May 25, 2023
Case Study

Successful Marketing Campaigns: Get ideas from a Mother’s Day email campaign, digital advertising, and programmatic SEO


How do you get unstuck? Where do you find inspiration?

Hopefully the marketing case studies we bring you every week play some small part in helping you.

In this article, we address three specific sticking points marketers faced to give you the inspiration for your next great idea. Read on for specific examples from a nonprofit that sells products, accounting firm, and alternative investment platform.

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

Successful Marketing Campaigns: Get ideas from a Mother’s Day email campaign, digital advertising, and programmatic SEO

I recently wrote to the MECLABS SuperFunnel Research Cohort, and asked them, “To help us focus the LiveClasses on your most pressing needs, please let us know – where are you stuck right now? and/or where do you need inspiration?”

We’ll address some of their challenges (which you may have as well) on Wednesdays at 4 pm EDT in our Marketing LiveClass – ChatGPT, CRO and AI: 40 Days to build a MECLABS SuperFunnel. Just RSVP at that link if you would like to join us.

And I address some in this article as well, to give you ideas to get unstuck and get inspiration for your next great idea:

  • “What are best practices for emailing my growing list?” – In Quick Case Study #1, we look at a nonprofit that went from zero sales from a Mother’s Day email campaign to 16 product bundle sales by focusing on the customer.
  • “I’m stuck on my offer!” – In Quick Case Study #2, see how an accounting firm changed from a seasonal offer to an offer that would bring in clients with a higher lifetime value.
  • “I want the secrets to writing compelling content” – In Quick Case Study #3, we show you how an alternative investment platform created compelling content using programmatic SEO.

Quick Case Study #1: How rethinking a Mother’s Day email campaign helped a nonprofit sell 16 product bundles

This case study is a bit unique for me. Normally I’m reporting on how hard-working brand and agency marketers from across the globe have improved results.

But for this case study, I was actually involved in the campaign. Let me tell you what I learned from an insider’s perspective.

I was helping Ten by Three®, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. MECLABS Institute (the parent organization of MarketingSherpa) helps the organization with its marketing, on an ad hoc basis.

Ten by Three is a unique nonprofit – it sells a product.

It buys handcrafted artisan goods from the rural poor in developing countries and pays a Prosperity Wage® (2.5x more than fair trade). At the end of the program, each artisan has enough funds to open three small businesses of their own thanks to the nonprofit’s commitment to purchase 10 baskets a month. These businesses enable these artisans to climb out of poverty while creating generational wealth for their family.

For this approach to work, Ten by Three has to be able to sell these handcrafted goods. Their primary focus has been to sell through bricks-and-mortar retailers, but the team was looking to improve its ecommerce and direct-to-consumer business.

BEFORE – Traditional sales email

As with many nonprofits, the team is strapped for resources and has no shortage of priorities. But they were able to quickly pull together an email with some product bundles and sent it out.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised when you see it. It looks like many promotional emails that for-profit brands would send to promote a sale. See below.

Creative Sample #1: Original promo email for DTC nonprofit

Creative Sample #1: Original promo email for DTC nonprofit

One challenge with an image-heavy email like this – it isn’t necessarily what your recipients will see. If their email provider blocks images by default, it could look like this…

Creative Sample #2: Original promo email for DTC nonprofit, with images blocked

Editorial Comment: The image displayed below may give the impression of containing broken visuals; however, this deliberate design showcases the email’s appearance to recipients who chose not to download the images through their email client.

Creative Sample #2: Original promo email for DTC nonprofit, with images blocked

This email had a click-to-open rate of 4.3% and 7.8% of people who opened it unsubscribed. It resulted in 0 sales.

AFTER – Storytelling emails

When I had a chance to get involved, I realized one challenge the team had – they were used to communicating with different audiences. They did a good job serving their B2B audience (the brick-and-mortar retailers who sell their products) as well as their nonprofit audience (their donors).

This consumer audience was new for them. That, plus the need to get something out so quickly, likely produced the type of sales email you would see from many other consumer product brands.


They were not like many other consumer product brands. They had an interesting and unique product to sell with a fantastic story.

