of the company's sales associates. He hoped the profiles would provide good content to Guitar Center's site and help build relationships with customers.

The team organized the profiles onto pages for each of the company's 224 brick-and-mortar locations. Each store page featured content from local salespeople and provided links to email them.

Guitar Center took these five steps:

Step #1. Create profiles of salespeople

"People buy from people they like or feel a connection with, so we are trying to help that along, especially online," Sarvaiya says. "We have taken our asset, which is our people, and their knowledge and their skills and interests in musical instruments, and are showing that online."

The team first encouraged salespeople to provide content for a full profile. These profiles would be published online and would help generate sales leads. Depending on the amount of content provided, the profiles could include:
  • Photos

  • Videos

  • Blog posts

  • Link to send an email

  • More information on specialty and experience

Some salespeople provided only a bio and a personal picture, while others continually add a variety of content to their profiles.

Give incentives to contribute

To jump-start creation, the team ran sweepstakes for the sales team. Employees could enter by creating a profile, adding a photo, and writing a short bio. Prizes included an Apple iPad. The team ran similar efforts to encourage store managers to fill out the "about" section of each store's local page.

To encourage employees to build richer profiles, the team ran contests at the store-, district- and regional-levels, and gave prizes to associates who made use of the site's multimedia and blogging features.

Step #2. Publish profiles on 'localized' pages

The team wanted to organize and publish the profiles by store location. That way, customers searching online for a Guitar Center store could find pictures and information about local sales associates. The team created a unique page for each store that included:
  • City name - large, bold text in the header tells visitors that they are on a page for a specific Guitar Center location.

  • Location and contact info - the store's address, hours and phone number are included, and a Google Maps widget shows the store's exact location.

  • Current offers - at the center of each page, a rotating display ad features the current offers in the store.

  • Inventory links - visitors can browse new and used items in stock by clicking links on the left portion of the page.

  • Find an associate - the page lists summary profiles of the salespeople from the local store. The summaries include a photo, a few lines of information and a link to email questions. The summaries are organized into tabs by musical specialty, such as guitar or drums.

Step #3. Emphasize the team's expertise

To encourage sales leads, the team wanted to emphasize that its salespeople are experts and that they welcome questions. With that in mind, the team created a local "store experts" page for each location.

When a person clicks the "store experts" tab in the homepage's top navigation bar, they arrive on a page with the following features:
  • Clear instructions - a very large font tells visitors they are on the "store experts" page. A few lines of text explain that they can find an associate from their local store. The text encourages them to use the "email me" link to ask an associate a question.

  • Localized sub-headline - a sub-headline includes the city of the nearest Guitar Center store. For example, a visitor from Charlotte, NC, would see the headline "Store Experts in Charlotte."

  • Salespeople profiles - as on the local store pages, these pages also include summary profiles of the salespeople that includes links to email them.

Step #4. Raise customer awareness

Since the pages are loaded with local content, the team expects them to attract natural search traffic. The team also promotes them in the following ways:
  • Homepage - at launch, a large display ad was included in the rotation on the homepage. The team periodically features similar ads that point visitors to the local "store experts" pages.

    The homepage also includes two buttons in its top navigation. The "our stores" button directs visitors to a store locator, which leads them to a local store page. The "store experts" button brings visitors directly to an "experts" page that lists local associates.

  • Catalog - the team occasionally features its "store experts" pages in its bi-monthly print catalog.

  • In-store - signs posted around the store and near cash registers highlight the local pages and include a call-to-action to visit the site.

These tactics cost the team the opportunity to feature some other aspect of Guitar Center, but they do not consume many additional resources. The team typically reserves more expensive tactics (such as paid search advertising) for driving direct sales.

Step #5. Create and track leads via email

Visitors can click to email a specific salesperson from each of the pages described above. When a linked is clicked, a simple lay-over form appears where visitors can type a name, email address and desired message.

These links are effective drivers of sales leads, according to Sarvaiya (see results below). Customers ask questions regarding:
  • Selecting the right instrument for young players

  • Merits of product A over product B

  • Shipping to foreign countries

  • And other topics

Track sales for commissions

Many of these conversations lead to questions about price and become sales leads for the associate. In such cases, the associate will reply with a quote email that includes a description of the product, its price and its shipping costs. The email also includes an "add to cart" button that brings recipients to a shopping cart page with the item pre-loaded.

"If you end up buying through one of the quotes that are attached to the email, there is a direct credit. [The salesperson] gets commission for the transaction," says Sarvaiya.

Offline tracking presents a challenge

Unfortunately, because of tracking challenges, purchases made in-store are not always attributed to the site's local pages and profiles. The team is currently collecting data from salespeople to gauge the indirect impact of the pages.

"We have verbal examples of people telling us that 'this person saw my profile, walked in, we talked about a product, and he bought it,'" Sarvaiya says.



RESULTS

The team gradually built the pages and profiles. After adding the ability to email associates two days before Thanksgiving, nearly 12,000 sales leads poured in during the first eight weeks, right at the peak of the holiday shopping season. That's more than 200 leads per day.

"I would estimate that around 90% of them are commerce related. They are really good, quality leads," Sarvaiya says.

Most of the traffic to the team's local pages comes from Guitar Center's homepage. Traffic increases when "store experts" are featured on the rotating display ad:
  • 9% of homepage traffic visits a local page normally

  • 12% of homepage traffic visits when "store experts" are featured in the ad

Of the approximately 6,000 employees in Guitar Center locations, about 4,000 have added a profile to the site, Sarvaiya says, which is due largely to the team's internal contests and sweepstakes.

Impact on SEO

Natural search accounts for a small-but-growing amount of direct traffic to the local pages, Sarvaiya says. Two promising signs include:

  • Local store pages display as sitelinks under the company's main search result for some keywords in Google.

  • Each associate's profile has been indexed by search engines. Some are displaying on page one of Google's results for some search terms.

The site's homepage receives a large number of visits from search engines, which indirectly gives the local pages about 30% of their traffic from natural search, Sarvaiya says. The team is currently working to gain more visibility into its natural search performance and expects to improve search optimization of the pages in the near future.

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Creative Samples

  1. Full salesperson profile

  2. Local store page

  3. Summary profiles on local page

  4. Store experts page

  5. Store experts button in homepage navigation

  6. Local expert homepage ad

  7. Quote email to customer

  8. Salesperson profile in Google result

  9. Email layover form

  10. Local store result in Google sitelink

Sources

JBS - helped the team design and develop the pages

Guitar Center

Related Resources

Inbound Marketing 2011: The 9 social media, content marketing, and SEO articles your peers shared most

Content Marketing: Videos attract 300% more traffic and nurture leads

Content Marketing: Web-based tool to help email marketers


See Also:

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