“Better an ounce of luck than a pound of gold”
Brands have used sweepstakes, contests, and promotions to attract and delight customers for over 100 years. We all love the thrill of being in with a chance to win something – it’s one of the great societal experiences. And it’s an effective tool for customer acquisition across a range of B2C and B2B industries.
Today, we’re going to explain why.
How Sweepstakes, Contests & Promotions Work
“There is no truth. There is only perception”
Sweepstakes, contests, and promotions work because your audience believes you’re offering something of perceived value for free (or at least at a discount). Simple, right?
Well, not exactly.
There’s a lot of psychology that goes into a good contest, which explains why it’s such an effective tool for customer acquisition. But as we’ll see, it all revolves around the idea of perceived value.
Perceived value The customers' evaluation of the merits of a product or service, and its ability to meet their needs and expectations.
Customer’s Expected Benefit – Customer Perceived Cost = Customer Perceived Value
The Psychology of Perceived Value
Urgency is a powerful motivator that spurs people into action. It also requires customers to rely on their instincts, rather than their reflective judgement. This can provide a welcome change of pace in a world where we’re forced to make careful decisions every day.
One of the best ways to use urgency to create continued engagement is with a series of rapidly approaching deadlines. For example, "Last chance to claim!" or "Don't miss out!". We love contests with a countdown clock.
“Limited edition”, “One night only”, “Exclusive” – words that can increase the perceived value of a prize ten-fold. It’s supply and demand, pure and simple. When there’s less of a supply, there’s more of a demand.
But scarcity doesn’t have to be limited to a single value. A one night only event, for example, can further boost scarcity by limiting the number of tickets available.
Nothing says great value like the word "free" — it's often an irresistible hook. In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely observes that people change their behavioral patterns to be more compliant when something free comes along. It also increases the perceived value of something because the cost (if we remember the equation above) is zero.
Get your audience imagining themselves experiencing a great prize and any barrier to entry (product purchase, completing a form, sharing a social post) becomes much lower. A great prize is one that both resonates with your audience and matches up with your brand message.
How Sweepstakes, Contests & Promotions Help Customer Acquisition
“Go beyond merely communicating to ‘connecting’ with people.”
Sweepstakes, contests, and promotions create high perceived value opportunities for people to get something in exchange for engaging with your brand. And unlike a hard sales pitch, we find that customers are more open to this approach. Contest emails, for example, have an average open rate of 8.8%. That's 5.5% more than the average of commonly used email marketing campaigns.
Deployed correctly, some brands see an average of over 34% of new customers acquired through contests and similar marketing activities. But to achieve this, you can’t just give away anything.
Rewards are not just about giving customers cool stuff – it’s best done by giving customers more options, instant gratification, tailored offers just for them, and an emotional connection or a sense of fun and adventure.
– John Fauller, EVP, Product and Innovation
The only way to acquire the customers you want is to understand who they are and what they need. This won’t just help you pick the right reward, but also the right type of contest that will resonate best with them.
Sweepstakes vs. Contests
While sweepstakes are a type of contest, not all contests are sweepstakes. Contests include gift with purchase, instant wins, and social media contests. The primary difference between sweepstakes, contests, and giveaways depends on the winner selection process:
- Sweepstakes winners are selected at random from the entire pool of qualified entries. While some sweepstakes may be segmented by certain criteria, every entry has an equal chance of being chosen.
- Contest winners are selected based on their merit, either by a judge or by public vote. Unlike sweepstakes, contests ask people to submit something for judgment by others to determine the winners, such as a photo, video, or idea.
The 9 Parts of a Winning Customer Acquisition Sweepstakes
“Let your hook always be cast”
So how do you make a sweepstakes or promotion that delivers? If you’re looking for a deep dive into the world of sweepstakes, we recommend you check out our Power of Sweepstakes Guide. But here are the basics:
- Make it valuable. When we talk about 'value', we mean valuable to your demographic, so put the data you’ve collected to good use. For example, people might consider a Rolex valuable, but does it align with your brand demographics? Surprise and delight customers with more personalized interactions, to build true brand loyalty.
- Make it urgent. Promotions shouldn’t outlive customer interest and attention spans. Urgency generates hype.
- Make it omnichannel. Increase participants by allowing entry via social media, text-to-win, and web (either the brand website or a micro-site for the promotion). Everyone has their go-to method for participation, leave no one behind!
- Make it defined. Do you want to increase web traffic? App downloads? Build your CRM database? Every aspect of the promotion should be informed by the goals defined at the outset.
- Make entry simple, but essential. If your goal is increased traffic, then make signs up easy. We’ve found that a simple text to an offer code, triggering auto-entry into a sweepstakes promotion, is extremely effective. If you're looking for people who use the product, then include a purchase element.
- Make it viral. Allow participants to earn more entries by sharing the sweepstakes with their friends.
- Make it scalable. Martech enables early results from promotions to inform their overall scale, quickly adapting to the customer response, and being ultimately more cost-effective for the sponsor.
- Make it legal. Triple check appropriate regulations for your promotion.
- Make it insightful. Never forget that the contest or sweepstake should help you capture customer data and gain actionable insights on customer behavior.
Snipp Tip: Adding simple questions to a contest entry like "would you prefer a or b?" and/or other demographic-related questions can reveal more insights without the additional friction of sign ups.
Make Sweepstakes, Contests & Promotions a Key Part of Your Customer Acquisition Strategy
Sweepstakes, contests, and promotions are great ways to drive sales, improve brand awareness, and nurture customer loyalty. They help you highlight product lines, promote events, and make the most brand partnerships. Sweepstakes promotions can even help you capture valuable zero- and first-party data and insights into your consumers’ preferences, needs, and purchasing behavior.
But most importantly, they thrill your customers.