A Step-by-Step Guide to Making More Money with Ballots

by Matt Hummert Second Street

More Than Two Months Before Launch

The timeline starts more than two months before the projected launch date of your ballot, as there are a few steps you need to take before you can start planning and selling in earnest:

  1. Decide on a ballot theme. When you are doing your planning at the beginning of the year, be sure to add any ballots you plan to run to your promotions calendar. Don’t have one? It’s never too late. Download our Promotions Calendar Template and start planning your integrated strategy today.
  2. Assemble your team. Put a team together with people from a variety of different departments, include Editorial, Marketing, and Sales, who will oversee the ballot through every stage of the process.
  3. Decide how your ballot will be structured. You have several options for how to administer your ballot, and it’s a good idea to make all of these decisions before you start selling. Here are a few questions to figure out with your team:
    • Who is your target audience? Will your ballot be a metro-wide promotion asking your audience to choose their favorite local businesses in a wide variety of categories, or will it be aimed at a particular demographic?
    • Will you be having a nomination period in addition to a voting period? Many of our partners are finding that having a separate nomination period is an effective sales strategy, because you can use the list of write-ins generated during that period as a list of advertisers for the sales team to target for expanded listings during the voting period. (See an example of an expanded listing below.)

      Best-of-Kent-Expanded-Listing
    • Will you be accepting write-ins? Write-ins can be a valuable tool for making sure that everyone in your audience can make their opinion heard. If you plan to accept only write-ins rather than seeding the ballot, however, be sure to indicate in the category header what sort of content you are expecting. Consider selling a category sponsorship like the one shown below to a previous year’s winner.

      Best-of-Kent-Category-Sponsorships

Two Months Before Launch

Two months before your ballot is scheduled to live, it’s time to get serious about the details of your ballot.

  1. Finalize your list of categories and subcategories. Before you send the sales reps out to meet with advertisers, you need to know what your ballot is going to look like. If you plan to seed your ballot before voting begins, figure out which advertisers will be entered into each category as well.
  2. Assemble your sales packages. There are a variety of ways to make money with ballots, and the best strategy is to create a variety of tiered packages incorporating different elements. That way, advertisers of all sizes will be able to find a perfect fit.
  3. Start selling! Send your sales team our to meet with merchants who will be listed on the ballot, and in addition to online and traditional media advertising, be sure to sell category & subcategory sponsorships and expanded listings!

If you are planning to throw an after party or host an awards ceremony in conjunction with your ballot, two months in advance is the time to start planning that too!

One Month Before Launch

You should continue to sell right up until the ballot is launched (and even while it is live), but one month before your launch date is when it’s time to start promoting. Here’s your one-month checklist:

  1. Prepare your ballot. While you should have already set up the structure of your ballot with the categories, subcategories, and entrants, now is the time to add in all of the expanded listings and category ads that you have sold to merchants.
  2. Finalize your creative. Create and approve any branding and design elements you will be using both on the ballot and in advertising.
  3. Start promoting. With your ballot only one month away, start building up excitement by running promotional ads. If the ballot is a large-scale metro promotion, you should be promoting heavily – using all of the assets available to you – the entire month leading up to it.

Once the Ballot Goes Live

Once the ballot begins, continue to sell expanded listings. You may find that merchants who previously turned down an offer might be interested once they see the extra promotion their competition is getting, and you can continue to add expanded listings to the ballot at any time.

Immediately After the Ballot

While voting may have ended, the promotion isn’t over yet. There are a few things left for you to do to ensure that you aren’t leaving any money on the table.

  1. Sell some more. Once you know who the winners are, send your sales team out again, this time to sell thank you ads and expanded listings for the winners page (and any special programming you have planned for your traditional media). Be sure to give yourself enough time between the end of the ballot and publishing the winners to sell these ads and listings!
  2. Create a winners page. A page highlighting the winners of your ballot can stay up on your site until your next major ballot. A winners page is not only a great resource for your audience – it can also drive pageviews and ad revenue all year.

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