Monday, December 29, 2008

Exeros: A Viral Contest Leads to the Creation of a University

Being a small company often provides interesting opportunities as well as unique challenges. Denise Sparks at Exeros had both, and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with her about her approach to demand generation when I was writing Digital Body Language. Denise's creative marketing techniques got the word out about the Exeros product and lead to an even larger initiative that established them as a thought leader in their industry.

Here's Denise's case study from the book. It's a great story about using market education and content creation to establish a leadership position:

Exeros: A Viral Contest Leads to the Creation of a University

Exeros was faced with an interesting challenge. As a small company with a revolutionary product in the master data management (MDM) industry, they had to get the word out and build awareness of their product. Confident that it had solved a 40 year old data management problem, they used a contest to prove their point. Beat your peers in data mapping with any technique or tool you wish, and win $2500, beat the machine and win $25,000.

As they began to build awareness of the contest, Exeros found a valuable ally in the organizer of DAMA – the largest conference in the industry. In an industry not known for excitement, the Exeros contest was just what was needed as a show highlight, and the contest was promoted to the conference list and the winner announced at a show lunch.

In combination with announcing the contest to their house list and embedding it in the email signature of all their employees, this allowed word of the contest to begin to spread. Independent data management forums and Yahoo groups began passing around word of the contest and soon the industry was well aware of both the contest and Exeros.

All interested participants were routed to a landing page where their information was captured and they were entered in the contest. On the day of the contest, a WebEx kicked off the contest with results due back in 2 hours. Over 200 industry experts competed for the prize, with no-one able to beat the Exeros machine. Coverage of the contest extended to 5 online publications that were highly relevant in the space, and Exeros became a known entity in the data management space.

Analyzing this success, Exeros realized that the viral contest had been a great win in getting awareness in the potential buying audience, but had not directly driven leads that were ready for sales. The challenge for Exeros was to help guide their prospective buyers from the “this is new” phase to the “I’ve got to get it” phase. To do this, the buyers needed to educate themselves on the challenges, approaches, and opportunities of a master data management project and where exactly a vendor like Exeros could help. Trade shows and Exeros-branded webinars were not as effective as needed due to travel costs and the assumed bias of a vendor webinar. The Exeros marketing team decided there was an opportunity to fill the knowledge gap in the market and use that as a way to attract potential buyers…and MDM University was born.

MDM University was launched as a separate brand (although with Exeros and their business partners identified as sponsors), with rich, valuable content, education at all needed depths throughout the lifecycle of an MDM project, and speakers from the industry. The MDM University was marketed through online ads and in trade publications.

By catering to the buyer’s need for education, Exeros was able to attract a large audience of the key people in any buying decisions. Because MDM University was perceived to be vendor neutral, it was able to attract 5 times the number of attendees to a web seminar than Exeros or any of their vendor partners could on their own. Throughout the process, the educational choices of the University attendees were tracked to build a view of their interest areas and the phase in an MDM project they were at. Through sponsorship of MDM University communications, Exeros received tremendous brand exposure. When the Exeros sales team contacted a lead and introduced themselves as sponsors of MDM University, not only were they received as a highly respected and credible brand, but they were contacting prospective buyers at just the right phase of an MDM project.

Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
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