BigWords.com gets big word-of-mouth exposure

Business growth for Bigwords.com, a 10-year-old price comparison website for college textbooks, is primarily driven by word of mouth, says CEO Jeff Sherwood.

Client: BigWords.com (Annapolis, MD)

Agency: Tool Guy PR (Menlo Park, CA)

Campaign: Fall 2010 Back to School Textbooks Campaign

Budget: Approximately $20,000

Duration: July – September 2010

Business growth for Bigwords.com, a 10-year-old price comparison website for college textbooks, is primarily driven by word of mouth, says CEO Jeff Sherwood. For the past three years, agency Tool Guy PR has executed seasonal campaigns to raise awareness and drive traffic to the site.

“PR has been a strong component of our business for a number of years, and its been growing as component of our overall marketing strategy because it's working so well,” Sherwood says.

Strategy

Tool Guy PR founder Kevin Wolf explains that past campaigns were heavily focused on placement in campus and local outlets. This year, the team increased focus on national business media.

“There is a national interest in stories about how parents and students can save money,” Wolf says. “Perhaps for economic reasons, students in 2010 are more business aware than they were before. We felt it would be possible to create a story that national business press would find interesting.”

Sherwood notes that the launch of iPhone and iPad apps in August 2009 and 2010, respectively, held national appeal as well.

Tactics

In addition to targeting campus and local daily newspapers, Wolf's team pitched consumer, business, and tech outlets and blogs. He explains that BigWords appeals to media because it simply compares prices without touting one retailer over another.

“Press are inundated with stories about why products are better or different,” Wolf says. “BigWords' story is so unique because it's very horizontal. We're not saying one retailer is better than another. Reporters feel like they're providing a service rather than pumping a particular retailer.” 

Sherwood's in-house team organized street teams that handed out written materials and drummed up Facebook friends on more than 200 college campuses. The in-house team also monitors and engages in online conversations about textbooks.

Results

Sherwood says this was the most successful PR campaign to date, noting that site traffic increased about 40% during the campaign compared to the same time last year.

Wolf reports an audience reach in the “multi-millions,” with coverage in outlets such as ABC News, CNN, AP, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Lifehacker.com, Kiplinger, Yahoo, and Huffington Post.

Future

The team is preparing a PR push for textbook “buy back” season, which runs late November to mid-December. A back to school campaign will begin in January.

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