Build ROI busting partnership competitions for higher engagement, happier consumers, and a bucket load of 1st party data! 

October 18, 2022

The subject of brand partnerships is a big one. From food and drinks pairings, to drinks and fashion....even sports brands going in with cartoon characters. If there's a match to be made, you can sure as hell expect them to show up - and do they work? Hell yeah.

So where does that leave the digital marketer working for the SME, or mid-trajectory consumer brand or even a start up, in trying to boost followers, grow audience and ultimately drive sales?

This is where branded partnerships can really go to work, and in this case I'm going to talk about brand partnerhips in the context of the good old competition or give away.

You know what? For the purpose of audience sharing, and 1st party data acquisition - they surely just work!? 

With double the prize pot, and the power of the partner to drive eyeballs, you can just sit back and let your respective lists do the work. Watch your list data grow, and retarget to your heart’s content. 

Sounds so easy, right? 

Well no, not always, but done right they will sing - and seeing as we're forever optimising our chanels maybe it’s time to up our game?

After all, if you're not pushing the envelope with your campaigns, trying something new or different, then you're probably in the wrong job, right?

Of couse nothing comes without a bit of effort. If it were all on a one-click plate of SaaS supernoodles, you'd have nothing to do....but it's not. So let me show you how in just a couple of hours you can be ready to rock, enjoying increased campaign ROI via the inevitable extra sales boost derived from some text book optimisations, furnishing your partner with the same via a little API magic from Zapier, and via good old email automation, taking things right home to roost.

Tip that conversion rate on its head by improving your competition structure to be aimed precisely at conversion whilst keeping the brand partner happy - and that's if they're not already impressed by your CRM super prowess!

Not another competition?!

When I worked for brewing giants Lion,  I was in charge of all digital marketing across the entire UK operation including four consumer brands, and one wholesale brand.

It will therefore come as no surprise to hear that during my time there, we launched a fair number of branded partnerships. 

From spirits to snacks, cycling garb to BBQ’s….not a month went by without one of the brands being involved in a competiton of sorts.

Sure thing, a competition is as old-skool as they come where engagement tactics are concerned. They’re cheap and dirty, and arguably as low as they get where it comes to engagement.

So how do you step your game up, to overcome this lag in engagement and put actual smiles on the faces of your brand new audience?

Better still, seeing as you are really running the comp to selfishly acquire new 1st party data that you can re-target to your heart's content - how can you ensure this data is not only high quality, but that you’re reaching this audience right when you need to? 

As it happens, throughout the endless list of giveaways that I’ve run, a whole bunch of tactics emerged that you too should be using when running your own giveaway.

Seize the moment!

Let’s start with Zapier.

It's absolutely vital that we jump on new data. What people don’t often realise is that when you collect new opt-in data for a partner, the engagement level for that consumer is far less evolved than you’d hope, if engaged atall - and so it’s super critical for you and the partner to seize the opportunity for engagement by reaching out straight away.

However this is often not possible as partners left to host the landing page will often sit on that data for 2 weeks meaning by the time you get it, that data is as good as cold. 

So take control, and where possible host the landing page and lead your partner into the promised land. At this point you're ready to think about integration - and that's where Zapier comes in.

Save yourself the pain of ‘asking a dev’ to hook up to your CRM by using Zapier to handle the integration. Most ecom businesses these days are sat on Mailchimp, Klaviyo or similar as an easy out-the-box solution for campaigns, auto-comms and embedded forms. 

Use Zapier for a one-click API sync between both partners CRM’s, and this allows you to share opt-in data in real-time. You don’t need a dev to do this, but you should have some awareness of what you’re doing because as far as GDPR goes you’re sailing close to the wind.  Be careful to only sync an empty list, to back up the model with appropriate legal docs (see below), and to sync just the data opting in to that partner (not data that only opts-in to you, and not them). Consequently, don't keep the data that opts in to them and not you!

You have been warned. 


By syncing partner opt-in data in real time, assuming you haven’t screwed up the criteria of your sync, you AND the partner can set up an automation of conversion to be triggered straight off the bat.

In the case of where you're being forced to play with 'consented' data that hasn't actually consented, perhaps in the case of where they have opted in to your partner and not you, it's critical that you test this setup thoroughly - and to ensure it works you might need to do some fiddling in your CRM to make sure you're applying the correct profile (bespoke if need be) properties to each profile. This will help to support your later funneling and segmentation.

What you need to be automating to here are your own opt-ins, whereas the partner (assuming you're pushing only opt-ins) will be able to automate to the lot. Opt-outs clearly cannot be sold to.

Point is, the moment somebody completes that form they’re momentarily engaged with your brands and as long as they've opted in, you're good to go. The hosting partner has the edge as this user is already on the domain and transaction at this point is far more likely despite opt-out. In fact, I've seen time and time again that it's the opt-outs that transact more than the opt-ins - which is frustrating given it's customers you want to remarket.

Still, atleast we're trying. It's the brand partner that has an even bigger task ahead to get people to click back through to their own site, let alone purchase. That’s after they’ve waited two weeks to receive the data from the one hosting the list, ie you! 

Drive higher entry with a coupon for opt-ins.

By dangling the coupon carrot for opt-ins you can drive up opt-in rate. It's as simple as that.

Sure, using coupons as a competition entry requirement is a no-no. It's not compliant - but you can probably get away with it if you want.

However, asking for opt-in as a trade off for a discount is absolutely fine. Sure, what we’re doing is nesting the two steps into one to help further our objective of driving more opt-in data. This is GDPR compliant, and we’re hiding nothing. 

