Do you have contact form available on your site inviting sponsors, but no emails from interested advertisers are arriving? If you run a small site, having an “advertise here” page won’t be enough to attract businesses and make money. You need to be more proactive and learn to “sell” your site better.
Start directly approaching companies that are related to your content in the hope of getting them to sponsor you. This post includes advice on finding brands to contact, writing an outreach email that gets read, and “selling” your site with a media kit. Let’s get started.
How to find companies to work with
Here are some of my favorite ways of finding companies that may be interested in sponsoring your site:
- Search Google for your keywords and phrases related to your content. Look in the “sponsored listings” and other ad areas of the search results and see what companies spend money on advertising there.
- Check Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Identify the related brands that spend money advertising on these platforms.
- Go to your competitors and other relevant sites and see which companies advertise there. What brand is in the sidebar? Who sponsors their podcast? What company is featured in their newsletter?
- Identify conferences, trade shows and similar events in the field you’re working in. Find the official websites of these events and look at the list of companies participating, sponsoring, or attending.
Put a list together of all these enterprises you’ve discovered. Visit their sites, learn about the company, and find the contact details. Next up is the critical, personalized email pitch that you need to send to each of the brands.
9 steps to get your emails read and replied to
Employees of these companies get many emails. Even if and when the subject line attracts someone to open an email, it still only takes a second or two to scan through the content before deciding to hit delete or reply.
You need to think how best to compose emails. How can you get your emails opened, and get your point across as straightforward and direct as possible? How can you attract people to reply?
Here’s a list of things that can you do to have an increased chance of getting your outreach emails read and replied to.
- Be relevant
Many emails that hit the inbox are simply irrelevant and badly targeted. The pitches are just bland and not very exciting. Those get trashed or marked as spam instantly.
Before you even consider drafting an email, make sure you’re being relevant to the person you’re writing to. You cannot imagine how many emails people get that have nothing to do with what they’re interested in or working on.
- Write an attractive subject line
The subject line is essential to get your email opened. Think of it just as hard and as long as you’re thinking about your article headlines.
- Include a personal salutation
Many emails come without any personal greeting. Some even greet a wrong name. You need to know the name of the person you’re contacting.
- Introduce a mutual contact
Are you friend with someone within the company or someone they already work with? Make sure to mention that, or even better is to get the mutual contact to introduce you to each other.
- Introduce yourself
If it’s the first time you’re contacting someone, make sure to have a very brief introduction about yourself and your site. One line is more than enough.
- Be direct, clear, specific, and brief
People are busy. You must make it easy for them to understand what you’re getting at. Explain why you’re contacting them and what your goal is.
One of the quickest ways to make your emails more readable is to format your text in short columns. Writing in short columns makes your email magnetic to the eye. 70 characters is the maximum length a line of text should be.
Sticking to this means your players don’t have to move their eyes so far across the page and back to read the email. It makes scanning faster and easier, and means your message is far more likely to be read.
- Make it all about them
It’s all about creating value for the person you’re contacting. Tell them why they should care about you and your email, and what’s in it for them.
A real magic trick is to sprinkle personal pronouns across your email. You, me, they, he, I, she, them, and him are all personal pronouns. It’s almost impossible to overuse the word ‘you’ in a well-written copy. “Do you… Can you… Would you… Should you… Did you know..”
- Eat your own dog food
If you aren’t literally “in bed” with your material… it’s gonna show. When somebody claims to be part of something that you’re deep into yourself, it’s like running your thumb over a photocopied bank-note.
It’s okay to fake it ’till you make it, but when contacting an expert in the field, you need to make sure you know your onions. That’s because otherwise, what you write will be tainted by cliché.
As human beings, we’re great at telling when something’s missing. The last thing you want is for your email to sound phony. At Google, nothing leaves the door until engineers have used it themselves for a few weeks. It’s a process they call ‘dog fooding’. Whatever your niche, if you’re going to succeed, start eating your own dog food.
- Email when people are online
Your best chance is to send an email between 1.30pm and 2.30pm. You’ll catch your target at lunch, or better still, during that ‘post lunch’ haze. The period straight after lunch is known as the ‘prime selling time’.
It was when prospects would be zonked in front of their computers, grateful for any distraction. Sending an email after lunch is a good way to get your message read.
Examples of my own conversation with potential advertisers
Here’s an example of an email I sent to a potential sponsor:
I run SITENAME. I rank high in Google for several keywords including KEYWORD1 and KEYWORD2.
I wanted to hear if you would be interested in advertising on my site as I believe it could bring you some highly targeted, quality traffic.
Let me know what you think. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Companies are usually very approachable, and you can get a high response rate as long as you follow the steps above. Here are the responses I got on my email:
- Open answers
Yes, we may be, did you have something particular in mind?
You’ve done a nice job with your site. Tell me what you’re thinking.
- Affiliate deal answers
With reference to your email, we would be very interested in appearing on your great website, I would like to suggest a cooperation with you! Would joining our affiliate programme and working on a CPA basis be something you might be interested in?
I have looked at your site and think that it would be perfect for our strategic partnership program. On becoming a strategic partner, I can provide you with a white label, feed or banners all with a unique tracking code to allow you to list our inventory onto your site.
