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How to Grow Your Business with Contests & Giveaway Campaigns

Integrating a giveaway campaign into your overall marketing strategy can be incredibly advantageous. A well-executed giveaway can help advance your business rapidly and at a relatively low cost. In fact, this type of campaign can yield a return on investment as much, if not more, than traditional marketing channels.

While large-scale prize draws were formerly the domain of powerhouse organizations, the internet has since devised tools that will allow your company no matter how large or small to effectively manage nationwide campaigns.

How can a giveaway help achieve rapid growth for your business? What is the secret that has historically made these campaigns so successful? Is a giveaway campaign worth the time, effort, and resources it will take to run it? This article will attempt to answer these questions, and many more besides.

How to Grow Your Business with Contests & Giveaway Campaigns

8 Benefits of Giveaway Campaigns


Giveaway campaigns are mutually beneficial for consumers and businesses. People LOVE the idea of getting something for nothing. Marketers can take advantage of this “love of anything free” to reap a number of benefits for the businesses they represent.


Increase Brand Awareness

Brand awareness consists of two main components: brand recognition and brand recall. Brand recognition is the ability of a consumer to recognize one brand over other brands, based on its attributes and design elements. Brand recall refers to the ability of the consumer to correctly generate a brand from memory when prompted by a product category. By putting your brand out there in lots of places to let people know about your giveaway, you’re also gaining a lot of attention for the business itself.


Promote Your Products

Whether you’re launching a new product or you just want to get more eyes on your existing line of products, a giveaway offers an ideal opportunity to accomplish this. Some people may not have realized you existed previously (see “Brand Awareness” above), while others may have heard of you but never known exactly what kinds of products or services you offer.


Generate Fresh Leads

By having participants sign up for your giveaway by submitting their email addresses or other contact info, you are, in essence, creating new leads for your business. These leads may or may not become future customers, but you have at least gained an inroad to communication through their participation in the campaign.


Boost Your Sales

Let’s face it unless you’re running a nonprofit organization, you need sales in order to stay in business. During economic downturns or particularly competitive periods, you may need a little something extra to push you over the hump. A successful giveaway is capable of doing just that.

Build Your Social Media Following

An effective giveaway campaign can help enhance your following on popular social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Since most giveaways are promoted and shared on social media anyway, this is the perfect opportunity to gain lots of new followers for your brand. You can even choose to make “liking” your brand page as a condition of entering the contest.


Increase Your Email Subscriber List

One of the most popular and simplest entry methods for giveaways is the submission of your email address. By capturing the email address of participants and adding them to your newsletter, auto-responder, or blog update lists, you can quickly and easily build your subscriber numbers.


Show Appreciation for Your Fans & Followers

If you’re an established business, chances are you already have a dedicated “fan base” of satisfied customers. This is something that businesses often take for granted, but the truth is that your customers are free agents who can choose to shop elsewhere at any time, and for any reason they choose. By actively engaging your already-happy customers in a giveaway campaign, you show them that you’re thinking of them and care about their continued business.


Create Better Engagement with Existing Prospects

If you’re like most businesses, you probably have a number of “followers” who aren’t actual customers…yet. Since they are already following your page, they’re likely to see any updates you post. When they’re made aware of your giveaway campaign, they may be intrigued enough to not only enter the contest but to finally give your products or services a try as well.

8 Common Types of Giveaways

Giveaway marketing takes a variety of different forms, all of which involve the distribution of free merchandise or services in some form or fashion in order to promote your business. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of giveaways, and explore how they could work for your organization.


Pre-Sale Giveaway

When companies introduce a new product to the market, they often give away free samples. They might hand out products to consumers in person or send free coupons in the mail. They might also offer free e-coupons to people who “like” the products or brand pages on Facebook.

While some folks may be hesitant to try something new if they have to pay for it after all, if they’re disappointed, they will have wasted their money many people will try anything once if it’s free. If consumers feel that the product is good, they’ll come back to buy it even when the product is no longer free.

