November 21, 2022
Case Study

Marketing Promotion Strategies: These 3 message levers moved people to click, link, and refer


Why should the right person act on your conversion objective?

To give you ideas for identifying your brand’s message levers, in this article we bring you three stories of marketers that found the right message lever to pull. For one, it was an emotional trigger. For another, a professional opportunity. And for the third, an incentive.

Read on for examples from a marketing agency, affiliate sports betting website, and multimedia

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Marketing Promotion Strategies: These 3 message levers moved people to click, link, and refer

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

Quick Case Study #1: Marketing agency gets 32% higher clickthrough rate by discovering which emotional trigger is most effective for ad messaging

Most of the case studies you read on MarketingSherpa are pitched to me by readers, PR firms, etc. But this first case study I saw presented in a recent meeting of the MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort (MECLABS Institute is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa). I reached out to the team behind the test and asked if we could publish the case study. Here it is.

As part of its participation in the cohort, the team at Attorney Marketing Solutions ran a first round of testing to determine which offer they should focus on, and the results of that first test were insignificant.

So, they tried a different approach – they ran a second round of tests on one of the offers (e-guide for law firm intake) to see if they could discover a significant difference in the motivations of potential customers. They tried two different message levers – each testing a different emotional trigger – in an ad heading and subheading (this is known as the test variable). They tested fear (stop competition from passing you up) versus seeking (optimize intake and sign more clients). Let’s look at the hypothesis for each treatment.

Display ad Variant A – fear (loss aversion)

Here is the hypothesis the team put together for Variant A – If we focus on a client’s fear of losing business to competitors by changing the headline and subheading in a display ad, we will increase the desired action of clicking to view the landing page because lawyers are more motivated by avoiding a negative outcome.

Creative Sample #1: Loss aversion ad

Creative Sample #1: Loss aversion ad

Display ad Variant B – seeking (desire for gain)

Here is the hypothesis the team put together for Variant B – If we focus on a client's seeking emotion by changing the headline and subheading to highlight a benefit in a display ad, we will increase the desired action of clicking through to view the landing page because our clients seek to gain more clients for their law firm.

Creative Sample #2: Desire for gain ad

Creative Sample #2: Desire for gain ad

“The hypothesis formulation was taken straight from the MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort. Also, learning how to best segment testing into levers changed how we generate ad and landing page treatments. Together, the hypothesis and insight into grouping test iterations into different levers resulted in tests that give us substantial insight into the behavior of our clients,” said Matthew Post, Co-founder, Attorney Marketing Solutions.

Results from A/B test on display ads

The team first ran the ads using retargeting. It seemed like there was no different between the two variants, but after running the results through the MECLABS Institute Test Protocol tool, they realized they did not have a large enough sample size to get statistically significant results.

They then ran the ads on LinkedIn to get a large enough sample size of their ideal customer. “Do not cut a test short, or you may end with invalid data that can waste precious funds and time, speaking with your clients in a manner that does not resonate with them,” Post advised.

Variant A received a 32.2% higher clickthrough rate (Landing Page View Rate, measured as – platform impression/Google Analytics 4 unique landing page views) at a 95.1% level of confidence, according to the Test Protocol tool. However, there was not a significant difference for the final conversion – form completion on the landing page to get the free download.

Creative Sample #3: A/B test results as seen in MECLABS Institute Test Protocol

Creative Sample #3: A/B test results as seen in MECLABS Institute Test Protocol

Insights gained from the marketing experiment

As you can see in the results above, loss aversion tapped into a deeper motivation than seeking to gain, for this audience.

But the team also measured secondary metrics like engagement rate to understand more about their ideal customer. “When a prospect is motivated by avoiding a negative result, they spend approximately four times longer on the page to find a resolution. Thus, fear is likely a deeper motivation, and we can therefore communicate a solution best to those who want to avoid a negative outcome with proper framing,” Post said.

Next, the team will use the learnings from this test to create congruency between the ad messaging and landing page messaging.

