by Geoffrey Gentry, Content Writer

Skimlinks’ Real-Life Acquisition, Nurture and Retention Journeys

Skimlinks is a monetization platform that helps 1.5 million online publishers turn commerce-related content into a substantial source of revenue and insights.

By using Skimlinks’ unique JavaScript, a tracking code is automatically inserted every time publishers post a link to a product. Any product purchases made through that link results in a commission for the publisher. It’s like if you come across some baller sneakers in a GQ article. When you click the link and buy KD’s dope shoes, then GQ gets a commission—Skimlinks’ technology powers that whole thing.


Skimlinks provides their customers with a creative way to monetize their content without overburdening their audience with annoying advertisements. Websites like Buzzfeed, Vox Media, Condé Nast, Gawker and the Telegraph make up some of their major clients.

So how did Skimlinks grow to over 1.5 million publishers? With well-thought out and contextual customer journey marketing. The company:

  • Started with an integrated marketing tool stack
  • Created goals within their acquisition funnel stages
  • Contextualized content to maximize lead captures
  • Assigned the right leads to sales
  • Nurtured leads with relevant content that adds value, for free
  • Onboarded publishers by sending the right message at the right time

Let’s break these elements down.

1. Started with an integrated marketing tool stack

Skimlinks started with a highly integrated marketing tool stack. Here’s their tool breakdown:

Everything here integrates together in Autopilot. Skimlinks connected Segment and their own database to Salesforce, then synced that data into Autopilot using the native Salesforce integration. As a result, Skimlinks can map the entire customer journey from acquisition to conversion in Autopilot.

Skimlinks set up their sleek marketing tool stack in just 2-3 days and have utilized it on their journey to 1.5 million publishers and counting. Learn how to create your own growth marketing tool stack.

2. Created goals within their acquisition funnel

This is Skimlinks’ three-level acquisition funnel:

skimlinks acquisition funnel dos

Skimlinks applies their marketing stack to all levels of their particular acquisition funnel: acquisition, nurture and retention. Most importantly, Skimlinks sets relevant goals for each level. This helps them create a cohesive and streamlined customer journey.

An example of how it plays out practically looks like this:

  • Acquisition: Create awareness to generate leads
  • Nurture: Gain new signups
  • Activation / Retention: Facilitate a value-adding first product interaction

We’ll expand more on how Skimlinks reaches these goals in a minute, but for now let’s appreciate the clarity and thoughtfulness of this setup—it’s beautifully simple. The bones of this customer journey are set. Let’s see how it gets filled in.

3. Contextualized content to maximize lead captures

The focus at the top of the funnel is creating awareness to generate leads. For Skimlinks this looks like a lot of content marketing: case studies, product guides, tip lists, blog posts, generating SEO traffic and PR to acquire enterprise users.

But how do they decide the right way to connect to potential leads? It all comes down to language.

Are they a Youtube star? Let’s talk about how to monetize their channel with a relevant tip list.

social media guide final

Are they a big enterprise company who wants to know what Buzzfeed is doing? Check out this case study and you’ll know what to do.

buzzfeed guide final

Did they stumble onto the site because of smart SEO? There’s a different conversation for that.

skimlinks blog post final

This is about knowing where leads are coming from and communicating in a way that matters to them. It’s about adding real value to their lives. Skimlinks speaks to potential lead’s pain points through contextualized content determined by their point of arrival to maximize lead captures.

When the lead signs up and fills out a form this is what it looks like in Autopilot:

skimlinks activity feed final

There’s a live stream feed so the team at Skimlinks can follow everyone visiting their pages. As soon as someone fills out a form they move from being an anonymous visitor to a known lead. From that point on, every time the newly established lead visits their site, they know where they’re going and what they’re doing. This let’s Skimlinks know the best way to define the new lead and where to assign them. More on this ahead.

4. Assigned the right leads to sales

Once Skimlinks has a new lead the next task is start them on a journey relevant to their profession or to assign them to the correct team for follow-up. In this example some leads are sent immediately to Salesforce for the sales team to make contact because of preset criteria Skimlinks chooses.

salesforce lead assignment final

The lead’s journey will look different depending on what they do and how they sign-up but they all start on the master leads list.

By setting additional criteria (excluding everyone with a free email provider like Gmail or Hotmail in this example) Skimlinks is able to quickly define lead types. The Skimlinks team can use features like Headsup messages and forms to capture additional leads for this group, sync with Salesforce and define the lead type all in real-time.

Now that Skimlinks has defined their lead, they are ready to make a connection. To do that they need to create an organizational structure for a conversation that reflects the goals of their acquisition funnel.