With this kind of giveaway, companies target likely purchasers. They give away free products to people who are already in grocery stores shopping or at the restaurant eating, or to people who are paging through the Sunday coupon circulars. Marketers already know these people buy similar products, making them far more likely candidates to like the new product as well.


Gateway Product

Amazon often offers complete e-books for free download for a limited time – from a day or two to a month or two. Anyone with a Kindle or a Kindle app on their phone, tablet, or computer, can download and read the whole book without paying a penny. At first, this sounds crazy, since neither Amazon nor the writer or publisher of these books makes a penny on the download. But authors and publishers have discovered that offering a book for free can create more sales for the author’s other works. If a reader likes what they read, they often return to see what else they can find by that author, and this time they’re willing to purchase the book. On Amazon, free books climb the bestseller lists, becoming more visible, so that more people will likely see the book and be inclined to buy it even after it’s no longer free.


Loss Leader

A loss leader strategy involves offering a product or service at a price that is not profitable with the intention of attracting new customers or selling additional products and services to those customers. In a loss leader giveaway, you give away something for free in order to get customers in the door, in the hopes that they’ll buy something else while they’re there. If enough people buy the business’s other products, then the giveaway is a worthwhile campaign.


Free Publicity

Sometimes a company uses a freebie campaign as an opportunity to grab attention that it couldn’t otherwise afford to buy. A famous example of this is when Oprah Winfrey, in the year 2000, gave every member of her studio audience a new car. GM, the car’s manufacturer, received tons of positive press for donating nearly 300 of its new Pontiac G6s. Every newspaper in the country reported about the extravagant giveaway, alongside television, radio, and internet coverage. An ad campaign with similar coverage would likely have cost GM considerably more than the giveaway itself. Not only did they get everyone talking about their new car, but GM also got to be the good guy, enhancing its reputation with the public.

Branded Giveaways

This popular type of giveaway combines your company or product logo along with your marketing slogan on unrelated, low-cost products. These practical items are distributed to targeted audiences who, in turn, will keep and use them for extended periods of time, and are therefore reminded of your brand over and over again.


Your Own Products

Product giveaways are a simple, low-cost way to encourage your target audience to try your products. This type of promotion banks on the quality of your product when compared with others on the market and prevails only if your product has the wherewithal to truly have an impact on consumers.

A number of supermarkets invite manufacturers into their stores to conduct sample tasting in hopes that consumers will be enticed by their brand’s product enough to make a switch. In certain cases, these trials also succeed at introducing customers to a new product that they wouldn’t have tried otherwise.



Partnerships between any two small, non-competitive businesses help minimize the cost and expand the scope of giveaway marketing efforts. Such partnerships can have a tremendous impact and elevate the reach of your brand considerably.


Trade Shows

A trade show giveaway is a reliable way to garner interest from fellow businesses and consumers, regardless of the industry. This type of giveaway often differs from traditional customer giveaways in that the attending audience has already demonstrated an interest in the showcased industry, simply by being there.

Trade shows offer a forum where products can be directly evaluated, side by side, by both industry experts and consumers. To that end, these giveaways should be more focused on making an impact than evoking a sentiment of goodwill. Creativity can give your company an edge over its competitors in such a setting, and any giveaway that culminates in more visitors to your trade show booth is considered to be a triumph.

Potential Problems & Possible Solutions of Giveaway Campaigns

While there are obviously a ton of benefits to giveaways from a marketing standpoint, there are a few potential challenges that some businesses may face when running such a campaign.


PROBLEM: Giveaways Invite “Freebie-Seekers” & Treasure Hunters

Let’s be honest. Some people are just entering your contest to get something for free. Successful giveaways often end up with thousands of entrants, very few of whom have any interest in your company whatsoever.

When you start using the email list you’ve gathered during a giveaway, you’re likely to see both low “open” rates and high “unsubscribe” rates. The latter can actually be quite damaging, as this designation can result in your emails ending up in spam folders if enough people report abuse or mark them as spam.


