A monthlong campaign using no paid advertising to generate paid subscriptions for an online training course is a tall order. Especially when the topic is search engine optimization and Web site conversion.
Sure, the company came armed with the strong expert recognition of founders Brad Fallon (MyWeddingFavors.com) and Andy Jenkins (A Squared Artifacts Inc.). Their 10-CD "Stomping The Search Engine" series and remote elearning "The Apprentice Program” also bolstered their efforts.
But with so many get-rich-quick and Web-marketing-from-home players to compete against, how did they rise above everyone else’s big-sounding promises? CAMPAIGN
Using a steady stream of free but very valuable content, Fallon and Jenkins’ team followed seven strategies to build the buzz:
Strategy #1. Create a three-part free video series
A free video series on search engine optimization called “Going Natural” was the key driver for them.
The first video, “How I Went From Zero to $16,000 a Day in Sales,” was released in early September. They followed this with two more installments. With each video release, their pre-built network of 10 affiliate partners sent emails to their own opt-in bases to let readers know of the free offer.
Word about the videos spread throughout the blogosphere to prospects as well as other affiliates who were interested in the potential commissions.
Strategy #2. Give away seriously valuable content, not ‘guru mentality’ hype
Next, they wrote a sales letter on the site with the headline, “This Space Left Intentionally Blank,” as a way to suggest that the 12-month program was not merely another get-rich pitch (see creative sample below). The letter evenincluded audio testimonials from previous clients.
“We didn’t want to get grouped into the ‘guru mentality’ or the ‘here’s the software you use to make money shoot out of your computer’ line of thinking,” Jenkins says. “These weren’t infomercials or teasers. This was serious content you’d usually have to pay to get. For instance, we got into topics like latent semantics analysis as a mechanism for optimizing on-page factors.”
Fallon and Jenkins also appeared in the videos to help authenticate the offer. As just one example, they showed actual MyWeddingFavors.com metrics involving traffic and sales to personalize the offer.
Strategy #3. Don’t require email registration
The team decided against requiring viewers to provide an email address or any other personal information in order to watch to the presentation. However, viewers could sign up if they wanted to be notified of the next video in the series.
“It was actually kind of controversial with some of our partners because they wondered how you could give away this content without at least acquiring an email address,” Fallon explains. “But on the other hand, this made it easy on the affiliates because they could say, ‘Hey, I don’t know how long it’s going to be up, but there’s some really great free content that you should check out while it’s there. You don’t even have to opt in.’ ”
Strategy #4. Limit participation to raise interest
The team then informed their audience before the launch that a limited number of seats would be available in the program. As a buzz builder, they also kept mum on the price of the program until the day before signup began. They created an early notification email list for people who wanted to make sure they got a seat.
Strategy #5. Use Open-Source Code to Aid Viral Aspect
Both the three-part “Going Natural” and case study videos were repurposed across the Internet at marketing blogs, Google Video and YouTube, among other destinations. By using an open-source technology to run the videos, they didn’t do anything to discourage the pirating.
Strategy #6. Bring in third-party case studies/testimonials
The team made dozens of case study videos with third-party narrators available at Stomperblog.com.
“The case studies were important because it wasn’t just like a testimonial – these people were being interviewed in-depth for 20 to 40 minutes,” Fallon says. “They were showing their real sites, telling their story – what worked, what didn’t work – and then showing their search results.”
Strategy #7. Turn Feedback Into Marketing
From day one, Fallon and Jenkins’ team surveyed buyers on the back end to determine demographics and other data to help with renewal/loyalty marketing. This was crucial because most subscription marketers make the mistake of not capitalizing on this moment when customers are most involved and, therefore, most likely to tell about themselves.
But they began learning about their audience even before that. Video watchers who opted in were sent to a landing page at Stomperblog.com that was tied to the company’s “Ask” database system, which allowed them to submit questions about anything emarketing-related. The team ran a query against all of the entries to find the most used keywords to decipher what were the most pertinent questions.
The questions and their detailed answers were compiled and made available to their blog audience. Affiliates also emailed their lists about the opportunity to see the Q&A for free – once again, without any opt-in requirement.
Limiting the number of seats in the program, a strategy often used by print publications, worked like a charm: the 1,000 spots available for the 12-month program sold out in 11 1/2 hours. 10% of the total membership signed up for the full year program.
By the time of the launch, 430,000-plus unique visitors had viewed the 30-minute videos, 40% of whom opted to join StomperNet’s database. They estimate that 18% of the overall campaign traffic came from other blogs, Google Video, YouTube and such.
“We were fully aware that we were giving away information that could have easily been resold for a few hundred dollars,” Jenkins notes. “We wanted people to pirate from us. That’s part of the reason we made the content as strong as we could. If they were like infomercials or a thinly veiled sales pitch, they would have dropped off the planet.”
Traffic peaked the day before launch with the release of the $797-per-month price point.
Once they actually opened the gate to accept subscribers, StomperNet thought five servers would be enough to sustain their shopping cart flow. They were happily proven wrong. However, the day the program went live, a whoops occurred: 218 subscribers accidentally bought multiple packages while getting stuck between page refreshes.
“I don’t know how many companies refund six figures in a day, but that was the position we found ourselves in,” Jenkins says. Useful links related to this article:
Creative samples from StomperNet’s campaign:
Brad Fallon’s MyWeddingFavors site: