Lead Nurturing: How to Launch a New $1 Million Revenue Stream
I recently read an article in The Atlantic lamenting the fall of Yahoo. “Today, Facebook and Google alone are slurping up the ad dollars … and Yahoo as we knew it has all but vanished. It won’t be the only web giant to fall.”
As many stories about media seem to be these days, it was rather depressing. But the author also hit on one statement that I immediately locked onto, “If you run a business that relies on digital-advertising revenue … you need to find new streams of revenue.”
This couldn’t be truer and, fortunately, we as publishers are in a perfect position to launch a very lucrative new revenue stream. We can become the marketing services company for our niche.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to help a media company jump-start their marketing services business. The CEO updated me during a recent call. “We’ve already sold $200,000 of new business and we’re on pace to sell nearly $1 million by the end of 2017.” Another publisher I’ve worked with launched a similar business believes they can do nearly $750K in 2017.
Traditionally, the publishing business model has been to create content for a specific niche, aggregate an audience around that content, and then sell space to advertisers so they can deliver their message to our audience. How the advertiser converts that space into sales has been their concern or their agency’s concern, not ours.
Likewise, lead generation has been around for a long time as well. Publishers have explored everything from webinars to white papers to generate leads for their advertisers … and to some success. But again, we just focused on getting the leads, not qualifying them or helping move them further down the sales funnel.
How a Lead Nurturing Program Works
And it’s right here where the growth opportunity is for publishers. We can take over the business of generating and nurturing leads for our advertisers and, in the process, capture budgets that we’ve never had access to before.
Let me give you one, simple example of lead nurturing … a fixed-duration content marketing funnel.
In this funnel, the publisher leverages its existing content as well as its editorial and production skills to help the advertiser create a compelling downloadable PDF -- a lead magnet. The publisher then uses its systems and marketing knowledge to create a high-converting landing page. The publisher then markets the lead magnet to its own audiences and can even package Facebook and Google advertising as well to find new leads outside of its own audiences.
Once someone signs up on the landing page, a thank you page is delivered, but also is specifically crafted to guide the person to the next step in the sales process, whatever that may be. At the same time, the lead is now added to a specific partner email list and passed along automatically to the advertiser. An email is triggered to deliver the download link for the lead magnet to the person who registered.
Next there is follow-up. An automated sequence of emails (usually three in a simple model like this) is delivered over the next 10 days or so. The emails deliver additional valuable content related to the advertiser’s goals and helps move the lead further down the sales funnel. They also give the advertiser multiple touch points with a potential customer.
Become Invaluable to Advertisers
This is just one simple example of lead nurturing. There are many other models and each can be customized for the specific needs of any given advertiser. But this is no longer just advertising, although advertising is a component. And it’s far beyond basic lead generation. It’s a level of lead engagement that even most of our advertisers don’t have.
In fact, I have seen several instances where an advertiser liked the lead nurturing system so well that they asked if they could promote it on their own website, social media properties, and email lists. It was better at converting anonymous visitors and followers into real names and better at moving email prospects to hot leads than anything they had on their own site.
Once this happens, you’ve now moved beyond an ad contract which can easily be cancelled or not renewed. You’ve become an indispensable part of your customer’s revenue-generating systems -- something that isn’t easy for them to just cancel or not renew.
An added side benefit to this kind of model? You as the publisher are adding new names to your own audience database from Google and Facebook advertising as well as from your advertisers.
To do this successfully, it’s critical that publishers hone their skills at creating compelling lead magnets and high-converting landing pages. They need to understand the fundamentals of a marketing automation. They need to know how to properly target and optimize Facebook and Google ads. And they must have the right systems and people in place to execute.
Most publishers are missing some of the pieces here, but these are skills that can be learned and systems that can be implemented. The key is that the publisher must be commit to doing this right and give it the focus it needs.
Why Publishers Should Dive Into Marketing Services & Lead Nurturing
Does this replace traditional publishing … print, digital or otherwise? Not at all. In fact, for this to work, publishers still need a vibrant publication with strong relationships with readers.
But lead nurturing has the capability to open new revenue streams for publishers that can strengthen the overall publication business and brand. In fact, one of the publishers that I mentioned above has told me that he hopes to see lead nurturing and other marketing services become 50% of his business in the next three to five years.
We have so many advantages that no ad agency can match:
- We know the market – We know the trends, the people and what our readers want and need better than any ad agency ever could.
- We have the audience – We’ve cultivated very targeted audiences that are perfect for our advertisers. No wondering about ad fraud or Facebook/Google algorithms.
- We have the relationship – Our readers know our brand and trust us. This model doesn’t compete with, but builds upon the equity we’ve built in our brand.
- We have content – We can leverage existing content and we have the expertise and network of writers to create compelling content that our readers want.
As publishers, we can leverage these advantages, tap into budgets that are often independent from media, and become the premiere marketing services organizations in our markets. Why not do it before your competitor does?
P.S. You can download a couple additional examples of lead nurturing funnels for publishers on the home page of my website.
Eric Shanfelt is the founding partner of Nearview Media, a consulting firm that helps publishers with their digital revenue, audience and platform development. Eric is a 25-year digital media veteran and has been the Chief Digital Officer for several large publishing companies. You can reach Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.