7 Giveaway Contest Case Studies

How to Run a Giveaway Contest

Everyone loves winning prizes. Especially when they are awesome prizes and they barely have to do anything to take part..

If you’ve seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you’ll know that people will do just about anything to win a contest if the prize is good enough. In that movie you see people lying, cheating, and stealing — practically clawing over each other — just to get the chance to tour the greatest chocolate factory in the world.

Willy Wonka knew what he was doing. He had everything planned out.

It wasn’t about selling more candy bars or getting more from his loyal fans — it was about giving an opportunity to one lucky person that would inherit his chocolatey fortune. There was one major flaw with Mr. Wonka’s plan, however.

Normal, everyday people lied, cheated, and stole just to increase their chances of winning! Think about it. He had folks buying up every Wonka Bar in the country and workers unwrapping them 24 hours per day, just to make sure that nobody else would win.

Too bad Willy Wonka didn’t get to read this guide. He would have been able to pick any one of the “Golden Ticket” winners to take over his empire. Fortunately, you don’t have to make the same mistake. You can attract hundreds of new people (or thousands, depending on how much effort you want to put in…) to your website with giveaway contests. The best part is (thanks to some new tools I’m going to show you), your visitors will share the contest with their friends and family.

Talk about a “Golden Ticket” opportunity…

What you will learn in this guide

  1. The exact details of 7 successful giveaway contests
    I get into the nitty-gritty details for seven different giveaway contests (using 3 different tools) to show best practice recommendations to boost your website traffic
  2. Step-by-step instructions to create your contest in less than 1 hour, without spending a dime
    You can spend weeks reading about giveaway contests, but I have a cheat sheet ready for you with clear, step-by-step instructions with everything laid out to get your first one up and running in less than 1 hour. The best part is that you won’t make sure that to spend a dime!
  3. Three techniques to guarantee 100+ people enter your giveaway contest
    It’s one thing to create something awesome. But just like Willy Wonka, you want as many people as possible to enter your contest. Ideally they will all be perfect candidates to take over your chocolate factory :)
Bonus Materials

Get the full spreadsheet with all of the data

How Bryan Harris Got more than 2,200 Email Sign Ups in 7 Days

Bryan Harris @ VideoFruit

Bryan ran his contest for one week to increase email list subscribers. He used the King Sumo Giveaway plugin and 13 different promotion strategies to bump his list up by more than 2,200 subscribers.

Simply put: Offer an amazing prize, use catchy headlines, and promote your giveaway heavily to get the best results.

  • Desired outcome: Increase email list subscribers
  • Tools used: King Sumo Giveaway Plugin (WordPress only, $189)
  • Contest duration: 7 days in September 2014
  • Prize value: $3000 LeadPages Subscription for 10 Years (wow!!)
  • Contest results: 2,239 email sign-ups
  • Promotion techniques: Several techniques used including: reaching out to friends, business contacts, and influencers with similar audiences that would be likely be interested in LeadPages.
Key takeaways from the Videofruit Giveaway Contest
  • Giveaway contests can be set up quickly. Bryan’s took less than three hours.
  • Offer incredible prizes that are super valuable to your target audience. Bryan offered a 10-Year Subscription to LeadPages, a super popular email list building tool, valued at more than $3,000
  • Use catchy headlines to gain more attention and more entries. Bryan used ContestListing for some quick ideas on creating a contest headline.
  • Promote your contest using a variety of techniques. Bryan used 13 different techniques and had some help from an assistant to gather email addresses from influencers with audiences that would be interested in LeadPages.
  • Focus on subscriber ROI. Bryan had 520 entrants that were already subscribers. So, there were about 1,700 new subscribers and potential customers using the Giveaway Contest strategy. His total cost per email subscriber was about $1.33, which was worthwhile from his perspective.
Recommendations for Bryan’s next giveaway contest
  • Focus on the 3 promotion strategies that generated the biggest impact. For example, reducing the prize value (a 1-year LeadPages subscription) and spending the remaining cash on promotion would bring the cost per subscription down below $1 which would be incredible.
  • Select a prize that has broader appeal. Not everyone is such a LeadPages fanboy (just kidding, Bryan! haha!) There were some very clear prize selection criteria, but the prize-value-to-subscriber ratio wasn’t nearly as high as Josh Earl (see the next case study below). For example, Bryan recommends using specific tools for entrepreneurs to grow their business with video. How about offering one of these products as a prize.
  • Follow up with the contest losers. Bryan could have offered a discount on another similar product or a smaller dollar amount. Again, this would be easier if the grand prize wasn’t so incredibly HUGE! :) This wouldn’t have necessarily increased email subscribers (which was his primary goal) but it would certainly have boosted engagement among the 2,200 people who didn’t win the grand prize.

