people cheering thanks to a successful contest marketing strategy

Clock icon 9 min read Calendar icon Mar 15, 2022

How to Win Customer Engagement with a Great Contest Marketing Strategy


Everyone’s a winner when your contest marketing strategy is on point. It turns short-term engagement and punch card loyalty into lasting brand relationships.

Consumer promotions like contests and sweepstakes are used in almost all markets across the B2B and B2C sectors. And it’s easy to see why.

  • Contests and promotions engage customers. And engaged customers are valuable. They represent an average 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth compared with the average customer.
  • Brands that run contest marketing campaigns gain an average of 34% new fans per campaign.
  • Contest emails have the highest average open rate of 45% when compared to other email campaigns. 

What is Contest Marketing?

A contest marketing strategy uses sweepstakes and contests to directly engage with the audience. Contest marketing works in both online and offline channels, making it an ideal tactic for omnichannel customer engagement marketing strategies. Contest marketing can help you achieve several common marketing goals, including driving sales, gathering market research, activating your customer base, and improving personalization.

Types of Contests & Promotions

  • Purchase to entry contests
  • Event-based contests
  • Instant win games
  • Giveaways
  • User-generated content contests
  • Quizzes and polls
  • A Sweepstakes campaign

What Makes a Great Contest Marketing Campaign?

Great contest marketing campaigns share the same key qualities. They’re highly targeted, delivered through multiple channels, employ an element of gamification, and offer satisfying rewards. But the very best contest marketing campaigns feature layers of engagement to provide long-term value.

Audience Targeting

A common concern we encounter is, “how do I know I’ll get potential customers from my contest and not just people who want to win free stuff?” It’s a reasonable concern – everyone loves free stuff!

This is where accurate customer profiles and customer engagement data become key to a successful contest marketing campaign. Use this data to identify your ideal buyers and use your knowledge of what engages them to guide the nature, structure, and outcomes of your campaign.

If you choose to make a purchase the mechanism of entry, you can improve the quality of your customer data, but that comes with the trade-off of lower engagement — it's a higher barrier to entry. This is why it's important to define your goals before your contest marketing campaign goes live: are you looking for high engagement or quality data? And decide how you'll measure the customer engagement.

Once you’ve defined your ideal audience, consider adding qualifiers in your contest entry form. This will save you from wasting resources on people who can’t or won’t ever buy from you.

Snipp Tip: Use qualifying questions to collect specific data that you can use to improve and personalize your follow-up marketing campaigns.

Omnichannel Activation

While 60% of companies prefer to promote their contest via email, we find that the most successful campaigns take an omnichannel approach to increase the number of potential participants. This creates a better experience because it allows everyone to use their preferred channel (text message, smartphone app, browser, etc.) and gives you the opportunity to combine online and offline channels.

For example: If your contest marketing campaign is designed to reward and engage your most valuable customers, you can combine purchase to entry via receipts and a dedicated email list of subscribers to create exclusive channels for your contest.

Take customer engagement to the next level with our modular Snipp CARE
(Customer Acquisition, Retention, and Engagement) Platform. Contact us to learn more.


Every contest should be built around a high-quality customer experience that does more than entertain. It should turn every customer into an advocate who wants to share their experience.

Gamification has exploded in marketing over the last 10 years. And while personalization is starting to become a more effective marketing tactic, in the world of contests and promotions, gaming tropes continue to show great results.

But it goes beyond spinners and scratch cards. If you’re running a poll, quiz, or a loyalty program, progress bars, badges, and achievements are proven to enhance the customer experience and boost engagement.

Time-bound incentives and offers elicit urgency and influences customers to make a purchase decision within the defined time frame. Delivered in the right way, time-bound offers generate additional awareness for your brand and come to a climactic endpoint where customers face a very critical decision: buy now or miss out.

One example of gamification that’s been running since 1987 (believe it or not!) is McDonald’s Monopoly game. Over the course of the campaign, participants win over $40 million in prizes. Every time it runs, it increases McDonald’s sales by 1-6%.

Rewards That Work

Another common pitfall in unsuccessful contest marketing campaigns is a bad reward. Today, customers understand that their relationship with brands is a two-way street. They expect a reward that’s exciting, relevant to their interests, and appropriate for the action they’re taking.

