Gina Tirelli Ellison is a partner marketing manager who works with eCommerce brands. She’s done everything from hosting webinars to running blogs and building Slack communities. Read on to learn how she tracks partner referrals, uses a grading matrix to score leads, and analyzes data to refine customer outreach.
Filling the funnel with partner marketing
“Webinars, out of all our marketing campaigns, got the quickest ROI.” – Gina Tirelli Ellison
Gina ran 33 webinars in 2020 to build a lead list and generate pipeline volume. For each one, Gina set up an automated email to help them score and sort leads.
The template was simple and straightforward, with an informal opening like “I saw you registered for [webinar title], and was curious what sparked your interest.” Then, it listed multiple response options to make it easy for recipients to send a quick answer. The marketing team would then rate the lead based on their answer and send them over to sales.
“Webinars are so valuable because of the volume they bring. You don’t see the same volume with a podcast.” – Gina Tirelli Ellison
Webinars are an excellent lead gen tool because you can cross-promote with other webinar partners and get a list of emails (leads) at the end. However, Gina found the key was finding the right partners to co-host webinars.
Qualifying the ideal partner
Gina had to go through trial and error to determine which partners would contribute quality leads, and which wouldn’t. To address this, she developed a partner questionnaire that tied to a Google Sheet, with a different number of points assigned to each answer.
Here are a few examples of questions you can use to score potential partners:
- Do you have a dedicated marketer?
- Do you have a partner marketer?
- Do you have a newsletter?
- What is your website domain authority?
- Does your average customer have $1M+ in GMV?
- Do your customers sell multi-channel, or only on Shopify?
- How much do people normally spend on your platform each month?
- Is your pricing model monthly, yearly, or via add-ons?
By identifying the right criteria to determine a partner’s contribution, Gina was able to prioritize webinar partners and decide who deserved their time.
Finding the right email sequence
“The biggest challenge in doing so many webinars is we had a bottleneck of registrants.” – Gina Tirelli Ellison
Gina’s webinar strategy worked almost too well. Her company had nearly three webinars every month, which meant they were sending out multiple emails in addition to their existing nurture campaigns.
It took five emails over the span of a month to move leads from awareness to the consideration stage. However, during that month, leads received more than those five emails: they were sent all the webinar invites as well, which interrupted the company’s conversion plan.
Gina analyzed how many emails went out, and how it affected their nurture and conversion rates. Webinars drove approximately 5% of new business, which was a good return considering they’re free to host and join. However, they still cost time from their email list, so Gina switched strategies from mass production to a focus on quality and optimizing their nurture funnels.
Finding the right email cadence to avoid annoying your customers, while still closing leads, was critical to webinar success.
Coordinating partner webinars
“Webinars are all about organization, getting information over to your partners, and good communication.” – Gina Tirelli Ellison
When it comes to co-hosting eCommerce webinars, it’s all about how well you coordinate with your partners. Gina keeps separate partner registration pages, scores webinar leads on a matrix, and maintains an Asana template she preloaded with all her reminders and tasks. She clones the card for each new webinar and runs through her list to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
Tracking registration sources
Gina creates different registration pages for every webinar partner to keep accurate attribution and avoid UTM links being overwritten. She utilizes HubSpot forms and a Zapier integration to track and tag registrants and ensure they’re signed up in the webinar platform.
On top of the individual registration pages, Gina provides each partner with unique UTM codes to see how their promotions perform on different channels, such as social media or a newsletter. The data also reveals which partners are more successful. For example, LinkedIn performs better than Twitter for webinars, and 3PL partners drove more engaged registrants than MarTech.
Internally, she designates property labels for every webinar in HubSpot:
- Registration history — This would be appended on their contact profile.
- First webinar touchpoint — The first webinar they attended.
- Last webinar touchpoint — This would be updated and replaced upon registration for a new webinar.
- Webinar attendee properties — Such as registration and attendance data.
Beyond those properties, Gina digs through additional layers of data and looks at what someone signed up for versus what they were interested in, whether they filled out a poll, how many questions they asked, and if they asked a question beforehand.
Tip: Look at the questions your webinar registrants submit and those your attendees ask live to get ideas for future webinar topics.
Registration page setup
Although their webinar tool provided registration pages, Gina found more value in going through HubSpot to obtain registrants. She created landing pages and captured registrants with Hubspot forms, then moved those registrants into their webinar system with Zapier.
“You get more on-site user data by keeping them on your page. They can navigate to your blog, or look around your website, instead of sending them to a different site without knowing whether they’ll come back.” – Gina Tirelli Ellison
A breakdown of the registration process looks like this:
- Someone signs up for a webinar by submitting a HubSpot form on a custom landing page.
