In May, I tried out a new list building tool: a free contest.
After reviving a promotion about an inexpensive tool that would let me host these contents easily, I thought I’d give it a try and see if the hype lived up to the reality.
First, I crafted a list of prizes that I thought would appeal to my target market:
- Complete Web Design Package
- Done for You Optin Gift or eBook
- Website Review
- Graphics Package
Then, using an inexpensive contest hosting platform, I promoted the contest to my intended audience.
I had hoped to gather 2000 new names for my email list. I didn’t even come close. I did, however, learn something from this experience.
The methods that I used to promote my contest included:
- Link in my newsletter
- Twitter Tweets and Facebook posts
- Promoted/Boosted post on Facebook
- LinkedIn Ad
- Facebook Ad
- Twitter Ad
- Posts in groups on Facebook and LinkedIn
- Direct messages to new Twitter followers
The contest was also promoted by those who entered in order to earn extra contest entries.
When all was said and done, the most contest entries were the result of referrals by people on my mailing list.
Gayle had the highest number of referrals; she saw the original link in my newsletter, signed up, then promoted the contest to her audience. It is no surprise, then, that she was one of the winners in the contest (she won First Prize).
The conversion rate (the percentage of people who signed up of those who saw the optin page) was quite high when I first started the contest and dropped off dramatically (30% down to less than 10%). My initial promotions were to my list, and then by those who signed up, to their lists. These initial optins had a high conversion rate. Later, I added paid promotions and this traffic converted much less frequently.
Based on my results, contests don’t work as a list building tool when you have to send cold (or paid) traffic.
I believe this is because the general public is a bit jaded about contests in general; we know that signing up means that we will be marketed to later. When the prize is worthwhile (or we think we have a REALLY good chance of winning), we sign up. But when I don’t know anything about the people behind the contest, even with a great prize, I’m a lot more reluctant to part with my personal information and I believe this is fairly universally true.
Do I regret hosting this contest? No. I did add a few names to my newsletter list. Putting together the materials to create this contest prompted me to complete some other tasks on my to-do list. And a contest winner or two may become clients. All in all, it was worth it to me. But would I recommend hosting a contest to a client? Under most circumstances, no, I wouldn’t.
I believe you can make a contest work for your business if you already have traffic somewhere that you are simply trying to entice to sign up for your list. For example, if you have thousands of Facebook fans or Twitter followers, or if you have a brick-and-mortar store that receives a lot of walk-in traffic that doesn’t buy. In these circumstances, those you ask to sign up for the contest already have some knowledge of who you are which can overcome their reluctance to participate in contests in general. You also don’t have to buy traffic, which makes the ROI much higher, as well.