Six tips for running promotional campaigns

Competitions and giveaways can be cheap and effective ways to market your brand. But how can you maximise the bang for your buck? Iain Haywood, founder of The Competition Agency, shares the secrets to seeing a decent return.

by Iain Haywood
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Whilst competitions have been used for decades, in this age of social media, they are frequently replacing traditional comms at the front line of online marketing. This does not mean all are successful; results may vary wildly depending on the approach taken. But here are six basic tips to ensure you see a return.

Identify your campaign goals

It may sound obvious, but often the marketing objective of a competition campaign can be lost in creative noise.  Broadly speaking, most firms will be focussed on brand building, remarketing, or both. Once you've isolated the bottom line behind your campaign, you can start to budget accordingly. In my experience, on a smaller budget, it's best to focus on re-marketing. If more substantial, brand-building.

Keep an eye on entrant numbers

Much can be made of entrant numbers.  A pleasingly high number may mean a brand or marketing manager has succeeded, but if the aim was re-marketing, and response or conversion rate among those entrants is poor, then the effort has been wasted.

In general, entrants will fit two profiles: one who is interested in the brand or vertical first, and the competition second, and one who is interested in the competition first, and the brand or vertical second (or not at all).  It is easy to blame lack of engagement or effort on the entrant, but the results are wholly dependant on how the campaign is devised and promoted.  If the campaign facilitates shallow engagement and is easily forgettable or too broad in appeal, then entrants will be less targeted.  Make sure you identify who you want, and why they are there. 

Promotion is everything

'Build it and they will come' does not apply to competitions. You need to actively promote and reach out to entrants.  If the competition is sufficiently creative or grand, it may be press-worthy.  Broker coverage with appropriate bloggers with exclusive prizes or splinter campaigns.  Social media provides plenty of opportunities for the competition to promote itself, so build in the ability to 'tweet' or 'like' campaigns and make virality part of your mechanic.

Make your competition part of your ad spend

Many competitions are now at the forefront of display and click campaigns, giving an extra level on which to engage.  Facebook advertising and Twitter sponsored trending topics regularly carry competitions from brands directly to where they may be talked about most.

Be compliant

Compared to other countries, the UK is very relaxed regarding regulations for promotional activity (gambling/lottery activities are more stringent).  Whilst we could outline 101 tips for remaining compliant, the common sense message is: don’t give your entrants cause to complain.  Disgruntled participants may bring a complaint to the ASA, and create a blowback of negative PR and brand damage.  The main document to be familiar with is the Committee of Advertising Practice code (section 8).  Don’t worry, it’s quite short.

Social networks like Twitter and Facebook have their own guidelines and terms of use regarding promotional campaigns - it is worth familiarising yourself with these. Although the risk of penalty from social networks for contravention is not high, entrants are nonetheless often aware of how social media competitions should be conducted, and complaints over social networks can instantly propagate.  Both terms are available online (and again, are short) - Twitter’s principally pertaining to mentions and excessive output, Facebook’s principally pertaining to use of the functionality as an entry mechanism.

Observe, measure, and learn

Your entrants will tell you implicitly (or explicitly) what they like, and what they don’t.  Sometimes they may even tell you of weaknesses in your competition mechanic.  Engage with them properly, and don’t ignore them.  On the numbers side, don’t take the first number to be the best, drill down and take the time to work out what performs well: be it a mechanic, user group or source of traffic.  Identify the successes, double down on them and you’ll excel next time around.

Iain Haywood is founder of The Competition Agency, a marketing agency specialising in competitions and giveaways.

Image: BigStockPhoto

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