This post was contributed by Suki van Koeverden at OrigamiGlobe.

I know what you’re thinking: “contests never work,” “competitions are spammy,” “giveaways are a waste of time and money,” or even “you can’t rely on worn-out tactics like contest marketing.”

Am I right?

I know, I get these objections on a regular basis and I’ve made it my life’s mission to reeducate marketers and business owners on the power of contest marketing. Seriously, I love this stuff, I couldn’t imagine ever doing anything else.

…and proud 🤓 (Source: GIPHY)

Back in 2015 when my then boss told me cold calling was the future of marketing(!) I decided it was time to take all the incredible contest marketing knowledge I’d gained working on national and worldwide prize promotions and start OrigamiGlobe, a marketing agency specialising in competitions and giveaways and am referred to by our clients as the ‘competition queen’ when it comes to designing marketing contests.

So are you ready to hear a hard truth about marketing contests?

It’s not them, it’s you.

Contests are an awesome way to achieve pretty much any marketing goal you can think of:

  • Want to conduct market research for your next t-shirt design? Conduct a survey and incentivise respondents with a chance to win a prize.
  • Just started your Instagram account and it’s looking a little lonely with its one follower (hi, mum)? Run a “tag a friend to enter” competition to grow your following.

Of course, the most common reason you want to run a marketing contest is to generate leads and increase sales, which is what we’re going to focus on in this post.

Show me the money! (Source: Alexander Mils on Unsplash)

So throw away your existing opinions about contest marketing, because by the end of this here article, you’re going to know exactly how to:

  • Create a contest that actually works to build your email list
  • Collect email addresses from relevant leads who actually want to hear from you
  • Leverage social media without being spammy
  • Maximise the ROI of your marketing contest by promoting the heck out of it
  • Convert those emails into sales after your contest ends

What we won’t cover:

  • How to win competitions

#sorrynotsorry

How to create a marketing contest that actually works

What exactly does “actually works” mean?

When I say a contest that works, I mean one that contributes to your marketing goals and leaves you thinking ‘wow, I can’t believe that actually works!’

See what we did there? (Source: GIPHY)

When people think of marketing contests, they think of:

  • A spammy “Comment ‘win’ below!” caption on a Facebook post with 278,294 other commenters.
  • Instagram posts with instructions to“Follow us, like this post, tag 10 friends, and then go to @someotherpoorschmuck’s account and do the same!” competition. (Twenty or thirty accounts later, you’ve lost the will and still haven’t got your entry.)

That’s not how we do things in the real world.

Those competitions are a LOT of work for very little payoff. Any good marketer will tell you that social media should be used as a funnel to bring people to your website; focus on collecting email addresses, not likes or followers.

A contest should help you achieve a marketing or business goal. The best social media contests bring your audience from social media to your website, where they’ll see your branding, browse your products and services, and hand over their email address for a chance to win.

If you plan your strategy right, you’ll even generate some bonus sales.

So, how do we collect email addresses through a contest?

To collect more email addresses, run an “enter your email to win” contest, of course!

This is the easiest way to use contests to gain email subscribers.

But you don’t want to build just any email list – you want subscribers who are likely to become paying customers, whether straight away or in 6 months’ time (with a little nurturing).

Here’s how to find them:

  1. Define your ideal contest entrant. (Hint: this is exactly the same as your ideal client, customer persona, dream customer, client avatar, etc.)
  2. Tailor your competition to attract that person

By tailoring your contest marketing to your ideal customer, entrants are more likely to:

  • Become paying customers
  • Engage with your emails and stay subscribed

We typically see a less than 1% unsubscribe rate after we run a contest. Spammy contests can see up to 50% or more of the entrants unsubscribe or unfollow when they’re not announced as the winner.

A step-by-step guide to collecting entries through forms

ActiveCampaign makes collecting email entries super easy with forms.

By creating your contest entry form in ActiveCampaign, the hard work is done for you:

  • Each entrant is automatically added to your contacts in the CRM
  • You can you add a contest-specific tag to each entrant
  • Send some pretty clever emails post-competition, too. (Patience, grasshopper, we’ll get to that.)

Here’s how we do it at OrigamiGlobe:

We use ActiveCampaign forms to promote our business as well as our clients’ businesses.

1. Create the form in ActiveCampaign (or wherever you host your forms!)

Note: it’s good practice (not to mention good manners) to ask entrants if they want to hear from you after the competition. Asking subscribers to opt-in has become even more important since the introduction of GDPR Add a simple tick box asking if they would like to receive occasional updates from you during and after the contest.

You’ll see that we also get them to agree to the competition terms and conditions — another little safeguard to make sure everything runs smoothly.

2. Once an entrant submits the form, redirect to a thank you page built on your site. This lets you can track conversion from visitor to entrant and set up retargeting.

3. Add a relevant tag so you can filter your entrants post-contest. This helps you give the most relevant customer experience to each entrant.

4. Add all entrants to a contest-related email automation to keep them engaged throughout your contest.

How do we get them from social media to our website… without being spammy?

To get prospects from social media to your contest landing page, you need clear, consistent, and compelling promotion.

“A successful competition is 20% strategy, 80% promotion.” Me. Like, all the time.

So, what is contest marketing strategy? How do you promote a competition?

Contest marketing strategy includes:

  • Setting a goal for your contest like increasing your email list by 30%
  • Knowing who your ideal contest entrant is and where to find them
  • Working out what you want to say to them when you do find them. What’s your key messaging?
  • Establishing a timeframe for your contest (or at least a launch date and close date)
  • Creating a budget for your contest (so you can track ROI)
  • Picking a prize. (Hint: your product or service is ALWAYS the best prize.)

Once you’ve nailed your contest marketing strategy, you have a roadmap for a successful contest. But you’ll only achieve your contest goals if you promote your contest to the right people.

