KickoffLabs Blog:

How to Grow Your Email List with Mini-Contests

By Josh Ledgard

Oct 27th, 2015


You know what three word phrase demands attention every time? “Win free stuff.” Everyone likes to be a winner, everyone likes something for free and, if we’re being honest, the prize generally takes a back seat to those two. Now, what if I told you it’s possible to grow your email list with that same three-word phrase? It is, and we’re discussing exactly how to do it in this post.

Use these strategies to promote your mini-contests on social media. Subscribe to receive this extra resource.

Scrap the Big Prize

Don’t waste your time and budget on a big-ticket grand prize. While an outta-this-world contest and corresponding prize is great every now and then, it’s not always necessary. In fact, smaller contests done more frequently can increase your conversion rate and grow community engagement in ways that a huge one-off contest cannot.

As I alluded to earlier, the prize often pale in comparison to the jubilee of actually winning. People are just so darn happy about winning that it matters less what they win.

For this reason, you should host as many contests as your heart desires with satisfactory (but not earth-shattering) prizes.

Whoa! Am I depriving you of your Oprah (you get a car!) moment?


I know it seems counter-intuitive to go for a less than grand prize, but take a moment to think about all the contests you’ve seen where the free swag was a branded t-shirt or a free domain name. The prize value didn’t exceed $10, but it was free and they won, and that’s what really mattered to entrants.

Not only that, but the brand with the hourly, daily, or weekly contest will appear gregarious and connected to their fans. If you offer frequent chances to win free stuff, you’ll increase the odds of winning. More winners mean more people excited about your brand and telling others about you.

The One Thing You Must Include

This may sound like a no-brainer, but be sure to ask for an email address as a part of your contest entry requirements. But don’t stop there. Make sure to lay all of your cards on the table and be crystal clear about your intentions.

Check out the smooth moves used by the folks over at Better Homes and Gardens. Upon entering the sweepstakes to win the daily prize, participants also accept entry into the Better Homes and Gardens’ newsletter. There’s no bait and switch. You know exactly what you’re giving in exchange for a chance to win.


Always be upfront with your audience about your intentions to add them to your email list. This establishes trust and brand accountability. Plus, you now have the opportunity to position your newsletter as a valuable offering– the gift that keeps on giving.

Make Your Contest Attainable

Some contests work better with extended deadlines set far into the future. This is especially true if you’re giving away something big and impressive. However, if you’re giving away small prizes to grow your email list, the best way to attract entrants is making your contest attainable.

How do you do that? Two ways:

Make the contest easy to enter. In other words, don’t ask for the entrant’s first born child as a requirement for entering your contest. If you’re asking for more than a name and an email address, you’re practically Rumpelstiltskin. Congratulations.

Give the contest a fast-approaching deadline. This plays on the sense of urgency, but it does something else. If your audience knows that you’ll announce who won at the end of the week or even at the end of the hour, they’re more likely to get involved because they won’t have to wait too long for the pay-off. No one wants to wait until December 2021 for you to finally announce your winner.

Types of Contests to Consider

So what type of contests work best for growing your email list? Keeping in mind that your goal is to create frequent, informal contests, these are the three types of formats you may want to try:


A sweepstakes is a type of giveaway where the winner is chosen at random. It’s not merit based because the participants don’t need to perform or provide value in exchange for the possibility of winning. They simply submit their name and email, and may the odds be ever in their favor.

Instant Win

Instant win is a type of sweepstakes. The distinction is that the participant finds out immediately if they’ve won.


A mini-contest requires the participant to provide something of value in return for entry. This value can be anything from answering a series of questions (quiz-based) to providing user generated content (think Instagram photo contests). Contest requirements vary widely, but to lower the bar for entry, make sure that the requirements are easy: it shouldn’t take an entrant more than a few minutes to provide what is needed for the contest.

Strategies for Higher Engagement

The key to getting higher engagement is to make it an integral part of your contest. Besides requiring a name and email address, you should also ask for something extra. The key word here is ask and not require because it’s important to keep the contest accessible.

But being accessible doesn’t mean that you can’t gently nudge participants into doing more. For example, here’s my favorite strategy to expand the reach of your mini-contest:

Exchange referrals for more votes.

This option is perfect for sweepstakes and mini-contests. Encourage your participants to tell their friends about your contest via email to boost their own chance of winning. For each friend who joins your contest, the referring participant will receive one extra entry.

Of course, there are plenty of other ways to increase engagement. These strategies round out my favorites:

Create a landing page. You need a dedicated landing page that doesn’t compete with everything else on your main website for the visitor’s attention.

Advertise on your email list. Yes, you’re using this contest to grow your email list, but do that with those who already love you. Ask them to evangelize your contest/brand.

Advertise on social media. Be sure to hit up your fans and followers on your social platforms. Create a #hashtag that alludes back to your contest. This way, when your followers retweet, reblog, and repost your contest, they’re also spreading news about your brand.

Choose an enticing prize. Remember, it doesn’t have to be big or in your face, but it does need to have enough value to justify joining your email list. As a prize, GoPro didn’t even give something away– they simply slashed prices by 50%.


That’s bold, but it works.

Final Thoughts

A contest is a wonderful way to market your brand, and the more the merrier. If you’re looking to grow your email list, focus on short-run contests that provide quick and easy satisfaction. Remember, we can help with that.

Use these strategies to promote your mini-contests on social media. Subscribe to receive this extra resource.

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