SOLUTION: Find the Right Barrier to Entry

Engineering a giveaway expressly to discourage entrants might seem like the opposite of what you want, but it’s worth thinking about. When it comes to leads, quality beats quantity.

On the other hand, asking for too much info is a surefire way to deter even potential entrants who truly are interested in the prize.

A good compromise is asking participants for an email address, but offering them an extra chance to win if they share something perhaps involving a hashtag on Twitter or elsewhere.

Social media is still a very personal space, and most people won’t share something unless it corresponds with the image they’re trying to portray there. People who might become excited about your brand or product and may have friends who could be as well have a likelier chance of entering (and winning).


PROBLEM: The Prize Is Underwhelming

Let’s say you’ve decided to give away the latest iPhone. Not a bad prize lots of folks like iPhones. But lots of folks already have iPhones. These days, iPhone and iPad competitions are everywhere, so they just don’t have the intended effect of enticing entrants the way they used to.


SOLUTION: Give Away Something That’s Valuable to YOUR Audience

What would make your ideal customer’s life simpler? If you can’t determine this yourself, ask your current customers. Just be sure to enter them in the giveaway as a courtesy for giving feedback.

If your brand sells its own products, this is much easier. A free product or one-year subscription probably won’t cost you too much, but it’s extremely useful to someone who genuinely likes your product.

PROBLEM: Marketers Often Neglect to Adequately Follow Up After the Campaign Is Over

Sometimes marketers allow an interval of months to pass between setting up a contest and sending the first email to the resulting list. This is a huge mistake!

By this time, the average person will have forgotten about signing up for your emails in the first place. They’ll probably assume you’ve bought the list from someone else and are now spamming them. First impressions are crucial, and this isn’t the one you want to make when you’re sending what’s likely a promotional email.

Whether you’re following up about how to earn additional entries or notifying entrants about when the winner will be drawn, you can start testing how responsive your new list is before the contest is even over.


SOLUTION: Craft the Ideal “Loser Email”

Send a follow-up email when the giveaway is over to let entrants know that they didn’t win the competition (which they may have even forgotten they’d entered). Include a clever subject such as “You’re a loser” which is far too enticing to ignore or automatically delete.

The follow-up email should announce that a winner has been drawn. This is a critical step when you’re giving away a product or subscription. If you fail to announce a winner, some contest entrants may hold off purchasing from you indefinitely “just in case they win.” Let the “losers” know that while the winner has already been drawn, they can still receive a discount on the featured product.

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How to Run a Giveaway Campaign

Understand the Upsides & Downsides

Like any other marketing approach, not all giveaway campaigns will be successful. The internet is a congested space, with tons of free stuff being offered. It’s conceivable to spend a great deal of money on a giveaway campaign and generate any income or acquire a single subscriber. Attention still transcends free products.

Not all industries or websites will garner massive amounts of shares. A subscription to a specialized industry tool won’t propel hundreds of thousands of tweets. Neither will a product with mass appeal attract the right kind of attention nor get seen by the right audience.

So-called “spy tools” such as SEMrush or Ahrefs enable you to evaluate share metrics from your competitors or other industries. As part of your planning process, take a look at previous giveaway campaigns so you can set realistic expectations.


Set Goals for Your Campaign

Based on your current strategy and budget, work to define your marketing goals and determine specifically how the giveaway fits in.

Is your aim to gain more email subscribers? Boost sales? Get lots of shares? Increase brand awareness? Some combination of all of these things?

The fact of the matter is, whenever someone is giving away free stuff they’re going to be popular. Making a person’s day is always fun, and it’s totally fine if that’s your primary goal but be sure to communicate that in advance.


Identify Your Audience & Choose Your Prize

Determine what specific audience you’re targeting and what product you’ll offer to entice them. The product you select as a prize will likely dictate not only the breadth of your audience, but also the type of audience to which you’ll present your business.

