How OPIS Quadrupled the Downloads of its Annual Outlook Forecast

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Almost all of us have faced a similar situation: We have good content—be it a report, series of articles, newsletter, podcast, webinar—that didn't get the audience it deserved. We can ignore it and hope the insanity doctrine—designing and marketing it the same way and expecting a different result—won't apply to us.

Or we can do what OPIS (Oil Price Information Service) did. They confronted the "relatively low download numbers" for its excellent, annual OPIS Outlook Forecast and set out to significantly increase them. Their efforts resulted in four times the downloads (153 to over 600) of the report and a 2017 SIPAward-winning entry for Best Lead Generation Program.

How did they do it? Let us count the ways:

1. Made success an important goal. The OPIS Outlook Forecast is an annual special report that provides an exclusive overview of the upcoming year's petroleum landscape. So if you're in the industry, it's important, but it had never received the attention it merited. OPIS made it a goal that 2016 would be different.

2. Made the report more visually appealing. The 2015 report cover was all grey type with a swatch of color on top. The new cover featured an almost-artistic, full-color picture of a refinery set in a clear, cerulean sky. That cover was then used to enhance all their marketing efforts. A typical inside page in 2015 was all black-and-white copy. In 2016 that page contained color graphs and charts to go with the copy.

3. Designed visually friendly emails with a clear Call to Action. "Download the OPIS 2016 Outlook Forecast now for FREE," was centered on the bottom of the first email in big letters. The report cover rested on the top right, next to the headline.

4. Kept the marketing message simple. That same email contained only three short paragraphs of copy, with phrases like "just-released," "trends to watch" and "exclusive commentary and analysis." This email alone produced 230 downloads, more than all of 2015!

5. Didn't over-email. It's always hard to know what feels right. OPIS went with just three emails—one per month—for the year's first quarter, when the report matters most. The second email didn't show the cover but emphasized the report's excellent track record: "Last year this forecast nailed the 2015 national average for retail gasoline" and that it's free. It got 111 downloads. The third email used the cover again and in a conversational way said they did not want you to miss out (80 downloads).

6. Targeted the emails. The emails were sent to a wide range of "current OPIS prospects including jobbers, wholesalers, and retailers—anyone who could take advantage of the market insight found in the report." 

7. Used a multi-channel campaign. Katlyn Greeves, OPIS associate marketing manager, crafted a multi-channel campaign that kicked off in January 2016. Twitter and LinkedIn were the main social platforms. "Our editors have been right on cue so far with the 2016 OPIS Outlook Forecast - benefit by downloading free now," read one tweet.

8. Parlayed print. As Kiplinger's Greg Krehbiel kindly reminds me now and then—more now than then—print lives. And, of course, he's right. For OPIS it took the form of a very appealing one-page flyer, with a landing page url listed clearly at the bottom. It complemented the campaign nicely.

9. Used as incentive that if successful, the positive momentum would keep building... By putting greater importance on the success of the report—and succeeding—OPIS opened many new doors. The advertising director could secure a sponsor for the next one. The social media campaign was justified and could get bigger. The number of customers they could market to significantly grew.

10. ...And it has. The 2017 report landing page stayed the new course, featuring two paragraphs of crisp copy and an easy sign-up form—email, first name, last name, company—plus a graphic of their similarly designed 2017 report cover. As of February, OPIS already had received 590 downloads of that 2017 report.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…