With a powerhouse brand name behind it, we were curious what kinds of challenges inc.com faced when it launched last November. To get the inside scoop, we had an engaging and enlightening conversation with Paige Arnof-Fenn, VP Marketing.
According to Arnof-Fenn, inc.com was “thrilled with the heritage of the brand name.” For the website, “it’s a real competitive advantage because so many people are competing in the small business marketplace.” The challenge for inc.com is to “transfer from being a strong magazine to a strong Internet presence,” she says.
When you look at the small business market, Arnof-Fenn comments, you’ve got people wearing eight hats so they need to be able to find good information quickly. The goal with the Internet site is “to give small business people tools and resources to use immediately.”
From the outset, inc.com needed to set itself apart. “Because people think inc.com is a magazine online, inc.com had to let people know what other services and benefits are on the site.” To do that, inc.com launched an integrated advertising campaign that embraced outdoor, online, radio and offline media. The campaign encouraged people to realize that there are many, many services available on the site.
“Radio is really important,” Arnof-Fenn points out. The radio campaign ran a series of spots using testimonials from executives on various radio stations from news to talk radio to NPR --the typical kinds of stations people listen to during the commute or while at work. One spot featured a seasoned businessperson talking about using inc.com to find new ideas. One Chicago businessman, who had been down in the dumps about his business, heard the spot on his way into work one morning. He was so impressed and cheered by the spot, he sent inc.com an email when he arrived at the office. (Now, that’s what you call making an impact -- Ed.)
While inc.com plans to do more radio in the future, television isn’t in the cards. “The economics don’t make sense,” Arnof- Fenn says, and there’s no point in spending too much money for too little return.
Arnof-Fenn says that inc.com looked at advertising as a multi-media approach since the site was “trying to reach millions of people.” Offline media were used, as were outdoor ads such as taxi tops, buses and billboards. For instance, someone arriving at Logan International Airport in Boston might see a billboard at the airport for inc.com and then get into a taxi with an inc.com ad on top, reinforcing the inc.com message.
The ad campaigns were run in various key markets around the country such as San Francisco, Boston, New York and Chicago. In each city, if there was something quirky or regional, inc.com would use it. In San Francisco, Arnof-Fenn says inc.com put out street furniture with the slogan, “I want my IPO” on it. In New York, the slogan was: “Want to be a millionaire without appearing on TV? Final answer: Yes.” In Washington, DC, the slogan was: “A liberal dose of business.”
In DC, inc.com also did a big marketing push during Small Business Week, making certain that inc.com execs were on panels and that lots of freebies were given out at the meetings. “Getting people’s attention is half the game,” she believes.
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