April 30, 2009
Case Study

Grow Subscriptions with a PPC Campaign That Capitalizes on a Major Event: 7 Steps

SUMMARY: Want to grow your in-house list using a highly effective PPC campaign? Replicate the success of a financial newsletter company that tied its efforts to a major event. As a result, they got a 36% boost in free e-newsletter subscribers. Includes step-by-step process, tips and creative samples.

Founded in 1970, Cabot Heritage Corporation is one of the oldest, independently-owned investment newsletter companies in the U.S. When Andrew Palmer became Cabot’s E-Commerce Marketing Director in early 2007, the company needed a little help bringing its ecommerce marketing strategies into the 21st century.

“When I first came to Cabot they did not have a free e-newsletter,” Palmer says. “They didn’t have any vehicle that could acquire names for a really good in-house list, which could then sell their paid products.”

Cabot didn’t have an active website with updated content to encourage repeat visitors. Once created, the new content-rich site sold more newsletters in the first 30 days than the old site had in the past 3 years.

But Cabot still needed to grow its list of free e-newsletter subscribers, so that it could continue growth of its paid subscribers, especially since the economy had slowed and stock market faltered. Find out what Palmer’s team did to get a 36% boost in free e-newsletter subscribers.


->Step #1. Monitor Google Trends

Palmer watched Google Trends to see what “hot” terms people were searching. It was during the 2008 presidential election, so tons of people were searching campaign-related terms.

“One of the things I wanted to do in our PPC strategy was capitalize on the elections,” Palmer says. “I wanted to create a Cabot campaign that somehow could embrace and ride some of that increasing traffic.”

->Step #2. Connect trend to campaign

Palmer found a way to connect Cabot’s products to the election the day Barack Obama became the President-elect. Obama had been talking about how he wanted to increase funds for infrastructure projects and renewable energy.

“All these things, to us, said he wanted to invest in companies that were solid in the long-term, meaning value-type companies and value-type stocks,” says Palmer.

Palmer had the editorial team – mostly experts in investment analysis – create a report on value stocks. The free report was titled “6 ‘Warren Buffet’ Stocks to Own before Sen. Obama Takes Office.” He created PPC ads and a landing page to promote the free report.

->Step #3. Connect campaign to free e-newsletter

Access to the free report required opting-in to the free e-newsletter. Palmer knew that’s the only way he would get a high subscription rate, since most people wouldn’t purchase a subscription for a free report. Asking people to sign up for the free e-newsletter created a lower barrier to entry.

He knew he could use the free e-newsletter to upsell Cabot’s value-investment-focused newsletter titled, Cabot Benjamin Graham Value Letter, at a later date. Sold at $87 per year, the newsletter was one of seven paid subscription newsletters Palmer had to promote.

Because it was about value investing, the newsletter was the perfect focus for the campaign. Palmer would target the names collected from the campaign with Benjamin Graham promotions.

->Step #4. Use relevant keywords

In order to reach the right audience, Palmer built the PPC campaign around keywords, such as “Warren Buffet,” “Buffet,” “value,” and “value stocks.”

“We were looking for people who would be asking questions about value investing or asking questions about Warren Buffet, who is one of the gurus of value investing,” Palmer says.

->Step #5. Create an incentive to click

To entice people to click, Palmer used PPC ad copy that read: “How Obama Can Make You Rich – Free Report: 6 Buffet Value Stocks.”

->Step #6. Inspire a sense of urgency

The landing page promoted the report as a “limited time offer” in the headline. Red text under the report’s title read: “Only [time period] left! Offer ends January 20th, 2009.”

The red text counted down the weeks and then days to when Obama took office in Jan.

->Step #7. Ride out its success

The PPC campaign was so successful that Palmer’s team decided to ride it out. After Obama was elected, they used the same keyword terms linked to the same PPC ads and landing page, but with slightly different wording.

After Obama became president, Palmer changed the PPC ad copy to read: “Free Report: 6 Buffet Value Stocks for President Obama’s First 100 Days.”

He changed the report’s title in the landing page to read: “6 “Warren Buffet” Stocks for President Obama’s First 100 Days.” And he removed the red text counting down the days to Obama taking office.

Tip: Test the opt-in button

Palmer wanted to increase free subscription conversions, so he tested the wording on the opt-in button (i.e. the button next to the box where people were asked to enter their email address).

He changed the button text from “Send My Free Report” to “Start My Free Subscription.”

“I think if you say “free subscription,” people know they’re getting a free e-newsletter,” Palmer says. “When you say “send my free report,” people think they’re getting a free report and they may not know they’re getting a free e-newsletter even through it says so very clearly.”

The Obama-oriented PPC campaign got a 36% conversion rate during the first few days it ran. It settled into a 15.41% average conversion rate during the entire campaign.

Note: Conversions, in this Case Study, are people who subscribed to the free e-newsletter by entering their email address and clicking the button on the landing page.

Average clickthrough rate from PPC ads to landing page was 2.1%. The campaign helped boost subscriptions to Cabot’s free e-newsletter to about 170,000.

“This campaign did exceedingly well,” Palmer says. “Just the concept of tying in the election, which was so popular, and Obama’s victory gave us a good extra spike in our PPC name collection during those months.”

The result of switching the button text on the landing page from “free report” to “free subscription” was a 22.9% decline in conversions.

“We really got a kick out of that because one of our direct mail principals that we apply online is that you test big things,” Palmer says. “This is one of the smallest tests I’ve ever had but it’s a huge result.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from Cabot Heritage Corporation:

Past Sherpa article:

Cabot Heritage Has “Unbelievable Success” Selling Email Subscriptions Through Email Newsletter Ads:

Cabot PPC Landing Pages:

Original landing page

Opt-in button test (control)

Opt-in button test (variable)

Google Trends:

Cabot Benjamin Graham Value Letter

Cabot Wealth Advisory – the free e-newsletter

Cabot Heritage Corporation:

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