How Lisa Nederveen built a new lottery based on partnerships
Lisa, welcome to the intribe blog. To start with, please tell us a little bit about you. What’s your background? How did you start with partnerships?
I actually come from a completely different background. I studied journalism in Amsterdam, and after I graduated, I moved to London. One of my first jobs was at TripAdvisor. It wasn't a job in journalism, but it was touching the marketing communications side of things. And I really enjoyed it, I liked the combination between communications and a more commercial angle.
That's the only way in which the journalism side was related, but I also think that it was a natural fit for me because I was doing both communications as well as partnerships, and that’s always been something I really liked exploring and working on, trying to find valuable partnerships for both parties.
After leaving TripAdvisor, I stayed in London and worked at several companies in the function of Country Manager, where I was responsible for all activities within Dutch speaking markets.
My roles were always very much focused on partnerships and communications, which are crucial when bringing a business to a new market. And what I really enjoyed was that I was like a startup within a bigger organization, I had the autonomy and the freedom to do what I thought was best and to use my creativity. On the other hand, I did have the security and the learnings I could get from a bigger company working with different teams and stakeholders.
I worked for some bigger businesses like Expedia, and Glassdoor, and then for some smaller businesses. The last role that got me here was working with Lottovate, which was on a mission to innovate the existing lottery markets and incubate new charity lotteries. . And that's how I rolled into the position I have today.
Is that a National Lottery from the Netherlands? Could you tell us a little bit more about Lottovate and where that innovation came from? What were the restrictions and how did that fit together?
Lottovate is part of a bigger organization, which is called Zeal, which runs the biggest online lottery website in Germany. They've always had a passion to be innovative and explore new forms of lottery, but as you say, it's a very regulated market. It isn't that easy to innovate with a lottery. To give an example:
I started to work at Lottovate to help launch a Dutch charity lottery product. We had to get a license to run a lottery in the Netherlands, which took the team several years of lobbying, a lot of money, and of course, we had to build a product! And when we launched it, we always had to do everything according to the regulations. For a new business and a startup, that’s very difficult because it allows for very little testing.
That’s challenging! You need to be really committed and do your research ahead of launch.
Yeah, exactly. The problem was that we hadn’t really done it properly, it was built and resourced as if the product-market fit was already proven... but it wasn't. We didn't have that much opportunity to test and learn due to regulatory limitations. A few months after we launched, we just couldn't really get the market fit despite a very driven team working hard to make it work. And there was so much money going into it that we had to question ourselves whether it was worth pursuing.
That’s when we came up with the idea to try a similar model but then for the UK market. A charity lottery for the millennial generation where it's not about winning money, but about winning experiences and travel, because for them that’s more important than big, almost unattainable money. It's more about realistic chances of winning something memorable and fun. And that's how we came up with the concept for DAYMADE, which was initially called TripHunters.
In the UK there isn't just one big monopoly of a lottery operator that has the whole market. It allows for new businesses to come in and try to be a part of that industry.
Looking at DAYMADE’s website, it really looks like a more fun approach to the lottery. The ones I'm familiar with are all very serious, men in suits that are watching the balls fall out of the barrel and things like that. You guys are doing lotteries all the time, every day, and all the imagery and messaging on the website are accessible and fun.
When we decided to bring this idea to the UK, this concept of a lottery for a younger generation, we knew we had to do it differently. We needed to do proper market research (talk to people, do user testing, prototyping). Once we spoke to our target audience, it was very clear that when they thought of the lottery they thought of their grandparents or maybe their parents playing. They thought it was incredibly unrealistic to win something. Those are the associations that people had, they consider lotteries quite outdated, in a way.
I was really keen to talk to you when we first connected because what was very clear when looking at DAYMADE was that partnerships are core to your whole business operations and you have three very distinct areas where you utilize the partnerships.
I'd like to dive into that. Let's talk about the prizes, and tell me if I'm wrong, but my assumption is these are all partnership-driven. Could you tell me a little more about how that works?
Everything we've done since the beginning was consumer-led. Our players basically led the way and the direction in how our product looks and what our priorities are. The same goes for our prizes, because obviously, that's one of the most important things about our product, that our customers like the prizes. They’re sourced through feedback from our customers. We have a place where they can suggest prizes, and sometimes we do polls on our Instagram of what prizes people want to see.
Once we have that feedback loop, you’re absolutely right in saying that building partnerships are key for our prize offering. And for partners our model is very appealing as well. We essentially allow them to gamify their business inventory through our odds-based mechanics, helping partners reach new audiences, increase sales and become part of a socially driven effort to plant trees with each transaction.
Because we do finance the prizes ourselves, we bring these partners a lot of business, and that becomes a valuable partnership proposition for them as well. Once we see which prizes are working, we reach out to the partner saying, “is there a way we can do this more streamlined?” Get discounted prizes, for example, and brand partnership collaborations, maybe social media exposure, newsletters, that kind of thing.
We don’t exclusively work with bigger brands. We also have business owners reaching out to us to be featured on our platform.That has mostly been smaller businesses but we love working with them because it's important for our target audience of millennials, who are very socially conscious. And I think especially during covid small businesses were highlighted, as well as the importance to support them. We're still a small business ourselves!