You also have the argument of generosity - how far or big should you go? In my opinion, getting customers over the line is the hardest part - with a competition your data is presumably much lower cost than a Google ad, so your CPA is already well below the bar. Why not make the most of this opportunity and run the coupon at maximum - as once they're in your ecosystem and purchasing, they're doing what 97% of your website visitors are not. Then your job is then to retarget to push LTV beyond the single sale.

Be wary of false-opt-outs

For those bothered by GDPR law, you should know that you are not required to re-opt-in existing consenters. It’s actually quite easy to run a campaign like this and watch all your existing data fail to opt-in - and this is where the inexperienced marketer is highly prone to inaccurate segmentation, taking the mop to their list resulting in an inadvertent loss of data (as opposed to growth).

Don't make that mistake - take control of your list, know what you're playing with, and segment very carefully to retain that data.

You've possibly already be keeping your data free of 12 month + non-engagers, so don't forget that people not opt-ing in at this point have within the last 12 months engaged / clicked on one of your emails. Like I said, just be aware of what you're playing with.

Again, be careful to funnel the right contacts through your automation - if you've correctly applied custom properties / tags where appropriate, you'll be able to ensure that people already opted-in to your previous comms are filtered into your 'keep' bucket.

To put this in to the context of Klaviyo, and this does apply to other platforms, any user entering a flow via a list sign up will automatically acquire a consent tag and where you’re running two separate opt-ins for each partner where they could be opted in to one an not the other, you'll be using custom tags to mark which partner they've opted to. So it’s important you not only just sync / share the users opting in to the partner, but that you remove data that hasn’t opted into your own comms. It can be a bit of a puzzle, but some of the more advanced enterprise solutions have far more control over how data is treated so you'll have an easier time of it than having to drive Klaviyo from the back seat.

You need to get this right, but once you have the set up it’s an easy case of rinse-dry-repeat for the next partner campaign.

Link to a ‘brand experience’ landing page.

When you automate comms to a competition derived audience, don’t just push them onto your home page or main product collection page, but send them to a crefully crafted campaign specific landing page.

Using this opportunity to drive additional brand experience you can not only show these users the very best first impression, but to then let them scroll into a carefully selected grid of products that you know are more likly to convert, and that are better suited to this audiencem your chance of driving higher conversion rate is clear.

Spend that bit of extra time writing your aspirational copy.

Pick out the right image. Even better, shoot something for the campaign.

Above all, pick out grid products that will absolutely sell - you're not using this campaign to shift your OOD stock, or XXS over-ordered garb (if you are, pick out the decent SKU's). You're trying to collect data, and bring people over the line and into your ecosystem by transacting. Make it count.

Don’t forget legals

We have all sat there minutes from launch having built the mother of all campaigns, and the automation you built that looks like something from A Beautiful Mind (thanks Ben B for that), before you remember that you forgot to create any T&C.

What normally happens here is that standard competition T&C will protect you from courier delays, fraudulent entry or cancellation for any reason. However what people then ignore is the inevitability that your competition will somehow land on one of the competition aggregators. Sites like and are great at driving high volumes of ‘vanity’ traffic to your campaign - which is great if you’re trying to impress the boss, but ultimately this data is worthless. You will never sell a single thing to this cohort, and that’s if they even both to opt-in.

Make sure you exclude this data from eligibility via your T&C so that when you pull the winner if their referral source shows up as anything suspect, you can bin that winner. 

In fact, you should go one step further and spend a bit of time hunting out the known competition referral sources and segment your list down so that you can purge this data.

You might wind up erasing a third of your new ‘list’ but believe me, this data is truly worthless. 

The other thing to consider is with respect to both your Privacy Notice and Controlorship Agreement. If you’re partnering with somebody, you need separate opt-in for each brand via your entry form, and from here you must link to your core Privacy Notice, also to a Joint Privacy Notice, and (where many people fall down due to the muddiness of GDPR) within this should be you Joint Controllership Agreement. 

Once you have all of this in place, you’re good to go - and don’t forget with the legal docs you need only build once (boiler plate) and repurpose for each new campaign , and every time you run a comp you know you’re all sorted.

Forcing Opt-in

Subjective perhaps, but a tactic from days-gone is the ‘forced opt-in’ whereby competiton entrants are pre-ticked with the ‘gritted teeth’ opt-in method. 

Some might think this is a crafty ‘hack’ that will help smash those KPI’s and yield new sales - but honestly, if you’re forcing people to opt-in this way, are you really hacking for growth? Or hacking for vanity? 

Trust me, forced opt-ins do not lead to engagement, and they do not lead to sales….but I’ll let you be the judge. 


Only you know the detail for your brand - the products that work, the brands that fit, and the words that matter.

But don't for one minute think that a brand partnership, cobbled together whilst you smuggly sit back watching the partner do all the work (they're doing it for a reason!), is a guaranteed win.

I have worked with so many partners that are just happy to 'be aligned' with you - which is fine as a very top funnel touchpoint, but what I'm talking about here is making the most of the opportunity to pull that top funnel user further down your funnel - even if it's just for a short moment - as that brief opportunity might be the only chance you ever get to sell to them.

So take control, refine your funnel, work that automation, and test the bollo*ks out of it. Make your partner happy, show them you know what you're doing, and address every single touch point from start to finish - because it's tough out there, there's a lot of noise and a ton of choice.

To gain cut through and advocacy you need to work a lot harder - and if you're using a competioin as a 'cheap and quick' tactic to drive new audience without due care and attention, then you're missing out.

By refining and finessing each step and by sharing the luxury of campaign automation, and you'll be on your way to making the very best of it.

Grow your business.
Don't try this alone. I have the experience to help take your ideas from dream to reality putting you online, making you look good and bringing you customers.
Start Now

Call now :  020 7454 2602