So we asked them to try to make a few changes.

First, increase the perceived value of the bundles, as well as the presentation of the bundles with new photos. They added more products to the bundle. Since a major cost is shipping, they were able to add more products and get that “economy of scale,” so to speak.

I encouraged them to change the name as well. Instead of Mother’s Day Bundles, we went with the Empowering Embrace Collection and the Prosperous Love Collection. “Bundle” is a marketing term but “collection” is a better description of what the recipients were getting. And the names were meant to evoke qualities common to both motherhood and how this nonprofit operates.

Then, we used storytelling to help the customer come to certain conclusions about the product. Instead of a typical-looking promo email, it was written as a letter from the nonprofit’s founder.

The second email follows the Jobs To Be Done framework from Harvard professor Clayton Christensen. He posits that people don’t buy products, they “hire” them for functional roles in their lives. The famous quote from his fellow professor Theodore Levitt is “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” If you want to get deeper, we discuss that framework in Innovation Leadership and Coaching: You should almost always do less than you think (podcast episode #46).

I wrote some copy for it, and the team finalized it and edited it. For the subject line, I used a line they had been using that I thought would really resonate with the ideal customer – “Gifts worthy of mom.”

And before you say it, I will say it. This email is way too long. However, we couldn’t quickly make changes to the product page and cart (which both still need conversion optimization work), so the best-but-not-ideal solution was to put much of it in the email.

I’ll include an image, but since the email is so long it will be hard to read. So here is the copy directly…

I’m sure you know many moms like this – too many things lying around the house. Legos and pennies, papers and keys. They crave order … but have kids, grandkids, busy lives. Moms tell me our handcrafted bowls and baskets are a beautiful and practical gift that also supports a worthy cause. Now keys, loose change, hair ties, clips, bobby pins, rings, bracelets, earrings, paperclips, thumbtacks, staples, everything has its place – by the front door, in the home office, on the coffee table.

I’m not sure it's only the baskets these moms enjoy. I think it’s a bit of calm and order in a hectic world. But there is something about the baskets that makes them unique. These aren’t neon plastic bins from any big box store. These are made by moms, for moms – like the group of illiterate mothers in Ghana who scraped together their Prosperity Wages (2.5X fair trade wages) to start a school. So moms display these baskets with pride. Each has a story they can share with guests.

Finding a gift worthy of the mothers in your life – your mom, daughter, stepmom, grandma, that teacher you are still close with – is no easy task. So, since you have purchased from us before, our nonprofit put together two collections for the mothers in your life.

Click here to learn about the Empowering Embrace Collection.

Click here to learn about the Prosperous Love Collection. 

If you bought all of these handmade goods individually, it would cost up to $170. But when you bundle, they are just $58, and we’ll pass on FREE SHIPPING as well!

Order by May 8, and our volunteers will get it to the mom in your life before Mother’s Day. And remember, since we’re a nonprofit, every purchase you make will help the artisan mothers who handmade your products, reminding the woman you call Mom that she raised you right.

If these collections aren’t a fit for you, reply to this email and tell me your budget (we have handmade goods starting at $11.99) and what you're looking for, and I’ll send you a personal email with a recommendation. 

Thank you for supporting our mission to end poverty by connecting the world. 

Theresa Carrington, Founder, Ten by Three 

P.S. “Beautiful baskets and what a noble cause!!” Jenny wrote to us on Facebook. Each collection you gift helps a mom on the other side of the world – providing 9 pounds of rice in Madagascar, a hen in Bangladesh, a goat in Ghana, AND one term of upper primary school in Uganda. 

Now here is a visual of the email. You’ll see that they greatly improved the imagery. But also, the imagery is a supporting element, and this email still communicates key information even if the images are blocked.

Creative Sample #3: Jobs To Be Done Mother’s Day promo email for DTC nonprofit

Creative Sample #3: Jobs To Be Done Mother’s Day promo email for DTC nonprofit

“The Jobs To Be Done framework is now on my idea board in my office…and a sticky note on my computer monitor. Seeing our product as a solution for Jobs to Be Done – is something we have never considered before. The Jobs to Be Done framework is a new way to sell our products backed by proven methods. Jobs to be Done is now a mantra for me as I think about bringing on new products, and it is the mantra guiding us as we work to grow our B-to-C sales,” said Theresa Carrington, Founder & CEO, Ten by Three.

