OH: Every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question "How do we tweet?" the second by the question "Why do we blog?" and the third by the question "Where shall we have the next social campaign?"


We are here to see humans move from why to where!

The “Love a Local business” Story

If you have used TurboTax, Quickbooks, Quicken and now Mint, then you are an Intuit customer. Intuit has grown to over $3.2B in revenues from its humble beginnings over a quarter century ago, and is arguably a market leader in personal and small business finance solutions.


Following our case studies on Emerson Process and Indiana Public Media, we chased down @kirasw (Kira Wampler) during our spring break visit to the silicon valley last month. For the past four years, she led teams that developed Intuit’s much talked about social media marketing campaigns targeting small businesses.

One thing was clear from the very onset that Intuit lives and dies with small buisiness. In Kira’s words: Small businesses are our oxygen at Intuit.

In the early part of the last decade, accountants were thought to be the core influencers for small businesses. Based on research findings in 2006, Intuit realized that 22MM out of 27MM small businesses are so small that they do not talk to accountants, either because they cant afford them or they don’t need them! Hence, Intuit needed to engage with small businesses directly .

The first initiative that Intuit took was listening into the discussion around its brand and products on emerging social platforms like blogs, yahoo groups, online forums in 2006. This was followed by listening on Twitter by early 2008, and the launch of @QuickBooks in the spring.
The knowledge gained from the above led to the key customer insight that small businesses felt alone, with no one to support them, and became the basis for Intuit’s 2007 “Just Start” campaign and 2008 “Small Business United” campaigns.

The current campaign “Love a local business” is what we will go in to the details of. The charge on Love a Local Business is led by a Kelley Alum, Gretchen Harding.

Love a local business:

letting communities vote to decide who deserves some love – in the form of small business grants from Intuit. Anyone, including business owners, can vote by sharing a brief comment about why they love a local business.

From the marketing point of view, Love a local business was initiated as a pull campaign with a goal to capitalize on what is most important to a small business: the local customer. Endorsements of a small business from their loyal and local customers on intuit’s platform was the recipe to making Intuit synonymous with small business success.

From an execution point of view, the beauty of this campaign was that, much like a lean startup (using the term loosely), the campaign was designed to be iterative in nature and plan to scale up when milestones were achieved.

Stage 1) It started with a blog post explaining the grant competition. The conversion metrics for this case were defined as the number of small businesses nominating themselves. Interestingly, there was a very high conversion rate and it increased with the increase in traffic – touching 40% ( for all vistors, i.e. business owners and fans. Yes we know thats unheard of.)

Stage 2) With such a high conversion rate the next aim was to increase traffic. The high conversion rate, along with consistently achieving a weekly benchmark goal of actual of small business leads, led to the decision to move the campaign off the blog and onto a separate website for Love a Local Business. Since the campaign proved it could consistently generate leads, it enabled the marketing team to make a case for integration with the Intuit Business Directory, replacing the Google Local directory. This was driven by a customer need – 1 in 5 businesses were not found in Google’s directory, and there was no streamlined way to add them, without asking them to leave the grant competition site, which was confusing. By integrating with Intuit’s own directory, small business owners could add their business to the directory while nominating their business for the grant competition in a seemlessly integrated process.

Stage 3) The site was refined before the launch of a cross promotion with a chain of radio stations, which dramatically increased customer acquisition.

Stage 4) (Current) it is clear that the conversion rates are high. What Intuit needs is driving end consumer traffic to the site to share their love. Intuit is approaching this by integrating into the already existing solcial graph on facebook and twitter though by integrating gigya onto the site. More importantly, intuit has been able to integrate with foursquare and if a users signs in with foursquare credentials they can automatically port in the local business they visited! This makes the process of selecting a business much easier for the end user. Will these new social initiatives produce the anticipated traffic, is still to be seen.

At a high level Intuit’s social media efforts can be mapped to the bottom line as follows:

Moving forward:
– Conversion is not the problem for intuit; the problem is driving more end consumer traffic to the campaign. There is no major incentive for end consumers (not small businesses) to engage with these campaigns.Figure out a way to drive more traffic to love a local business, small business united, quickbooks community etc.
-Based on the cyclicality around the tax season for businesses, the revenues for the last four quarters ranges from $474MM to $1,434MM. This presents a challenge unlike for marketing which is unlike others. Timing and execution of any or all marketing campaigns has to ramp up and ramp down at the right time.

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Posted: May 3rd, 2010 | Comments: No Comments »