Join thousands of weekly readers and receive practical marketing advice for FREE.
MarketingSherpa's Case Studies, New Research Data, How-tos, Interviews and Articles

Enter your email below to join thousands of marketers and get FREE weekly newsletters with practical Case Studies, research and training, as well as MarketingSherpa updates and promotions.


Please refer to our Privacy Policy and About Us page for contact details.

No thanks, take me to MarketingSherpa

First Name:
Last Name:
Jan 13, 2004
Case Study

How to Turn a Popular Viral Campaign into a Sales Lead Generation Machine

SUMMARY: This story is a must-read, if you've ever considered a viral campaign, or sent prospects an e-card.

Over the past six weeks, more than 12,000,000 visitors have played with a holiday e-card. Learn how the card turned visitors looking for fun into roughly $2,000,000 worth of business leads.

This new Case Study includes samples and useful data, such as week-by-week traffic figures so you can see the viral traffic bell-curve.

Last year Michael Gauthier, CEO e-tractions, learned a critical lesson -- never, ever take down old landing page art from your servers because you never know when a prospect may click through on an ancient campaign email to respond.

(This is especially true for b-to-b marketers, because prospects may carefully file a promo or newsletter away in a folder planning to click it later when they're at last ready to enter the sales cycle. The numbers can be a tiny trickle - but these leads are golden.)

In Gauthier's situation, his marketing team launched a viral "snow globe" campaign hoping to impress and win new clients over 2001 holiday season. It completely, utterly tanked.

His Web team left it live on the server, more as an internal reference than anything else. Nobody expected it to get any outside traffic ever again.

Then, as we detailed in a Case Study last year (link below), over the 2002 holiday season traffic exploded. Out of the blue, a prospect clicked on the very old link, liked the game, told a bunch of friends about it … and by January 2003 more than 200,000 people in three continents had played it.

However, all that traffic boiled down to a tiny handful of decent sales leads. So, it was still a bit of a bust.

Gauthier kept an eye on traffic though, wondering if the same explosion would happen again this holiday season. From February-September, traffic averaged 500-750 visits per month. Then in October, it doubled to 1,544 visitors per month, and began to climb steadily to several thousand visitors per day in November.

When traffic more than quadrupled from 8,622 on Sunday November 23rd to 39,152 on Monday the 24th, Gauthier realized he had another viral explosion on his hands. But, this time he wanted to get some decent sales leads out of it….


Gauthier held a team meeting to brainstorm ways the existing viral campaign, which was a Flash-animated holiday e-card, could be turned into a lead-generation machine. They didn't want to risk losing the super-fickle viral audience by tweaking creative that was working, but they had to do something.

"The thing was originally designed three years ago to get us attention. There was no clear call to action -- you were just telling them you were there. Now the whole call to action thing would have to be very different," explains Gauthier.

Step one: Testing soft vs. explicit calls to action

The team created two different calls to action with accompanying landing pages to match. (Link to sample landing pages below.)

The first was very soft, and entirely in the spirit of the fun creative. "We added a link at the bottom that said, 'Click if you like this and you want to see more fun stuff.'" The landing page featured at right prominent graphics and links to more viral campaigns e-tractions had created, along with small links at left to learn more about the Company's services.

The second was a more explicit offer related to e-tractions' business services, "Click if you would like a free brainstorm to talk about your marketing."

The second landing page creative was a reverse of the first. The right side prominently featured sales copy promoting the firm's services and linked to a lead generation form. The less noticeable left side had small links to other sample viral campaigns.

(You can guess which landing page won.)

Step two: Pre-qualifying leads with an autoresponder

At first Gauthier had all the resulting sales leads automatically forwarded to a few staffers' email systems so they could follow-up. But, volume soon precluded this option.

So, instead he had the marketing team set up an autoresponder to pre-qualify leads. (Link to sample below.) The autoresponder emailed out a quick, polite letter to new leads as they came in. The letter included phone and email contact info for Gauthier, and noted, "if you have an urge to do some Internet marketing, click here to get the ball rolling, give me a call or drop me an email."

When a prospect clicked on that link (which went to a simple thank-you "a team member will contact you shortly" landing page with links to more samples and info), Gauthier's team were instantly alerted and sprang into action to contact the prospect personally.


Ultimately the viral card -- only promoted once via email to a few hundred customers and prospects in 2001 -- attracted more than 12 million visits over the 2003 holiday season (compared to almost none in 2001 and just over 200,000 in 2002.)

As you guessed, the soft "fun stuff" offer was pretty much worthless as a lead generation device. Lots of people clicked to play with the other viral campaigns, sucked up server space, and left without mentioning their names. The team took it down almost immediately.

The brainstorm offer resulted in a much better response. Almost 3,000 prospects signed up. 9.4% of them then self-qualified by clicking on the emailed autoresponder letter.

Some of these were still duds -- often very small businesses without an adequate budget to use e-tractions' services. After weeding these out, the Company ended up with "about 30" solid sales leads ready for immediate proposals, and an equal number who are definitely interested, but not ready to purchase services just quite yet.

Assuming a very moderate close rate, e-tractions stands to make about $2,000,000 in 2004 from the campaign.

More data:

- Most viral e-card views happened in the early evening. "Always around 6pm Eastern time, things just zoomed," notes Gauthier.

- Although Gauthier expected the highest traffic to be on weekends because the campaign was fun vs. strictly business-focused, and because the vast majority of viral forwards went to home email accounts, he was wrong.

Best traffic days were invariably Tuesdays-Thursdays. Worst days were usually Sundays and Mondays.

- However, holidays weren't bad. Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day were fairly steady compared to the days around them. The only blip was Dec 26th, which was unusually low.

- Traffic ramped very quickly from the initial explosion on November 23rd, and then slowed again immediately after the holidays. This is a valuable lesson for anyone planning to send a holiday e-card greeting -- if you want the most viral activity possible, you need to get it out there by Thanksgiving at the latest.

The highest traffic days were Thursday and Friday December 11th & 12th, which hit over a million views.

Here's a week-by-week visit curve for you (weeks start Sundays):

Week Nov 16 - under 25,000
Week Nov 23 - 330,688
Week Nov 30 - 1,784,939
Week Dec 7 - 4,998,379
Week Dec 14 - 4,093,006
Week Dec 21 - 1,849,863
Week Dec 28 - 604,064
Week Jan 4 - 481,667

Useful links related to this article:

Samples of the SnowGlobe, landing pages and email autoresponder:

Our original Case Study on the Snowglobe from January 2003
See Also:

Post a Comment

Note: Comments are lightly moderated. We post all comments without editing as long as they
(a) relate to the topic at hand,
(b) do not contain offensive content, and
(c) are not overt sales pitches for your company's own products/services.

To help us prevent spam, please type the numbers
(including dashes) you see in the image below.*

Invalid entry - please re-enter

*Please Note: Your comment will not appear immediately --
article comments are approved by a moderator.

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly Case Study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions

Best of the Week:
Marketing case studies and research

Chart Of The Week

B2B Marketing

Consumer Marketing

Email marketing

Inbound Marketing

SherpaStore Alerts


We value your privacy and will not rent or sell your email address. Visit our About Us page for contact details.