- Text link answers
Thanks for your message as received below, it has been forwarded to me. We would be interested in advertising, specifically text links back to our relevant pages, could you let me know what the cost would be for this?
Thank you for your mail. Would it be possible for us to stick a link on URL or possibly have you create and endorsement about company name within the current content of this page? We are very interested in this page and working with you.
- Thanks, but no thanks answer
Thank you for your email. We are satisfied with the way we market our product and are not at this point looking for further outlets. Thank you for your interest in our company.
The ball is back in your court
Think about the long-term relationship potential and give the brand a realistic offer. Don’t oversell yourself and don’t overestimate your abilities. Don’t overcharge either. Under promise and over deliver is the best strategy.
Companies are looking for value. If they pay you for a month and don’t get satisfying results, they won’t come back. Be realistic what your site can achieve for them and offer an attractive deal which is reasonably priced for the size of your site and their budget.
You could offer to do a trial run. You could propose a hybrid deal with a fixed fee and a cost-per-aquisiton affiliate deal on top.
How to create a media kit to attract advertisers
One way to better “sell” your site at the negotiation stage is to have a beautiful media kit.
Your media kit should give potential sponsors the chance to learn behind-the-scenes facts and stories to supplement the content on your site. It’s a resume for your site and a sales tool. A package of information that introduces your site to the interested advertisers and answers their questions.
I recommend you develop a media kit. It can be a professional looking PDF that you send via email.
What should I include in the media kit?
Your media kit should provide the potential advertiser with immediate access to the key demographics, traffic information and other interesting metrics to help them decide whether to sponsor your site. It should be accurate, consistent, and up to date.
- Explain the concept. Start simply by defining the values, and describing the concept behind the site.
- Target audience and traffic. It’s important to show the potential sponsor what they are buying. Your traffic and your target audience are two primary motivators for the advertiser. Share your traffic stats, the number of followers, and the number of email newsletter subscribers. Be prepared to back up your stats with graphics from your Google Analytics account. You may also need to grant them the access to your Analytics report. Google Analytics features a way to do that without giving away your username and password.
- Add more credibility to yourself and your site by including third-party rankings from sites such as Alexa and SimilarWeb.
- Include also any third-party mentions and references. Include links from popular sites that mentioned you, links to your guest articles on big sites, any social media recommendations from influential users.
- Search engine rankings. When people search the Internet for keywords relevant to your potential advertiser, and they end up on your site, you have a key selling point. Show them how you rank in search engines for their product-related keywords. Compile a list of keywords that you rank for and include them in your media kit.
- Advertising options / rates. Let the potential advertiser know what kind of advertising options you offer on your site. Include the position of ads, the size of ads, show it by including a screenshot which has the potential ad position marked. Don’t forget to include pricing for each of these.
- Remember the key practices of writing content online. Employ scannable text by having low word count, including one idea per paragraph, having sub-headings, highlighting keywords and paragraphs, and using bulleted lists.
Your content can indirectly help “sell” your site
You never know who is reading your content. You may write with your visitor in mind, but a potential advertiser might be reading as well trying to find new sponsorship opportunities. For example, a lot of people viewing content on LinkedIn are in advertising or in other roles with large budgets.
Writing strategic posts about the explosive growth of your site is a good way of “selling” your site. Share real experiences and milestones of your site with your readers in social media.
Got 1,000 subscribers? Hit the front page of Reddit and got a high number of visitors? Share it all. Your readers would like to hear about your success, and you might attract some sponsors as well.
Have a “contact page” with a contact form in your navigation menu so it’s easy for potential advertisers to contact you. WordPress plugin Contact Form 7 allows you to easily insert a contact form into a page.
How to run your banner management system
If the above methods work and you do get some advertisers here’s how you can set up your banner management system. By directly approaching advertisers you work without the middlemen, and you keep 100% of the revenue your site brings in.
When an advertiser has decided to sponsor you, try offering an incentive for them to spend more. Discounts and bonuses both make the marginal cost of purchasing another month of advertising more attractive. Discounts reward with decreased payment for buying more, whereas bonuses reward with increased product for buying more.
I prefer the idea of a bonus, because it doesn’t leave any money on the table; instead, it gives the advertiser more for their money. Discounts are probably easier to administer manually, and can be in the form of percentage discount, or “daily rate: $1, monthly rate: $25, 6 months: $125” etc. Make sure you make the discounts or bonuses clear in your media kit.
Several WordPress plugins can help you manage your ads more efficiently. I’ve tested the best-known ad management plugins. I recommend WP125 as an excellent introduction into the world of ad management.
It serves the standard banner size for online sites, 125×125. You can choose between one and two columns, and you also have the option to decide the number of ad slots. There is an option to choose the ad order and it also keeps track of the number of clicks on the ad. WP125 is widget ready, so you just have to add the widget into the sidebar, and the ads will start displaying.
You can decide the period of time you want the ad to be served, and you’ll get the email notification when the ad is to expire so you can get in touch with the advertiser, ask about their experience, and try to renew the deal.
Try encouraging your advertisers to spend more by sending a reminder when their ad is finishing, asking them to extend instead of letting it lapse. It’s also a good idea to inform the advertiser how the ad has performed (through Click-Through Rate and impressions) when asking them to extend.