Victoria handles content marketing, partner initiatives, and more to drive eCommerce leads in their niche. Read on to learn how she sponsors YouTube videos to generate leads, her blog optimization strategy, and her advice for other marketing teams.
Finding what works
Victoria handles organic content and partnerships for Payability. Although their marketing team has data to back up their efforts, they try to experiment with different initiatives.
“Some of it isn’t data-driven at the beginning — it’s ‘I think this will work,’ try it out, and see if the data backs it up. If it does, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, stop.” – Victoria Sullivan
You shouldn’t halt every acquisition effort and bet all your time and resources on an experiment, but testing out marketing hypotheses is a good way to grow.
Updating content that generates leads
“One person doesn’t have time for both content and partnerships, especially if you want to have good content.” – Victoria Sullivan
In 2020, Victoria hired a freelance writer to help take their blog and SEO to the next level.
She noticed Payability had a few successful articles that served a niche audience. For example, one of their articles was gaining traction for “eBay managed payouts” and generating both traffic and leads. She was also working with a partner and observed several leads coming from their blog.
Victoria used the leads from those posts to justify investment in their SEO.
How to prioritize articles to update
“One thing that worked really well for us was updating old posts that were still getting leads.” – Victoria Sullivan
Payability had articles from 2017 and 2018 that still did well in searches, generating the majority of their traffic. New information was available since their original publication, so they cleaned up the posts, added more sources and new data or trends, and republished the articles at a more recent date.
Subsequently, those articles performed even better.
“We updated our content at the beginning of Q4, and saw traffic go up 50%.” – Victoria Sullivan
When looking for content to update, Victoria considered:
- How well articles were performing – Only invest time in content that can move the needle. If a post doesn’t get much volume, leave it alone.
- If there was new information available – Update articles when there’s new data, trends, or content around the topic.
- Articles that needed reformatting/housekeeping – Clean up the formatting of your old articles to ensure clear hierarchy and easy scannability.
From now on, Victoria plans to update old posts every six months.
Reminder: Don’t change the blog’s URL structure or subject matter. You’re updating existing content, not starting from scratch.
Gaining content ROI
“I like to get a good ROI out of content, so even if it doesn’t rank, I look for ways that content can get us leads.” – Victoria Sullivan
Payability has a newsletter that’s 35,000 sellers/subscribers strong, sent weekly on Thursdays. They created an article on how to sell subscription boxes on Amazon, despite knowing it’s impossible to rank for most Amazon keywords (especially with the Amazon message boards).
Even so, they added it to their newsletter and saw the highest open rates of the year, on par with their COVID-19 announcements. They also won new customers from that newsletter.
“Whether it ranks or not, look for a return on investment. You don’t constantly need to be hacking Google — it’s all about good, relevant content.” – Victoria Sullivan
Selecting partners and partner activities
“Partnerships are so valuable, and bring in so many leads.” – Victoria Sullivan
The other side of Victoria’s role is partnerships, where she spends most of her time. Payability’s partnerships program includes aspects such as:
- Obtaining backlinks in partners’ blogs that rank in search – A way to generate leads passively.
- Being featured in partner newsletters and dedicated emails – Great for short-term gains.
- Using an affiliate program to track and manage referrals – Providing partners with a trackable link that features custom rewards.
- Joining webinars and events – Researching and deciding which events Payability will join.
Victoria also plans to vet partners using Crossbeam. Crossbeam is a tool that identifies data overlap so you can check how your customer overlap with different partners.
“It’s a great way to vet partners and make sure it’s a fit before we invest so much time working together.” – Victoria Sullivan
Seeing how many customers you share offers insight into whether a partner’s list would find your business valuable. For example, if you have a 30% customer overlap with another company, you should get in contact with the rest of their customers. This is where a newsletter introduction, joint webinar, or Facebook Pixel exchange would be beneficial.
Events and webinars
“Webinars haven’t been great for us, but we’ve had some good ones with partners that host webinars regularly and have a schedule for them.” – Victoria Sullivan
Surprisingly, webinars haven’t been a strong acquisition channel for Payability, even with various partners. Victoria noticed that, more often than not, Payability brought both the audience and the content. Moreover, when she analyzed the webinar lead list, she found 90% of them were from their newsletter anyway.
Beyond that, webinars took significant time away from their team and earned little engagement. Victoria said no to many webinars over the past year, but she would suggest other activities they could do instead (ex. guest blogs or newsletter features).
A large portion of webinar strategy revolves around sending emails, rather than having attendees watch live and hear the pitch during the event. However, Payability saw low attendance rates for theirs and was wary of blasting emails and being marked as spam by filters.
Choosing the right events
Not all events are a pass for Payability. Victoria notes that the right partner makes a difference, especially if they have a webinar strategy to drive registrants. They collaborate with mastermind founders as well to create connections with merchants in their communities.
Victoria also mentioned FounderMade, a D2C professional association. They’ve sponsored panels, joined happy hours, and seen great engagement from it. Their events have garnered 400 live attendees, connections with D2C founders or brand owners, and plenty of LinkedIn connection requests.
“Normally, I’m not a fan of doing things for the sake of ‘brand awareness,’ but even if you can’t attribute leads to it, it’s worth it from a brand perspective to show you’re part of that community.” – Victoria Sullivan
Leveraging their community
Speaking of community, Payability also has a customer referral program. Upon signup, Payability customers get a unique affiliate that rewards them with $500 per signup they send. Victoria has seen these links shared in various Facebook groups, and Payability gets at least 25 new customers each month from this tactic.