Unimaginative prizes, such as the latest Apple products or Amazon gift cards, will elicit a practically limitless audience. But you’ll also have a next-to-impossible task trying to get their attention. Since this kind of prize is neither directly associated with you nor your audience, the underlying message is that there are strings attached therefore, there’s no reason for anyone to truly pay attention.

If your aim is to attract brand advocates, leads, or prospective customers, offer a prize that will engage people who are, at the very least, moderately likely to become customers. Some marketers are of the opinion that “a lead is a lead” and ultimately, the more the better. While it’s true that some leads generate revenue, boost your brand, and end up becoming devoted customers, other leads simply join your contest because they’re interested in winning a prize.

As a general rule, the larger the potential audience, the greater the prize needs to be. The more targeted the audience is, the more targeted (and desirable) the prize needs to be.


Define & Devise Your Promotion Plan

As with any other kind of content, you need to have some type of promotion plan. How will you notify people about the giveaway? How do you plan to spark their interest? How are you going to establish trust? (Most people recognize that there’s usually a catch.)

Begin with your current audience, then expand to an audience you don’t already have. Paid social media can be a helpful option since that’s where most sharing will take place anyway.

Identify ways you can target specific audiences that might take an interest in the giveaway. Reach out to prospective clients who follow websites that are complementary to yours. See if their followers might be interested in your campaign as well.

Try to strike a balance between over-promoting and under-promoting. Employ a crafty mix of stunning visuals and compelling copy to get your message across. But, by all means, don’t spam people in order to get noticed. This is rarely effective and often detrimental to your business.


Configure Your Infrastructure

Take advantage of “plug-and-play” giveaway software such as Gleam, KingSumo, Rafflecopter, and PromoSimple. These useful tools are designed to help you collect entries, manage your campaign, and select a winner in addition to providing a smooth and optimized experience for users.


Encourage Social Shareability

Incentivize participants to share the giveaway with friends and family in order to gain extra entries. Additional sharing creates a viral factor that will translate into more email addresses and participants than you would likely have received with pay-per-click ads or more organic promotions.


Announce a Winner & Award the Prize

After the contest has ended, your giveaway tool of choice will automatically select a winner. You will then give final approval based on predetermined contest rules and verify whether or not the entrant has confirmed their email address.

You then notify the winner and deliver the prize to them. Announce the winner to all participants. It would be great if you could get the winner to share a picture of themselves with the prize. This delivers social proof and encourages participants to enter future giveaways that you might hold.


Follow Up with Your New Email Subscribers

While some participants might have initially only been interested in free stuff, it’s possible that they might be at least mildly interested in your email marketing. Giveaway entrants might not show an interest in your current offer, but there’s no reason you can’t go back and reach out to them with a new offer in the future.

It’s essential that you clearly spell out what people are signing up for somewhere in the fine print of the giveaway itself. Allow them to opt out if they’re no longer interested in your marketing emails landing in their inboxes.

Once the giveaway is over, “scrub” the unsubscribes and non-responders from the final metrics and start email marketing to all your new subscribers!


Analyze Your Results

Run your landing page URL through a sharing tool to generate final share metrics. Examine your analytics to view total sessions and your email platform to note the number of email addresses submitted. 

Evaluate the results of the campaign based on your previously set goals. If the cost of the giveaway prize turns out to be less expensive than acquiring the same number of new subscribers through pay-per-click or other channels, then your giveaway is a marketing success!

Final Thoughts

Sometimes creating social virality for its own sake can be a worthwhile endeavor. A giveaway campaign is an extremely powerful marketing technique that can go a long way toward making that happen. However, giveaways and other contest-style tactics are best employed in tandem with your other ongoing marketing efforts. They will never be able to replace the entirety of your promotional strategy. You’ll need a variety of different campaigns, contest-based and otherwise, to achieve the best possible results. And, as always, make sure you have a strong sense of who your target audience is and how best to reach them.

HighClick Media is a full-service digital marketing agency specializing in targeted online marketing solutions. We can help elevate your brand by developing a smart marketing strategy that actually works! Call us today at 252.814.2150 or message us here!

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