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A Guide to Running a Successful Sweepstakes Contest

February 8, 2017

A sweepstakes is a contest that a brand runs to collect consumer leads, and, subsequently, there are prizes to be won by one or more entrants (usually through a combination of random draws and skill testing mechanisms).

Have you seen other companies running sweepstakes in the past? Have you wondered if it may be a good idea for your company?

This article is an A-Z primer (the who, what, where, when, and why) on sweepstakes; by the end of it, you’ll know the following aspects:

1.     Benefits & Goals of a Sweepstakes

2.     Length of a Sweepstakes

3.     Picking a Prize

4.     Setting up a Landing Page

5.     Drafting the Legals

6.     Marketing & Promotion

7.     Post-Contest Actions

And if you need a team to assist you with running your first sweepstakes, or to improve the results for your next one, please reach out to my team at tbk Creative; they have years of successful experience in planning and implementing online contests, and they would be happy to make your next online campaign seamless and successful.

Are you ready to begin? Let’s go!

1. Benefits & Goals of a Sweepstakes

When you’re developing a marketing plan, it’s often useful to think of consumers in the following buckets:

Various advertising channels target users at different stages of this funnel. For instance, most television commercials and ads on general news websites (e.g., the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, etc.) advertise to the general population, creating general awareness for a brand or product in a very large pool of people; at the other end of the spectrum, (Seeking Solution) is running ad campaigns such as AdWords Search, where you’re drilling down and advertising to people who have searched for extremely specific terms that demonstrate their intent to buy.

A well-executed digital marketing campaign not only targets the users at the bottom of the funnel, but also primes the top—the general population—and all the areas in between. You don’t want to miss consumers higher up on the funnel because they could be your future buyers! Furthermore, it also costs more to advertise to someone who’s already ready to buy than to reach out to someone earlier on, when they are higher up the funnel, and develop a relationship with them over time (through social posts, email marketing, etc.).

So, sweepstakes contests accomplish the following two things very well:

  1. producing brand awareness in the marketplace, and
  2. producing new leads.

The types of businesses that benefit the most from sweepstakes are usually B2C type companies. It’s not to say a B2B company can’t pull one off, but consumers are definitely more apt to register for give-away type contests than people in a corporate environment.

Some companies that do very well with sweepstakes are listed below:

  • Retailers (e-commerce and brick-and-mortar chains)
  • Travel and Hospitality companies
  • Home Renovation companies
  • Restaurant chains
  • Consumer Product Goods (CPG)
  • Banking and Financial services
  • Liquor and Beverage companies
  • Manufacturing (vehicles, home renovation products, etc.)
  • Utility and Energy companies
  • Gaming and Casinos
2. Length of a Sweepstakes

In terms of how long to run your contest, you want to create a length that isn’t so short that you’ve missed out on leads (closing the campaign before it reaches its apex) but you also don’t want the contest to go so long that it runs out of combustion in the marketplace.

At tbk Creative, we’ve run contests for clients that have run anywhere between 4 weeks and 11 months. To determine the right length for your contest, I’d recommend leaning on the side of caution and going longer than what you’d consider “normal”, because once the contest is set up, it doesn’t cost much to maintain (presuming you’re working from an overall advertising budget and not a daily budget).

3. Picking a Prize

Some deliberation should go into the prize(s) you offer; for example:

  1. What are they?
  2. What’s their overall value?

There’s a direct advantage to associating your prize with your product. For instance, in 2015, tbk Creative ran a very successful online sweepstakes for Beverley Hills Home Improvements (an Ontario window and door dealer with four showroom locations); the prize was their product and services—specifically, $25,000 worth of windows and doors.

When selecting a prize, there are two primary considerations to think through.

First, you want to strike the right balance for return on investment (ROI). If your prize value is too low, you could dramatically decrease the number of overall entrants (therefore, causing the campaign to be unsuccessful); if your prize value is too high, you’ve spent too much on the campaign and your overall ROI will decrease.

Second, you want to mitigate gaming attempts as well as other attempts that compromise the integrity of your contest. If your prize is too outlandishly valuable, you’ll encourage people to cheat (e.g., hacking, creating multiple entries, etc.).

Gaming attempts do happen. Back in 2012, tbk Creative created a Facebook contest that involved voting and more than 500 votes came in for one of the finalists overnight. After doing some investigating, we determined that the 500+ votes came from overseas: this finalist was hampering with the integrity of the contest and, subsequently, was ineligible to win.

For every brand and contest, there’s a sweet spot that produces the optimal balance between the number of entrants, the costs of obtaining them, and mitigating the risk of gaming attempts.

4. Setting up a Landing Page

Your sweepstakes will need to go on a page somewhere online. I recommended to either create a subpage (e.g., www.[yourdomain].com/sweepstakes) or to purchase a domain and dedicate it to the contest. In almost every case, I recommend the former.

The following are key components to creating a good sweepstakes landing page:

1. Title: Create and display a title for your sweepstakes. For example, some titles that were invented for Jiffy Lube® Ontario, one of tbk Creative’s clients, are listed below:

  • Concert Craze
  • #WINterWARMup
  • Road to Relaxation
  • It’s Summer Somewhere

2.     Headline: Create a headline. The headline should encompass as few words as possible, that describes the benefit of the contest for the user.

