The Northwest Herald Shifts Pitch to Focus to Generating Leads, Advertisers Respond

by Julie Foley Second Street

Case Study Highlights

  • Sales reps emphasized benefits of survey questions and consumer insights
  • Pitching specific contest & prize ideas lead to an increase of contest sales
  • The Northwest Herald generated over $15,000 in revenue

The Idea

The Northwest Herald, a part of Shaw Media, is a newspaper in suburban Chicago, Illinois. Last year, they decided they wanted to supplement their sponsored promotions strategy with advertiser contests – a promotion that the media company runs for an advertiser on the advertiser’s website or Facebook Page.

They began selling advertiser contests in the fall of 2014. Initially, they weren’t getting the traction they wanted with local advertisers. At that time, they were focusing their pitch on building a social following for their advertisers, but the message wasn’t resonating with advertisers.

As a result, The Northwest Herald shifted their pitch and started to emphasize three key components: using the prize to attract a qualified audience, the ability to capture consumer insights gathered from survey questions as well as the contest’s ability to gather emails for the advertisers.


The Execution

To help pitch these promotions, The Northwest Herald created a standard advertising package and contest template. This took the guesswork out of the process and allowed the sales team to sell more efficiently and be systematic in their roll-out of a contest once sold.

The digital team at The Northwest Herald also takes a systematic approach when preparing to meet with a potential advertiser. They focus on two key areas as part of their prep: prizes and survey questions.


For both areas, a little research can go along way. In the case of The Northwest Herald, they review the advertiser’s website and social presences to see what their core messaging is about. In addition, they research the prospect’s specific business categories to see what topics are important to them such as in the case of an home improvement advertiser wanting to know the age of the home for the folks entering the contest. This research also helps uncover what kind of prizes might work best and gives them examples of what other businesses in their category gave away.

Advertiser contests in particular need to have a strong prize that ties back to the advertiser. For example, one of the sweepstakes they ran was for an electric bike retailer and the the prize was one of their electric bikes. The goal for the advertiser was for consumers to be aware of the options with electric bikes and raise awareness of their business overall. By focusing on the product as a prize, all of the promotions included both a mention of the advertiser and their product. This also increased the likelihood that someone interested in a electric bike would enter, which is exactly what the advertiser wanted. In this case, a general prize such as a gas gift card would not have worked as well; it would have attracted a more general audience instead of the target audience for the advertiser.


For The Northwest Herald, all of the prizes for the contests they managed had prizes that related directly to the advertiser:

Pet Store with own brand of pet food$500 in pet food
HVAC companyHVAC system
Electric bike retailerBike
Travel agencyVacation
High-end Christmas tree shopChristmas tree
Outdoor Sports ShopPaddleboard
Furniture Store$500 store credit
Auto aftermarketTires

What they also learned was that while a great prize will bring in the audience, the ability to qualify that audience via survey questions has tremendous value. These questions were based on information gathered from a needs analysis conversation and designed to solve specific business challenges for each advertiser. The data collected from these questions was used to generate sales leads and create audience segments that the advertiser could market to in different ways.

Here’s a sampling of the survey questions they used and the data collected:

HVAC companyIs your AC system more than 10 years old?75% said "Yes"
Travel agencyHave you ever used a travel consultant?46% said "Once" or "Never"
Bike retailerHave you ever been to our store?91% said "No"
BankWhat is most important to you when choosing a bank?28% said "Overall mix of products & services"
20% said "Free Checking"
Tire retailerWhen will you be needing new tires?36% said "Before winter"
18% said "Now"

In every example above, they gathered at least one, if not more, of the following: gained an insight into buying intent, qualified someone as a warm or hot lead, understood what motivates a consumer and/or identified someone as a new customer or not.

Not only were they able to gain insights into their advertisers’ target audiences, these contests all helped organically grow the email databases of their advertisers. Overall, they’ve seen an opt-in rate of 57% for their advertisers resulting in nearly 4,000 emails for their partners.

And as an added bonus, after entering the promotion, the advertiser had the ability to offer a coupon on the “Thank you” page at the end of the contest. In this example from a pet store, they offered a sample bag of pet food. These types of coupons are great for driving foot traffic into the advertiser’s business and another way to showcase their products or services.


The Results

Shifting the focus on their pitch from a social-centric to a data-centric one was a game-changer for The Northwest Herald. The strategy caught the attention of their advertisers and led to several new deals. Since their change in approach, they’ve successfully executed nearly a dozen advertiser promotions covering a wide variety of business categories:

  • Retail – Pets
  • Home Improvement
  • Financial
  • Retail – Recreation
  • Travel
  • Retail – Holiday
  • Retail – Furniture
  • Automotive Services

Implementation of this approach to the advertiser promotions strategy immediately led to an increase in selling these types of promotions. In just a few months, they have generated over $15,000 in revenue from advertiser contests.

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