How to sponsor YouTube videos for lead generation
Consumers are experiencing webinar fatigue of late, and their results for Payability haven’t been great historically. However, Victoria has seen many leads come in from podcasts and video sponsorships on YouTube.
“Podcasts and YouTube videos tend to generate leads, and are really searchable, so people discover them at different times.” – Victoria Sullivan
Victoria regularly finds podcasts and YouTube channels that address their target audience, and sponsors episodes. She has the host read an ad in the middle of the video or podcast, which directs viewers/listeners to follow their link (either in the video description or podcast show notes).
With this strategy, the content lasts and remains active; Payability has even gotten leads years after a sponsored video was published. It’s great for search traffic, and sometimes people discover a channel or podcast and binge the content, eventually finding their sponsored episode.
1) Make sure videos are the right channel for you
“Even if we can’t attribute signups to a specific influencer, a lot of signups say they found us on YouTube.” – Victoria Sullivan
Payability sends out surveys to sellers of all sizes asking where they find information. They also capture data about where people discover them during signup. In both these instances, Victoria noticed sellers flocked to video.
Victoria knew that their audience used YouTube and podcasts to learn. Be sure to figure out what channels your audience prefers before you invest.
2) Select relevant channels to sponsor
“You wouldn’t think, from a B2B perspective, that YouTube would be such a good acquisition channel, but it is.” – Victoria Sullivan
Victoria searches through YouTube to find channels that cater to eCommerce sellers.
She looks for:
- Subject – What topics do they discuss, and how relevant are they to us?
- Following – How many views do their videos have? How many subscribers?
- Comments – If someone has 100K views, but no comments, it’s suspicious.
- Tone/Professionalism – Does their voice, tone, and messaging align with ours?
Then, she emails the content creator about sponsoring a video. In addition, Victoria provides an affiliate link so the YouTuber can earn even more revenue.
The podcast and video sponsorships range from $500 to $1,000 per episode, so it isn’t too expensive for the returns they get.
“Not every single one is a success, but the ones that have done well have been home runs for us.” – Victoria Sullivan
3) Refine the message or plug
“You can’t really tell someone what to say, and you shouldn’t want to anyway because they should be honest and build trust with their community.” – Victoria Sullivan
You have a few options for sponsoring a video, depending on how much input and visibility you want to have on the final result.
Here is what Victoria has tested, all with good results:
- Be a guest on a podcast or do an interview for a YouTube channel.
- Guide the video topic. You can say, “Talk about X ways to grow your business and make [your company] one of them.”
- Sponsor a planned video. Take a look at the upcoming videos, and have the host do ad reads at the beginning and middle of the video, with a prompt to sign up by clicking their affiliate link.
4) Direct viewers to your link
The most important element in sponsored videos is to direct viewers and listeners to your link. YouTube creators should thank their partner company for sponsoring them, and direct viewers to click the link in their bio or video description to learn more. Podcast hosts should mention the link is in the show notes and hyperlink it.
There are plenty of places to plug your business, and your goal is to get your brand mentioned in as many places as possible. Take a look at this pinned affiliate link in a YouTube comments section.
Here are some places you should ask to be featured:
- In the video content itself, where the content creator talks about your brand.
- As a pop-up or button overlaid the video, where viewers can click and follow the link.
- In the description of the video, which can feature both a link and a short introduction to your brand.
- In a pinned comment, which is shown at the top of the comments section
Tip: Ask if they have an email newsletter where they will share their podcast or videos, and make sure they add the link there as well.
5) Use sponsored videos to boost dry periods
Victoria can forecast which months will be slower when it comes to leads. Sponsoring a video usually offers more control over when the video goes live, so she’s able to time videos for the months she expects to have a dip in leads.
Your video sponsorship timing can make the difference between a steady stream of business all year round, and fluctuating between too few leads one month, and then too much work to keep up with the next.
6) Foster ongoing relationships
“If they are driving signups, I keep reaching out. If not, I move on.” – Victoria Sullivan
Victoria sponsors two to five podcasts or YouTube videos every month, and if they drive leads, she continues to work with them.
The most time-consuming aspects of her sponsorship strategy are building lists of relevant channels and finding partners. Once she has a handful that performs well, she renews those contracts while at the same time looking for new channels.
This helps her follow what works and earns a steady stream of leads while building relationships with other influencers.
Victoria’s advice for other marketing teams: It all starts with building your list
“Don’t feel like you have to sponsor everyone. If they have the audience and relevancy, sponsor them. If not, give them an affiliate link.” – Victoria Sullivan
Victoria’s advice for sponsoring videos is, it all starts with your list of content creators. She suggests typing search terms into YouTube, then reviewing the results to find a good fit. Watch their videos, listen to their voice and tone, and scan some of their most popular titles.
After you find someone you like, write them down and browse their videos. YouTube showcases similar accounts on the page’s sidebar, so you can use it to discover more potential channels to sponsor.
“When you reach out, make it clear you want to pay them for their time and sponsor a video.” – Victoria Sullivan
Victoria will often pay content creators to sponsor a video, provide an affiliate link for further revenue opportunities, and — for key partners — offer to put money behind promoting their video.
Remember: Make sure the YouTuber you sponsor mentions your CTA and prompts viewers to follow their affiliate link in the video description.
“It’s been crazy growth since I left the office last March 10, thinking I’d come back the next day.” – Victoria Sullivan
For the most part, eCommerce is exploding, and Payability is seeing crazy growth in the industry. They’ve hired 20 people since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are working on building partnerships and optimizing the acquisition tactics that already work for them.