They had time to send a third email before Mother’s Day as well. The strategy for the third email is based on another value I think these products have – it gives people a story to tell. Both for the gift giver, and then the person who now has a “conversation piece” in their home. Which is why a product discovery story (how the founder discovered one of these) could be powerful.

The second email focused on functional value (helping the recipient picture how to use the product), the third email focused on an intangible value for the user – helping them understand the story of the product so they had a story to tell about themselves…to others, or even when they look in the mirror.

This is the theory behind some travel marketing – people don’t necessary travel only because they want to experience something new (which they do), they also travel so they have a story to tell other people about their upcoming and completed travel (and post on social media).

For example, earlier in my career I worked on very high-end, vacation real estate. Second, third, fourth, homes. I would create brochures filled with storytelling, eventually entire boxes (wood boxes) with packages. Because right at that point what they were buying was just sand by the shore, or an empty chunk of mountain. We had to tell them the story of what the future would look like, partly. But also, we were arming them with a story they could tell their friends and family of what they bought (if you want to go deeper, I discuss story some in here – Value Force: How to win on value proposition and not just price).

For the third email, I used the subject line, “Mom will brag about you at the farmer's market, book club, the pool...”

Here is the copy for the third email, after it was edited by the team…


Help mom carry her farmer’s market discoveries, book club reads, or pool gear in style with the Ghana XL Shopper. Elephant grass is beautifully plant dyed and woven by Ghanaian artisans near the Volta River. Handles artfully made from goat leather fit snugly over mom’s shoulders.

Spacious and sturdy for heavy loads. Beyond fair trade.

But these baskets also carry a story – a story mom can tell about you. How you found a gift worthy of mom. “Oh Marilyn, this isn’t just any basket, let me tell you all about it …” So let me tell the story you can tell mom.

It was 2004 when Kwame called me. Calls from Ghana were $2 a minute then, so I knew it must be big. He knew of the perfect basket – the moms of Ghana carry their grains, spices, and firewood in it. Kwame was driving through the lively streets of Accra in a tro-tro, when he saw a young man holding that basket! He jumped out to meet the young man, who took him to an abandoned building where 30 young men had come 500 miles from their village to make the baskets and send the money back to their moms.

Long story short, we moved the young men back to Nyariga, ordered 40,000 baskets, and paid them Prosperity Wages (2.5x fair trade) to care for their moms. That event is now part of the official oral history of the village.

Since you supported our case before with a small donation or purchase from the free basket promotion, our nonprofit put together two collections for the mothers in your life. The Ghana XL Shopper is included in the Empowering Embrace Collection. If your mom is more of a gardener, she might prefer the Bangladesh Large Veggie Basket in The Prosperous Love Collection. Both are also filled with several more thoughtful and meaningful gifts for mom. 

Click here to learn about the Empowering Embrace Collection.

Click here to learn about the Prosperous Love Collection. 

If you bought all of these handmade goods individually, we would have to charge up to $170. But because we save so much on shipping by bundling, each collection is just $58 … and we'll add in free shipping costs!

Order by Monday, and our volunteers will get these collections to the moms in your life before Mother’s Day. All our baskets come with an artisan card that tells you the name and story of the person who made that exact product. Mom can also write a letter to her artisan and follow their journey on our website. 

If these collections aren’t a fit for you, reply to this email and tell me your budget (we have handmade goods starting at $11.99) and what you're looking for, and I’ll send you a personal email with a recommendation. 

Thank you for supporting our mission to end poverty by connecting the world. 

Theresa Carrington, Founder, Ten by Three 

P.S. One of our volunteers said, “I had the privilege of meeting with the amazing artisans of Ghana over a Skype call. It was incredible to see first-hand how much their lives are improved through this program. They mentioned that everything they have, including medicine, chickens, goats, etc. are made possible through this. The chickens, goats, and other livestock create sustainable income. What an incredible gift to the world this organization is!” 

