September 28, 2006, 12:00 AM

FirstStreet wins `passionate` customers through political blogs

The e-retailer of innovative products is finding that advertising on political blogs is not only winning customers, but also friends who suggest merchandising ideas that lead to more sales. The more passionate blog visitors are about politics, the better, firstStreet says.

Internet Retailer

Mix business and politics? At first it sounded like a bad idea to Daniel Yonts, the manager of Internet marketing at TechnoBrands Inc.’s firstStreet, an e-retailer of innovative products.

But the world of political weblogs beckoned with new web territory populated with a high concentration of Baby Boomers and “active seniors,” two of firstStreet’s most sought-after groups of consumers. And when you’re a retailer that specializes in selling unusual and innovative products-like atomic watches, battery-operated refrigerators on wheels for outdoor patios, and “independent living” devices that can make life easier for aging Boomers-it makes sense to take innovative steps in marketing, too, Yonts says.

“At first, I was leary of alienating any of our customers who may be of one political persuasion or another,” Yonts says. But after running ads on blogs like the Right’s DanielPipes.org and the Left’s DavidCorn.com, Yonts realized that while the blogs produced new customers, he also could engage the few complainers in positive e-mail communications that resulted in helpful insights on consumer interests.

“I point out that firstStreet advertises on blogs from the Left, Right and Center of the political spectrum equally,” Yonts says. “What started out with a disgruntled customer calling us ‘Communists’ or ‘Right-Wingers’ settled into incredibly civil and interesting conversations.”

Passion sells
FirstStreet initially sponsored apolitical blogs focused on technology and gadgets, where it could showcase innovative products such as iTheater video goggles and iPod accessories. That led to increases in both traffic and sales on its web site, firstStreetOnline.com.

Now its exposure on political blogs is having an even stronger effect, with the added benefit of generating merchandising ideas. As a result, Yonts says, firstStreet has used the political blogs to expand its electronics sales and core offerings, including products geared toward older consumers. In one case, for example, Yonts engaged a political blog visitor who suggested that firstStreet more prominently merchandise the Thermoskin hand brace, a device that helps older writers prevent the paralyzing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. “We’re now getting more sales of that, even though we don’t consider it one of our glamour products,” Yonts says.

Surprisingly, Yonts has found that the more passionate blog visitors are about their politics, the more likely they are to click one of his ads or engage in a dialogue about his products. “Blogs that generate the most political passion also generate the most sales,” he says.

FirstStreet channels its political blog advertising through BlogAds.com, which Yonts finds more effective than Google AdWords in generating buzz about his brand-and at a lower cost. One series of ads placed through BlogAds cost firstStreet about $40 a month for up to 1,000 clicks, less than half of what Yonts says he’d pay through Google AdWords, and BlogAds allows for larger product images and lengthier text in its ads, he says.

Google ads are more targeted and hence convert more clickers to buyers, “but for building buzz and branding, BlogAds is the way better bargain,” Yonts says.

 

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