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Anatomy Of A Free Online Marketing Campaign

It’s the end of the quarter and your marketing budget has run dry. You’re a start-up with few funds to dedicate to promoting your business. Whichever category you fall under, more than likely you’ve been in a place where you could use some free advertising.


I recently found myself in the latter—involved with a new independent Web property, and needing to generate some traffic and buzz. So I started to weigh the options. How could we get consumers’ attention? Which existing Internet features and tools could we leverage to increase awareness of the site? What I found is the right combination of tactics can produce an effective online marketing campaign – virtually free of charge.

The first step was to come up with a campaign theme. My site suffers from being attached to an industry that’s inherently unglamorous. As an automotive service and maintenance resource for consumers, Servassist tends to attract gearheads, but hasn’t made it onto the radars of everyday consumers for whom the car care information is just as valuable. What the site needed was an immediate infusion of playfulness and humour.

We considered our product, and the time of year. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, our solution was a concept called “Show Me Some Lube.” We would write an open letter from a car to its owner pointing out the places where their relationship could use some help – which Servassist, naturally, could provide. We created a light-hearted visual letter rich in double entendres, replacing certain words and expressions with images. Users could test their auto IQ by trying to decipher them all.

Our only monetary expense throughout the campaign was the cost of the new URL. We secured and tacked the site onto our existing hosting plan, which allows for unlimited domains. The one-page microsite (seen here) was built and live within 24-hours. Once the site was up, it was time to promote it. Our first stop was, a popular social media site where users can vote to determine which submitted content deserves a top ranking. I submitted our “article” free of charge and used Digg’s email tool to forward the link to an existing list of press contacts, both traditional journalists and bloggers. Next we linked to the microsite from the Servassist home page to foster loyalty among existing users and encourage “word of mouse” promotion.

Since launching about a week ago, Show Me Some Lube has been the second largest referral source of traffic for our site, next to Google organic search. We’ve also seen an overall boost in direct site traffic, as visitors have referred their friends. With Valentine’s Day still a few weeks away, I expect we’ll see a steady increase in visits from consumers who may otherwise never have come across our site. Total cost? Less than $20 for domain registration and about 36 hours of hard work. I’d say it was well worth the investment.

Tips for creating your own free campaign:

  • Get creative. The more unique your concept, the more attention you’ll receive.
  • Start looking into available domains early. The limited options still out there promote creativity by necessity.
  • Make it light. Humour, games, and quizzes resonate with consumers. Give them something they’ll enjoy to encourage brand recall and loyalty.
  • Make it relevant. Be sure your concept and theme tie back to your product. It has to speak to your service offering to be effective beyond its own popularity.
  • Time it right. If there’s a seasonal event or holiday coming up you could tie your campaign to, all the better. Tap into what’s already top of mind for consumers with a related theme.
  • Tell a friend. Don’t just rely on sites like Digg to get the word out. Send your concept to existing contacts, even family and friends, to gain critical mass, and include a “send to a friend” feature on the site.
  • Give it legs. If you can, devise a concept that can be rehashed in later months. It may even become a regular site feature that continues to draw visitors over time.

One Comment

  1. Heri
    Heri January 30, 2007

    great idea that i will put to use. i have to question the use of digg though. i find that their demographics are young compared to the product you are trying to promote. having a lot of traffic is great but i would like to know if it had any results. or maybe you were trying to build brand awareness, on a long-term ?

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