Monetize Your Website with Branded Content
If you haven't checked out our "5 Step Guide to Making Money with Your Website" yet, read it before continuing. It sets the foundation for what we'll be covering in this article.
We're going to dive a little deeper here on developing campaigns for brand partners, using your website and other distribution channels.
So, you've built an engaged audience and now you're ready to work with brand partners to monetize. Whether you've been approached by a brand or are looking to pitch, these tips will help you get started.
1. Meet with the Brand Partner
Meet in person or over a video chat to gather information and assess the brand's goals and priorities. Here are a few things you should cover in that meeting:
- Their present and future marketing priorities.
- What quantifies success for the brand? This might be email subscriptions, products purchased, registrations for their event(s), etc.
- What other marketing campaigns are they currently running? Can they share some examples of that creative with you?
- Are there other brands they follow online whose strategies they admire?
- What would be an appropriate timeline for a specific goal/campaign? What is their next goal after that and what is the timeline?
- If you can work together, are there resources that they can provide - staff to provide information for content or to appear in the content, digital assets, product as needed?
2. Develop a Strategy to Meet the Brand's Needs
Some brands may want to work with you on a short-term campaign. Others may leave this open-ended or the duration may depend on the cost you come back with. Take the timeline into consideration in your proposal. Just because a campaign is short-term, doesn't mean it can't be multi-faceted. Outline 3 or more phases of the campaign. Consider the marketing stages of the brand's customer journey: awareness, consideration, and conversion.
Topics, Formats, and Distribution
Once you've set a timeline, develop a plan for the content that you'll produce within the brand partner's campaign at each phase. Think about their goals and how you can develop content that helps them achieve their goals. Think about why this brand would resonate with your audience and try to develop topics that will both achieve the brand's goals and resonate with your audience.
Each piece of content that you'll pitch to the brand should include the topic, format, and how it will be distributed. You may take a single topic and produce it in a few different formats to customize it to each of your channels: website, enewsletter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Consider taking one topic and producing it in a few different formats: a blog, a video, an Instagram Story, for example.
The blog may get produced first and is featured on your website, posted to your Facebook and Twitter, and included in your e-newsletter.
Then, a few weeks or even months later (if still applicable to the brand), you release the video by uploading it to your Facebook account and tagging your brand partner. You can also include a little budget to run paid distribution on Facebook to ensure the video gets reach. You'd also feature the video on your website.
Somewhere in between or coinciding with the above, you can use this content to create an Instagram Story.
In each piece of content, the brand partner is clearly identified. Rather than one small piece of exposure, you're able to reiterate their message to your audience across platforms. Your audience becomes more familiar with the brand through each impression.
One of our Cardsetter publishers, Billings365.com, developed a campaign for an event in their community, MontanaFair. On their website, Billings365 created a custom horizontal scrolling "deck" featuring highlights for the fair including concerts, fair food and more. Billings365's website visitors could quickly scroll through the highlights and could click on any piece of content to learn more.
Then, over on Instagram, a few weeks after the special section went up on their website, Billings365 created a fun and interactive poll for their follwers where they could respond on whether or not they would be attending the concerts.
The fair was highlighted in two different ways, on two different platforms, giving them cross-channel exposure with the Billings365 audience.
(insert fair example graphics)
Other Sponsorship Opportunities
You don't always have to create custom content for every brand partner or for every line item in your proposal with a brand partner. You've got assets that can easily be sponsored. You can generate revenue and your brand partner still gets in front of your audience in the form of brand awareness.
Your e-newsletter, for example, can be "presented by [insert brand]. You could charge for this per e-newsletter and find separate sponsors for each time it is sent or you could have the same ongoing sponsor for some specific duration.
Billings365, for example, has a "presenting sponsor" across all of their channels. Their sponsor gets a logo in the main menu, on the e-newsletter, and the Facebook profile pic. Now, some publishers may not want to go this far in offering up their assets in fear of diluting their own brand. But for some publishers, if the revenue is sizeable, this can allow them to focus on more organic content while they generate revenue from that presenting sponsorship.
You could also carry this strategy out with your verticals and special sections.
You can combine any number of static sponsorship options along with custom content to build effective and attractive campaigns for your brand partners.
3. The Proposal
Put together a great looking proposal!
What to Include:
- An Introduction: Compliment the brand and express your desire to work with them. Show proof that you can reach a key audience for them.
- Use their logo on the proposal.
- Reiterate their marketing goals and why this campaign fulfills those goals.
- Outline the Campaign Phases, the objective for each phase (awareness, consideration, conversion) and what content, sponsorships, or other advertising (banner ads) will be included at each phase.
- This should include the content topic, format, and distribution strategies.
- Show visual examples where you can or create mockups using the brand's logo and relevant images or screenshots.
- Provide Pricing Information: You are providing audience + content production. Be sure to make this clear in the proposal and price accordingly. (NOTE: If your audience is on the smaller side, you can play up the quality content production piece. Then, this is where it would be wise to be sure you are building in budget to ensure distribution (like through facebook paid campaigns. This way, you can ensure views of the campaign.)
- Provide a 3 pricing options, emphasizing the one in the middle (they will usually choose the middle). This is better than an all or nothing approach and most brands appreciate having some choice.
- Include testimonials and references.
- Provide stats and analytics that show the strength of your audience.
Make it easy for the brand partner to accept your proposal. No one likes printing, signing, and scanning! Find a solution that will allow you to accept digital signatures. Adobe Document Cloud is one option. We love Qwilr for making online proposals. They look great, allow you to get a digital signature, and accept a down payment. There are a variety of other proposal platforms out there too at varying price points. Do some googling to find one that suits you.
Working with brand partners that easily tie in with your content can be one of the most sustainable ways to monetize your site. The goal is to work with them on an ongoing basis. If you can produce results for them on one campaign, it opens the door for you to pitch a long-term ongoing partnership. Eventually, you'll have a nice base of partners you work with regularly and then can supplement other campaigns into your operations as needed.
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