9 Steps To Maximize Your Sponsored Email Campaign

Marketing

Launching a new product? Have a stellar piece of content you want to promote? In a marketing rut?

Whatever the scenario, marketing in partnership with online publications is one effective way to expand your marketing reach outside of your email list and gain exposure for your business. By working with a sponsor, you leverage their established community, marketing resources, and industry expertise to promote your own brand.

In this post, I’ll uncover nine steps to maximizing a sponsored email campaign using Autopilot’s partnership with MarketingProfs as a real-life example you can compare your own efforts to or use as inspiration.

Here’s a sneak peek of our subject line A/B test (see the results by scrolling to step 7):

Which email subject line wins?

Step 1. Select the right promotional partner

Start by doing comparative research on potential partners to see which will get the most exposure for your brand. Important factors to consider are site traffic volume, community engagement, and which programs best fit your budget, target personas and available resources.

Set up a time with the vendors to make sure all of your questions are answered. Be sure to gather the following before making a commitment:

  • Audience information: list size, global distribution, top industries, company size, role level, areas of interest
  • Which of your competitors they work with
  • Most effective programs and examples of success
  • Average results based on similar companies or offerings
  • Expectations from both parties including if there is a lead guarantee, key deadlines, schedule availability and logistics
  • Pricing: always, always negotiate pricing and ask about special deals or discounts, especially if you are a first time client

We decided to go with MarketingProfs for our sponsored email campaign because their audience fit our target market and they have a strong reputation as a quality resource for marketers of all levels. We chose a dedicated standalone HTML email to a target audience of 10,000 members on their “marketing automation” list as well as 5,000 emails to their “hotline” list which includes highly responsive members who have subscribed within the last 120 days.

Step 2. Determine your offer

So you purchased a sponsored email blast. Great! Now comes the hardest part: deciding what to offer your new audience.

Most companies take an “educate now, sell later” approach where they’ll offer an ebook or whitepaper in exchange for contact information. You could also try other creative ideas like special offers, a webinar invitation, case study, video, or infographic. Your high-level goal is to drive the recipient into your lead database and take them into a nurture flow.

Because our email was scheduled to send during the same week of launching our new branding and product, we used the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the MarketingProfs audience.

To execute our campaign successfully, we needed:

  • Fully coded HTML email with images hosted on our server
  • Text version of the email
  • Test list of approvers
  • Suppression list (people we didn’t want our email to be sent to)
  • Dedicated landing page for our offer
  • Follow up plan

Step 3. Develop your content

Short is good when drafting an email. Your objective is to quickly show value and get the audience to click through to your landing page. Best practice is to focus on a single, primary call-to-action. Too many offers or opportunities for the reader to click can be confusing. Consider using one of these powerful call-to-action phrases and pull from Buffer’s ultimate list of words that convert. The call-to-action we chose was “Learn more.”

Brainstorm several compelling subject lines before finalizing the email. If the vendor permits you to A/B test, decide what you want to learn from audience. This post from Copyhackers shows split-test results and takeaways from their weekly newsletter experiments.

Once you’ve decided on your subject line(s), double check to make sure the message between subject lines and email body text is consistent. For our email, we decided to test whether the audience responded better to a broader subject line that piqued curiosity or something more straightforward introducing our product:

Subject line A: Marketing just got easier
Subject line B: New drag and drop marketing automation

At this point, you are ready to code the HTML. If you don’t have access to an in-house design team, you can use one of these 600 free email templates and template builders to create your HTML or outsource your idea to a service like Fiverr.

Here’s our final result:

Sponsored Email Campaign

Step 4. Create a dedicated landing page

You’ve created an email with a compelling subject line and clear call-to-action, now you need a dedicated landing page to drive your traffic. Similar to message matching your subject line to your email body, it’s important to message match your email body to your landing page copy.

You don’t need programming skills to execute a professional and high-converting landing page. There are several affordable and easy-to-use, best-of-breed landing page builders on the market. If you’ve never created a landing page before, read up on what makes a best practice landing page here and here.

To incentivize conversions on our landing page and experiment with swag marketing, we decided to include a free t-shirt for anyone from the MarketingProfs audience who signed up for a free trial.

Check out our landing page here.

Sponsored Campaign Landing Page

Step 5. Set up your links

To measure the effectiveness of your paid email campaign, add UTM parameters to your published landing page URL and any other links you plan to include in your email.

Put simply, UTM parameters are tags added to a URL. When someone clicks on that URL, the unique parameters are sent back Google Analytics allowing you to track your campaign data.

Google Analytics’ URL Builder is an easy way to implement UTM Parameters. Fill in the form with your landing page URL, campaign source, campaign medium and campaign name at a minimum, and click “submit” to generate your URL. If you aren’t sure what campaign source, medium or name to use, this post gives some great tips on UTM naming conventions.

UTM Parameters Builder

For our campaign, we used:

Website URL = http://www2.autopilothq.com/marketingprofs-free-trial
Campaign Source = marketingprofs
Campaign Medium = referral
Campaign Name = 5March2015-email

The final URL should look something like this: http://www2.autopilothq.com/marketingprofs-free-trial?utm_source=marketingprofs&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=5March2015-email

Step 6. Test your email (and test again)

Once all your links are in place, be sure to test your emails on all devices and email clients using a tool like Litmus. You’ll want to make sure your email renders properly on mobile and on the major email clients your recipients will be using to view your email.

Be sure to have your sponsor send you and any other people involved in the approval process test emails as well. Click through all the links to make sure the UTMs have been captured properly and do a test run to ensure your landing page form capture is working with your marketing automation system.

Step 7. Measure your results

Here comes the fun part! You’ve done your job, now all you need to do is sit back, relax and let the leads roll in.

The sponsor should have results for you a few days after the email send. As a general rule of thumb, expect a third party send to perform half as well as your in-house list since you are dealing with the challenge of an unknown list and an audience that hasn’t necessarily opted-in to your content.

Here are the results from our A/B test. It’s surprising that there is no statistically significant difference between the two:

Which email subject line won

When it comes to measuring your leads results, Goals in Google Analytics is a good place to start, but doesn’t allow you to see any contact information about the your new leads.

In Autopilot, we have the ability to easily set up a smart segment based on UTMs. This allows us to generate list of all Free Trial signups who have come through with the UTM Campaign Name = 5March2015

Autopilot Smart Segments

Creating smart segments like the one above opens up all sorts of remarkable marketing possibilities like remarketing by source or creating highly relevant lead nurture journeys based on a visitor’s first touch campaign.

Step 8. Follow through on the offer

This goes without saying, but if you’ve included an offer in your campaign, make sure you follow through – whether that means sending an autoresponder email with a link to a piece of content or, in our case, defining the follow up plan for sending out t-shirts to free trial signups.

Step 9. Do it again?

Finally, decide if it’s worth doing another campaign with the vendor. The tricky thing with measuring ROI on marketing campaigns is that you often won’t see the results right away. Depending on your product and your sales cycle, sometimes you won’t know if the campaign paid for itself until 6 months or even a year after the email blast.

A good idea is to conduct a post-mortem on the campaign: collect the quantitative data you have available (conversion rates, total spend, number of leads, opportunities and deals) as well as qualitative data from your lead qualification and sales reps. Analyze the campaign’s performance by evaluating the quality of the leads and comparing the lead acquisition cost and average annual customer value with your other channels.

We’re curious – do you use a different process for planning your sponsored email campaigns? What were your results?

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