How we launched an indie ad network for $450
in Spring 2018 we launched our indie ad network, a marketplace connecting up and coming brands with audiences who want to hear about them.
through experimentation we discovered a great persona for our Publisher side of the network: mommy blogs.
below is an internal case study i wrote for the Fomo team in July 2018. hopefully it encourages more marketers to be creative with their lean budget.
research, discovery, experimentation, and results summary from our sponsored email newsletter promotion with Mom Bloggers Club.
mid June, 2018.
a Google query for “top mommy bloggers” yields a few listicle style results. among the most promising: the Mom Bloggers Club “featured bloggers” directory.
this collection of ~40 bloggers was interesting because it was pay-to-play; each of the 40 bloggers paid $$ to be included, which implies they take their blogging seriously and are likely hoping to monetize their website.
we emailed 25 of these ~40 bloggers, 9 responded warmly, 5 were “lost” after losing interest or not replying, and 4 were converted. here's the exact email we sent them:
during this small scale experiment we avoided "automation" and carefully spent our time explaining how it works, negotiating rates, following up, and sometimes offering hands-on assistance to paste our snippet of code on their website.
research and goal setting
our goal was to achieve 15-20 publications per each of our 15 audience categories by the end of Summer 2018. this means we had 90 days to onboard 250-350 niche bloggers.
while converting 4 out of 25 emailed manually researched leads is respectable from a cold outreach perspective, the time it took to manually find their email addresses and take notes about their website was ~2 hours.
converting 300 bloggers with this strategy would thus require a minimum ~150 hours of lead research, approximately $15,000 in Fomo team labor, and 100s of hours in follow-up emails and new user education.
finding a new way
instead of more 1:1 outreach we experimented w/ a top-down approach: sponsoring the Mom Bloggers Club network.
after requesting a media kit and corresponding with the website owner for ~5 days, we paid $450 in exchange for:
- dedicated email blast to 25,000 subscribers with ~6 sentences and 600x40 image, linking to this Typeform
- 7 day-long banner ad (animated GIF, 700x150) at the top of the website, linking to this Typeform
- multiple social media shout-outs
read our internal notes to see how we iterated on the final advertisement creative + copywriting here.
the negotiation + $450 payment resolved near the end of June, but we chose to delay our promotion until 1 week after July 4 holidays, during which American moms would likely be absent or not motivated to do business.
our sponsored email was sent to 25,000 subscribers on Wednesday, July 11 in the afternoon ET.
- Day 1 - 40 leads
- Day 2 - 21 leads
- Day 3 - 2 leads (Friday)
- Day 4 - 1 lead
- Day 5 - 1 lead (Sunday)
- Day 6 - 4 leads
- Day 7 - 3 leads
- Day 8 - 2 leads
- Day 9 - 30 leads (Friday, suspect that Mom Bloggers Club sent a “reminder” email as a courtesy to us)
⇒ 103 leads ($4.37 CPA, not yet adjusted for “converted” status - live embed)
the Typeform application asked bloggers about their audience, topic, primary readership gender, and primary readership location.
within hours of applying, we sent them this email via YAMM with their first name and blog URL merged in:
most prospects replied warmly and without asking any questions.
this could mean our email was “awesome,” or simply that niche bloggers are highly motivated to monetize.
after securing interest, we used the Fomo admin panel to provision their Publisher login, temporary password, and embed snippet.
we opted to do this instead of sending the bloggers to our registration flow, because it was not polished or intuitive for first-time users, particularly non tech-savvy moms.
bloggers were then sent their snippet + standby instructions:
finally, we added a Task inside the Gmail extension of our CRM, Propeller, to make it easy to follow up with bloggers who did not embed after 4 days of being sent their snippet.
if 1+ day passed after their snippet embed deadline, we reached out to ask if they needed help.
this converted 5-10 additional bloggers who needed technical confirmation or were too embarrassed to ask for help on their own.
as publishers embedded the snippet on their website, we did our best to connect at least 1 ad campaign with relevant products, and send them either a “heads up” or in some case, ask permission, within 24 hours.
key learnings and best practices
we used separate but identical Typeforms to distinguish leads from the email blast vs the website banner ad.
because Mom Bloggers Club offers email-only sponsorships vs banner-only sponsorships, knowing which method is more effective enables us to do future promotions with them at a lower cost. without contest, the email sponsorship was better.
next, 90% of interested bloggers preferred PayPal as their earnout method, which created 1-2 additional back/forth email threads to acquire their address. those few interested in Direct Deposit asked questions about security and fees. in future, will not mention direct deposit up front.
although we anticipated all applicants to fit our “Family and relationships” category, we received a fair quantity of blogs in entertainment, food, fitness and health categories, which helps accelerate our goal of 15-20 publications per category.
live process improvements
even after realizing ~halfway through the campaign that PayPal-only earnouts was a more efficient onboarding style, we still had to manually add PayPal addresses into our database.
within a day we extended the Publisher’s profile interface to accommodate this self-service.
in our first “here’s your snippet” email variation, we did not tell bloggers when ads would appear on their site. this led to a lot of confusion (10-15+ replies) by bloggers who said, “i planted the snippet, but don’t see ads. is it broken?”
this email was amended to set the expectation that post-embed, our team will manually pair ads within a couple days.
as of this writing (July 20, 2018), we’re still onboarding interested bloggers from the mom network. however, we have already converted (snippet planted) more than 50 bloggers.
adjusted CPA from this campaign was $9 per conversion.
for reference, the initial outreach campaign to 25 bloggers ⇒ 4 conversion took around 2.5 hours. at $100 /hour labor, this yielded a $62.50 CPA.
sponsoring email blasts to niche networks is a cost effective mechanism by which we can onboard bloggers en masse.
with ad graphics, creative, and copywriting now available on-hand, we can execute similar campaigns in the future in < 1 hour of labor cost. props to the Fomo team for their help w/ this campaign.