November 24, 2009
Targeting online forums is great way to build brand awareness and buzz for your products. And the strategy doesn't always require the heavy lifting of actively managing conversations and posts.
See how a tire manufacturer helped build consumer demand by promoting a giveaway offer across several online forums. Clickthrough rates to the landing pages were as high as 83%, and sales began climbing steadily following the campaign.
Stephen Leu, Specialist, Marketing Research and Events, Nitto Tire, has seen a big shift in the ways consumers get information about high-performance automobile accessories.
The team once relied on print advertisements to create demand for its tires, which are sold through distributors. Today, consumers who enjoy customizing their vehicles are much more likely to use online discussion forums to keep track of industry trends and new products.
"One irrefutable fact is that part of the customers' purchasing process is peer evaluation and other customer reviews," says Leu. "I think that in forums [this] is so evident."
In response, Leu's team regularly uses a unique program to reach its audience in online forums. Here's an example of a program they ran in July 2008 to build brand awareness and customer engagement.
The team created branded poster giveaway and promoted it through several online forums that attract high-performance car enthusiasts.
Here are five steps they took to run the program:
Step #1. Create a high-quality freebie
The team created four high-quality posters that featured performance vehicles fitted with Nitto tires. The posters have a small branding tag in the lower right corner that says "Nitto: Powered by Enthusiasts."
Posters of top-end cars are popular in this market, Leu says.
"For them, seeing this poster is somewhat of an aspiration for them. It's something they're very interested in."
They ordered 3,000 copies of each poster for the branding campaign.
Step #2. Build landing pages to accept requests
The team designed four landing pages to accept requests for posters. Each page was designed with two images of the poster, one large and one small.
To request a poster, visitors simply had to submit a name and mailing address.
- Have a strategy to handle traffic after the offer is closed
Eventually, the team would run out of posters. But the forum posts used to drive traffic to the landing pages would remain active.
Rather than send visitors to a dead page, the team planned to change the pages to accept email addresses from visitors who wanted to be notified of later giveaways. The page also offered users a downloadable computer wallpaper of the image.
Step #3. Identify appropriate forums
The team targeted forums specific to the cars featured in the posters. This approach ensured that the forums' users would be interested in the giveaway.
For example, they targeted three forums devoted to Corvettes, such as:
Within these forums, the team was able to post the offer into 12 forum categories.
The team also targeted forums for the following cars (each featured in a poster):
o Nissan 350z
o Audi S5
o BMW M3
Step #4. Write customized post content
Since the team was posting to multiple forums, they wanted to customize posts for each outlet. In this case, they created four forum posts, one for each vehicle.
The team customized the following elements to match each forum's attributes:
o Large image of poster
o Text: "As a special thank you to [SITE ADDRESS], Nitto Tire is giving away the [CAR NAME] Poster to [SITE TITLE] members for FREE (while supplies last)."
Making the posts as relevant to as possible to the site's context is important. Otherwise they might draw ire from users instead of interest.
The posts emphasized that there was no charge to the recipients. A large hyperlink then directed users to one of the team's landing pages.
Step #5. Post content to forums
The team worked with an agency that had relationships with forum operators to have their posts highlighted in appropriate discussions. The posts were given "sticky" status, allowing them to remain at the top of the forums for one week.
After a week, the posts became regular, "un-sticky" posts that gradually cycled out of the active conversations.
- Disable comments
Leu's team worked with the forums' operators to disable comments to its posts. They were concerned with the lack of control over what could be posted below them.
Although they did not do it for this effort, Leu says the team often provides a link to an email form where users can contact Nitto. Typically, users ask product questions, but occasionally they complain about the posts as well.
"Our philosophy is that we are supplying relevant information," Leu says.
- Time posts well
The team regularly posts to forums. They made sure this series would not be timed too closely to any recent or upcoming posts.
"The last thing we want to do is repeatedly bombard the audience with repetitive, redundant information," says Leu
"This has been extremely successful," Leu says. "Clickthrough rates of high 70% or so...One of the posters sold out in a matter of two to three hours."
Clickthrough rates from post to landing pages:
o 83% in Corvette forums
o 80% in BMW forums
The team received requests for 3,893 Corvette posters and 3,509 BMW posters. The results were similar across the targeted Audi and Nissan forums.
- Product sale lift
The team had released a product about 18 months before this effort, and its sales had struggled throughout that time, Leu says.
"After this post, we saw incremental growth in sales month after month after month. As of right now, we're hitting our goals every month."
Leu says that he sees no possible reason for the products' improvement in sales, other than the free poster effort.
Useful links related to this article
Creative Samples from Nitto Tire's forum giveaway program
How to Use Forums to Become a Thought Leader
PostRelease: Disseminated the team's posts, monitored results