Creative Sample #4: Story-focused Mother’s Day promo email for DTC nonprofit

Creative Sample #4: Story-focused Mother’s Day promo email for DTC nonprofit

RESULTS – 16 product bundles sold

The second email had a click-to-open-rate of 9.3% with 0 unsubscribes. The third email had a click-to-open rate of 8.3% with 0 unsubscribes.

Of course, I’m always a little skeptical of email metrics these days. How many opens have been blocked by privacy settings on a recipient’s device? I can’t say.

However, here is a definitive number and the one that matters most – the team went from 0 sales to 16 product bundles sold. Which means more people were helped.

Writing this myself, I feel the pain of sharing a marketing campaign. We threw this together in a few days, and so much can be improved.

However, I wanted to share it because I think there is a key lesson for you. Especially the beleaguered email marketer tasked with coming up with campaign after campaign after campaign.

How can you think beyond the typical promo email with your sends? How can you better communicate both the tangible value your products will deliver as well as what the product could mean to the recipient in their lives…what it enables them to say about themselves to friends, family, and even when they look in the mirror?

Quick Case Study #2: How a revised lead generation strategy drove 800% growth for accounting firm

Accounting firms face a challenging barrier to growth. They’re overwhelmed with work during tax season, only to see business slow considerably after the filing deadline. Without reliable, year-round revenue, firms often can't support the staff they need to meet seasonal surges, forcing them to turn away new customers every year.

Dimov Tax Specialists faced this same challenge. To shift this dynamic, the team needed an improved lead generation strategy that delivered enough ongoing revenue outside tax season to support their expansion efforts.

BEFORE – Over-segmentation limited conversions

Dimov serves clients nationwide, so the team’s lead-generation campaigns cast a wide net. The previous strategy used Google Ads to target customers in large cities who searched for general tax-related keywords. This approach produced mediocre results, with some campaigns only delivering two conversions per week. What leads the team did receive had seasonal needs, which meant they often did not become high-value, year-round customers.

AFTER – Improved data delivers enhanced results

In September 2021, the team started to rebuild its Google account in alignment with new lead generation standards. This new strategy included four key elements:

  1. Improve signal volume: To break down the walls that siloed lead generation data, the team needed to combine individual campaigns to increase lead volume and give Google’s algorithm the data it needed to optimize results.
  2. Improve signal quality: The team created an offline conversion tracking (OCT) implementation that enabled them to see closed leads and their associated revenue, giving them much deeper insight into what worked.
  3. Pursue Higher-Value Leads: The OCT data enabled Google’s smart target cost per acquisition (tCPA) algorithm to bid aggressively on higher-quality leads. Combined with responsive search ads (RSAs), which use automation to create the optimal combination of headlines and descriptions for individual users, the ads were much more likely to win competitive clicks.
  4. Target seasonal keywords: During the slow season, the team moved its advertising budget away from general tax terms and towards keywords supporting year-round business. Once tax preparation season arrived, they shifted their targeting towards general keywords to drive new business.

“Our new strategy gave us the power to target the right potential customers at the right time of year, which the team believed was the key to providing the consistent revenue we needed to retain staff year-round,” said George Dimov, Owner, Dimov Tax Specialists.

RESULTS – 800% Lead Generation Growth

In the first two weeks after implementing the new strategy, advertising costs increased by 35% and leads increased by 150%. Gains in efficiency and volume indicated that this new approach could fuel the team’s growth.

“These early results gave Dimov Tax the confidence to bring on more staff and max out volume during tax season,” said Matt Bowen, Associate Director of Enterprise Client Services and Strategy, Logical Position (Dimov’s digital marketing agency).

“It was a bit of a gamble, but we trusted that our new lead generation engine would enable us to sustain enough business during the slower months to retain our larger team,” added Dimov.

The gamble paid off. In a year-over-year comparison from March 28 through April 15, the team increased their Google Ads spending by 855%, which generated an 819% increase in leads. New customers were coming in so fast that the team decided to dial back spending to ensure they could provide a good experience for all new customers.

