Money-Media's Lead Gen Campaign Gets Its ThinkTank Platform Rolling

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Write content.
Right people.

That was the headline on one of the first templated email blasts sent to publishers by Money-Media to encourage them to publish on ThinkTank, their online content distribution platform. The three main reasons highlighted in the email were: publish for free; reach advisors; and join your peers.

An extension of Money-Media's Financial Advisor IQ (FA-IQ), ThinkTank provides asset managers a free forum to publish and share their thought leadership and white papers with financial advisors, their primary audience. But while Money-Media registered almost 200 publishers to ThinkTank at its outset in 2016, the frequency and amount of papers being published was not high—especially given the ultimate goal, at that time, of selling premium licenses to the most active publishers.

A lead generation campaign in 2017 increased their publisher count 40% to 267 companies. (That has since risen to 334!) ThinkTank publishers added 971 new papers to the platform, a 190% increase on 2016. The number of papers published on the site each week also grew 59% from an average 16 papers per week in January 2017 to 27 papers per week at the end of December (and to 42.4 now, almost a year later).

"The fact that so many companies want to publish on the ThinkTank platform and the fact that they are publishing content at an increasing rate shows that ThinkTank is providing real value for them," Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, wrote me in an email.

For this tremendous growth, Money Media won second place in Best Lead Generation/Nurturing Campaign in the 2018 SIPAwards. Here are some key facets of that campaign: 

Emphasize the call-to-action. Money-Media redesigned and streamlined their marketing emails into a two-week long, four-email campaign structure. Each email sent conveyed a different message to the prospect but contained the same call-to-action of registering for a publisher's account.

Show me the benefits. Money-Media stressed the types of readers publishers would be reaching and its growth rate—using infographics and emphasizing the simplicity of uploading content. "Publish to ThinkTank in three easy steps" was the subject line. "It only takes one minute to publish to ThinkTank" was the headline.

Personalize. The last email in the series was a personalized follow-up from their sales director with the subject line, "Following up." "This is where most of the registrations would come from," wrote Catlin Sweeney, group marketing manager of Money Media, in their entry. "It also helped introduce the publishers to our sales director who would be their main point of contact." And also the person selling premium licenses.

Kepp emails steady and comprehensive. The campaigns went out once a month to different marketing, communications and public relations contacts at target companies. Three campaigns with slightly varied looks also went to marketing and communications agencies "who often act as a gatekeeper to our target audience."

Implement a nurture campaign. Once signed up, publishers had to be reminded and encouraged to post. Emails highlighting different ThinkTank stats and insights went out, including an Engagement Leaderboard, Most Viewed Content, Best Performing Keywords in Headlines and Advisor Engagement. The emails rotated monthly so the asset managers could benchmark the insights and get used to seeing the emails in their inbox every week.

Provide analytics and education credits. These emails could be a breakdown of views by important reader demographics, amount of time readers spent on the site and keywords. The last week of the month was used to alert publishers of the latest fixes and enhancements to the site, including the launch of an education program where CFP professionals could obtain continuing education hours for reading ThinkTank content online.

Work with other departments. The campaign required the marketing team to collaborate with the data intelligence team to ensure access to the raw data they needed. Marketing also partnered with commercial operations to set up automated mailings alerting publishers when a paper of theirs was picked up in editorial's daily or weekly most popular issues—and emailing dormant publishers who hadn't posted in a while. This data could be used to begin conversations about the benefits of a premium license. Indeed, one of these emails led to ThinkTank's first sale.

Encourage posting quarterly reports. Emails at the beginning of each quarter reminded publishers and prospects to share their firm's quarterly investment outlook papers on ThinkTank.

Congratulate. Emails are sent lauding publishers whose content has been included in the editorial daily issue or most popular listing sent out.

Monetize. Initially, Money-Media sold six premium licenses to ThinkTank publishers—a healthy revenue gain—but then then shifted gears a bit. "We haven't been focusing on selling premium licenses, although a few more sales have come in on their own since the SIPAwards," wrote Fink. "Up to this point we have primarily focused on building the community by adding content publishers and content consumers. In the past month we think we crossed the line, and community engagement is now high enough to monetize the platform significantly."

Sell premium licenses. Each time a ThinkTank visitor reads a piece of content, that person is stored as a lead for the respective publisher, but publishers can't access the data without paying for the upgrade. "Dozens of companies" are interested in upgrading to premium in order to unlock access to the data on their account. That data includes hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of leads from the platform.

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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…