The $ocial Revolution at TurboTax

October 18, 2010

By Guest Blogger Lesley Neadel, CooperKatz

Seth Greenberg, the VP of Global Media and Digital Marketing for Intuit, took the stage as the final speaker of the conference to discuss TurboTax's social media activities. He asked how many people in the audience had used one of their brands, and then said thanks, but his focus was really on those who hadn't!

He let us know right off the bat that, "we are on a journey — we're only in about year four. This is one channel that we're really trying to encourage, and alight."  

Intuit has a proven formula for delighting customers  with more than 20 million TurboTax users alone! They are able to do this via fabulous employees. For 7 years in a row, they have been one of the most admired software companies in the business, according to Fortune. They are the number one in consumer tax prep and small business financial management, among others.

How does this factor into media?

Intuit uses in-channel optimization, cross-channel and platform engagement measurement, predictive analytics and testing for impact. They are constantly asking how they can make these work together tighter, better and stronger.

Years ago, TurboTax had an online team and an offline one, with different agencies and objectives. Now, they are integrated, and a lot less complex. They annually poll customers, and in doing so they ask how they first heard about TurboTax. A whopping 41 percent were via word-of-mouth or recommendations. 

So to help with that statistic, they embarked on their first social media venture: they hired Vanilla Ice to run a Tax Rap contest. They had 500 videos submitted, and business correspondent Ali Velshi even did one on CNN! This was great, but they didn't touch or ignite their key brand messages.

The following year, they hired Jay Mohr for "The Tax Laugh" with the on-strategy message that, "Comedy is hard, TurboTax is easy."

The next year, TurboTax did a social guerilla marketing experiment: "We said let's be extremely entertaining, but also drop in brand messages every few seconds." Greenberg found pro-skateboarder Billy Martin who had a talent with ping pong balls. Total cost? $18,000. The team clearly had no idea what was going to happen but this ended up one of their highest-rated videos ever.

Another campaign they started was the "Super Status"  they said they'd pay customers to change their status on Facebook. 10,000 people did, with a fill in the blank status update about deductions. Those status updates reached about 1.5 million people. 

"The closer you are to your product, the more viral it can be, and the bigger impact it will have," said Greenberg. This is now a key part of their MEdia strategy (emphasis Greenberg's). With all the noise and interruption, they want their campaigns and messages to be really relevant and helpful to people.

So, how does TurboTax cut through the clutter? This past year, they did a few experiments.

They first put a "Like" directly into their product. While it was very tough to get a marketing tactic into the actual product, they did so at the bottom of the very last page when customers were doing their taxes. What happened? People clicked it then personalized and shared in their news feed! 10 million people saw the like button. One percent actually clicked  which means that 100K actually "friendcasted." However, they each had an average of 150 friends  so 15 million people saw this. Five-hundred thousand clicked on that (you still with me?) leading to 2 million comments, and 100,000 purchases. Seventy-nine percent of these were new customers, who for no cost were touched by a medium that ended up being four times more effective than banner ads, and THE most effective in acquiring new customers.

The next experiment was regarding customer reviews. Seth brought Bob onstage to demo this technology. They gathered 100,000 reviews in 6 weeks via opt-in after finishing taxes, and developed a "Friendalyzer" to help potential customers wade through these to show the most relevant to them. Within the "Friendalyzer," the first choice is the most important: life change (job status, bought/sold investments, had a baby, moved) as these are traditionally hurdles for people not wanting to use TurboTax. Once potential users type in their prior tax prep method and family details, they drill down to only those reviews that are the most relevant. For Bob specifically, this went from 100,000 reviews down to 160  a much more targeted and manageable sample.

The biggest learning here: Don't sit on your assets! TurboTax put these hundreds of thousands of reviews right into their display advertising, creating super relevant ads that appeared in the "hurdle" areas  i.e., people who just bought houses' reviews showing on Trulia and Zillow. Seth also showcased an interactive online ad from Yahoo! with Chris Berman who touted the "Friendalyzer" reviews and an instant refund forecaster as well.

Seth let us know that these components all cooperated to create TurboTax's best year ever  and the bar is only getting higher next year.

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