How to Drive Six-Figure Revenue from Your Citywide Ballot

by Julie Foley Second Street

What if I told you that one single promotion could bring in an entire extra month (or more!) of revenue for your company? A citywide metro ballot is perhaps the single biggest revenue generator you can run.

Citywide ballots have your audience voting on their favorite businesses and people all across your community. With categories like Best Pizza, Best Daycare, Best Dog Park, or even Best Volunteer Firefighter, every person in your community can find something they’re passionate about.

And when I said these are big revenue generators, I’m not kidding. The Chattanooga Times Free Press drove $630,000, the Sherman Herald-Democrat landed $280,000, and WDIV-TV in Detroit scored $200,000. That’s well over $1MM in revenue from just three companies.

ballot revenue numbers

Are you ready to take advantage of this HUGE revenue opportunity?

Whether you’ve run a citywide ballot in the past and are looking to improve or you’ve never run one before and looking to start, we’ve put together a full-proof plan to bring you citywide ballot success.

Let’s Get Started

The strongest recommendation is to setup your ballot in three phases – nomination phase, voting phase, and winners’ phase. Time after time, multiphase ballots prove to be what elevates a citywide ballot from good revenue to phenomenal revenue.

Dividing your ballot into these three isolated phases means you can drum up more excitement and more engagement with each round. And when it comes to revenue, this means you now have three opportunities to sell to advertisers instead of just one.

Since a ballot’s success relies on the votes it receives, make sure your navigation is simple for your users. Set up your ballot into groups (such as Food & Drink) of categories (like Best Tacos, Best Sushi, or Best Korean Restaurant).

Phase One: Nomination

The nomination phase is where you ask your audience to tell you which businesses should be on your ballot. Based on the number of nominations a business receives, you can determine whether or not it makes the cut for the final ballot – this means businesses and fans will be motivated to drive up nominations.

These competing businesses and their fans can become your greatest traffic generators to your site. Maximize the impact of this by providing a downloadable “Nominate Me” media kit for businesses with items like printable flyers and social media images for their own website (Want to see an example? Check out this media kit from the Post and Courier.)

Promotional Kit for Merchants

Earning a nomination isn’t just exciting, it’s an honor for the businesses in your market. And that means it’s something they’re willing to pay for. Within your ballot, you have many different nomination sales packages you can offer.

Offer both group and category sponsorships. These banner-type ads are placed within the ballot itself at the top of designated groups or categories. In addition, also offer leaderboards or right rail ads on the page where you are embedding your ballot.

Ballot Nominate Page - Advertising Spots

Elevate your group sponsorship to a premier sponsorship by only allowing only one sponsor per group. By leveraging its exclusivity, you can sell it at a premium price to one advertiser. Additionally, limit your category sponsorships to five as a limited quantity will help create urgency with prospective advertisers.

Beyond the sponsorships surrounding the ballot itself, also consider leveraging your core media as an opportunity for sponsorships. From print ads and on-air spots, many local advertisers will appreciate these additional opportunities for exposure.

Phase Two: Voting

After you’ve collected all your nominations, it’s time to elevate the ones with the most nominations to your ballot. As a best practice, we recommend bringing over the top five nominees in each category.

Whether it’s Best Bank or Best Nail Salon, your citywide ballot is something your local businesses will take pride in winning – So not only are they invested in winning, they’re also willing to pay to help secure that win.

There are a variety of ways you can drive revenue during the voting phase. First, start with offering an enhanced listing to the entrants on your ballot. With an enhanced listing, a business can pay to have their entry include much more than just their name.

enhanced listing

In addition to enhanced listings, offer “Vote for Me” group and category sponsorships as well as leaderboards or right rail ads. To make your sales process even simpler, when you sell ads in the nomination stage, offer to automatically extend their sponsorship if their business makes it to the voting round.

Ballot Vote Page - Advertising Spots

With all of these elements, you can create a variety of sponsorship packages combining different aspects. By offering sponsorship packages at varying price points, you can create options that appeal to every size business on your ballot.

Phase Three: Winners’ Phase

After all the votes have been counted, it’s easy to think your ballot’s over, but that’s definitely not the case. Now is an often overlooked opportunity to drive massive revenue from your ballot.

Start with creating a winner’s directory. Even after the ballot’s over, your community will still be interested in knowing who the best businesses are in your area. Whether it’s to check out a new restaurant they’ve never been to or find out the top recommended daycare, knowing the best businesses is important.

Create a winner’s directory on your website that displays the winners and finalists throughout the year. On this page, you can sell additional advertising spots for the groups, categories, and right rails. Plus you can offer enhanced listings as well as.

Ballot Winners Page - Advertising Spots

If you want to take your winner’s directory a step further, consider creating a special section or issue honoring your winners. Local businesses will proudly display this in their storefronts, offices, and waiting rooms. Plus, this is an additional opportunity for selling advertising spots.

winners guide

Being a winner in a citywide ballot is such an honor amongst local businesses, they’ll want to share this with their customers and clients. By offering winners window clings and plaques, your local businesses will proudly display their award. Additionally, offer your high resolution ballot logo for them to use as needed. Not only will this let them display their victory, but it’s also a great way to increase awareness of your ballot.

But if you really want to drum up tons of excitement (and BIG revenue!), the answer is a winners’ event.

450 People Attended Event

Nothing elevates your ballot more than an invite-only event honoring the winners of your ballot. Whether it’s a small Thursday afternoon luncheon, or a 500+ person Saturday night gala, these celebrations have become hugely popular can’t-miss ceremonies, and your winners will gladly pay to get their ticket.

Beyond tickets, you can find a ton of other revenue driving opportunities. Here’s just a few event sponsorship ideas you can offer to interested advertisers:

  • Table Sponsorships
  • Step and Repeat Sponsorship
  • Entertainment Sponsorships
  • Gift Sponsorships
  • Event Title Sponsorship

Bonus: Phase Four

If you’ve done the first three phases, you’ve already set yourself up for huge success, but you know there’s always room to do more. Show off your company’s appreciation of your winners by offering them exclusive winners only services. This could be discounts on future advertising packages, 15% off a digital promotion, or discounted subscriptions – all another opportunity to drive even more money from your citywide ballot.

A citywide ballot is a big undertaking, but it is so very worth it. If you follow our best practices outlined here, there’s no reason your ballot can’t become your biggest annual revenue driver.

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