Sweepstakes prizes come intuitively to some marketers. To other marketers, they do things that are just plain bad marketing. I noticed this recently on April 1st. Let me explain.
On April 1st many companies post clever tongue-in-cheek announcements about new products and services. All across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram I saw everything from bad breath scented candles to unicorn spit enhanced water to creme egg flavored mayonnaise. Services included height verifications on a dating app and bike sharing from a ride-sharing app.
I applaud marketers who put on their thinking caps, stir in their sense of humor and blend it with their great advertising skill set to create punny ads that look like the real thing. Some are so well done they seem real.
Then there are those marketers that don’t think at all. All I could do was shake my head as I read the furious comments and tweets.
What were they thinking?
Some companies thought a clever way to boost connection, engagement, and sales was to send out emails to recent contest entrants telling them they were winners. Upon opening the email, the recipient realized it was April Fool’s joke and the message contained a coupon or discount offer. The entrants didn’t think it was funny at all. Hence all the frustration and anger posted online. Disguising a coupon or discount as a prize does not result in a flood of sales. Yes, an increase in social engagement was achieved, but not the right kind.
“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
Yes, there is.
It’s not a good idea to get someone’s hopes up and immediately dash them. Put yourself in the entrant’s shoes. How would you feel if that happened to you? Now, what do you think of that company? Then put yourself into the future when you run across that company again. What is your immediate gut reaction? I bet it’s not good. How likely are you to buy from a company when your first thought about them is negative? That is exactly how your prospects, customers, and followers will feel if you employ this marketing tactic.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
You may have heard the adage “People buy from people they like.” It’s actually, “People buy from people they trust.” And if you trick them as part of your marketing campaign, they won’t trust you. They may never even open your emails again, let alone buy from you.
And then there were coupons.
Why some marketers think giving out coupons as a prize is a good thing, I will never know. It’s a terrible idea. It doesn’t follow The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
How would you feel if you ‘won’ a coupon or discount? I know I feel annoyed. (Yes, I have received those ‘winning’ emails.) What feeling do you want your promotion to evoke? It’s certainly not pissed off or frustrated. What brand wants to be associated with aggravation in the consumer’s mind? Again, would you buy from a company if your first reaction is an unpleasant one? I am betting not. You may even think, “If they can’t run a sweepstakes properly, what is their customer service like?”
An Everyday Occurrence
Sadly this marketing tactic isn’t a one-off annual event. It happens all year long.
Further Reading: Are Promotional Game Sweepstakes Rigged?
The 4 Things You Can Do For Long Term Engagement
As a marketer, offering entrants a coupon at the end of an unsuccessful instant win entry, or via email after any standard online form entry is a great marketing idea. It encourages the entrant to try your product or service at a discount.
YOU TRY IT
The reason I recommend all marketers enter the sweepstakes and contests they create and manage is it’s your opportunity to put yourself in the entrant’s shoes. If you find it difficult or confusing to enter, can’t share across your social channels, or anything you do share on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram doesn’t entice you to click through, why would anyone else?
Always Announce the Winner
Posting the winner calms one of the greatest barriers to people entering sweepstakes. Many people believe sweepstakes are scams and no one wins. If your followers frequently see you posting giveaways, followed by a winner announcement post, then they will know it is possible to be a winner and begin engaging.
It will also give you additional content to post. Many small businesses struggle to find engaging content. This is the perfect opportunity to share something exciting and fun. You can even hint at your next promotion to ensure they continue to follow you.
Depending on the type of contest, you could offer a pop-up discount coupon immediately after the entry is completed or email them the discount offer for entering. You may even encourage them to enter again the next day or following week.
Owned marketing media is your greatest asset, therefore always offer extra entries if the entrant signs up for your newsletter.
As stated above, the first email you send is; immediately after they enter the contest. The second is; right after the contest is over thanking them for participating and re-offering the deal you have chosen to promote as part of the sweepstakes. It should also encourage them to subscribe to your newsletter for exclusive contests. (You may skip this step if you offered bonus entries to subscribe as part of the entry process.)
These tips do not work for social media contests such as COMMENT and LIKE or FOLLOW and RETWEET. They are only for a contest that collects email addresses as part of the entry process.
What Should You Give Away
If coupons aren’t sweepstakes prizes, what should you be giving away?
What are good sweepstakes prizes?
It’s not the actual dollar value. Its perceived value. Anything your followers and prospects want to win, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot.
What do I mean by in-house sweepstakes prizes? I mean give away prizes that you already sell, make or provide. It’s not an accident that McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s give away millions of food prizes away during their annual sweepstakes. The benefit to them is two-fold: they deduct their inventory as part of the promotion and when winners come in to claim food or a drink, they will more than likely buy additional products.
Think you can’t do the same? Two years ago when I was purging my office, I came across two boxes of swag I had collected from attending the Annual National Sweepstakes Convention. I created five piles of goodies, took pictures and gave them away on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Not only did it garner me new followers and social engagement, but postage was my only cost, and my office was cleaner.
Another example of good prizing is a product or service that dovetails with what you do, vs. giving away your own. Are you a hair salon? Give away hats or umbrellas for bad hair or rainy days. Are you an auto mechanic? Give away a gift card for gas. Are you a pizzeria? Give away a gift card to a streaming service.
If your budget is really small, co-host the giveaway with another local small business. This way the expenses are shared, plus you benefit from the exposure to the other’s audience.
Are you a real estate agent? Give away a spring cleaning by a local house cleaning service. Are you a personal trainer? Give away a gift card to a local juice bar. Are you a bookkeeper? Give away a massage to take away the stress of tax time.
There is a local insurance company who loves to host giveaways on their social channels. They theme their giveaways to the seasons and holidays. They make their promotions open to the entire state and always giveaway gift cards because they are easy to mail. People love engaging with them, and as people do not purchase insurance frequently, it keeps them top-of-mind for when the need does arise.
I wrote this post with the small business owner in mind. Where budgets are tight, and they most likely will be running the contest themselves using an app such as EasyPromos or Woobox or a straight-up social media timeline contest.
What if there is more money to be spent? The last statistic I saw was that companies in the United States spent over $4 billion running sweepstakes in one year. Now that figure includes everything from creation, to execution, to fulfillment — not just the cost of the prizing.
If it’s in your budget, you could give away any of the most coveted sweepstakes prizes: cash, cars, and trips. Electronics and appliances are up there too. Then there is experiential prizing, where you get to meet famous people such as movie stars and sports figures or participate in dream events such as going to the Superbowl or Oscars. The sky is the limit. (Well, your budget is the limit!)
No matter what you choose to give away, be sure the coupon or discount is an incentive bonus for entering, not one of the sweepstakes prizes!