Penton Gets 3,200 Unique Leads With STEM-based, Brackets Tournament

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In a little over a month, it will be March Madness—the college basketball championships. It's a time when "brackets" becomes the most popular word in the American lexicon, and it presents a marketing opportunity for something bracket-related.

At this time last year, Penton's Design Engineering and Sourcing (DES) Group wanted to increase engagement. "What can we do in a cost-effective, fun manner that will engage people in our markets, and at the same time create a new revenue generator?" asked Melissa Johnson, marketing automation manager for Penton, at a session titled Powering Conversion with Interactive Content at BIMS. 

The answer was interactive content. "Why? Because 91% of buyers prefer visual content. It's also easy to implement." I wrote about this last year, but hearing Johnson in November gave me more perspective, plus given the time of year, it's worth revisiting.

Here are 12 lessons from the campaign, which brought in almost 10,000 quiz views, 3,200 unique leads—27.5% of those new to the database—$20,000 in unplanned 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!

1. Choose a topic that will resonate with your audience. The DES Group brainstormed and came up with a theme question: "Which STEM starter toy got you hooked on engineering as a career?" Choices included Legos, microsopes, Rubiks cube, remote control toys and more.
Additional takeaway - People enjoy harking back. I recall a networking dinner where guests were asked what the first job they ever had was. It proved to be an excellent starter.

2. You can bracket almost anything. Penton focused on erector sets and Tinker Toys, but other bracket contests I've seen center on beers, bad songs, flowers, apples and endangered species. What's in your niche?
Additional takeaway – "One thing I found very important is creativity," Johnson said. "The more engaging you can be, the more participation you're going to get from your audience." 

3. Make it a 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 that process in Eloqua, so contacts did not have to enter all their details more than once. (Eloqua pre-populated their information.) As a result, they had an 86% lead form completion rate.
Additional takeaway – "Put the lead gen form before the results page," stressed Johnson.

4. Decide on a way to win. The toys with the most votes advanced. Users scored points when the item they had those items on their ballots. As the rounds continued, the amount of points for each winning vote increased.

5. Offer prizes. "Give away prizes," Johnson said. "But we only had to spend $250, so you don't have to spend a lot." Prizes included Raspberry Pi2 complete starter kits, $50 Amazon gift cards, t-shirts and baskets filled with toys, kits and models.

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. Explore sponsorships. The campaign proved so popular that two Penton clients sponsored one round each, resulting in $20,000 of unplanned revenue. 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.
Additional takeaway – Be careful not to over-engage here. I lost early in one of ESPN's games and got irritated that I kept getting sent more emails. It was kind of rubbing in my loss.

10. Know the metrics you want to use. Website page views increased by 7% over the previous year (and 12% from 2014). E-newsletter subscribers rose by 8.5%, and Facebook impressions by 14%. "Measure results against the KPIs you set," Johnson said. "Also know what worked and what didn't, and document everything—that will allow you to set benchmarks for other quizzes."

11. Use a third-party solution to administer and process. "For all the quizzes, personality tests that we do, we use a third-party solution," Johnson said. "We didn't build this in-house. We don't have the expertise to do that and maintain it. It's cheaper and we make a ton of profit because it's not terribly expensive. We [can also take] all the leads and integrate them with our marketing automation system."

12. The results of the contest may assist you. The final round provided a showdown between Legos and the Heathkit/Crystal Radio— with Legos winning. The results could help Penton in future outreach. Also, "make sure there's follow-on content," Johnson said—"a link to a blog post or white paper or article on a website that relates to the quiz."

Click here to see the full ballots and tournament page. 

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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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…