Gina Tirelli Ellison is a partner marketing manager who works with eCommerce brands. She has done everything from hosting webinars to running blogs and creating Slack communities. Read on to learn how she tracks partner referrals, uses a grading matrix to score leads, and uses 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 out a lead list and create pipeline volume. After every webinar, Gina would set up an automated email that would help them score and sort leads.
The template was simple and straightforward, with an informal opening like “I saw you registered for [webinar], and was curious what sparked your interest.” Then they listed different reasons, A, B, or C, to make it easy for recipients to send a quick answer. The marketing team could then rate the lead based on their answer, then 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 that the key was finding the right partners to host webinars with.
Qualifying the ideal partner
Gina had to go through trial and error to find which partners would contribute quality leads, and who wouldn’t. To address this, Gina developed a partner questionnaire that tied to a Google Sheet, with a different number of points assigned to different answers.
To give you an idea of what to look for, an example of some questions you can use to score potential partners include:
- 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 monthly on your platform?
- Is your pricing model monthly, yearly, or via add-ons?
By finding the right set of criteria that signals a partner can contribute, Gina was able to prioritize webinar partners and pick which ones to invest their time in.
Finding the right email cadence
“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. They had almost 3 webinars every month, which meant they were sending out multiple emails in addition to their existing nurture campaigns.
Getting leads from awareness to consideration took 5 emails over the span of a month. However, during that month, leads got more than just 5 emails. They were getting all of the webinar invites, as well, which was interrupting their conversion plan.
Gina looked at how many emails they were sending, and how it was affecting 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 and attention from their email list, so Gina switched strategy from mass production to a focus on quality and optimizing their nurture funnels.
Setting up 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 has separate partner registration pages, scores webinar leads on a matrix, and uses an Asana template she pre-loaded with all her reminders and tasks. She clones the card for every new webinar and goes down her list to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
Tracking registration sources
To keep attribution accurate and avoid UTM links being overwritten, Gina creates different registration pages for every webinar partner. She uses 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 different UTM codes for each partner to see how their promotions performed on different channels, such as social media or a newsletter. The data she got back provided insights on which channels and partners perform better. For example, LinkedIn performs better than Twitter for webinars, and 3PL partners drove more engaged registrants than MarTech.
Internally, she created different property labels for every webinar in HubSpot:
- Registration history, which would be appended on their contact profile
- First webinar touchpoint, which is the first webinar they attended
- Last webinar touchpoint, which would be updated and replaced upon registration for a new webinar
- Webinar attendee properties, such as registration and attendance data
Beyond those properties, Gina would dig through additional layers of data and look at what someone was just signing up for, versus what they were interested in, whether they filled out a poll, how many questions they asked, and whether they asked a question beforehand.
Tip: Look at the questions your webinar registrants submit and the questions that your attendees ask live to get ideas for your next webinar topics.
Registration page setup
Although their webinar tool provided registration pages, Gina found more value in going through HubSpot to get registrants. Gina created landing pages and used HubSpot forms to capture registrants, and then used Zapier to send those registrants into their webinar system.
“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
Broken out, 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 they don’t exist
- If the lead source is unknown, set it to webinar
- If registration history is unknown, set 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
This was smart because it made for more reliable tracking by keeping everything in HubSpot, and they kept users on your website, instead of sending them to a different domain.
Scoring webinar leads
In addition to the registration workflow above, Gina also has a lead grading process for webinars. Everyone who registers for a webinar is automatically added to a list. If they are a new lead, and not an existing customer, they get sent (via Slack) to a virtual assistant (VA). That VA will then score the registrant using a lead grading matrix based on ICP, and add them to a nurture flow based on their score. Depending on what score the registrant gets, they’ll get a set of follow-up emails that eventually lead to a salesperson.
Some of the things to look at when you’re scoring leads can include:
- Whether the registrant used a business email
- If they’re a multi-channel seller
- Whether they asked a preliminary question
- How many webinars they’ve attended before
All of those data points can be used to guide the nurture flows for that registrant, from PPC retargeting, to planning and forecasting.
Using data insights to boost attendance rates
Gina uses attendee and engagement data to figure out how to boost their webinar experience. One of the things she tested was adding a form on their registration pages for registrants to submit questions beforehand.
“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
Since they found that submitting a question on the registration page made people more likely to attend live, Gina started testing offers, incentives, and giveaways to leave 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 webinar value, the Gina team started turning webinars into eBooks. This extended their promotional window, since she could promote a webinar for one month and then the eBook for the following month. She could also share it with the original webinar partners, who were also happy to promote the eBook since they had been on the same webinar.
In the future, Gina wants to test out turning webinar audio into podcasts to open up another channel.
Blog exchanges, link swaps, and Slack communities
Speaking of other channels, Gina also manages content and communities.
Gina created a Slack channel for a client where 100+ founders and operators could come together to discuss. They created this when the industry was still unsure of where it was heading without any more 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 that the biggest value in the channel was for members to talk among themselves with direct messages, despite relatively quiet shared channels. It worked as a messageboard, almost like Reddit.
Gina also created a backlink swap template with 2 core components:
- Gift #1: The backlink they’ve 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 a backlink they’re asking for, complete with anchor text to make it as easy as possible to execute.
Backlink swaps are helpful and easy with the right template, and Gina was able to scale them with the help of VAs looking through various blogs.
Gina prioritized link swaps even more than blog exchanges, because they discovered two big issues with guest posting.
Even if partners submitted content, it wasn’t always A+ quality. Someone could be a subject matter expert without knowing how to write for SEO, so Gina had to spend time editing and rewriting many guest posts. In addition to that, if a partner wrote about a topic they already had, 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
Clearscope – An SEO tool where you can paste your content and get optimization suggestions and ranking predictions.
OGM – An agency that provided actionable SEO strategy and consulting.
ContentWriters – A writing service where you can send a content brief (headline, key terms, outline, target blog) and get an article written. You can also ask them to include links to your partner’s and your own blog.
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 how 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 picky and strategic about where you put your time and effort, whether that’s webinars, blog swaps, or podcasts. You should look for strong alignment between your customer bases, instead of big lists. Large lists didn’t necessarily mean better partners.