Welcome to the last guide to competitions you'll ever need to read.
You might want to put the kettle on.
The last guide to competitions is your one-stop shop for everything competition and giveaway – from strategy to promotion and everything in between. We’ve gathered everything you’ll ever need to know about competitions and giveaways in one easily navigable place, with practical, actionable steps and takeaways plus a healthy dose of sass, sarcasm and personality.
Here’s what you’ll find in the last guide to competitions you’ll ever need to read. Click on any of the links below to skip straight to that section. This contents list also acts as a very handy checklist…
Simply reading this guide will not magically get you more followers, millions of dollars in revenue or make your brand an overnight success.
This guide gives you all the tools to achieve that, but you have to put in the work.
100,000 Facebook fans who don’t give a crap about you or your business are pointless. They’re never going to become paying customers and with Facebook’s algorithms, they probably won’t even see your posts. 100 highly engaged fans who buy, love and practically promote your company for you, are more valuable to your business.
This guide helps you create competitions that grow your business by attracting exactly these awesome customers.
Plan your competition.
The key to a successful competition is a well thought-out strategy.
Set your competition goal.
What do you want to achieve?
Why is setting your goal the first step to running a competition? Because setting your competition goal is the single most important part of planning a competition.
It’s a small decision that has a huge impact on the success of your competition.
You wouldn’t set off on a road trip without a destination (and snacks, of course!) so why run a competition without an end goal in mind? Your goal is what you want to have achieved when the competition is all wrapped up and the winner has been chosen.
Goals usually fall into one of the following categories:
Promoting awareness of your business, product or service
Growing or engaging followers, likes or comments on social media
Getting feedback or input from your target audience
Generating leads or sales
But if yours doesn’t, awesome – you’re thinking outside the box and doing what’s best for your business! Having a clear goal will not only keep you, your budget and your marketing focussed; it will also determine everything from your entry method to your prize, so the good news is that all subsequent decisions will be much easier once you’ve set yourself a goal.
Ultimately, you’re only going to stay in business if you make money. Your ideal customer (or avatar, buyer persona, target audience, demographic) is the person who keeps you in business by giving you their money in return for your products or services.
For this reason, you need to design and run your competition to attract your ideal customer. These ideal entrants will give you their details or follow you on social media in return for an entry, details you’ll use for marketing purposes, to turn them into paying customers over time.
Clear messaging creates brand awareness, familiarity and trust. It also helps to attract your ideal client. If your company has one, your tagline, vision or mission can be a great place to start when creating your competition messaging.
Say you own an adventure travel magazine with the tagline ‘Thrillseekers wanted.’ and your goal is to build an email database of adventure travel enthusiasts to market your newly launched magazine to. You give away the ultimate thrillseeker’s adventure holiday, bungee jumping and white water rafting through Victoria Falls, Africa.
Using your tagline in your competition marketing helps you get entries from your desired audience (and not lazy couch potatoes who’ll never buy your magazine…), whilst at the same time creating brand awareness for your new venture.
Being able to set (and stick to) a budget created in advance, is one of the HUGE benefits of using competitions over other marketing tools such as AdWords or remarketing campaigns – plus your return on investment is hella easier to see.
How much you spend is really up to you and your bank balance. The biggest cost is going to be the prize and the legals and licences, followed by advertising (if you choose to incorporate paid advertising). If you’re putting up your own product/service as the prize and you decide to run a game of skill competition with no paid ads… then really your only costs are your time and maybe the cost of postage if your prize is physical.
You could spend as little as the cost of the prize or as much as your bank balance will allow. The key is spending your budget wisely.
2 weeks before launch – prepare yourself by reading this guide, prepping your marketing materials and getting your audience excited about your imminent launch…
2 weeks to 3 months competition duration – from launch day to close, make sure it’s long enough your audience have time to enter, but not so long that they get sick of hearing about it.
1 week to a month for winner management – this includes choosing the winner, notifying them, announcing the winner to your audience, redeeming the prize and sourcing testimonials/images. If you can’t get hold of your winner, they refuse the prize (that’s never happened by the way) or they are ineligible (happens more than you think) then you’ll need to allow time to redraw and contact new winners.
