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5 key steps to make your contest a runaway success

By Mojca Žove

You spend hours perfecting your landing page, making sure everything is working correctly in the background. ​​But then your contest never takes off.

Scratch that, sometimes it doesn’t even get past 20 entries.

Crickets.

Honestly, we’ve been there before. What we’ve learned is this: Even if your giveaway is perfectly set, you use the best copy on your landing page, professional images that captivate the user, even if you follow all of that, it doesn’t guarantee that your contest will be successful.

We know ours wasn’t. And when that happened, we hunkered down and started researching.

Through observing countless giveaways, we learned about some of the tricks those most successful ones are doing. We collected the 5 most popular ones just for you.

1. Give away something people really want

For any kind of a giveaway you’re preparing, you’ll need a prize that will make people instantly and impulsively sign up. Something people want. Something it’s worth investing their time and effort in.

Try to remember the last giveaway any of your friends shared. It probably wasn’t for a 5% discount to an online store. It was for an iPhone. Those giveaways make people go crazy!

That doesn’t mean that you have to give away an iPhone. (You** actually shouldn’t do that because you want to make the giveaway about your brand, not someone else’s.)

It means you should pick a prize that your audience desperately wants to win. Successful contests are successful simply because they present an enticing offer.

What is that for your audience?

The easiest way to find out is to analyze and research your existing audience or your target persona. What is it they crave for, what do they buy?

Make sure that the product or service is in line with what you offer. Better yet — give away a bundle of your products for free. A starter pack. Or if you’re selling services, give away a year worth of it.

Make them want it bad.

2. Create the illusion of scarcity

If there’s a concert you’d really love to go to, when are you more likely to buy tickets fast — when they’re hundreds of tickets left, or when the sale is closing with just 5 tickets available?

Scarcity is one of the oldest marketing tactics. Despite the fact that people have been using this trick for decades, it still magically works.

Human psychology is weird.

Want to see a scarcity marketing expert at its job? Just take a look at Booking.com and how their marketing works.

Scarcity tactics are embedded into their sales process every step of the way.

“Want to book a room? There are only 6 rooms like this left!”

“Interested in booking this room? Here’s a limited-time deal that expires in just 5 hours. Oh, and don’t forget about the high-demand - this type of room was booked just 6 hours ago!”

Offers like this will make you book a room faster because you don’t have time to research for better options, this is your last chance.

They create the “fear of missing out” or FOMO as we like to call it. And it’s precisely what drives impulse decisions.

Exactly what you need to make your contest thrive.

When you’re creating your offer, set clear start and end dates. Make them visible, make them pop on your landing page. Use a countdown timer for an even better effect and a visual trigger.

If you’re going to give away several prizes, make sure to list them and tell people that their chances of winning the prize increase if they share it with friends.

We’ve seen most success when people used the KickoffLabs Leaderboard Giveaway template, showing them how close they are to winning the prize. The trick is to show them they have a good chance of winning, but they better hurry up.

3. Follow up with participants

Once you get the participants riled up and excited about winning the prize, you have to maintain that excitement if you don’t want your contest to lose steam.

Make sure to remind your participants about the prizes they’re close to winning, the steps they need to take to rank higher and make it easier for them to do so.

This Cadbury example shows this perfectly.

When a contest was ending, they sent out a reminder, telling people there are only two weeks left! Scarcity!

Using a step-by-step explanation of what they need to do to win the prize, they made it look easy. And to make it even more simple, they added a button that took them directly to the contest site.

Here’s a quick example of an email sequence you can use to remind your participants to share the contest with their friends and increase their chances in winning:

Create multiple checkpoints to make sure your contest doesn’t die down. Keep that momentum!

4. Give it a viral boost by partnering up with influencers

In the old days of marketing (= times before social media), the only companies that could enjoy the benefits celebrity endorsements were big corporations with millions to spend.

In the early ’80s, Pepsi signed one of its biggest deals of that time with a celebrity - Michael Jackson. Michael and his brother signed a $5 million-dollar deal with Pepsi and became the first pop stars to endorse the brand.

However, when social media came knocking on the door, everything changed. You now have influencers and online celebrities that have the same reach and recognition (sometimes even bigger!) than Michael Jackson had in the ’80s. And you don’t need to pay them millions to endorse your product.

When creating a list of influencers you want to reach out to, keep in mind three things: platform, target audience, and your budget.

Choose the right platform

Not all platforms are created equally. Therefore, not all audiences hang out on all platforms. Find out where your target audience is — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube.

Choose the right influencer

If your company sells tech gadgets, you don’t want to reach out to beauty influencers. Sure, you might get a few participants, but your contest won’t really take off.

Pick your influencers carefully through observing the nature of their Instagram posts and doing a quick research of the people that typically comment on them. Who are they? Do they fit the demographic profile of your target audience?

If you’d rather avoid all that manual work, you can look into paid influencer marketing research solutions like Post For Rent or Upfluence.

Choose your budget

You should filter the influencers by the size of their audience, which correlates to the price you’ll have to pay for promotion. Influencers with 100,000+ followers won’t promote your product for free. They typically charge thousands of dollars for a post, depending on the platform and the individual.

If you can afford to work with famous influencers, take advantage of that. If you can’t, search for individuals with thousands or maybe even hundreds of highly-engaged followers. They won’t charge as much, but you’ll still feel the effect of an influencer endorsement.

Hint: Look among the people that already engage with your posts! Existing fans are always excited when they get the opportunity to promote a brand they already like!

Interested in more? You should listen to our interview with Sharon from Esports One on how they mobilized a VIP Influencer Program, which helped them crush their launch goals.

5. Make it effortless to participate

If you walked into a store, saw a product you wanted, but before buying it, you’d have to fill out a lengthy questionnaire and take a selfie — would you still buy it? Probably not.

With each obstacle you put in front of a potential participant, you’re decreasing your chances of that person actually submitting their info. You’re also diminishing the viral effect a campaign has — without the effortlessness, it will never take off.

When you’re creating your contest or a giveaway, follow these rules.

Make the process fast and simple

Don’t have them fill out a complex questionnaire before participating or do any longer tasks like submitting a photo. These are all obstacles they have to get through, and most of them just won’t take the time.

If you’re giving away something really expensive - we’re talking several hundreds of dollars worth in value - then you can make it a bit harder to participate, so they’ll really earn it. For anything else, easier is always better.

Make it clear what they need to do

Explicitly point out what the contestants will need to do to participate. Describe the step-by-step process so they know exactly what’s waiting for them.

Let them know at which step they are

Once your participants will get to the actual action of submitting their info, incorporate some sort of guiding that lets them know at which stage of the process they are. Letting them know they’re just one step away from successfully participating will nudge them towards going through with it.

PRO TIP: All of our templates and types of contests are designed in with a viral component in mind, while making sure there aren’t any obstacles when it comes to participating. You should check them out.

Your contest will take off if you’ll work for it

When you see a contest take off and reach hundreds or thousands of people, that didn’t happen by chance. Companies and individuals responsible for it put a great deal of effort into making sure it has a good option for going viral, using the strategies described above. ​​ ​​Your contest can be a runaway success as well. It’s just a matter of how much effort you’re willing to put in.

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