Everyone loves a giveaway – including brands. With the right planning, competitions can be an effective marketing tools, helping you grow your audience, develop customer loyalty and more. However, to ensure yours has a lasting positive impact on your business, you’ll need to carefully target your giveaway to your specific audience niche...

Of course, different types of contests will require different levels of planning, but here’s a general guide on how to plan a promotional giveaway of any scale.

Define your goals

First, decide what you want to get out of your competition. Are you hoping to:

  • increase your social following and/or email subscriber list?
  • raise awareness of your brand?
  • engage with your existing customers and followers?
  • drive traffic to your site?
  • directly increase sales of a particular product in your range?
  • generate insights and get to know your audience better?

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Having a firm idea of what you want to achieve will not only help you position the promotion towards your goal, but will also help you measure its level of success later on.

Choose the prize

It’s not a giveaway unless you’re giving something away. Think carefully about the prize you’ll offer to the winner (and perhaps any runner-up prizes too). It needs to be relevant to your brand, it needs to be within your company budget, and above all else, it needs to be something that the audience you’re targeting will want to get their hands on.

A more general prize with mass appeal will probably result in more entries, but the people who enter are less likely to continue interacting with your brand in the long term. A prize which is more niche but more relevant to your audience will likely produce less entries, but will make your fans feel more valued and will hopefully foster more meaningful engagement and interactions.

Keep in mind, if you’re giving away a physical prize, there will be postage costs to think about – not the case with digital products. You might consider teaming up with another brand to provide the prize for your giveaway; this way, their product or service gets more promotion and you can offer users something outside of your own current inventory (and perhaps budget). Just make sure the other brand is a good fit for you and your audience.

Refrain from offering things like discount codes for your own site as contest prizes, unless your business has a particularly loyal following and they’ll appreciate the prize. Otherwise, all you’re really offering the winner is a slight incentive to spend money in your store – it’s a boring prize at best and a self-centered one at worst.

Decide on entry requirements

How can people enter to win your prize? Most competitions ask very little of the entrant to ensure the maximum number of entries – all they’ll need to do is submit their contact details. This approach is great for gathering customer data for future marketing, but be sure to leave a marketing opt-out box at the end of the form. People aren’t likely to enter if they think they’ll end up getting spammed.

Some giveaways require entrants to like/subscribe to the competition master on social media, which is a handy way to boost your following. Naturally, some of these new followers will only be interested in what you’re giving away, but with a strong social presence, you may be able to convert them into engaged followers and even customers.

The danger with a like-gated contest is alienating people who don’t use the same social networks as you – you can hardly expect them to make an account just to enter. It might be wise to offer a variety of options for entry so anyone who wants to win can enter, even if they’re on no social networks at all.

Finally, you might ask entrants to get creative – sharing stories, artwork, short films, video reactions, etc. Obviously, this approach may net you fewer entries that the average contest, and you’ll need to ensure you’re offering a prize which is worth the effort of entering. However, a contest like this can also help to keep out entrants who aren’t interested in genuinely engaging with you, and can help to promote your brand identity as exciting, fun and valuing creativity.

Creative entries can provide valuable marketing insights, and you can even use the content produced by your entrants as future promotional material. Be sure to credit them whenever you use it and you’ll be strengthening their loyalty to you even further. (Don’t get drawn into asking for speculative work via contests, though – instead, think of user-generated content as a little bonus to you.)

Decide how long to run your giveaway

Now it’s time to work out the duration of the entry period for your giveaway. On the one hand, you want it to run as long as possible, to help spread awareness of the contest and get as many entries as you can. On the other, you want to keep it short enough that people are still aware and interested in your contest by the time you announce the winners, and you’re not spending too much time and resources promoting it.

For general contests, two or three weeks is a good general figure, giving you a decent amount of time to spread the message with less risk of the contest going stale. A month-long entry period can work if the competition is tied into a larger marketing campaign (such as a Christmas promotion, for example).

Meanwhile, particularly short contests (a few hours to a week) can create a sense of urgency and exclusivity, which can easily turn into social media buzz. They’re ideal for businesses looking to reinforce a brand identity of mystique (such as fashion labels, for example), or those looking to build strong relationships with their audience by offering exclusive ‘fan’ giveaways at regular scheduled times.

Whatever you choose, remember to announce the winners as close to the end of the entry period as you can. Dawdling at this stage will almost certainly kill the anticipation you’ve built up.

Set out the terms and conditions

Running a giveaway can be exciting, and it’s easy to rush into it without ensuring you’re legally secure first. As long as it’s free to enter, you shouldn’t run into any problems with UK gambling law; but aside from that, you need to set out your terms and conditions.

Terms and conditions work both ways – they not only protect you, but will also reassure on-the-fence entrants who want to know they can trust you before they submit their personal information.

Your T’s and C’s should clearly communicate all the rules of the contest so that users know what to expect, including:

  • who can (and can’t) enter
  • how and when they can enter
  • what they can win
  • how the winner will be selected – at random or via judging

If you’re a smaller business without a legal department, there are terms and conditions templates on the internet which you can copy and adapt for your own needs – but it’s still worth talking to a professional legal advisor before you go ahead.

You’ll also need to ensure that your contests meet the guidelines of the platforms you’re hosting and/or advertising them on. Among other social networks, Facebook and Twitter both have competition guidelines which you’ll need to follow if you want to stay in their good books.

Work out your promotional strategy

Now you know what you want your contest to be, figure out what assets and resources you’ll need to support your competition.

For larger contest campaigns, you might need to think about web graphics, blog content, prize and winner photography, social media promotion, judges, perhaps web app solutions for entry systems and more. Smaller competitions, meanwhile, can probably be hosted on your social network profiles, with minimal supplemental material.

When and where will you promote your giveaway? Of course, you should definitely be advertising your contest on social media on a regular basis, but don’t forget your blog and email newsletter can be used to remind people to enter too. Beyond that, there’s also the option of paid advertising through AdWords and social networks’ ad platforms.

No matter how simple or complex your contest is, you’ll need to keep track of entries and choose a winner at the end. Once a winner has been chosen and announced, make the most of the promotional opportunity with content built around them, and encourage them to post about you on their social media by including a personalised letter (or something equally unexpected) in the prize package.

Don’t forget the losers, either – they’ve made the effort to enter, so get in touch with them and offer them a small reward to say thanks. As we’ve discussed, a discount code isn’t really acceptable as a main prize, but it’s much more palatable as a surprise consolation prize – and it may help you drive more traffic and sales even after the contest has concluded.



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