How Josh Earl got TOO MANY email signups from his giveaway contest

Josh Earl @ SublimeTextTips

Josh ran his contest for 10 days and wanted to increase email list subscribers. He used the King Sumo Giveaway plugin and just 3 different promotion strategies to bump his list up by more than 3,400% from 5,500 subscribers to more than 187,000. Key Insight: Offer an amazing prize that appeals to a lot of people and a delivers very obvious value..

  • Desired outcome: Increase email list subscribers
  • Tools used: King Sumo Giveaway Plugin (WordPress only, $189)
  • Contest duration: 10 days in July 2014
  • Prize value: $70
  • Contest results: 187,991 email sign-ups (an increase of 3,400%!!)
Key takeaways from the Sublime Text Tips Giveaway Contest
  • Expect a successful giveaway contest. Josh set up his WordPress plugin only with his Twitter profile
    configured and not Facebook. This mistake cost him a few thousand new Facebook followers at least.
  • Offer incredible prizes that are super valuable to your target audience. Even though Josh’s prize was a smaller dollar value, it was certainly super valuable to his target audience.
  • Be aware of the technical challenges. The influx of new traffic to his giveaway contest page actually brought his entire website down to a screeching halt. Be prepared if you offer something so valuable for free.
  • Promote your contest using a variety of techniques. Josh used just 3 simple techniques to promot his giveaway 1) email blast 2) Automated tweets each day promoting the giveaway 3) reaching out to other software developer newsletters to spread the word to their audiences

People act in their own self-interest: Offer + Audience = Success

Recommendations for Josh’s next giveaway contest
  • Make sure your website will be able to handle the immense wave of traffic! :) For example, use WordPress cache plugins or upgrade your hosting to accommodate the sudden influx of new visitors.
  • Don’t forget about secondary promotion channels. For example, don’t just think about where your current audience is hanging out…think about the folks hanging out on Facebook (more than 4,700 people like SublimeText), Google+, etc. that could be part of your community.

Rohan Gilkes @ Wet Shave Club

Rohan ran his contest for 30 days and wanted to increase brand awareness on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. He used Gleam and several different promotion strategies to spread the word about his new business. Key Insights: Offer multiple prizes, promote through as many channels as possible, and follow-up with folks that didn’t win the contest to win more customers.

  • Desired outcome: Increase brand awareness
  • Tools used: Gleam (free to get started, $39 monthly for advanced functionality)
  • Contest duration: 30 days in September 2014
  • Prize value: $600+ in Wet Shaving Subscription packs and 10% discount coupons for runners-up
  • Contest results: 13,000 entries in 30 days. More than 25 tweets per minute during the contest (wow!)
  • Promotion techniques:- ** Twitter updates, reaching out to blogs that mentioned Wet Shave Club, posting to relevant web forums, Facebook groups, Instagram, and friends. Also **following up with runners up to offer a discount on any purchase.
Key takeaways from the Wet Shave Club Giveaway Contest
  • Have a compelling prize — preferably multiple good prizes. A good prize is the difference between 10% – conversion rates and 50% conversion rates.
  • Offer prizes to the runners-up so people feel that they couldn’t win. Spend some time promoting the contest and include a social media part to increase the chance for viral growth.
  • Follow-up with the participants that didn’t win to boost engagement. Rohan saw another 20 customers **(i.e. another **$600+ in monthly recurring revenue) just by sending a follow-up email and offering a 10% discount to the contest losers.
Recommendations for Rohan’s next giveaway contest
  • Figure out what works the best, and do more of that. Their primary goal to increase brand awareness was a great success with Gleam. The contest was just one of a handful of promotion strategies aligned with their overall product launch.
  • Pick measurable goals. Increasing brand awareness is certainly a worthwhile goal, but how do you know if you’ve achieved success? Since Gleam provides customer data as part of the results on the Pro package, they could work to figure out how many contest participant eventually became customers for a true ROI calculation. For example, they could set the primary goal of the next contests specifically to increase email subscribers by 50%.