Some of the small businesses we feature on our site are run by our own players. They reach out to us and ask, “can I be featured on your site?” Then we test it for a while to check the feedback from people who choose that prize, and it's often very good. It's a bit of a community, almost.
That's very cool! You're really engaging with your community in several different ways and a lot of brands will say that they are consumer-driven, but in your case, it's really part of your DNA.
You touched on the second type of partnership and I already understand why and where this comes from. You're targeting millennials, which are very socially conscious, and it's important for the companies and the brands they’re engaging with.
But you also have a number of ‘cause’ partners as well. Do I have a right that for every new entry there's a tree planted? Is that how it works? Why did you bring the cause partners in? How does that work?
I think that for any B2C business operating now and focused on the younger generations (Gen Z or Millenials) having a social cause attached to the brand is no more a “nice to have”, but an expectation from their audience. And I think it’s very good and admirable of the younger generations that it’s so important to them, that they really care about where they want to put their money.
We’d thought about this quite early already. “What can we tie into our product that is tangible enough but also very important for our target audience?” Obviously, climate change is top of mind for the younger generations, because they're the ones who’ll probably deal with the consequences. That’s how we came with the idea to partner with a leading environmental organization.
The reason why we chose Trees for the Future is that it's a very tangible outcome of the money you put in, having that feeling of planting one tree per purchase. It's very tangible, it’s not like“10% goes to charity”. That level of transparency is also very important for our target audience.
There Are several different organizations that do tree planting, but Trees for the Future is one that's been around for a long time and has a very good reputation on Charity Navigator. We did our due diligence and researched the charity and they're not only planting trees but also have wider agricultural approach, helping the communities where they do the tree planting. It's a holistic approach to planting.
I think that's great. Tree planting is one of my favorite engagements. I like to buy from brands that have those types of partnerships. The search engine that I use, Ecosia, plants a tree every 45 searches, but I don't know if I've ever spoken to a brand that really understands the tree planting partner in as much detail as you do.
That's my journalism background, hah!
You should be the one interviewing me!
Let’s talk about the third type of partnership that your business engages with. Is it affiliate? To a lot of brands, that's the main type of partnership program they run. For you, it's one of three. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
We actually started with affiliate marketing a relatively short while ago, only two months. But I think that the reason why we started off is the most interesting part for you because it was early in the pandemic. We started a partnership with Lucky Trip, and I'm not sure if you're familiar with them because they're a UK-based company, but they're focused on exactly the same target audience, millennials.
It's an app where you can get inspiration for trips and book straight away. You set a budget and you say with how many people you are, enter some more filters, and then it generates trips for you so you can start booking straight away (they’re integrated with Skyscanner and Booking). It rolls out an itinerary for you that you can book straight away.
We were chatting with them, and because we have such similar target audiences and both like to approach partnerships creatively, it made sense to figure out a way to collaborate. They were further ahead in the startup journey so it’s been great to tap into their audience and learn from them too.
Because of covid, they’ve had less business than usual (as any travel company would) but they still had a huge database of people that had the app on their phones. They were trying to find ways to push content to keep their customers engaged, so one of the things they could tell their community while travel was on hold, was to enter DAYMADE to win some of their trips and claim them post-lockdown. They posted on their blog about it, sending push messages, even on their emails.
What we did on our end was to add some Lucky Trips worth between £100 to £25000 on our site, to generate more brand awareness for LuckyTrip and some hype around them. And most importantly: to continue to bring business to LuckyTrip at a time where not a lot of people were buying their trips due to the lockdowns.
We saw so many of LuckyTrip’s users signing up with us! And it was unheard of because up until that point in our journey, we've always been very much relying on Facebook as our core marketing channel. But just with this partnership alone –which is just a single partnership and not even with a huge global brand – we got 25% more new users. LuckyTrip then started doing these pushes on a monthly basis. While at the same time, we brought them new business each week through DAYMADE’s winners who chose LuckyTrip gift cards or trips.
That's when we thought that these partnerships could make a real and meaningful difference for us. And it was also vice versa because we would then pay a small fee for every new user we’d get through them. Very much like an affiliate deal, but a direct one.
That really is gold. This is why I've started intribe, I'm such a huge believer in partnerships, of like-minded brands working together. And it can be very simple, it can be transactional, or even like a marriage. At the most basic level, I think people have become quite immune to advertising.
But they still trust the brands that they buy from, and when one brand introduces another brand, that offers value to that similar audience. It's really powerful, and for a lot of companies out there, it's the highest ROI that exists for them.
You’re right. That was the same for us, it made us realize the power of partnerships because it was very valuable for both parties and it came at the right time. There’s this level of credibility that comes with having a trusted brand referring you, that you don’t have with other marketing channels.
I’m not sure what it’s like in Australia or the US, but in the UK there’re new competition sites popping up every week and there’s this level of skepticism towards them –which is healthy and makes sense–but that obviously affects us. In that kind of environment it’s very helpful to have credible partners standing alongside you and helping you grow.
You basically built an affiliate program without calling it an affiliate program. You built on that partnership with content and referrals, then revenue-sharing… what were the next steps for you after?