Time to followup with your new audience – you have all these new followers/subscribers/sales, make sure you have time to nurture them!
Competition timing is a balance between giving yourself enough preparation time, giving your competition time to gain momentum, but stopping before competition fatigue hits your audience as well as leaving yourself enough time to manage the winner make the most of the results from your competition.
Some would argue the most important part of a competition is the prize. In a way I would agree; if you don’t have a strong prize you’re not going to get many entries. On the other hand, a modest prize suddenly becomes incredibly appealing with the right marketing and promotion. In truth, it’s about offering a relevant and valuable prize for your audience – not necessarily dollar value, but perceived value.
When starting out or growing your business, keep the focus on your own product or service; creating awareness for your brand and amassing a following of people interested in what you do or sell. You can always create a package based around your business and include other brands in there, but make sure yours is the star attraction!
There are hundreds of different entry methods, which is both a blessing and a curse. The key is choosing the entry method that best fits your competition and business, this depends on a whole bunch of things:
What you want to achieve by running your competition.
The type of entries you want (e.g. long-form answers or likes).
How many entries you want to get (more difficult entry process means fewer entries).
Who your target audience is.
To some extent, your budget too (can you afford to develop a game for the entry process?!)
There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but don’t worry, I’m not the kind of person to leave you hanging to make the decision all by yourself. Check out the flowchart below for a quick decision or our ultimate guide to competition entry methods, for a thorough review of each competition entry method.
This is the fun part - making your competition a reality!
Decide where to host your competition.
Where will people enter your competition?
Now you’ve decided your entry method, you need to decide where you will host your competition – where people will actually enter the competition.
The two main contenders are on your website or via social media. Obviously, if you’re running a ‘like to win’ competition, hosting your competition on social media is a no brainer, but if you’re looking to collect emails you could use a competition app on your social channels or set up an entry form on your website.
Where possible I would always encourage you to host your competition on your website as you ‘own’ the data (as opposed to the social media platform ‘owning’ the likes and follows), you’re not at the mercy of unpredictable algorithm changes, you’ll see SEO benefits from the extra traffic and increase awareness of your brand whilst they browse your website.
Now it’s time to create your entry page if hosting on your website, or entry post if hosting on social media. Like the ultimate life partner, you want your entry page or post to have both brains and brawn, good looks and substance. Whether you’ve decided to host your competition on social media or on your website, your entry page/post is going to need:
An engaging image – preferably of the prize you’re giving away. Social posts with the words ‘competition’, ‘giveaway’ or ‘win’ on the image tend to convert higher, stopping thumbs as they scroll through busy news feeds
Convincing copy that encourages them to enter your competition (what’s in it for them, even if they don’t win?)
Clear and dummy-proof instructions on how to enter (including an entry form if required)
Design is a key element to successful engagement and conversion. If your ‘enter now’ is a tiny line of text right at the bottom of your landing page or your entry post copy is confusing and all over the place, it’s going to put potential entrants off. Getting people to your entry page is half the battle – the other half is convincing them to enter once they’re there.
Now that you have somewhere for your entrants to enter, it’s time to create some promotional and marketing material to help get them there! When creating your marketing material, use your company’s usual tone of voice and keep your messaging consistent. For example, if you usually use a little humour and sarcasm (ahem), don’t be all stuffy and official in your competition posts, as boring doesn’t fit your brand and it’ll confuse your entrants. Similarly, stick to your regular branding – colours, fonts and styles and please, for heaven’s sake, use spell check!
Types of marketing material you might want to consider for your competition:
A landing page on your website (even if you’re hosting on social media) with all of your competition info
Countdown to launch/teaser posts and countdown to close posts:
Social media posts reminding people your competition is open, what they can win and where to enter
A banner for your website’s homepage linking to the entry page/post
Blog posts to give your competition a shout out and point readers to your entry page
Guest posts to publish on partner blogs to drive traffic to your competition
Copy and images for your email newsletters to encourage subscribers to enter
A strong image and convincing copy for any ads you decide to run
Videos to post to social media to encourage entries – if a picture says a thousand words then videos would surely say a million
A thank you post for your social media/your email list to thank everyone for their entries and let them know the competition is closed.