When tax preparation season ended, they expanded their targeting and reallocated the budget to emphasize more year-round tax services. From May 1 through June 16, 2022, year-over-year advertising costs increased by 417%, and leads increased proportionately by 428%. 

Quick Case Study #3: How alternative investment platform used programmatic SEO to increase traffic by 20x and is generating 100s of new leads every month

The alternative investment platform, UpMarket, executed a successful programmatic SEO campaign to rank for hundreds of high-value search terms like “buy SpaceX stock” to drastically increase their search impressions, clicks and ultimately generate leads for their sales team.

Programmatic SEO is the process of creating hundreds or even thousands of pages at once by leveraging or combining data sets and unique content to generate relevant pages for a large number of search queries.

A classic example would be combining a list of city names with the season and the word weather, e.g., “San Antonio Spring Weather.” The number of pages can grow quickly with four seasons and thousands of cities. But that’s not enough, you need to provide unique and useful content and present it in a clear and useful way to the user.

Here’s how the team did it…

STEP #1: Understand user demand and search intent

Mike Ivancie, Head of Marketing, UpMarket, built the campaign focused on a core principle of SEO: “Ultimately, winning content is about being useful or solving a problem. That’s been my guiding principle for content and SEO since day one. If you’re not helping to solve a problem, answer a question, or inspire, your content likely won’t win in search.”

UpMarket saw an opportunity to provide useful data about fast-growing and early-stage private companies that draw a lot of investor interest. This aligns well with one of UpMarket’s core investment offerings which is selling shares in “Pre-IPO” companies that are often fast-growing and early-stage private companies.

Looking at search traffic for some of these keywords, like “SpaceX stock price” (11k monthly searches), and “SpaceX valuation” (5.9k), it became clear that there was user demand, especially for information about these private companies.

So, knowing their topic, and validating that there was actual user demand around that topic, the marketing team created a list of hundreds of private, high-growth startups to potentially target. They filtered that list down to a smaller subset to test the campaign.

STEP #2: Research the competitive landscape

For UpMarket, while some companies’ keywords, like SpaceX, were extremely competitive, other companies had very little competition. By mixing the popular and less popular companies they could control for the competitiveness of the search engine results page (SERP) and still get a good idea of the performance of this programmatic SEO campaign.

Looking at the core competition that ranks consistently for a similar universe of keywords they were targeting with their programmatic campaign, the team considered:

  • Are my competitors deploying a similar strategy? Why or why not?
  • What information are my competitors providing?
  • Do my search competitors align with my true “business” competition? (e.g., Am I trying to rank for something that won’t actually help my business?)
  • Is this information better addressed by a site I won’t be able to outrank? (e.g. Wikipedia)

Doing this research it became clear to the team that there were content gaps that could be filled to better address user intent and provide more useful and relevant information.

STEP #3: Make it better and add something new

“Honestly, just having a bit of user empathy can go a long way. Ask yourself, ‘ok so if I’m searching this term, what else might I want to see? What other questions might I have?’ If you can anticipate and build that into your website, you are increasing your likelihood of success,” Ivancie shared when explaining how the team decided what content to create to improve their SEO performance.

Specifically, the team found the opportunity to provide more rich data in the form of historical valuation charts and updated company news. Further, the team created a proprietary valuation algorithm to estimate the real-time value of these private companies using a myriad of data sets.

All of this new information helped set UpMarket’s pages apart from the competition and increases the likelihood UpMarket is also linked and cited as a source on those topics in the future – a double win from an SEO perspective.

RESULTS – 21x increase in Google Search impressions and 23x increase in clicks

When explaining their results, Ivancie shared, “Comparing our results three months after launch versus three months before launch, UpMarket’s Google Search impressions are up 21x, clicks 23x and we’ve gone from the website bringing in no leads to being on pace for 100+ leads this month.” 

Related Resources

Creative Inspiration: 9 mini case studies of marketing campaigns and business ideas sparked by unorthodox inspiration

Informed Dissent: The best marketing campaigns come from the best ideas

The De-Branding Campaign: When customers make fun of your new product launch – Episode #2

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