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Intuit uses online contest to attract customers

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There's nothing like money to motivate people—a cash giveaway is part of a recent online campaign by software and service provider Intuit Inc. designed to garner traffic and submissions to its Intuit Business Directory (http://business.intuit.com/directory).

Last year, Intuit launched a microsite, Lovealocalbusiness.com, that makes use of social networking as well as display marketing. Essentially, while promoting a contest which awards three local businesses with Intuit Hiring Grants, the site collects information from small-business owners and their customers for the Intuit Directory.

Every submission is, in effect, a virtual “raffle ticket,” said Rachel Euretig, a senior communications manager at Intuit, to win cash grants. The latest grant cycle of July, August and September awarded $5,000 to one winner per month. There is a $30,000 award up for grabs at the end of all three months. The social aspect? “You can nominate yourself, but the real point of the contest is to get fans of your business to nominate your company,” she said.

The company's campaign came about, Euretig said, after doing qualitative research with small-business owners and fans of those businesses from Intuit's Small Business United Grant Competition. (The research was completed via an undisclosed method.)

“After looking at the results, we realized we had two main objectives: Energize small businesses and get more listings added to the Intuit Business Directory,” she said. Getting people to sign up for a listing would also expose them to additional Intuit products, particularly the company's website service and Web listing services. Combining that research with another internal survey that found that 80% of small-business owners believe social networking is a good marketing strategy and will increase their customer base, Intuit decided to reach small businesses through social platforms.

The contests promote Intuit as a “builder and a champion of small businesses,” Euretig said, since the company is not only providing cash grants but also teaching small businesses how to use social media to promote themselves. “We help businesses by giving them embeddable banners and elements for their websites, and tips on how they can spread the word in the social realm,” she said. Intuit is also blogging, tweeting, and posting to Facebook as well as hosting local events to promote the site and the contests, such as a March event held in Sacramento, Calif., where Intuit held a subcompetition.

The new site is definitely providing plenty of traction for the company, Euretig said. To date, there have been more than 80,000 nominations and more than 20,000 unique businesses added to the directory. In the same timeframe, there have been 94 winners.

While Intuit declined to release specific metrics, Euretig said that the contest—in addition to adding so many new entries to the directory—has brought in more traffic to the main Intuit site, as well as to specific product pages. “Driving people to the Loveyourlocalbusines.com site spreads the word about Intuit, and gives us an opportunity to engage with small businesses above and beyond our current pool of prospects,” she said.

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