Winner announcement post to let your audience know who the lucky winner is. You’ll be surprised how awesome your audience will be in joining you to congratulate the winner which is also great engagement for your posts/account!
After your competition you might want to do a bit of a roundup of your favourite entries or a shoutout to any ‘runners up’.
You’ve done the hard work and created all of the necessary content for your competition, now it’s time to make sure your adoring fans, competition entrants and future customers actually see it. It’s time to make a promotion schedule. Your schedule is going to be your best friend during your competition; so you know exactly what to post and when and more importantly, maximise competition entries. Personally, I print mine out and stick it on the wall so I never miss a post or an opportunity to get entries to my competitions or my clients’ competitions!
If you think you’ll be fine because you’ve seen some huge clothing brand do it, think again. Who do you think Facebook will shut down to make an example of? The huge brand who spends hundreds of thousands in advertising on a weekly basis and has millions of followers who would be very pissed off if their favourite page was shut down… or your page with 1,000 likes and a tiny ad spend? Yup, you guessed it – little old you.
The next step is to protect your business with watertight terms and conditions, or T&Cs. I know what you’re thinking – ‘yeah yeah, but do I need terms and conditions, though?’. In response, let me ask you this – ‘but do you really want to be able to cover your arse if anything goes wrong, though?’.
Let’s say you’re giving away consulting package worth $3,400AUD and you don’t have T&Cs. If your winner decides they’d rather have the cash value, what protection do you have? Little to none. You might just find yourself forking over cash for something that was just going to cost you your time.
From extensive experience, a good set of T&Cs usually includes:
Who your competition is and isn’t open to
When your competition starts and ends
What your audience have to do to enter
How many entries they are allowed
Exactly what the prize includes (and doesn’t include)
When, how and where you will draw the winner
When and how the winner will be announced
How long the winner has to claim the prize
Any specific T&Cs relating to the redemption of the prize
Liability releases (see above)
Your contact details
The licence numbers for your competition (see below)
Which states your competition is open to (not where you business is based – a common misconception)
The value of your prize
The long and short of it is this: a game of skill (winner picked based on the quality of their entry) won’t need a licence in any state in Australia. A game of chance (winner picked at random) with a prize or prize pool over $3,000 may require a licence in ACT, if your prize value is over $5,000 you may need a licence in SA and/or NT and if your prize value is over $10,000 you may require a licence in NSW.
All of the above information is taken from each state government’s website, but you should also check for yourself on a regular basis in case the rules change:
In our spirit of making your life easier, based on the facts found on each state government website above, we’ve put together a handy little flow chart to help you work out whether you need a licence for your competition or not:
The 2020 NSW licensing update.
NSW Fair Trading have finally changed the laws around the permits required to run a competition or trade promotion. As of 1 July 2020, you will only need to apply for a permit (or authority) to run a trade promotion competition open to NSW if your prize or total prize pool is valued at $10,000 or more.
There are a myriad of laws and acts that apply to collection of information, intellectual property and the running of competitions that you need to be across, so it’s worth having a chat with a trusted and qualified legal professional to ensure you’re not accidentally breaking the law and leaving your business exposed to fines – or worse.
Launch your competition.
Today's the day!
Check you’re ready.
Just before you launch…
By now, you should have nailed the following things about your competition:
The final thing you need to do before you go live, is benchmark your current stats. This is your yardstick, a point against which to measure your progress so you can calculate exactly how many likes/follows/tags/mentions/emails etc you gain as a result of your competition. Not only is benchmarking important to see if competitions are worth your time, but it’s also going to act as an indication of the value of running a competition and its return on investment for your business.
For example, if you previously got approximately one direct sale from your Facebook page per month which costs you $10 to acquire (the cost of a boosted post for example) and makes you $30 profit, but during your competition which cost you $100 to set up, you make $1000 worth of profit, it’s pretty safe to say competitions work for your audience and are a wise return on investment and worth investing in again.
