The official Office.com bio on Stephanie J. Fierman, VP Marketing, calls her a powerhouse. Weíd say thatís right on the money. She has enormous drive and passion about her job. Plus she has found innovative ways to promote the company (check out the case study in our 10/11 issue). Fierman is a strong believer in using TV to promote Office.com. Yes, it helps that CBS owns part of the Office.com. But, hey, if you have an advantage, you might as well use it.
Q: Youíve had good luck with using TV to promote Office.com. Why have you been successful when others have struggled and given up?
FIERMAN: I noticed that my peer at inc.com had thrown down the gauntlet by saying that TV was just too inefficient to use. [MarketingtoSmallBiz.com 9/20 issue] But a little controversy is always good.
Let me back up. Office.com launched to the public Nov. 1, 1999. I joined the company in April of 1999. I took the philosophy right from the beginning, long before we had
launched, that Office.com was really not looking to be your ordinary website for small businesses.
With our link to Winstar, and really the extent of our coverage of almost 150 industries and professions, Office.com aspired to be the place where people work when they work online. Period. End of story. So itís not just about reading an article or just about using a chat room or just about getting a piece of research. It is intended to be a holistic place on the Internet where you can actually conduct business.
One of our focuses going forward is to really up the ante on that mission to make Office.com the great content site that it is but also to launch a new commerce platform. It will be the most robust offering in the space of online business centers. And also to leverage our own partnerships and some of Winstarís partnerships to make Office.com your virtual desktop for the day. Where we will be able to provide software and services in an ASP model or other where a person can literally conduct business either alone or in groups that may be across the US or across the world.
I came to this thinking this is not just a little B-to-B place. This is a B2C play. It was going to require a completely integrated media and advertising campaign to get the message out to as large a group as I wanted to reach in the short timeframe that I wanted to do that. So my bent all along was that this would be integrated across offline and online media. It would leverage every singular medium in each of those categories that are possible.
Concomitantly, CBS invested almost a third of Office.com in April 1999 which gives us access to approximately $9 million a year for a set period of time that I can spend any way I like across all of CBSís properties. Hopefully for 2001 that will apply to all of Viacomís properties. But itís CBS for now. The jewel in CBSís crown is the network. I have some money to spend, some assets to leverage that most other websites do not.
Q: If youíve got it, you might as well use it.
FIERMAN: But I might as well use it smartly. The CBS investment sort of converged with my own thinking that I wanted to be aggressive and really hit the consumer in every medium possible. So we are out there in TV, radio, print, outdoor and all manners of online.
Q: Tell me a bit more about the TV ads Ė what you are running and where?
FIERMAN: The TV is meant to launch the brand message about what Office.com is and what it can do. Itís a very high level message. The goal was curiosity and trial. In 30 second span of time with an unknown brand, I think a lot of people fall down because they think TV is groovy but they try to do too much. My goal in the television was to be singularly focused on addressing the inspiration that we say a businessperson can get when working on Office.com. So the underlying methodology in the TV is each one highlights a person in three different walks of life, in three different physical environments, different needs, etc. Each one of them gets an idea, realizes that idea, takes it to fruition when they take it to Office.com.
We certainly try to place the ads in parts where we think people are going to be around in our target. That does lead to more prime and late night. News and prime are emphasized versus middle of the day. We are out there on weekends, we do the morning shows. But weíve been pretty much everywhere when we have the opportunity. Right now we are only spending CBS dollars and really focusing on news and prime because those are CBSís strongest assets.
Q: Besides the CBS connection, any thoughts on why TV has worked particularly well for you?
FIERMAN: Yeah, because I have the traffic numbers to prove it.
Q: Do you want to give me some hints about what they are like?
FIERMAN: No. But since we launched easily 50 to 70% of our traffic has been driven from offline media. The world is not quite ready to measure the effectiveness in isolation of a TV versus print versus radio particularly for this kind of product which has only recently been created. What I do see anecdotally is that television gives us huge bursts versus when weíre out in the market with other offline media alone.
Q: Have you done an experiment offline where you are just running the TV ads and youíre not doing anything else so you can gauge the burst to some extent?
FIERMAN: We have to some extent but Iíll tell you that is extremely difficult because there are so many variables. For example, how much we are spending online because offline and online work synergistically. I think sometimes folks in Internet managements donít recognize that if you are doing both, all boats will rise. Offline increases our online effectiveness and vice versa. So I would expect to see lower results from my online when Iím not spending offline.
Q: How would you rate other offline media Ė radio, print?
FIERMAN: The radio Iím less confident about. I think that the television did a really credible and moving job of communicating the soul of the site and the product in a very short period of time. Iím not certain the radio did as well as the TV did in communicating that message. Our print has been very effective. We do both consumer and trade print.
Another part of Winstar is our ad company called Winstar Interactive Media Services (WIMS). The trade is focused on agencies and other potential advertisers that might want to purchase space on Office.com. The call to action is typically that weíll send you media kit, hereís a number you can call for more information, give us your phone number and email and a sales rep will call you. The response has been absolutely incredible. We have filled the WIMS pipeline for Office.com when we conduct trade advertising. The print has been effective because when they subsequently call these potential clients, many of them specifically address copy that was in the print. We know from the back end that the conversion rate for these lookers to buyers is fairly high. They are fairly high quality spenders.
Q: What are you doing online?
FIERMAN: We do a lot of things online. We certainly do place our own advertising, predominately banners today. We also do promotions. We do opt-in email, so we buy lists.
We also do affiliate marketing with LinkShare. With a company that we bought in the third quarter called Individual.com, we can serve up to LinkShare affiliate sites banners and dynamic content links through Individual.com. We are one of the very few to be able to this with LinkShare. In fact, LinkShare has just announced it has the capability to serve dynamic links, meaning if you tell us a category that your site is interested in providing news on to your users. You choose the category and every day weíll push you fresh content links in that category. You can pick an industry, you can pick a profession, you can pick among well over 1,000 categories as an affiliate.
Weíve also launched our own affiliate network with WIMS. We are going out to sites that we believe are synergistic with Office.com and we are offering these sites that are typically smaller, sort of below the line, not particularly well known the opportunity to have WIMS sell their advertising for them. Several of these sites never even considered advertising as a revenue stream and/or donít have the assets to do it themselves. So WIMS will sell their advertising for them in exchange for assets such as credit for their traffic and Office.com branding on their site. Everybody gets something out of that deal.
Last but not least, we do content deals with other sites. We just launched a huge deal with About.com where we are going to be a core part of their new small business offering. They are going to leverage mostly our content, branded Office.com, and takes the user back to Office.com site from About.com.
The second site that we bought in the first quarter is called AtYourOffice.com, an office supply superstore. It will be rolled into our new commerce platform. We are going to continue the things that they do such as virtual couponing.