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Successful online marketing strategies for membership sites: adapting to change in a declining industry.

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Successful online marketing strategy for membership sites: adapting to change in a declining industry. Case Study:

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Successful online marketing strategies for membership sites: adapting to change in a declining industry.

  1. 1. Successful online marketing strategy for membership sites: adapting to change in a declining industry. Case Study: By: Errol Potok, Co-Founder | @ErrolPotok
  2. 2. The Company • Industry: - Casinos and gambling - Gambling-related tutoring and educational The Challenges - Create an online marketing strategy to combat change in online advertising due to harsh rules and regulations. - Need for a new website to focus on member interaction and help increase their membership base. The Benefits • 175.42% increase in visits from Facebook • 316.27% increase in visits from YouTube • 119.14% increase in visits from Twitter • 32.35% Increase in visitors from the United States • 50.95% increase in new visitors from the United States • 15% increase in pages / visit. Listed as one of the “Best Poker Training sites 2009” by Bluff Europe, the Outstanding Poker Training School was founded in an effort to educate and improve the poker ability of any prospective poker students. Outstanding Poker is a Poker School that offers you assistance and guidance at every possible angle: poker training videos, poker strategy articles, poker coaching, and podcasts all at one site from pro poker players. The Challenges • Online marketers in the poker industry struggled to find ways to advertise online after 2010. Google Adwords stopped allowing any type of gambling related ads years earlier. The regulation was due to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. had paid ads running on Facebook and Yahoo up until late 2010. They knew it was an only a matter of time before all major PPC avenues complied with the United States government. Banner spends across display networks were expensive and usually not targeted to their niche. Poker media outlets (such as PokerNews and TwoPlusTwo Interactive) were too expensive to advertise on. The team at needed to create an online marketing strategy to combat change in online advertising; due to harsh rules and regulation. • Before August 2010’s website was dynamic and there was no interaction between members. The new challenge was to creative a dynamic website where members could interact with each other. As a result of the online advertising regulations needed to create a new site that was both content and search engine friendly. The Solutions • • Outstanding Poker worked on creating a new dynamic and interactive website to insure they could capitalize on an a new content marketing strategy. The team set out to create a social media platform that was SEO friendly with the intention of increasing page views and building an online community. Basic (free) membership was a feature that would help drive sales. Outstanding Poker created an online marketing strategy. The new strategy was focused on content generation. The goal was to attract, acquire and engage a targeted audience by creating and distributing relevant content on the internet. | @ErrolPotok
  3. 3. What was wrong with the old sales process? Outstanding Poker Before August 2010 About Version 1: Launched in 2007, static site. Type of membership: Paid Membership - $14.95 a month. Sales process: • When a visitor landed on the homepage they were presented with a sales letter. This sales letter was a pitch that eventually took visitors to the signup page / payment page. On the home page a visitor could opt-in to the Outstanding Poker newsletter and receive a link to get a free full length poker training video. On the free training video page the visitor would be reminded that they could sign-up to become a paying member and the benefits they would receive. • Once the user opted-in to the newsletter, with their name and email, they would automatically be a part of a follow up email series. This was a system put in place where Outstanding Poker would send the subscriber an email every other day to push paid membership. The emails were filled with real testimonials, stats on the pros accomplishments and information about the paid content. The problem: The conversion rates (email subscribers to paid members) were not high enough. People wanted to interact with other members and the pros. They also wanted more sample free content (not just 1 strategy video). There was simply too much sales material and not enough user interactive and free content. Visitors would only hangout on the site if they had a paid membership. | @ErrolPotok
  4. 4. The solution: Outstanding Poker Version 2.0 • About Version 2: Launched in August 2010, dynamic site. Type of membership: Basic Membership - Free Paid Membership - $14.95 a month, $140.00 annually. • Sales process for Version 2.0 (launched August 2010) • Steps for free membership. • New visitors are asked to enter their first name and a valid email. • They are sent a link to activate their free (basic) membership at • Activation authorized membership (via Amember) and confirmed opt-in to the mailing list (via Aweber). Basic members were taken to the My Account section where they are asked to complete their profile. • Outstanding Poker Version 2.0 (launched August 2010) Strategy to drive basic (free) membership signups: • Visitors wanted to sign up as a basic member to gain access the Outstanding Poker Community and connect with other members and pros via forums. • Basic members could create their own blogs, comment on other members and pro (expert) blogs. • Basic members were given access two free full length training videos. • This was a large part of Outstanding Poker’s new strategy. In addition to the community aspect of the site new basic members would sign-up for free to get full length poker training videos by pro poker players (experts). Outstanding Poker used the following phrase in all its online marketing efforts: “Get two free poker training videos today!” | @ErrolPotok
  5. 5. • Strategy to drive premium (paid) membership signups • Experimental marketing: When visitors first come to they would be asked to sign-up for basic membership. • This gave users the opportunity to experience the Outstanding Poker brand. • Basic members were given the opportunity to try out some of the Premium (paid) content for free. • Comments: Basic members were allowed to view all pages reserved for premium content, however the actual content was reserved for Premium members. • Basic members could read comments made by premium members but were not allow to contribute to them. • Basic members would be enlightened by the comments and thus want to access the training content (video, article, podcast etc). • On all premium content pages a visitor would be presented with the benefits of becoming a premium member. • Testimonials: Premium members were asked to write about their recent success stories and how Outstanding Poker attributed to their success. • Success stories were shown on the forum, homepage and testimonial page. Visitors and basic members would be compelled to sign-up as a premium member based on these testimonials. • Online marketing strategy (see additional pages). Importance of the Homepage • • • • • • The homepage provided new visitors with an overview of what offered (community, poker training, etc.). At the bottom of the homepage there was a list of the latest poker training content. At no point on the homepage was there mention of paid membership. The goal of the homepage was to get new visitors to sign-up as a free member and join the Outstanding Poker community. When a visitor landed on the homepage they would be promoted to watch a strategy video from the websites lead pro (expert). Users could signup for free membership directly from the homepage (with name and email), without being taken to a separate signup page. If the user clicks on the Join Us button on the homepage they were taken to a separate page where a basic (free) and premium (paid) membership was be offered. | @ErrolPotok