This test is just one step in the team’s journey to better understand and serve its ideal customers. “We believe that conclusive test results are only a step in uncovering the mindset of our ideal clients. When we use the results to learn about our clients instead of binary concepts of pass/fail, we are then opened up to even more hypotheses to test and more learning,” he concluded.

Quick Case Study #2: Affiliate sports betting website earns 36 backlinks from national tabloid newspapers and other publications by providing exclusive information

Cheeky Punter is a UK sports betting review and tips website. It earns revenue by referring customers to online betting sites and getting paid a set cost per acquisition (CPA) which ranges from £35 to £75.

“The UK online gambling SERPs (search engine results pages) are hyper competitive and link building presents a unique challenge as many publishers simply refuse to link to any online gambling content. Many of our competitors resort to link buying and PBNs (private blog networks) but we chose not to go down this route instead favoring more long-term sustainable strategies,” said David Lenton, chief editor, Cheeky Punter.

What tactic worked worst, and why – curated content with data

The team created data-driven pieces of content intended to pique the interest of journalists, enough for them to cover the topic and link back to the site’s resources.

Creative Sample #4: Data-driven content about the most followed soccer players on social media

Creative Sample #4: Data-driven content about the most followed soccer players on social media

The time investment required to gather the data and then put together the resources is not insignificant, nor is the cost, and then the team has to build a list of journalists and send outreach about their findings across multiple press releases.

 All in all, it’s a month-long process and when they are finally ready to launch so much can go wrong:

  • The data findings simply aren’t compelling enough to warrant talking about
  • The subject matter doesn’t resonate sufficiently with journalists
  • A breaking story can hit the news and completely dominate coverage from all outlets
  • Other outlets can release more attention-grabbing data on the same day
  • Publishers can cover the data but not source it with a backlink (even when followed up on).

What tactic worked best, and why – exclusive information

The team discovered that what journalists want most is exclusive information.

They were able to offer this by running a series of interviews with former professional soccer players (or as they say in the UK, footballers).

They use a talent agency to book out the interview and before the interview takes place, they run outreach to journalists to inform them of the opportunity to get their questions answered by the booked talent. They even invite journalists from the bigger national tabloid newspapers onto the call with them to ask questions. In return, they ask for credit for the interview in these publications.

“The simple reason we were able to turn our fortunes around with this style of campaign was that we were no longer guessing what journalists wanted to print or trying to tempt them to write a story about a topic we felt was newsworthy. We were able to feed them access to a resource and exclusivity in print – turns out that’s a perfect combo,” Lenton said.

For example, they employed a UK talent agency to secure an interview with a former Premier League soccer player. “We used Muck Rack to outreach journalists at all national [tabloid] newspapers and major online publishers in the UK sports scene offering an interview slot on our scheduled Zoom call,” Lenton said.

From the group interview, they created content on their website.

And the reporters on the call published their own content as well. The reporters included in the articles that the source came via Cheeky Punter, or on behalf of Cheeky Punter, with a link back to the website. The site obtained 15 backlinks and one branded citation from that interview alone.


The last five curated data campaigns earned just one link from a domain with a Domain Authority (DA) of 35.

For some perspective, they ran an outreach campaign to 986 journalists and news outlets. The press release itself got a 43% open rate (412 unique opens), but the campaign just didn’t resonate enough to make it to print anywhere online.

Since switching tactics to the interview-style campaigns, they've managed to generate a total of 36 backlinks and the branded citations. 


The outreach tools used, such as Muck Rack, RoxHill, and Cision, have a cost and are needed for both types of campaigns.

The curated data campaigns are cheaper because virtual assistants can be used to gather data and the graphics can be done for £200 to £300.

The team paid the soccer players via a talent agency. The agency has a pricing tier depending on how famous the talent is. So far, they have only used the lower tier which starts around the £500 ($600) mark and goes right up to £5,000 ($6,000).