Bill and Nate @ MyCatanBoards

Bill and Nate ran their contest for 12 days and wanted to increase traffic to their online store as well as boost brand awareness on social networks. They used Gleam and a few clever promotion tactics to spread the word about their Kickstarter project. Key Insights: Offer a special prize not available anywhere else and include a high-quality feature image on the contest entry page.

  • Desired outcome: Increase website traffic, email subscribers, social media followers, and sales revenue
  • Tools used: Gleam (free to get started, $39 monthly for advanced functionality)
  • Contest duration: 12 days in December 2013
  • Prize value: $500+, including a special prize that is not available anywhere else online!
  • Contest results: 63% boost in email subscribers, 130% boost in Facebook fans, 300% increase in Twitter followers and 200 brand new Pinterest followers. All of that activity generated 300% growth in sales revenue for the month of December!
Key takeaways from the My Catan Board Giveaway Contest
  • Create several different ways for participants to create multiple of entries. For example, Bill and Nate gave 7 more entries for anyone that shared their contest on Facebook!
  • Get creative. Nate and Bill already had a large number of backers on Kickstarter for a new project. They realized that these backers would make great customers of their existing product line.
  • Offer a special prize that’s not available anywhere else. Bill and Nate included a customized wood gaming board in the prize collection, which could NOT be purchased anywhere else. This created a lot of buzz!
  • Take advantage of holidays and special events. By launching their contest just a few days before Christmas, Bill and Nate were able to take advantage of people looking for last-minute gifts
  • Use advanced contest settings. Gleam has a bunch of features to boost engagement on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. You can create custom actions that will give participants more entries for creating photo albums, etc.
Recommendations for Bill and Nate’s next giveaway contest
  • Dig deeper to uncover extra promotion channels. For example, they could find relevant board gaming forums, reach out to bloggers that cover board gaming topics, etc.
  • Offer prizes to runners-up. To boost engagement, Nate and Bill could have offered 10% discount coupons to runner’s up. Most likely folks that didn’t win would use the coupon on their store leading to increased sales.

Eric @ BeardBrand

Eric ran his giveaway contest for 7 days leading up to “No Shave November” last year and wanted to break through a plateau he had hit with new customer acquisition. He used Gleam and a few different promotion channels including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Key Insight: Offer one prize every day during the contest to keep the momentum going and new entries coming in.

  • Desired outcome: Increase customers
  • Tools used: Gleam (free to get started, $49 monthly for advanced functionality)
  • Contest duration: 7 days in October 2013
  • Prize value: $560. 8 prizes worth $70 each
  • Contest results: 1,500 more Facebook Likes, 400 more Twitter followers, 670 followers on Instagram, doubled the email subscribers to 1,000 and increased Tumbler followers by 123. All of those activities led to a 4x increase in sales for the contest launch date, which was the best sales day ever for BeardBrand!
Key takeaways from the BeardBrand Giveaway Contest
  • Set clear goals for your giveaway contest. Eric wanted a way to increase customers. Gaining brand exposure and building the list were important, but they were secondary goals.
  • Give away prizes throughout the contest. Eric was originally going to give away just one set of beard oils (a $70 value) but he ultimately decided to give away 1 set each day, which kept the buzz going.
  • Reinforce the desired behavior. Eric’s #1 goal with the contest was to get more customers, so he added an 20+ entry bonus for anyone that placed an order.
Recommendations for Eric’s next giveaway contest
  • Offer a prize that’s not available anywhere else. Maybe a special edition beard oil or beard grooming kit? Something that will really fire people up and encourage them to enter.
  • Offer one big-ticket prize. Each of the prizes was a small dollar value. Next time, Eric might want to consider a higher price tag item to create more buzz.

Cathy Lee @ JewelScent

Cathy ran her first giveaway contest for 7 days leading up to Valentines day and used it as a way to gauge the customer baseline. She used ViralSweep and only her email list and Facebook page to promote the giveaway.

  • Desired outcome: Increase customers
  • Tools used: ViralSweep (free to get started, $49 monthly for advanced functionality)
  • Contest duration: 7 days in October 2013
  • Prize value: $100. 4 prizes worth $25 each
  • Contest results: 31,000+ visits to Cathy’s giveaway page and more than 15,600 entrants for an outstanding 49% conversion rate. Nearly 5,000 people shared her giveaway on Facebook and her giveaway posts gained more than 4,000 likes and 1,300 comments. JewelScent also gained 570 new Twitter followers, 1,100 Pinterest followers, nearly 500 Instagram followers, and 3,431 email subscribers.