- The HubSpot form tags their contact properties with the relevant information, or creates a new contact if one doesn’t exist.
- If the lead source is unknown, set it to “webinar.”
- If registration history is unknown, tag the webinar as the first webinar touchpoint.
- If registration history is known, replace the last webinar touchpoint property.
- The form submission triggers a Zapier integration, which manually registers them in the webinar platform.
Managing everything in HubSpot increased tracking data reliability and kept users on their website, instead of sending them to a different domain.
Scoring webinar leads
In addition to the above registration workflow, Gina also has a lead grading process for webinars. Everyone who registers for a webinar is automatically added to a list. If they’re a new lead, they’re sent (via Slack) to a virtual assistant (VA). That VA then scores the registrant using a lead grading matrix based on ICP and adds them to a nurture flow based on their score. Depending on the score the registrant earns, they receive a set of follow-up emails that eventually lead to a salesperson.
Some aspects to consider when scoring leads include:
- If the registrant used a business email
- If they’re a multi-channel seller
- If they asked a preliminary question
- How many webinars they’ve attended before
All of those data points can guide the nurture flows for each registrant, from PPC retargeting to planning and forecasting.
Boost attendance rates with data insights
Gina evaluates attendee and engagement data to determine how to boost their webinar experience. One tactic she tested was adding a form to their registration pages for registrants to submit questions before the event.
“If people ask a question on a registration form, they’re more likely to attend the webinar, because they want to hear their answer.” – Gina Tirelli Ellison
They found people were more likely to attend the webinar if they submitted a question on the registration page. So, Gina began to test various offers, incentives, and giveaways for leaving a question. For example, “Ask your question ahead of time and get a chance to win a pair of AirPods.”
Repurposing content for different channels
To extend their value, Gina’s team decided to turn their webinars into eBooks. This broadened their promotional window, since she could promote a webinar during one month, and then the eBook the following month. She also shared it with the original webinar partners, who were happy to promote the eBook after participating in the same webinar.
In the future, Gina wants to experiment with turning webinar audio into podcasts to open up yet another channel.
Blog exchanges, link swaps, and Slack communities
Speaking of other channels, Gina also manages content and communities.
She created a Slack channel for a client where 100+ founders and operators could come together to discuss. It launched when the industry was still unsure of where it was heading without in-person events.
“Slack channels have distribution down, but you need a lot of content creation and community management.” – Gina Tirelli Ellison
Interestingly, they discovered the channel’s greatest value was direct messages, which allowed members to talk among themselves despite relatively quiet shared channels. It worked as a messageboard, almost like Reddit.
Gina also produced a backlink swap template with two core components:
- Gift #1: The backlink they already provided.
- Gift #2 + ask: A request for a corresponding backlink, and offer to provide another.
The email template is a plug-and-play piece that shares a backlink her team already provided, and asks for one in return, complete with anchor text to make execution as easy as possible.
Backlink swaps are helpful and simple with the right template, and Gina was able to scale them with the help of VAs digging through various blogs.
Gina prioritized link swaps over blog exchanges after her team discovered two big issues with guest posting:
- Submitted content wasn’t always A+ quality. Someone could be a subject matter expert, but not know how to write for SEO, so Gina had to spend time editing and rewriting many guest posts.
- If a partner wrote about a topic already in their library, it cannibalized their existing content and competed for rankings.
Tools and resources
“We grew site traffic 600% just from site changes. Combining blogs, getting rid of old posts, and cleaning them up made a big difference in site experience, how long people would stay on our site, and visitors from organic search.” – Gina Tirelli Ellison
Below are a few resources to help you get the most out of your content:
Clearscope – An SEO tool where you can paste your content and get optimization suggestions and ranking predictions.
OGM – An agency that provides actionable SEO strategy and consulting.
ContentWriters – A writing service where you can send a content brief (e.g., headline, key terms, outline, target blog) and they write an article for it. You can also ask them to include links to your and your partner’s blogs.
ConvertFlow – Software that integrates with WordPress and HubSpot so you can send targeted pop-ups based on customer journey (ex. awareness stage), previous actions on your website or webinars, and more.
Gina’s advice for other marketing teams: Learn to say no
“Don’t be afraid to say no. There are a lot of campaigns that people want you to be a part of, but just because they’re inviting you doesn’t mean it’ll actually help your bottom line. In fact, it might create more work for nothing.” – Gina Tirelli Ellison
Gina recommends being particular and strategic about where you invest your time and effort, whether that’s webinars, blog swaps, podcasts, or some other medium. You should look for strong alignment between your customer bases, instead of big lists. Large lists don’t necessarily mean ideal partners.