Let’s cut to the chase. If you’re not experimenting with sponsorship text ads as part of your email marketing plan for 2002, you’re nuts.
Text ads are those deceptively simple six- or eight-line blurbs you see in HTML and text-only email newsletters as well as on some content sites. A good one says something like, "Click here for our FREE Guide: The Top Ten Tips for Low-Cost, High-Impact Email Campaigns."
Just reading those words makes me want to click. As someone interested in email marketing, I’ve got to have that free guide. Don’t you?
Like anything else in email marketing, sponsor text ads require a keen understanding of your target audience. They also require a special touch to get the copy and the offer just right. It’s not that difficult to get a killer response (i.e., click-through and conversion) if you take the time to think, step by step, about what makes these ads work. And if you remember that a successful sponsorship is contextual advertising at its best.
Where does the audience you’re trying to reach spend time online? That’s where you want to be. If your target is online marketers, you can probably rattle off a list of business-to-business (B2B) content sites, e-newsletters, and discussion lists (including ClickZ) that are suitable venues for your sponsor ads. (Adventive is a good example of niche discussion lists.)
Don’t forget to think geographically. From Boston or Hong Kong, there’s probably a content site with an accompanying e-newsletter. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of lesser-known e-newsletters your audience may be reading. (Unfortunately, there’s no one site with a complete listing of B2B e-newsletters.)
Do your homework. Think logically. If there’s a print magazine considered to be the leading resource for your niche audience, find out if it has an electronic counterpart. Ditto professional associations.
How do you qualify these e-pubs? Sign up, and read them yourself. Check out your competition by studying other sponsor ads. Find the rate sheet (usually posted on the site or available by email.) Don’t stop there. Pick up the phone and call. You can almost always negotiate a better rate than what’s advertised. Sometimes it’s on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis; sometimes not.
These pubs are as eager to fill their sponsorship space with good-looking, nicely worded ads as you are to find exactly the right placement.
What constitutes an offer in a sponsor text ad?
It’s the incentive that makes ’em click. It’s your giveaway. It’s the value add you offer for getting what you want. Translation: If your objective is to get qualified leads for your high-end technology product or service, you’ve got to offer readers something to collect their name and qualifying information.
Online readers (like yourself) are too jaded to act on something like: "Click here to find out more about our wonderful product that solves all your problems."
The most effective giveaways are tangible -- and free. A downloadable guide (if you consider a digital information product "tangible") is almost always compelling.
It’s the Content (and the Copy), Stupid
Here’s a great example of contextual advertising with a strong offer. You may have noticed BoldFish (an opt-in email technology company with high-end, high-volume clients) is sponsoring several ClickZ columns with a text ad.
The offer is a "Free Case Study." (I downloaded it to take a look. It’s a substantive five pages.) The rest of the copy: Opt-in Email that Delivers Exponential ROI.
Download this paper and learn how you can use opt-in email in innovative ways to:
Click Here to Download.
The copy is short, to the point, and specific. It tells you what to do (twice). There’s lots of white space around the words, so it’s easy to scan. Most important, it reads as if it’s almost part of the Email Marketing Case Studies column. The content of the ad plays directly off the content of the editorial. Note the free download is a "case study." It could just as easily have been a free report or guide. (This kind of context-sensitive copy can work equally well in a text e-newsletter.)
I called Scott Hetherington, BoldFish’s director of marketing communications, to find out how the ad has been working. He describes it as "one of the most successful" sponsorships he’s placed, noting the same ad has appeared in different e-pubs (including ICONCAST’s weekly HTML e-newsletter) with minor copy changes. He’s measuring success by conversion, or the number of downloads -- over 2,000 when we spoke last week.
Of that number, he expects 5 to 10 percent will be qualified leads to send on to BoldFish’s sales force. Of that group, perhaps 10 percent will turn into new customers. Not bad for a 31-word text ad (not including "click here to download.")
Effective Landing Page
Sign up for every free white paper or guide that you can find. Then, pay attention to the wording on the landing pages and how the download process works. As I’ve mentioned before, the landing page does the heavy lifting in any kind of email marketing. Don’t ignore the crucial last step in email sponsorship advertising if you want your click-throughs to turn into conversions.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Debbie Weil is publisher of WordBiz Report, which focuses on the business of words online. It was awarded The Newsletter on Newsletters' Gold Award for Online Subscription Newsletter. A former newspaper reporter with an MBA and corporate marketing experience, Debbie is an expert on B2B online content and marketing at both the strategic and creative levels. She was Web content marketing manager for Network Solutions (now part of Verisign) before launching WordBiz.com.
March 19, 2014