Don’t worry, I didn’t bring you this far only to abandon you now. Here’s what you need to do now:
Launch it – I’m talking to you, the one who read ‘go live with your competition’ and thought ‘nah… not yet’. How are you going to get any entries if it’s not live?
Test it – I know you’re probably sick of testing, but just humour me and make sure it actually works now it’s live.
Tell people about it – promote the hell out of your competition! There’s more on that in the next section…
Watch it – keep your entry page open in case of any comments or questions.
Tell some more people about it – don’t be shy now, you’ve put all this work in and you’ve tailored your competition to your audience, so stop stressing that your competition/you/your business is not good enough. It’s fabulous, so tell people about it.
Keep the momentum up – with regular updates/tweets/reminders that the competition has gone live. Especially if your audience is scattered across time zones, make sure you’re right there in front of the right people at the right time with the right message… right?
Celebrate! You deserve a very large celebratory beverage.
Oh, one final thing… don’t forget to keep reading this guide, there’s still a lot more giveaway goodness coming your way!
Promote your competition.
A successful competition is 20% strategy, 80% promotion.
Get people to enter your competition.
… By promoting the hell out of it
I’ll cut straight to the chase. We both know that the only way to achieve your competition goal is to get people to enter your competition. How do you get people to enter your competition? By shouting about it from the (virtual) rooftops, of course!
Entrants will come from two main channels: free and paid. We have a dedicated article on promoting your competition, but here’s my top picks…
Make the most of your social media accounts, that includes your descriptions, links, header images, bio images and pinned posts to promote your competition entry post/page
On that note – make sure you cross-promote across all of your social channels
Add a banner to your website’s homepage, linking to your competition
Email your existing list, you’d be surprised how many people forget to tell their existing subscribers they’re running a competition…
If you have the budget for paid promotion, consider ads on social or Google, sponsored posts or guest blogs or even a reputable influencer.
If you don’t promote your competition at all, you will be disappointed. There’s no two ways about it. It’s the equivalent to opening a bricks and mortar shop, then keeping the lights off and the door locked. Your customers can only enter your competition if they know you’re running one – so tell them!
We’ve just been through the ‘dos’ for your competition, now let’s take a look at a few ‘don’ts’ to make sure your competition runs smoothly and people leave with a fantastic perception of you and your company.
Don’t just promote, interact. Reply to comments, ask questions, thank people for their entries and just generally interact with your audience.
Don’t be that guy/girl who drops into a group they don’t give a flying fig about just to promote their own stuff and then leave again. If you’ve ever been a member of a Facebook group, you’ll know this type well. They never post or comment on your posts unless it’s a sales pitch. We all hate that and it leaves a really bad impression of the business.
Don’t expect – if you ask friends and family to help you promote, don’t expect them to do all the work for you. In fact, the opposite is true, you need to do the work for them, make it easy for them to help you promote your competition.
Don’t launch it and walk away. The success of your competition directly correlates to the amount of effort and promotion you put in – remember a successful competition is 80% promotion. If you launch it and leave it, don’t come crying to me when you don’t have any entries…
Don’t spam! You’ll only piss people off. You hate spam, so does everybody else. Be human and be respectful, it’s so much better for your business in the long-run.
Don’t forget to say thank you… chances are you had a little help with your competition – or at the very least – support from some very patient partners, colleagues and family members. Also don’t forget to thank your entrants for taking the time and effort to enter.
Manage your competition.
A few things to keep an eye on whilst you're live...
Maximise your entries.
Traffic vs conversion
Between promoting your competition and engaging with your audience, there’s also a little bit of admin to take care of. I know, right? It’s like I just keep throwing work at you! The way I see it, there’s no point spending all this time, money and effort running a competition if you’re not going to make the most of it and make every single one of your dollars and minutes spent on your competition work hard for you.
