Contests Can Help Generate Leads, But Please Remember the Fine Print

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Recently, one of our clients asked about running a contest on their website to promote interest in one of their main services. We were intrigued because we hadn’t set up a contest in a good while, since back in the paper magazine publishing days—seems like so long ago now. We wanted to be sure that it was successful, so we went on the research path. Easy, Peasy—we thought! Turns out, contests have changed quite a bit since “the ole days” and since they are mostly online now, they are subject to a whole NEW set of rules; some that can be extremely confusing for all involved. We decided that we would share what we learned to help you avoid some of the pitfalls of setting up one for your own business.
A Rose by Any Other Name…
Contrary to popular belief, contests and sweepstakes are VERY different “roses.” Let me explain:

  • Sweepstakes: These are prize giveaways where the winner is chosen randomly
  • Contest: A winner is chosen on some type of merit; i.e. best picture, most compelling story, etc., and is usually judged or chosen based on that merit

They really aren’t the same and most contests are really sweepstakes. However, based on a study by Incentivibe and broken down by Unbounce, the word “Giveaway” garnered 27% more conversions than “Sweepstakes.”
Conclusion: Title it a Giveaway, but remember to explain that it is a sweepstakes, by definition, in the rules. Thanks to Sarah Hawkins for breaking it all down.
Is it Even Legal?
Your contest or giveaway might even be considered an illegal lottery???! WHAT?
First, what is a lottery? It is a giveaway that offers a prize with a chance to win something based on consideration, which is doing something or giving something of value. You know how the lottery works, you pay $$, you get a chance to win more money or something else of value, right? But how can your giveaway be in the same context as a lottery? Read on.
Most companies and organizations want more followers, subscribers, fans or what have you, so what better way to have people enter your “contest” than to have them “Like,” “Follow,” “Subscribe,” or even “+1” you? Well, it depends.
If you are asking entrants to “+1” you on Google Plus, BAM! That’s a violation of Google Plus policies.
Also, if you are asking entrants to go to another site, perhaps a third party site, to maybe find or do something, then report back to your site to tell you what they’ve done… BAM! This could be placing your giveaway into the classification of being an illegal lottery because “Time is Money.”
Conclusion: Make it simple and easy to enter. Focus on ONE call to action and make the submit button stand out so it’s easy to find. Check Sarah Hawkins for a giveaway checklist.
Who Can Enter?
Most times, giveaways are only open to entrants 18 years or age or older, that’s because allowing minors to enter opens up a whole other can of worms. You can allow anyone from anywhere to enter, but you’d be opening yourself up to the laws of anyone’s respective jurisdiction, including foreign countries – Whew, that’s a lot of legality!
But what about Canada, our friendly neighbors to the north? BAM! Sorry, Canada doesn’t allow their winners to be chosen by luck.
More laws, more problems.
Conclusion: Better to stick with the guidelines of 18 years or older and a resident of the good ole US of A.
Find the Perfect Time
When you launch a giveaway is just as important as complying with the laws governing it. According to Incentivibe’s study, launching on Sunday at 11pm EST garnered the highest rate of visitors converting to subscribers followed by 9pm EST.
See more findings from the study on the following infographic. Thanks to Marketing Profs for a more detailed look at the study.

When it’s All Over
Planning and executing the giveaway are only part of the overall plan, you have to also:

  • Plan for it NOT to work and what you will do next
  • Follow up with entrants and new followers you’ve added to your list
  • Figure out what worked and what didn’t, fix it, then wash, rinse and repeat.

Check out this article by Social Media Examiner for creating a foolproof giveaway strategy.
Image courtesy,

Carol J. Dunlop

Carol J. Dunlop

Carol, the Online WOW! Strategist, teaches Transformation Specialists how to convert marketing into money using their WOW! Website to attract the clients they need to live the life they want.

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