Their strategy has been to use the lower-tier talent but try to go for players that have played at the widest range of clubs so that there’s broad interest in what they have to say on a number of topical club-related issues.

Please note that this campaign focused on tabloid newspapers and similar online media outlets. Most mainstream newspapers and other similar publications have policies forbidding the use of news reporters paying for sources.

So, while a paid source campaign will not work for many brands, the core takeaway from this case study will – instead of pitching the same infographic to every reporter in hopes of getting a link, find a way to bring exclusive value to their readers. As another example, all of the sources chosen for publication in MarketingSherpa bring exclusive value to readers as well.

Quick Case Study #3: How a multimedia ecosystem built a community of 636,000 members using incentives

Mode Mobile (previously Current Media) is a blockchain-enabled multimedia ecosystem that lets users access streaming services within a single platform. “The success of their Ethereum-based ICO (initial coin offering) launch was primarily centered around the concept of community building and incentivization,” said Lamar Duffy, CEO, ReferralHero (Mode Mobile’s referral program software).

The main approach the team took was to create an in-app credit system to uniquely reward users for referring their friends and completing actions on the platform. Users would earn Credits $CRNC (the platform’s cryptocurrency) based on watch time, engagement, the number of referrals they made, etc. This strategy helped Current $CRNC raise over $36 million in ICO funding and gain 636,000 email subscribers – 91% of them were referred by someone else.

“To run a successful referral program a business must align value and incentivize your user base,” said Dan Novaes, co-founder and CEO, Mode Mobile.

Gamified design

The team’s viral referral program all started with a landing page that emphasized simplicity, both in the copy and the signup process itself. The low-friction signup form, with the tagline “Refer friends to Current and get up to $100 in free credit,” required just two fields (name and email). The value proposition was also clearly explained on the page.

 Creative Sample #5: Landing page for cryptocurrency incentive

 Creative Sample #5: Landing page for cryptocurrency incentive

“Once the user had signed up, they were shown the referral program details such as the Telegram group link, their referral tally, social sharing buttons, and unique referral link, which motivated the lead to start making referrals,” Duffy said.

Creative Sample #6: Gamified post-form popup for cryptocurrency incentive

Creative Sample #6: Gamified post-form popup for cryptocurrency incentive

Incentives to refer friends

The team incentivized users to make referrals by offering Credits $CRNC (the company’s cryptocurrency). The referrers were shown how many referrals they needed to unlock different levels of Credits, with the rewards getting greater as they referred more people. The ability to achieve various referral levels – from just two to 80 – was designed to appeal to a wide range of people, from casual users to full-time affiliate marketers.

The referral scheme – “Earning and Spending Credits” – centered around a B2C offering: the Credits earned were to be used within the multimedia ecosystem to purchase a broad range of products, services, and in-platform advertising.

Community engagement

“By requiring an email upon registration and a strong CTA to join their Telegram group, they were able to communicate with participants long after they had signed up,” Duffy said. This allowed the team to message users and promote their airdrops (free coins offered to the community to increase the project’s visibility).

The team also made use of automated emails to engage with their users on an ongoing basis. As soon as users signed up, they would receive a series of emails that helped communicate what they could achieve if they referred friends to the ICO.

“Current’s referral marketing technique took a good amount of planning and technical execution, but…Current $CRNC was able to raise over $36 million in ICO funding, gain 636,000 email subscribers, and earn a ‘hype rating’ of VERY HIGH on ICO Drops,” Duffy said. “The success that Current has had is not unique. We've seen other projects like Binance, Kucoin, and Coinbase use referral programs to great effect.”

“Don’t assume just because someone isn’t a buyer or investor, that they don’t want to engage with your brand. Turn them into an ambassador,” Novaes advised.

Related Resources

Marketing Funnel: 3 quick case studies to help you increase conversion

Customer-First Objectives: Discover a 3-part formula for focusing your webpage message

Value Proposition Credibility: 3 ways to help people instantly believe your message

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