The Allure of the Online Contest

Having organized several online contests, I can say with confidence that when you contact the winner, the following happens. 

At first the winner will say that they have never won anything before. This confession, mixed with the initial delight, is a genuine emotional response, and a thrilling experience for the organizer, too. What could be more pleasant than making people happy? And free stuff, if anything, makes people happy.

Next, after having savored the victory for a little while, the winner will note that they didn’t think that you could actually win anything in an online contest. This evokes feelings of a different kind in the organizer. Is it really so that the reputation of online contests is so bad that people don’t believe they are real?

Participating in online contests is so easy and the prizes so tempting that people take part in them even if they don’t think that they are real. Not even a well-known brand as the organizer can change that.

And if the participants view the contests with suspicion, is there any point in them? Should you organize them at all?

Know the value of the participant 

“Answer and win.” 

“We’re giving out an Apple Watch to one lucky participant.” 

The internet is full of contests.

Contests that stem from an understandable need. Companies want more likes, followers or marketing permissions. Organizing a competition is the shortest ethical road to acquiring them quickly, which makes it such a popular technique. They are extremely fine-tuned, so that the threshold for participating is made low as possible, and so that the participant at the same time gives their permission to receive marketing communications, for example via email.

On the other side of the scale we have quality. Are the marketing permissions acquired through online contests worth anything? Especially if signing up only takes a few seconds and the participant doesn’t even have time to pay attention to who is organizing the contest. Can we really talk about true permission marketing in any other sense than the technical?

It’s clear that a register that has grown qualitatively and organically over time is of higher quality than a group that has given permission in the hopes of winning a prize. But of how much worse quality is the online competition participant?

You don’t have to leave it to intuition. A good way of testing the value of newsletter subscribers acquired through a contest is, depending on the email system, to transfer them into their own mailing list or segment. Then, when you create a tracking code for this list, you can conveniently compare their value to that of the other subscribers.

It can be a good idea to create the subscribers acquired through the competition their own series of welcoming messages that focus more strongly on presenting the values and the products of the company. This is necessary because many commit to the brand only superficially when they sign up to contest.

Sometimes the contest audience is of high enough quality. But if the data shows that the masses scraped together through the competition won’t commit in the desired way, you should consider if you should focus on building meaningful, long-term, profitable customer relationships instead of offering quick wins. Strategic content is a great way to do just that.

Your media deserves an audience that consists of real people. In order to build that you shouldn’t take any shortcuts. To paraphrase Warren Buffett’s famous quote, content marketing is a device for transferring customers from impatient companies to patient ones.