It wasn't until late afternoon on April Fool's Day when I came up with the idea for an epic prank.

No, not covering a colleague's desk with Post-It notes or planting staplers in Jell-O. I'm talking something a little more ... client-facing.

Let me quickly give you some context here. My marketing consulting company, Brand Builder Solutions, is a very strong advocate of all things inbound marketing. Our mission is to generate revenue for our clients online using inbound marketing best practices, and we're proud to be among the top 1% of HubSpot Partners, which means we train and support our clients using the inbound marketing methodology.

Alright, back to my prank idea. Here's what I had in mind: First, I wanted to give my company's website a makeover -- so that instead of promoting all things inbound marketing, we were strongly advising against it. And then, I wanted to create and send out a marketing email with a similar message to prank our contact base.

The results from this April Fool's joke were astounding. But I'll get to those later. Knowing my team might try to talk me out of the idea (they're a bit more sane than I), I decided to go ahead and get started on my own. So I closed my office door, hunched over my keyboard, and began typing away into our website editor.

Step 1: The Home Page

The first thing I did was create a new home page to reflect our "new values." I temporarily directed our normal home page URL to this prank home page, while storing the real home page elsewhere. From the moment I made the changes live until 11:59 PM on April Fool's Day, every single visitor to our website saw that Brand Builder Solutions was no longer in the business of inbound marketing.

Here's what the top of our home page looked like:

AprilFools-Img1

As users scrolled down, they were greeted with messaging like this:

AprilFools-Img2

And this:

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Users who made it to the very bottom of our home page saw an April Fool's message coupled with a link to the page where I'd stored our real home page's content:

AprilFools-Img6

Once I was done with the home page, I sent the live link to a few friends in the inbound community, including a mentor of mine, Rick Roberge. It was after hearing positive responses from the community that I saw an opportunity to take the joke to the next level. What about sending out a prank email campaign?

Step 2: The Email Campaign

Gold, I thought. But I wondered: Should it go to only a few close contacts? Would it be a good idea to send it to customers and prospects? Most importantly, was the whole thing a little too risky?

When you want to do something but you're hesitant to act on it, ask the person who thrives on this kind of uncertainty. For me, that was Rick Roberge. My email to him read: "Rick, I'm thinking about sending a prank email to everyone." Rick's reply? "Do it."

Those two words were all it took. Within a few minutes, I'd set up the campaign in HubSpot's software and sent it out -- to customers, to prospects; to everyone. Here's what it looked like:

AprilFools-img4.2

What Did I Just Do?

I wondered whether the recipients of this prank email would "get" it, or whether this would turn off any of our prospects. Prank emails can be a mixed bag for people, so I figured I'd get a range of responses. One of the things we all love here at Brand Builder Solutions is to make things "engaging" and "remarkable." I was certainly expecting engagement, as well as some remarks.

Here's what did happen.

For context, the four email campaigns my company had sent prior to this one to the same group of contacts averaged 6% clicks-to-delivered. Within the first 30 minutes of launching our April Fool's email campaign, we'd already topped that average.

Within 24 hours, our April Fool's email campaign had crushed our prior average by 300%, reaching 24% clicks-to-delivered.

hubspot-email-engagement-rates

Only one recipient marked the email as spam.

Do you remember that link to our real home page's content that I'd included at the bottom of the prank home page? After sending out the email campaign, our "real" home page began generating more activity than normal. You can see the spike in website visits here: 

AprilFools-Img7

In real time, we were seeing that a lot of our prospects were not only looking at our services, work, and templates, but were also downloading content. (And we knew they were prospects because we were using Sidekick by HubSpot.)

Some People "Got" the Joke

I received many positive responses to the email, including:

  • "LOL, almost had me for a second.. Very funny. Best joke I've heard all day."
  • "Very clever...you and Amazon had the same idea. Although I suspected it was a ploy, I appreciate your humor. (And I needed a dose of it today!) Thanks"
  • "HAH! This is one of the best ones yet. Sent it out to our team here for a good chuckle!"

Some People Didn't

I also got a few less positive responses. One read, "I'm confused by this email. What is it about?" I replied asking if they'd clicked the link, and their response was, "Well it got my attention, that's for sure! Nice work. Haha."

What About The People I Didn't Hear From?

It's likely that there are some people who didn't click through on the email and actually think we're done with inbound marketing. To solve for this, we set up a smart list using HubSpot's software to capture all of the people who opened the email but didn't click -- and we're launching follow-up emails to that group to keep them informed.

We also plan to continue engaging with those who did clicked through on the April Fool's email. We'll do this by sending them another email with simple questions like, "What did you think?" We want to hear that feedback. What do we expect to hear back? Everything from "We laughed" to "We were confused" to "We were afraid to click the link," and, finally, to "We didn't like it." Each of those responses give us an opportunity to keep our engagement going in a constructive way.

Is Playing An April Fool's Prank In Business A Good Idea?

Well, we had our highest open rate and clickthrough rate ever with this April Fool's email. I was able to engage with existing customers that had been distant for a while. I also had some inquiries on quotes for work related to these interactions.

But I'd love to know what you think. Was this a good idea? Would you have done it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Originally published Apr 6, 2015 12:00:00 PM, updated August 29 2017

Topics:

Holiday Marketing