Starting to make sense now? (Source: Giphy)

The first step: Find where your ideal contest entrant spends their time online.

If your audience is on Facebook, get on Facebook and…

  • Write a post about your competition and pin it to the top of your page
  • Change your call-to-action button to link to your entry page
  • Embed your ActiveCampaign form on a tab on your page
  • Change your header image and bio to promote your competition… you get the idea

If you don’t have a particularly big audience just yet, don’t panic. It’s still worth promoting your contest across the channels your ideal audience uses and keep a close eye on which ones perform well for future campaigns.

More contest marketing promotion ideas

Now is not the time to be shy or downplay how awesome you and your business are.

If you want entries, you have to tell your audience:

  • Why you’re running a contest (note: “because Suki’s article told me to” is not a valid reason)
  • What they can win
  • How and where they can enter

Here are some more ways to promote your contest:

  • Maximise your website real estate by featuring your competition on your homepage. Add a banner linking to your entry page or embed your form right on your homepage
  • Link to your contest entry page in your website navigation for quick access
  • Leverage your existing email list – you’d be surprised how many people forget to tell their existing subscribers they’re running a competition. You may not gain new emails this way, but you’re rewarding and engaging your subscribers. (And they may just forward it to a friend or two…)
  • We’ve already talked about maximising your social media channels and posting regular updates and reminders on social, but what about paid social ads? If you want to reach new people just like your existing adoring customers, use your email list to create custom audiences such as look-a-like audiences interest-based audiences

By collecting email addresses instead of likes or comments, you open up a world of data you can use to maximise your marketing campaigns and get to know your audience.

Your competition is over and you have a fat new email database – now what?!

Good question.

Email lists are great and all, but emails don’t pay the bills…

Yet.

The next step is to nurture these leads until they become paying customers. You can find a TONNE of resources on effective nurture campaigns on the ActiveCampaign blog, so I’m not going to rehash those, but I am going to share my 3 favourite contest-specific tactics.

1. Combine your winner announcement with an offer they can’t refuse

Your winner announcement email is your pièce de résistance, by announcing your winner by email before broadcasting it on social media, you’ll see open rates of between 60% and 70% — everyone’s hoping to see their name announced as the lucky winner!

Leverage this high open rate by combining your winner announcement with a consolation offer exclusive to entrants of the contest.

Our tech clients sent out a similar template to the one below. They ended up generating more than twice what they spent on the competition in sales just from the winner announcement email — plus generated sales running into the tens of thousands of dollars by adding a “Have something else in mind? Get in touch with our team” link at the bottom of the email.

Here’s a template you can swipe and customise for your contest winner announcement email:

Subject: And the winner is…

Thank you for entering [Company Name’s] [Name of Contest] to win [exciting description of prize].

We’re excited to congratulate our winner…

[FIRST NAME] [FIRST LETTER OF LAST NAME ONLY (for privacy)]!

We want everyone to experience [benefits of the prize] so we’ve put together a very special offer exclusive to [Name of Contest] entrants only:

[Details and inclusion of offer and why it’s a good deal]

[Image of what the offer includes]

To redeem your offer, simply [use code EXAMPLECODE at the checkout/click the button below to get in touch]

[Button/CTA to buy]

2. Award some surprise bonus prizes.

Bonus prizes in the run-up to your main prize draw are a killer secret weapon to generate not only more entries but more sales, too.

We had a clothing and accessories client that wanted to grow their email list while engaging their social followers.

In addition to the “enter your email to win” style competition we ran on their website, we added bonus flash giveaways on social media, prompting people to comment and engage with the posts and page in order to enter.

Remember that asking people to tag or share is directly against Facebook competition rules, so unless you fancy getting your page and potentially your personal Facebook account shut down too, do not ask people to tag or share to enter. Besides, you’ll find that people naturally tag friends or share the post without you breaking the rules.

Check out these spikes in entries and sales that directly correspond to the flash giveaways we ran on social simply asking for a comment and reminding them our competition was open:

The pink arrows mark the dates we ran flash giveaways. Sales spike around the flash giveaways!

Though we weren’t directly encouraging sales (or even pushing for emails) with the flash giveaways on social, they naturally encouraged purchases. Win-win!

3. Use your data wisely.

No, I’m not talking about your gigabytes, I’m talking about the data you have access to in ActiveCampaign to segment, personalise, and tailor offers, emails, and lead nurture.

An online sporting goods client came to us with the goal to grow their email list. We designed an enter-your-email-to-win contest hosted on their website. We also wanted to collect some data we could use to segment and personalise future emails to subscribers, so we asked entrants to select their preferred option on the form.

Here’s an example that took just a few seconds to create in ActiveCampaign.

Adding this question to contest entry forms:

  • Gives you granular data on what any one particular prospect is in the market for
  • Allows you to tailor your email offers with conditional content
  • Gives you the big-picture split of preferences for your overall database, informing the range of products stocked, content for the blog and even inspiration for future contests

Pretty powerful stuff — all from one simple email-collecting contest!

So, who’s up for a contest?!

When done right, contests will let you smash your marketing goals.

Whether your goal is to build your email list or better understand who’s on your list and what they want to purchase, contest marketing can help you engage your audience in a meaningful, valuable, and personal way – and even directly drive sales.

With the help of this article, the data you collect on your subscribers, and some well-placed A/B tests, you and contest marketing can enjoy a long, happy and productive relationship together.

Suki van Koeverden is a self-confessed competition nerd and Head Giveaway Guru at OrigamiGlobe.

She’s on a mission to change the way business owners and marketing managers perceive and leverage competitions and giveaways. Her business, OrigamiGlobe teaches businesses big and small how to launch, build, promote and close cleverly designed competitions that get real results.