It’s all a matter of building relationships and knowing the right people, but that’s not always the case. We’re a relatively small name, so we often need to start with cold emailing and cold calling.
Building partnerships takes a lot time. I’m managing partnerships but I’m also the operations manager and marketing manager… everything falls on my lap and I don’t have enough time to do it properly. Me and my cofounder Andrew, who’s equally busy, typically divide and conquer as we know how important partnerships are.
A few months ago we decided we needed to automate this a bit, and so we started working with an affiliate platform. We have a dedicated manager who runs it for us and does all the introductions. builds relationships, builds that credibility, and he has all the right contacts.
We still do it ourselves on the site as well, and on LinkedIn, but having his support in a more structured way makes things move faster.
That's the whole reason why I've been building intribe these last couple of years. We're not an affiliate network as such, we're a network for brand partnerships. Think of it like Tinder for brand collaborations.
Finding the right partners and having automation, whether that is directly an affiliate relationship, a content partnership or an event partnership is extraordinary. But building and finding them sometimes can be a lot of work, and even though it's so powerful, it competes with all the other priorities of most organizations.
What are the lessons learned as you've gone through this?
It all comes down to the importance of building the relationship and maintaining it, being able to deliver value from both sides. Once that’s proven, it's just a matter of maintaining it, but especially when you’re a young business, you need to be flexible to create an interesting partnership.
We have many options and a whole infrastructure on our website, and are able to move fast. We can start proving value for our partners in the very first week, because our users choose their products but also because our community is small but engaged and very loyal on social media. There’s a lot of value in them sharing products and posting about both of us on social media. It’s the kind of virality that is golden.
If you're just focused on what it can deliver for yourself, then there won’t be much achieved. It’s all about the mutual benefit, what you can deliver for your partner. Being able to properly communicate that benefit and what’s relevant to them is very important. Once you get a hold of the right person to do that, it all goes quite quickly.
In terms of mistakes, personally, I think that I’m always kind of “speed vs. structure”, so sometimes there are elements I forget that I could’ve thought through more properly.
It's one of those things, though, that you get better at it the more you do it. Eventually, it starts to come naturally, with repeated engagement with different partners and, you start seeing more opportunity. Just like anything else, it's a skill that you develop when you engage with partners more.
Yeah, for sure. It's a matter of learning. Especially when you're younger and you're just starting in the business, you're trying to do everything according to the books and be very formal about it. But at the end of the day, it's about building relationships. I think just being authentic and talking from one real person to another real person is very helpful.
It's coming through really strong with some of the other chats I've had that almost everybody that's been successful with partnerships discovers over time that it isn't rocket science. And you can think that everybody would know that from day one but it's just really reinforced that when creating a win-win situation, there's got to be mutual benefit. I have to ask: have you had any partnerships that went south or turned ugly for some reason? I ask this because, there are people that say, “don't do partnerships because it dilutes the brand message” or “if you attach yourself to the wrong brand, it can turn ugly”.
We’re very risk-averse in that regards, and I think our whole team is from within the target audience, so there's always somebody who will raise a flag when it's slightly off.
For example, one of our prizes is an Amazon gift card. Do we really want to offer Amazon? We have this tree planting partnership, and we're quite eager to support small businesses, yet we also support this mega corporation with questionable ethics through offering their gift cards. But again, it comes down to being customer-led and having Amazon gift cards on our site as prizes is something that our players really wanted. At the end of the day, we want to have the best product for our players.
I think especially before we started bigger partnerships, that’s something we thought about, whether the partner’s a good fit for our values and our brand reputation. It's always the first thing we think about. To be honest, I believe there’s some hesitation from the other side too, because we are a game of chance. And even though we have a lot of winners, we inevitably also have losers.
So the challenge is combating that hesitation that some partners who don't know us so well have with us. And I think that, again, that's just a matter of understanding. I can imagine being in a position of a partnership manager at another brand myself and having hesitations over something that looks like gambling. I think with a product like ours, that's more work that we always need to put in, putting their minds at ease and understanding that initial hesitation.
I would say that the biggest challenge of partnerships is simply to get a hold of people. . We had some times that we finally got that first call with a big brand and we're so happy, and the people on the other side of the line are super enthusiastic as well but then... we never hear from them again. That's been the most frustrating, I’d say.
If you had one message for a startup or a marketing manager that’s thinking about doing their first partnership, what would you say to them?
I would say really try to place yourself in the shoes of whatever kind of company you want a partnership with and think about what it is that your product or your brand can offer them. Start with the value you can bring to them. And as I said before, be authentic. I'm a true promoter of having a very personal approach, being yourself, and leaving all the formalities at the door.
Mmm, maybe this isn’t good advice… but the way I've done it is just being personal about it. Sometimes I receive emails from people to start a partnership, and I'm definitely more likely to engage with them if it's personal and if it shows that people have done their research. They know what the product is about, and the reasons why they want to work with us.
Spend time doing the research, be personal, and be very clear about the value you can bring to the partner.
That's fantastic, Lisa! Thank you very much for your time today. I think this is going to be a really great read.
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