How Three-Phase Ballots Maximize Revenue and Engagement

by Julie Foley Second Street

Three phase ballots have been achieving massive results for citywide ballots, allowing for big revenue gains and easier user experiences. For example, by leveraging a multi-phase system, the Best of Texoma ballot brought in over $250K in revenue, representing a 68% growth over the previous year.

Take a look at why three phase ballots achieve the best results, and how to bring these results to your next citywide ballot.

The Nomination Phase

In this phase, voters nominate their favorite businesses in the area without any seeded entrants present.  This way you are limiting the confusion that comes with simultaneously allowing write-ins and voting. In addition, each nominated business is a possible lead, so this is a great time to find new sales opportunities.

Texoma was able to generate $41,000 in revenue by creating sales sheets dedicated to certain nominated businesses. With “Defend Your Title” sheets for last year’s winners, and “Claim Your Title” for new and returning entrants, the nomination phase was the perfect time to start capitalizing on leads.

Here are the steps to run the best nomination phase possible:

1. Length of Nomination Phase Make sure to plan a few months in advance to provide adequate time for promoting your ballot to your audience and local businesses. The nomination phase of your ballot should last between 3-4 weeks to allow as many users as possible to vote.

2. ‘Go Dark’ Period One your audience has spoken, you will need a period of one-three weeks to “go dark” between your Nomination and Voting phases to tabulate nominations. This provides time to identify top nominees and add them to the ballot for voting. Then, SELL your voting ballot to advertisers.

3. Sell, Sell, Sell! Now that these businesses have been selected, they will want to make sure they have the best shot at winning their category. Make sure to contact them about enhanced listings and category ad space to maximize your revenue.

The Voting Phase

A voting phase is similar in length to the nomination period and should be around three-four weeks. This maximizes exposure and gives businesses time to market their place in the ballot to customers. Remember to send an email when voting begins, midway through voting, five days before voting ends, and the day before voting ends to get as many votes as possible.


For Texoma’s voting phase, the sales team leveraged “Vote for Me” sales sheets to give businesses the opportunity to boost their vote totals. In addition, they incorporated a sweepstakes for voters, which has been proven to increase participation by up to 300%. Through a two-sided approach, Texoma generated $71K in revenue from this phase.

The Winners Phase

The winners phase is incredibly important to ensure the future success of your ballot. By offering more ad space and making your ballot participants feel appreciated, you establish sustainable relationships to propel your success into future iterations of the ballot.

Texoma made sure to approach all winners to sell spots in the winners digital and print sections. In addition, they went above and beyond to run a Best of Texoma Gala where all of the winners were invited to attend. From print and digital ads to event sponsors and ticket sales, this phase generated a massive $292K in revenue for the paper.

Here are the steps to execute the best winner’s phase as possible:

1. ‘Go Dark’ Period Once voting ends, another one-three weeks to “go dark” is necessary to sell thank-you ads and prepare your winner’s announcements. These advertisements can appear either in a special section for your publication, on your website, or even on-air.

2. Announcing Winners Once the blackout period is over, it is time to officially announce your winners. Launch your winners directory and send an email to your audience to reveal the results.

3. Show Your Appreciation In addition to your email announcement, there are several things you can do to make your participants feel appreciated. Send plaques to the ballot winners and throw a party to celebrate those who participated in the event. Don’t forget, it’s never too early to sign businesses up in advance for category ads!

Utilizing the three phase system maximizes revenue opportunities and makes your audience happy. Citywide ballots can be some of the biggest revenue and engagement drivers of the year for many media companies. By following these steps, you are setting your ballot up for success and laying the foundation for even bigger ballot achievements in the future.

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