The lead will now get their first email from Skimlinks. If they create an account on the first email the team monitors to see if the lead has a publisher ID. If Skimlinks verifies that they do the team is notified via Slack and the lead becomes a conversion.

ejected final

They are immediately ejected from the journey so the new customer doesn’t keep receiving follow up emails when they’ve already signed up.

5. Nurtured leads with relevant content that adds value, for free

For all of the leads that aren’t ready to sign up on first contact the nurturing journey begins.

Skimlinks waits two days before sending their first email. They organize the emails according to the three different levels of the lead nurturing content funnel.

  • Top: “I’m just doing research and not even close to making a purchase yet”
  • Middle: “I’m interested in buying, but want more information to see if DogToday is the best choice for me”
  • Bottom: “Okay, I think I’m ready to buy”

Here’s what the lead nurturing journey looks like.

skimlinks nurture journey small

Keeping the lead nurturing funnel stages in mind, here are the actual emails that Skimlinks sends.

top of funnel

Because we’re at the top of the funnel Skimlinks offers broad content. How can you make more money from your content? What are five tips for affiliate marketing? This initial broad appeal allows Skimlinks the chance to add value in order to deepen the relationship with the lead.

If there is a click, there’s an opportunity to sign up on the website. If there’s no initial click, Skimlinks waits another three days to see if there’s interaction with the email. If there’s no interaction, another email is sent again with broad value-adding content. Because Skimlinks knows they are still at the top of the funnel with these leads, the content remains broad. Their product and how it can help the reader is not yet a part of the conversation.

middle of funnel

As the lead clicks through and interacts with Skimlinks the content changes. In the middle of the funnel the information becomes more specific. Skimlinks promotes case studies—they want leads to see what people are doing in similar fields and how they are experiencing success. The reader identifies with the content shared at this stage. Seeing how others have overcome pain points in their field generates the desire to finally sign up.

Skimlinks repeats this over the course of three days until they move to the bottom of the funnel.

bottom of funnel

The lead has reached the bottom of the funnel. The content has gotten more focused, and here the emails get more personal. “Hey, I saw that you read [name of content that was clicked]. You can start monetizing your site, are you ready? Just click here to start.” Skimlinks makes their call to action super personalized. Like everything in Skimlinks’ lead nurture journey, it’s tailored to the experience and needs of the reader.

6. Created a smart blog subscription journey

Skimlinks takes the same contextual approach to their blog subscription journey.

If they get a new subscriber to their newsletter, Skimlinks isn’t going to overwhelm them with a bunch of content all at once. Even if they have 10 blog posts that are high performing and relevant, great content at the wrong time isn’t actually great content—it’s just annoying.

skimlinks onboarding journey small

In this instance, Skimlinks starts with a web message thanking the new subscriber for signing up and orienting them to the site. They also prepare the new subscriber for the focused content they’ll be receiving. Skimlinks run this journey for 3 days, then the subscriber is added to another list where they receive the latest blog posts.

Subscription journeys like this are critical because they ensure that the recipient isn’t getting talked to from several sides at once. Two emails in the same day isn’t a great way to start a relationship, creating a blog subscription journey ensures the recipient is protected from information overload and Skimlinks doesn’t come across as desperate for a second date.

7. Onboarded publishers by sending the right message at the right time

After a carefully curated and thoughtful journey the lead created an account. Now what? Skimlinks waits two days and then adds the user to their “Onboarding Started” list which allows them to know who is still part of the process. They’re looking for the user having their “first click” which let’s Skimlinks know if they installed the Javascript. From here Skimlinks has specific monetization goals they want their user to experience as a part of the retention stage.

skimlinks onboarding journey small real

With this journey they are able to anticipate potential issues the user may be having and provide relevant content to ease the user’s experience.

If Skimlinks notices the user is generating commission beyond a specific threshold, a personalized message is sent from their CEO with a congrats and an invitation to further conversation about features Skimlinks could add.

This super personalized message gets great response rates.

If the user doesn’t hit that commission threshold they get a different version of the same kind of personalized message. The CEO is talking to them, wanting to know what the issues were and how Skimlinks can help overcome any barriers the user is facing. This opens the door for onboarding the user into another relevant journey to keep nudging them forward in their experience.


By using a highly integrated marketing stack with Autopilot at the center, Skimlinks is able to create contextual customer journeys through value-adding content that overlays seamlessly with the goals Skimlinks sets along each stage of their acquisition funnel.

Skimlinks has used this approach to customer journey marketing to bring their monetization platform to 1.5 million publishers and counting…

Watch Victor Pencak’s video presentation on Skimlinks’ story, or follow Victor on Twitter. Interested in creating your own acquisition, nurture, and retention journeys? Sign up for a 30-day free trial of Autopilot.

Author Geoffrey Gentry, Content Writer

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