Monday, June 25, 2012

Enter (to win) the Dragon

:Few acquisition tactics appeal to marketers as much as the sweepstakes does.  Spend any amount of time on Facebook or in your email inbox and you’ll find a request like this one:

Please don’t enter; this one’s mine

From personal experience, I can tell you that no matter how little effort a marketers put into promoting sweepstakes, thousands and sometimes millions of consumers will enter.  I can also tell you from personal experience that many if not most of those marketers will over-value the entrants.  So allow me to propose an alternative approach for using all those entrants.

An average marketer will simply email the entrants with more information about the promoted product and leave it at that.  While better than nothing, this approach wastes much of the value of the addresses collected because some entrants may, in fact, want to hear from the brand.

Smarter marketers will go one step further and create a lead management campaign around the sweepstakes.  They recognize the value of responders and create a series of follow-up communications based on how the entrant responds.  A typical response chain might look like this:

  1. Thank you for entry email, with links back to the site
  2. [one week later than #1] request to “like” the brand on Facebook or to follow on Twitter
  3. [one week later than #2] more info on the product, along with links to retailers
  4. [one week later than #3] reminder
  5. Et cetera, until the marketer runs out of email ideas or until the sun runs out of hydrogen, whichever comes first

More elaborate chains include conditional logic so that if an entrant clicks on a “show me more products” link, she may receive emails with different products.  These more sophisticated chains work off the idea that each action by the entrant represents an implicit preference and, using these preference, the program can populate communications with more relevant content and offers.  Moreover, while some entrants may not buy right now, they may buy in the foreseeable future, so it makes sense to “keep them warm,” as customer relationship marketers say.

I think even these savvy marketers miss a key point: a large percentage of sweepstakes entrants will never become customers.

For an alternate point of view, let me introduce someone who have very little to do with sweepstakes or marketing:

Ted Sturgeon, sci-fi writer and non-marketer

Theodore Sturgeon wrote science fiction starting in the 1930s, back in its truly nerdy early days.  When a writer friend told him “90% of science fiction is crud,” he replied “90% of everything is crud.”

What does this mean for the marketer contemplating a sweepstakes?

Let’s use 90% as a guesstimate for the crud ratio (my term) of sweepstakes entrants.  As an example, consider the auto category, perhaps the most studied industry of them all in terms of understanding buyer dynamics.  Received wisdom in the industry suggests that only 2% of all consumers are in the market--that is, ready to buy--a car at any given time.  As a result, 98% of all people watching a car commercial on TV or, presumably, entering a contest are not in-market.

Might some of those 98% buy a car within three months, six months or a year?  Of course.  However, consider as well that of that magical percentage of likely auto buyers, many may never consider the brand featured.  Similarly, they may simply not want the type of vehicle featured in a sweepstakes.  Any number of people might drop an entry form into a fishbowl to win a new Ford pickup truck at a county fair, but how many of those people would ever drive a Ford, would ever buy a pickup truck or are even licensed drivers?  Thus 90% seems like a conservative figure to me.  As they say in the auto world, your mileage may vary.

Instead of the classic CRM approach for all of the entrants, why not focus on the non-crud 10%?

If the marketer assumes that 90% of sweepstakes entrants won’t buy, then he will probably handle sweepstakes follow-up differently.  Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Send out that thank you email upon receipt of an entry, but focus on the key follow-up actions
    1. For people ready to buy, put in an offer aimed at people ready to buy, such as “buy now” (clever copy, eh?);
    2. For people who may be further up in the sales funnel, put in an offer aimed at people starting to think about buying, such as “learn more” (man, how I have not won a gold pencil?)
    3. For everyone else, offer them your most heartfelt kind wishes
  2. Depending on the ability to manage communications across various channels (e.g. email, social, retail), employ the following actions:
    1. For people who indicate interest in buying, drive them towards the sale with appropriate offers
    2. For the people who indicated “not-ready-to-buy” interest, use your knowledge of the sales funnel to send the right content and offers
    3. For everyone else, forget ‘em; maybe send up another trial balloon in six months or so

And that’s pretty much it.

The idea here is that marketers should stop holding out hope that a large mass of disinterested sweepstakes entrants will suddenly flock to the product and buy.  Instead, they should focus on making the most of the ones who truly show some kind of interest in the product.

If you’re willing to try this approach, please let me know.  And, in the words that Theodore Sturgeon put into the mouth of one Leonard Nimoy: “live long and prosper.”

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