  6. 6. A closer look at an industry in decline. If we compare the analytical data between Outstanding Poker version 1 and version 2.0 would the analysis be effective? The Answer: No! • Technically we can compare the analytical data (bounce rates, sign-up rates etc.) between the two sites however the actual data would not be that effective. • Why? Well version 2.0 was launched around the same time when Outstanding Poker was told that their paid ad campaigns were being terminated. They could no longer target the United States market like they once did. Pay per click advertising traffic on Yahoo and Facebook was heavily targeted to their niche market. Outstanding Poker went from spending $4000-$6000 a month on Facebook and Yahoo to spending zero. • Another major factor: Since the majority of the online poker players were from the U.S., most of the members on were also from the US. Thanks to the UIGEA the U.S. market was on the decline. When Black Friday hit in April 2011 the largest market in online poker was wiped out. U.S. players were not allowed to play poker on the internet. They were even denied money that was rightfully theirs. As a result lost a large percentage of its paying members. • In addition, the two versions of the site focused on different methods of generating sales. Version 1 had one type of membership (paying), while version 2.0 had a basic (free) membership in addition to a premium (paying) membership. The new version did more than just provide paid poker training content. • The affiliate program also contributed to a sizeable percentage of sales for version 1 as marketers were still allowed to pay for targeted U.S. traffic. • How did Outstanding Poker survive when the United States was not producing new players? They created an online marketing strategy that heavily involved content marketing. | @ErrolPotok
  7. 7. Traffic Comparison - Per Country. Version 1 Jan 1, 2007 - Jul 31, 2010 Other • Version 2.0 Aug 1, 2010 - Dec 23, 2013 Other There is a direct correlation between the impact of the UIGEA, Black Friday, halt in PPC advertising and the decline in U.S. market share. | @ErrolPotok
  8. 8. Online marketing strategy and execution for version 2.0. • The strategy: Utilize content marketing to build brand awareness, drive website visitors and increase membership (both free and paid). • Version 2.0 was built with SEO in mind. • Poker training content (video, articles, podcasts etc.) and blogs included tags at the bottom of each post. These tags were pulled for use in meta tag generation for each page. • When you clicked on a tag you were then taken to an archive page. This page pulled content across the site for that specific tag. • Content pages were quickly picked up by the search engines. • The forum was also heavily search engine optimized. Member posts were picked up by the search engines. • Using content created by the pros (experts) to create a multi-channel marketing plan. • Steps: Every time an Outstanding Poker pro created premium content (video, podcast, article etc.) an email, in the form of a newsletter, was sent out to the community. • The e-mail list was compiled from version 1 and version 2.0. It included basic and premium members. • The newsletter included a list of the latest premium content, along with links where you could view the content. • You needed to be a premium (paying) member to view the content. • The newsletter included links where you could sample the newly created premium content. • Every time a strategy video was created by a pro (expert) Outstanding Poker would cut the first five minutes of the video. • This sample video was uploaded to Facebook, Google+, Youtube and other relevant social networking sites. • The goal here was to show the visitors the type of content Outstanding Poker was producing. • This strategy allowed Outstanding Poker to get in front of its target market. • These sample videos were descriptive and keyword rich so they would be picked up by search engines and by people browsing Youtube, Facebook, etc.. • People were liking Outstanding Poker’s Facebook account, subscribing to their channel on Youtube, and following them on Twitter. • Viewers of the sample content were informed to go to where they could view the full version of the content. • Sample content was being used as a strategy to drive an abundance of activity. | @ErrolPotok
  9. 9. Online marketing strategy ctd. • A static page was created for each newsletter that was sent out. • • This allowed Outstanding Poker to promote its newsletter across a variety of social networking sites in addition to its newsletter subscribers. Twitter was at the centre of the content marketing strategy. • As soon as content was generated on it was instantly updated on Twitter. • Twitter applications allowed this to be possible. • Everything from forum posts, blog posts, and poker training content was instantaneously posted as a tweet on the Twitter account ( • Experimental marketing: • Basic (free) membership was used to drive premium (paid) membership. Outstanding Poker gave free premium (paid) content away to basic members so that new visitors could experience the brand. Basic members enjoyed the free full length strategy poker videos so much that they would upgrade their membership to a premium account. • Across all social networks users were being pushed basic (free) membership to Outstanding Poker. They were told that they could go to and “Get two free poker training videos today!” | @ErrolPotok
  10. 10. The Results achieved its goal, which was to increase traffic and membership, a terrific achievement when faced with an industry in decline. Positive metrics (since launching version 2.0 and executing an online marketing strategy) include: • • • • • 175.42% increase in visits from Facebook 316.27% increase in visits from YouTube 119.14% increase in visits from Twitter 32.35% Increase in visitors from the United States 50.95% increase in new visitors from the United States In addition, the new community oriented site saw: an increase in pages / visit of over 15% and a total increase in pageviews of 73.18%. spent most of its efforts on creating and executing a content marketing strategy. Regulations made it impossible for them to spend money on previously successful paid channels of advertising. | @ErrolPotok