Archived Webinar

How to Use Promotions to Drive Leads for Advertisers


Presented by Julie Foley, director of affiliate success, Second Street

First you cry. You can expect, or maybe already received, a call or email saying the marketing budget is another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. But there’s opportunity, even as the nation slides into another, perhaps deeper, recession.

Looking back and forward. When the Great Recession started in 2008, the money spent on promotion first began to overtake advertising spend. It’s since doubled and kept widening. Promotions spend looks to increase to $299 billion — two and a half times the $122 advertising share.  

The COVID shift. Messaging is about to shift from “We’re open,” to “we’re COVID-19 compliant” to “we’ve got a special offer for you.” In other words, promotions.

Gordon Borrell said it; Julie Foley quoted it: “Promotions will explode by mid-summer and remain strong through the holidays — and perhaps for the foreseeable future.”

Reaching advertisers — but not with reach. The right advertisers for us want outcomes, not reach. They want leads.

Promotions play in Peoria. Here’s a perfect example from The Journal Star in Peoria, Illinois. A local furnace outfit with a history of spending practically nothing on Journal Star advertisers, were approached with a furnace giveaway promotion. It was a $10,000-plus buy — and paid off big time for the company. In the first week, the client sold two furnaces valued at $13,000. They’re now running giveaway promotions with The Journal Star every quarter.

Can you hear me now? Another case study comes from the Savannah (Georgia) Morning News, which ran a contest promotion with a hearing aid seller for a hearing aid valued at $5,000. It attracted 112 entries. Not much of a response, you ask? Consider that every one of them qualified themselves as needing a hearing aid. The contest resulted in 42 leads who came in for a consultation. The bottom line: The hearing aid center got $72,000 in revenue; the newspaper realized $5,000 in revenue.

How do you start? First put together a marketing campaign that includes email, social media and your owned and operated digital and print media.

Why email? It’s the number one driver of promotions. 70% of all entries to promotions — of whatever kind, from cutest baby photos to new roofs — come from email.

Eyes on the prize. The prize must be valuable and must be relevant to the company in the promotion. Example: A hundred bucks off a new roof isn’t very attractive, but $10,000 off is.

Collect data while you’re at it. Ask qualifying questions to gauge who might become a hot lead. For example, if you’re a real estate agent, just flat out ask if they’re in the market for a home for the first time or if they are a homeowner now.

First-time (promotions) buyer. The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts, sold a real estate company brand new to the region on a contest offering free rent or mortgage payments on a house for a full year. The result was 3,000 entries — including 192 people ready to move within a year. The agency booked $6 million in the first month — and attributed all of it to the newspaper promotion.

I object! The most common objection is, well, how many leads will I get? That turns out to be an easy objection to overcome. Example: A Wisconsin solar panel installer — during the pandemic — had that objection to a LaSalle TV station’s contest promotion with a prize of a $10,000 solar panel system, a campaign that would cost it $20,000. In other words, if just three leads generated by the promotion actually bought a system, the solar panel people already would have their ROI. In the end, the promotion generated more than 1,600 leads — and sales of more than $1 million in its first year.

Julie Foley repeated it: “If the prize is valuable and relevant to the company and you use a campaign that includes email, social media and print and digital — you will generate leads.”

Julie Foley believes in you! “I want you to be a success. I want you to crush it. I want you to make as much money or more than you made before — COVID be darned.”

So, forget about America’s Newspapers takeaways, here’s Julie Foley’s single takeaway: Get comfortable with selling results not reach. They don’t need you to talk to them about the special section that is dropping next week. They need results. They need leads. They don’t care about your next special section.

You asked: Cut to the chase: What’s the simplest, most effective promotion for our small newspaper to dip into promotions and past our digital and print campaign? The answer: Sweepstakes, sweepstakes, sweepstakes. You’ll get the most entries because it has the fewest barriers for your audience to participate. Take another look at the slides.

Want to follow up on these leads? Contact Julie Foley at

And remember, Second Street folks are always available for live chat during the week. Go to or email


Julie Foley, Second Street