What would you do with three thousand new email subscribers?

All of this social media activity can be tracked to nearly $12,000 in revenue, directly as a result of this one giveaway campaign. After factoring in the cost of the giveaway and the total revenue, the ROI on this giveaway was 7,440%. Wow!
When’s the last time you had 100+% ROI on any marketing effort?

Key takeaways from the JewelScent Giveaway Contest
  • Add a spark of creativity to your giveaway contest. Cathy had one winner that didn’t claim the prize. So instead of just picking another winner, she created a “mini-contest” on Facebook, which got 200+ shares, 500+ likes, and more than 1,100 comments!
  • Use email effectively. Cathy created a new email list in MailChimp to capture contestants through the ViralSweep app. The she created a 4 part email sequence (launch email, entry confirmation, consolation email, and winner email) which tied into the give away campaign very nicely.
Recommendations for Cathy’s next giveaway contest
  • Make sure the giveaway guidelines are clear. ViralSweep allows you to put a cap on the maximum number of entries that people can submit. This wasn’t spelled out in her giveaway contest landing page.
  • Make sure you can keep up with customer demand. Cathy actually launched a second giveaway, but it was after a super busy week and their inventories were running low.

Picture no. 1

Andrew Linn @ LostGolfBalls

Andrew and this team at LostGolfBalls ran six giveaway contests over six months and tracked the revenue from new customers
5 weeks: 12,000 entries and $28,000 in revenue
2 weeks: 2,800 entries and $5,500 in revenue
1 week: 5,600 entries and $2,500 in revenue
4 weeks: 1,900 entries and $4,200 in revenue
12 days: 5,700 entries and $6,700 in revenue
2 weeks: 5,200 entries and $6,400 in revenue

After collecting and cleaning the data for all six giveaway contests, LostGolfBalls had more than 33,000 total entries, more than 10,000 new sales opportunities, and 750+ new customers.

Key Insight: Giveaway contests are a quick way to generate traffic and interest in your brand. “I can make the decision to do a sweepstakes on Monday, and be ready to go by Wednesday”

  • Desired outcome: Increase sales through new customer acquisition
  • Tools used: ViralSweep (free to get started, $39 monthly for advanced functionality)
  • Contest duration: 6 contests spread out over 6 months from March through August 2014
  • Prize value: Total prize value was just over $6,200 so about $1,000 per contest in prizes
  • Contest results: More than $53,000 in revenue from new customers showing an ROI of 661% for the contest duration.
Key takeaways from the LostGolfBalls Giveaway Contest Series
  • Focus on the customer. LostGolfBalls.com actually started off the campaign by giving a lot of information away through a series of emails spread out over 30 days. Some of the emails were informational, others were educational or just plain interesting. This lead to increased engagement from their customer base for the contest and, ultimately, on increased revenue from new customers!
  • Focus on the customer: Part II Another way that these guys focused on what their customers really wanted was in the prize selection. They could have simply given away a bunch of golf balls, since they have millions in stock. Instead, they gave away highly valued golfing tournament tickets, complete golf packages, and high quality golfing gear.
Recommendations for Andrew Linn’s next giveaway contest
  • Giveaway an exclusive prize. To draw even more attention, try to imagine a prize that is highly valued and seems out of reach for most of your customers. For example, could you get an industry superstar to leave a voicemail greeting for the grand prize winner? Something like this would gain the attention of folks outside your immediate audience and bring additional customers into the contest.
  • Get your tracking in place. Andrew mentioned in the full case study that there was some reporting through their customer relationship management system that wasn’t fully functional. Remember to have clear goals for what you want each giveaway contest to achieve and ensure that you have proper tracking in place to measure the actual performance against the predefined goals.

Giveaway Contest Case Study Recap

Get the full spreadsheet with all of the data

Running a giveaway contest is a super easy and super effective way of boosting your business. Whether it’s increasing sales or brand awareness, building your email list, or social media following you can create your own giveaway contest in just a few hours.

If you want a step-by-step guide with everything you need to run your own giveaway contest, simply check out the second part of the guide here (sorry I couldn’t fit everything into one post!)

Next steps: Post any questions in the comments below…especially if you run your own contest using these case studies as a starting point!

Bonus Materials