There are two key things to keep an eye on whilst your competition is live: traffic and conversion. Traffic refers to the number of people seeing your competition or visiting your entry page/post and is heavily reliant on the amount of promotion you do. Conversion refers to how many of those visitors who see your competition actually enter the competition and is heavily influenced by the design of your entry page and the prize on offer (among other things). You need to have a good balance between traffic and conversion to make the most of your competition, so keep a close eye on your reach/visitors versus actual entries.
Remember how I said competitions aren’t set and forget?
Keeping an eye on your stats not only highlights any potential issues with your traffic and conversion, but also gives you valuable feedback about marketing tactics that work really well for your business. For example, if you notice one promotional post gets heaps more traction than others, ask yourself what was unique about it? Did you post at a different time of day or day of the week? Did you use/not use hashtags and mentions? Did you use/not use imagery? Did you change from your usual imagery/messaging? Try to recreate that – the spike in your stats is telling you your audience liked it, so keep on doing it!
Checking in regularly with your analytics allows you to get your competition back on track if it’s not heading towards the goal you set, or reassure you that you’re doing a great job – so schedule regular reminders to take a look at your competition stats.
Just be thankful you’re not Jay-Z, he’s got 99 problems, though granted I’m sure none of them are competition-related. OK, enough with the dad jokes. We all have the occasional competition hiccup or giveaway stuff up and it’s totally OK to ask for help. As you can imagine, I’ve seen a fair few competitions in my times, so I’ve listed a whole bunch of potential problems your competition may be having and matched them with a whole bunch of answers and suggestions for overcoming them. You’re welcome!
If you can’t find an answer to your question, please feel free to email me. I promise there’s no such thing as a stupid question; in fact, there are probably others out there wondering the same thing, so you’d be helping them out too by asking!
Close your competition.
What to do on closing day
Hopefully you’ve really enjoyed learning to run a competition, have a tonne of new subscribers/likers/followers etc and have learnt a lot about marketing your business along the way. Your competition is drawing to a close now, so let’s look at what you need to do.
Get those last few entries in. Tweet, post, mention, do what you need to do to get those last few entries in! Let people know exactly how long they have left and make it easy for them to enter.
Know how to close your competition! As closing time approaches, check you know how to turn off commenting or check the time someone liked your page, for example. If you’re using an app, you may have already pre-set the competition to close automatically.
Double check it’s closed. Log out, reload the page and check it is closed properly by attempting to enter.
Post your thank you message across your channels thanking people for entering and letting them know when they can expect the winner to be announced
Download a copy of your entries. If you used a competition app, you should be able to download a spreadsheet or CSV and if you ran your competition on social media, copy and paste your entries into a spreadsheet.
Now create a copy of these entries so you have two separate copies of the raw data, just in case you accidentally mess anything up (may or may not be a tip from experience…)
Finally, do a little happy dance (note: this step is not compulsory). Well done on running a kick arse competition!
The big moment is here, you’re about to make someone’s day – or year, depending on the prize – I once won a business class return flight to London and 2 nights in a 5* hotel, I don’t think they had ever seen a more excited winner in their lives! It’s up to you to ensure that the drawing of the winner is all above board and legal, as per your T&Cs. I normally screen-record the drawing process if I’m working with apps and spreadsheets or film myself drawing the winner if I’m choosing from paper entries at a trade show for example. It’s not legally required to record the draw, but it helps keep your clients’ confidence in you and I feel happier knowing I have a video of the process should anyone dispute the winner or accuse me of favouritism. It’s never happened, but I’m a back-up plan kind of girl.
Here’s how to choose and announce your winner:
Prepare your entries. Gather all of your entries in one place. This could be business cards from a trade show, or simply compiling entries from multiple social media posts into a single spreadsheet. Just make sure they’re all in one place.
Draw the winner. Depending on your entry method and whether you used an app or not, it could be as simple as hitting the ‘pick a winner’ button in your app, or using random.org to pick a winner from your spreadsheet. For games of skill, you may be choosing your favourite entry or one that best fits the entry requirements. Just make sure you do it fairly and legally.