Again, your customer profiles are essential. They help you understand what your audience perceives as high value to give them the incentive they need. General prizes, like big-ticket electronics or holidays, attract entries from people who don’t care about your brand – keep your prizes relevant!

Snipp Tipp: Be carefully of only branded rewards. Customers might love your product but not might want to win a brightly colored shirt with the company logo or a snowboard with your logo on it. Too many companies think "People love our brand, so why not brand everything?" Know your customers and give them things they want.

Generating Long-Term Value

Marketers understand the value of contests and promotions, but some believe that as soon as the promotion ends, all those new potential customers will drift away. Great contest marketing campaigns generate layers of engagement to improve a brand’s stickiness.

Combining a gift with purchase promotion with a sweepstakes overlay encourages participation, as customers are guaranteed to receive a reward, with the promise of a bigger one later. Plus, if shoppers must make a purchase to enter, it drives sales and repeat customers. You can also offer secondary prizes or a "2nd chance" sweepstakes, to further increase customers’ chances of winning something.

Contests and promotions also allow you to collect a significant amount of first- and zero-party data. You can use this data (if collected compliantly) to improve the effectiveness of future campaigns and customer experiences.

Organizations need to change their perspective of contests and promotions as short-term activities that enhance a specific shopping window, like Black Friday. By layering rewards to reactivate customers, contest marketing can deliver long-term ROI.

Build a Contest Marketing Campaign in 5 Simple Steps

  1. Identify Your Perfect Audience
  2. Set KPIs, Budget, and Alignment with Other Marketing Activities
  3. Build Your Contest
  4. Align Channels & Engage Stakeholders
  5. Monitor, Track & Test

1. Identify Your Perfect Audience

Use your existing customer profiles to define your perfect audience for your contest marketing campaign. Whatever the goal of your campaign, all marketing activity should drive opportunities for a sale, so be specific, even for brand awareness contests and promotions.

Snipp Tip: Your perfect audience may vary. Many brands work with a variety of personas, so it's important to craft your contest to your audience segmentation, not your product. 

2. Set KPIs, Budget, and Alignment with Other Marketing Activities

Make your campaign as quantifiable as possible. Set clear KPIs for what you want to achieve as this will make retrospectives and reporting so much easier. For example, how will you measure customer engagement? Contests require promotion and prize support, so make sure your budgets are realistic.

Finally, remember that you shouldn't create marketing campaigns in a vacuum. By aligning your contest campaign with your wider marketing strategy, it becomes easier to layer promotions and create new points of customer engagement.

3. Build Your Contest

Choose your contest platform and prizes, as well as the channels you’re going to use to promote your contest. You can use a range of content to support your contest marketing campaign, including:

  • Promo emails
  • In-store POS
  • Dedicated microsite or landing page
  • On-package codes
  • Contest entry forms

4. Align Channels & Engage Stakeholders

You must carefully monitor and align your omnichannel contest marketing campaigns to maximize their effectiveness. Take the time to schedule and manage the delivery of omnichannel promotions so that you walk the line of optimizing awareness without annoying your audience.

For CPG brands that rely on local retailers for sales, this is a great opportunity to build a relationship with them using in-store POS. Similarly, make sure your salespeople are aware of the campaign so they can do their part in promoting it.

5. Monitor, Track & Test

Track key data including customer engagement metrics during and after your contest to identify which types of content, platforms, prizes, and marketing messages resonate most with your ideal customers. Learn from this data to get a better return on your investment the next time you run a contest.

…and that’s all it takes! Support your omnichannel campaigns with powerful martech tools and most of the heavy lifting will be done for you.

Does Your Brand Take Advantage of Contest Marketing?

Contest marketing campaigns deliver the most valuable kind of payoff in the hypercompetitive bid for customer attention: voluntary, validated, and visible customer profiles.

But simply giving something away for free won’t necessarily create the results you need. Use the tactics we’ve described here to level up your contest marketing and turn that Valentine’s Day Giveaway into a long-term marketing asset.

And that’s a prize well worth competing for. See 6 Contest Marketing Examples on this post as well!