3.     Body: The body describes the essence of the contest in greater detail; for example, what it is, how it works, what can be won, and how to enter.

4.     User Form: The user form is a form the user fills out to enter the contest. Keep your form at a moderate length and only provide information you know you need. Typically, the more user fields you request, the lower your conversion rate will be.

5.     User Terms: The terms are the legal provisions that you and entrants of your contest agree to. When your user terms is created, ensure that it complies with the appropriate territorial laws; then you can save your user terms as a PDF and upload it onto your website under its own URL.

6.     Opt-in: Include information that describes how you will handle the entrant’s information. If your contest is targeting Canadians, you want to ensure this opt-in area complies with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).

7.     UX Tips: In the web industry, UX stands for user experience. To maximize your conversion rate and future leads, I recommend:

  • Removing any top menu nav (but keeping a standard footer is okay). If you situate hyperlinks above or in the vicinity of your contest page, users can click on those links and leave, and, as a result, your conversion rate will drop.
  • Keeping the user form above the fold on desktop and within the second swipe on mobile.
  • Setting up your contest to provide an extra entry for anyone who likes your page on Facebook or follows you on Twitter.
  • Providing an opt-in for users who want a quotation on your services. This feature would be applicable if you’re in a business where it makes sense to call entrants who may be interested in your products or services,
5. Drafting the Legals

When it comes to setting up your contest, nothing is more valuable than receiving a consultation from a lawyer who specializes in marketing contests in your territorial jurisdiction. If you’re running your contest in Ontario, I recommend Steve Szentesi, a Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in advertising law. If you need your contest to meet the necessary requirements in Quebec (which is more burdensome than other provinces), I recommend Karine Pelletier, a lawyer with Lavery, De Billy L.L.P. in Quebec City.

tbk Creative has run a multitude of successful contests and has worked with various lawyers to fine-tune contest terms for its clients. tbk Creative has provided a template you may download for running a standard online sweepstakes in Ontario. This document is for education-use only and isn’t a substitution for having a lawyer look at your contest terms, but it should give you a starting point and will save you some money too!

6.  Marketing & Promotion

Marketing and promoting your contest is the bread and butter to generating a high-volume of entrants. The following are some tactical tips:

i.       Your Website: Promote your contest on your main page. tbk Creative has built a WordPress plug-in that lets clients advertise their sweepstakes on a given page. Below are some examples of it in use:

ii.        AdWords Display Network: Use AdWords Remarketing and AdWords In-Market to advertise your contest.

With Remarketing, you store cookies on the browsers of users’ who visit your website. Subsequently as these visitors then visit other websites (that are part of Google’s network) you’re able to serve ads to them.

With AdWords In-Market, your ads are displayed – on publisher sites that, are again, part of Google’s network – to users who may not have been to your website yet.

To maximize the click-through rate on your ads, I recommend using animated HTML5 ads. Below are some examples from tbk Creative’s campaigns for clients:

iii.        Email: If you have an email list, it’s easy to share your contest via this medium; however, one obvious point to keep in mind is that when you send the contest to consumers who have already provided consent, you can’t really gain them as a new additional email since they are already part of your database (although, under CASL, if a portion of your list hasn’t provided you express consent, there is an opportunity to gain express consent from some of these recipients). Nevertheless, offering subscribers the chance to win a desirable prize is an opportunity to build goodwill and increase sentiment with them.

For example, below is a portion of an email campaign tbk Creative sent out to Jiffy Lube’s list:

iv.    Facebook Advertising: Facebook has a robust set of advertising products that will allow you to advertise your sweepstakes. The two primary products are regular display ads and sponsored posts. Facebook can often be quite affordable as it works on a cost-per-click basis (you only pay when someone clicks).

v.   Instagram Advertising: Instagram allows advertisers (like you) to advertise to users based on their age, gender, and geography. Aside from its targeting capabilities, and that it too is on a cost-per-click basis, what’s encouraging about this advertising product is that it places your ads right on the user’s feed, making the ads appear natural (aka native advertising).

Instagram may be a nascent advertising product in Canada, but, according to our tests, so far, it has performed very well against its peers. In one advertising campaign in 2016, promoting one of Jiffy Lube Ontario’s contests, Instagram outperformed Twitter, Facebook, and AdWords in producing a lower cost per acquisition.

vi.    Twitter: Like Instagram, Twitter allows you to advertise to users by displaying your ads right in the user’s newsfeed. On Twitter, you can target users based on their geography and, like all of the digital ad products noted above, you can setup the campaign so it’s cost-per-click.

With any of the above advertising, ask your digital marketing team to setup “conversion tracking” and to report on how each medium is performing. If you setup conversion tracking, you can have a report that details how much you’re spending on each medium in order to generate a lead.

7. The After-Math

When the contest settles and comes to a close, you should have a large volume of new leads (who provided express consent) to integrate into your regular email marketing program.

If you opt-ed to have entrants mark down if they are interested in your products or services (as noted in bullet 4 of 4.7. above), and you have the operational infrastructure already in place to support such an initiative, your sales team can now call those entrants. If you’re wondering if this extra step is worth it, although anecdotal, one of our clients chose this path and reported back to us that they generated a lucrative ROI from the additional sales outreach effort.

I hope this article provided you with the knowledge to make your next sweepstakes a giant success. If you need assistance with your next sweepstakes, please contact my team at tbk Creative as they would be happy to help.