Notify your winner. Instead of just plastering their name across social media and asking them to contact you, make an effort to get in touch with them before you publicly announce their name. If you collected emails as part of your goal/entry process, email them. If they liked your page on social media, try sending them a message to let them know.
Announce your winner. Once they have officially accepted their prize, let the rest of the entrants know who the lucky winner is. You can do this via email (hot tip: combine with an offer to generate some extra revenue!) or via social media, or both. Announcing your winner helps people see your competition is legitimate and trust your brand. Usually people are gracious and offer congrats to the winner too, which is great for engagement.
Once your winner has claimed their prize, you need to actually send your prize out if it’s a physical product; or contact them to arrange when they will redeem their prize if it’s a service-based prize. I advise you to do this ASAP, the last thing you want is your winner chasing you for their prize! Licensing bodies advise you to deliver the prize within 6 weeks of the draw date, however, that doesn’t mean they need to have completed their prize within this time frame. For example, if you are giving away a city break, you need to contact them to book it in within 6 weeks but they could have up to 12 months to actually complete their travel – these are the standard terms we offer in our travel prize packages.
Once they’ve received or redeemed their prize, ask your happy winner to send a couple of photos along with a quick sentence or two about how stoked they are to win. This makes for great material for social media and another brilliant chance to create engagement with your audience.
Back at the beginning of this guide, you set a goal for your competition. Now it’s time to check if you achieved that goal and what else you learnt along the way. If you set yourself a SMART goal, you should have a measurable element to your goal – e.g. to increase Instagram followers by 1,000 or gain 10% more followers on Facebook – so you should know pretty much straight away whether you achieved your goal. You can also use your benchmarked stats, to compare your results to and see if you achieved the results you set out to.
If you didn’t quite achieve your goal or feel your competition didn’t go the way you had hoped, don’t feel downhearted. I promise you it has happened to the best of us. You might want to check out this video but also, remember not to be too hard on yourself – you will have achieved something with your competition, even if it was just gaining one page like. If you’re really upset or puzzled by your outcome, get in touch and and we’ll go through a competition SOS and look at what you did well and where you can improve.
So how did you go, did you nail it? Perhaps you were really, really close but didn’t quite get there, or maybe you completely missed the mark. Either way, I guarantee you would have learnt a few incredibly valuable lessons about your business and how to market it.
Maybe you were aiming for subscribers but ended up generating a surprise amount of sales? Is this something you can explore further with special VIP discounts? Perhaps you thought your audience was on Facebook but actually, your Instagram followers tripled during your competition. Maybe you should spend more time nurturing your Instagram followers? Look for surprising trends or unexpected side-effects of running a competition, look at the types of people who entered your competition and see how they compare to your ideal demographic. All of these findings from your competition can help you with your future marketing efforts.
So what should you do with the data/leads/entries/insights you’ve collected? Well, you can never have too much data and insights into your target audience and you can use this information gathered for ongoing marketing long after your competition has closed. Here are just three of my favourite ways you can use your results post competition.
Create a ‘consolation offer’ – you know how everyone at school got a prize for participation? You can offer everyone who entered an exclusive discount or offer to help generate revenue or convert leads to paying customers. BONUS: combine with your winner announcement for maximum reach.
Use your entries for marketing material. If you asked for new T-Shirt slogans as their entry, or have some interesting stats from your customer survey – share the results with your audience. User generated content gets great engagement, you can even have a ‘runner up’ gallery of your favourite entries.
Run another competition. Keep the momentum you’ve gained by announcing your next competition – especially now they’re engaged with your brand. Your next competition can continue the work you started with your last competition or you can try something totally different to compare competition results. You’ve got all the tools in your arsenal to run infinite competitions now!
Whatever you decide to do with your competition results, incorporate them into a larger, overall marketing plan or strategy for your business. Competitions should form part of your marketing plan, not be isolated events unrelated to your business and marketing goals.
That’s all from me! I sincerely hope you’ve gotten something valuable from this guide or at least learnt something new about marketing and social media. I’d absolutely love to hear from you (good or bad!) so send me an email if you have comments, questions or you’ve just spotted a typo. Your emails make my day, even the typo ones.
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