Brackets Game Brings in 3200 Unique Leads and More for Penton

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When the Design Engineering and Sourcing (DES) Group of SIIA member Penton needed to increase engagement last year in a fun, cost-effective way, it turned to a bracket- and quiz-based STEM Starter Tournament. The DES Group provides information and education on new applications, emerging technologies and product trends for professionals in design engineering and sourcing. 

The result? The campaign, which targeted both subscribers and online prospects, brought in almost 10,000 quiz views, 3,200 unique leads—27.5% of those new to the database—$20,000 in sponsorship money, and a 51% increase in website registrations.

Oh, and a 2016 first place SIPAward in the category of Best Editorial and Marketing Collaboration! Here are 12 lessons from the campaign:

1. Choose a topic important to your audience. The DES Group wanted to find out which STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) kit, model, tool or toy got their users hooked on engineering as a career. People enjoy the hark-back kind of thing. I recall a dinner where those in attendance were asked what the first job they ever had was. It proved to be an excellent starter.

2. You can bracket almost anything. Over a four-week period, users were asked to vote on their favorite starter kit/tools/toys that sparked their interest in choosing engineering: erector sets, Legos, Tinker Toys, microscopes, Rubik's cubes, remote control vehicles, etc. Other bracketed items I've seen used for contests include beers, songs, flowers, apples and endangered species.

3. Make it a fairly quick process for the user. At the end of the quiz, contestants were sent to a lead gen form consisting of only their email address. A button directed the contact to finish the lead gen process in Eloqua, so contacts did not have to enter all their details more than once. (Eloqua pre-populated their information.) Capturing registration data in Eloqua allowed for easy segmentation and targeting for email promotions.

4. Decide on a way to win. The toys with the most votes advanced. Users scored points when the item they voted for advanced. As the rounds continued, the amount of points for each winning vote increased. In order to claim a prize, you needed to register. "Enter the drawing in two easy steps."

5. Prizes help engagement. What would a game be without a prize? Categories were established based on an earned points system for all registered users. They included a Raspberry Pi2 complete starter kits, $50 Amazon gift cards, t-shirts and baskets filled with toys, kits and models. The total cost of prizes came to less than $250. 

6. Add video and social media to the mix. Once the weekly round ended, votes were tallied and new bracket parings were posted online along with a weekly video update. This led to 1,500 YouTube views. Users were notified via email, Facebook and Twitter when the new contests/brackets were ready for voting. In addition, contest updates were posted daily on the publications' Facebook and Twitter pages. 

7. Banner ads can still work. Banner ads were used on the two publications' website pages (Machine Design and Electronic Design) as well as in the daily and weekly e-newsletters to promote the contest and announce winners. This led to 446,550 banner ad impressions.

8. Always be alert for sponsorship possibilities. The campaign proved so popular that two Penton clients sponsored one round each, resulting in $20,000 of unplanned revenue. In this case, the sponsorships had no effect on the content or quiz answers. If you find that they do, it might still be okay. Just be up front about it.

9. Let people know how they're doing. Current tournament standings were provided as a scrolling bar across the bottom of the website page 24/7. I'm sure that saved them from lots of inquiries.

10. Know the metrics you want to use to measure success. Website page views for Machine Design and Electronic Design increased by 7% over the previous month (a 12% increase from 2014). E-newsletter subscribers increased by 8.5%, and Facebook impressions increased by 14%.

11. Know how the initiative will translate into revenue. "The generation of new leads and increased active users will translate to additional revenue dollars as more companies will want to purchase sponsorships (website banner ads, e-newsletter ads, etc.) for branding and awareness," wrote Penton.

12. If the results of the contest can assist you, all the better! The final round provided a showdown between the two most popular toys—Legos and the Heathkit/Crystal Radiowith Legos winning. I would guess that Legos might have been predicted, but I wonder about Heathkit. The popularity that certain items showed could help Penton in future outreach.

So not only did editorial and marketing collaborate to make this a success, they will both benefit in the future. Click here to see the full ballots and tournament page.


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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…