Terror of the Freebie Queen

No one in business is under the illusion that everything runs smoothly, all the time.  We do our best, but now and then things go wrong.  Sometimes it’s because we’ve messed up and sometimes the client messes up and sometimes everything goes to hell in a handbasket and neither side is at fault.

I’ve worked on hundreds of campaigns over the last ten years, thousands if I think of my whole working life and none of them were as miserable as the Tale of the Freebie Queen.

I had just secured this new client after about a year of trying and we were running their first campaign.  It was a decent size for a first campaign – around 3,000 records as I recall.  The name of the client?  Well I likely wouldn’t tell you if remembered, but honestly I don’t recall. I’ve blocked it out.

It looked like a great relationship was starting.  The client was pleasant and very professional.  They recorded a solid message and their list was a thing of beauty, (and even on time) which was really nice since it was actually a list that they had rented specifically to promote a special event.  It was a webinar, promoting a new product ( I think). The plan called for first an email invitation then a voicemail followed up by another email, followed up with another voicemail. To help promote registrations, they were offering a $10.00 Starbucks gift card to registrants. IT Directors and VP dominated the list.

We ran the campaign and the delivery rate was excellent, about 80%. Everything was looking good. The follow-up email and second voicemail ran and about 2 days after that I heard back from an ecstatic client.  Their response rate was at 15% and looking to get even better.  Which it did. The world was a wonderful place!

Problem was, the registration rate continued to climb, crossing 25%, starting to look questionable and – given the card redemption – a little pricey.  The client started looking more closely at the registrants and found a list bearing little – (actually no) resemblance to the invitation list. And now it got ugly as the only reasonable explanation that the client could come up with was that we had messaged the wrong list.

But that was not the case.  We tore through the call logs, looked at every single delivery and there were no mistakes. So, what happened?

Thanks to the magic of Google (now there’s a phrase I haven’t used in a very long time) we searched the event name, and date and found that this event had been posted on some freebie sites, promoted as “Get $10 worth of free Starbucks Coffee!” and the redemptions were hitting the site fast and furious.

With a little more digging we also uncovered that this posting was courtesy of a bottom feeding witch who will forever remain burned in my memory as Kimmie the Freebie Queen.  Looking back over the list originally provided by the client we found an IT Director – Kimberly McQueen.  Looked pretty suspicious.  Both identities listed the same smallish town as home and the original freebie posting occurred within an hour of receiving her first email.

I think the final registration count pushed to almost 1000 freebie hunters. The marketing team was so overwhelmed with the instant barrage of “where’s my gift card?” emails after the event, that the few qualified registrants got lost in the shuffle.  I think at one point they made noises about lawsuit, but while the results of our investigation into the actions of the (I still think) despicable Freebie Queen made the lawsuit noises go away, we absolutely lost a promising client.  I think the marketing manager got fired, which just wasn’t fair either, but neither is life, or business, sometimes.

Moral of the story  – “Be very careful that the value of your premium isn’t too attractive to the wrong audience and always stipulate that it’s ONLY offered to QUALIFIED participants.”




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