A complete guide to building your email list using contests and giveaways

by | Apr 12, 2022 | Public Relations

Email is a highly effective marketing strategy that marketers frequently use to leverage sales. A big part of this technique is finding ways to grow your email list. Throughout this guide, we will talk about using contests and giveaways as a tactic to help you raise your email list to the next level. So let’s jump into it!

If you had to make a list of some of the most valuable assets that brands still aren’t using quite enough, email marketing would undoubtedly be right at the top.

Consider the fact that according to Campaign Monitor’s study, marketers who use segmented email campaigns say that they see as much of a 760 percent increase in revenue over time. According to the same source, nearly four out of five marketers say that they’d rather give up social media than email marketing if given a choice. That alone should point to how powerful this channel is and will remain.

Email marketing is effective because it is immediate. Most people check their phones within just a few minutes of waking up every morning. They carry their devices with them every second of the day. Rather than waiting for someone to check the physical mail—if they even do—you can reach them where they are, right at the exact perfect moment.

Of course, that demands the question—how do you go about building your email list to make sure that you’re getting the right message to the right people at precisely the right time? Contests and giveaways are a big part of how you do it.

Why use giveaways to build your email lists?

Contests and giveaways are effective techniques because they build something else that is critical for brands: loyalty. According to another recent study from Smallbizgenius, about 75% of consumers say that they actually favor companies that offer some type of reward for their attention and business. Not only that, but given the fact that about 65 percent of a company’s business comes not from new customers but from repeat ones, it’s easy to see why this is such a good idea.

Beyond that, people love getting something for free—and they love the potential to get something for free, too. The type of promotion you choose will obviously depend on the type of audience you’re speaking to, but someone is much more likely to sign up for your email list if they think they’re getting something of legitimate value in return. Offering something of value also helps to boost your brand in the eyes of your audience.

If a form pops up on your website and simply asks them to put in their email address, the chances are high that they aren’t going to do it. But if that same form offers them a coupon for a certain amount of money off their next order—or the opportunity to enter into a contest to win a prize by a specific date—now you’re creating a sense of urgency. You’re giving them something for both their time and their personal information, which can literally make all the difference in a lot of situations.

A complete guide to building your email list using contests and giveaways


How to start your email giveaway

By far, the most important step to take when starting your email giveaway involves choosing the right email collection platform in the first place. You don’t just want to put together a general email list—you need a platform that will allow you to segment people into specific sections and demographics so that you can leverage this information to your advantage moving forward.

Remember that one of the reasons email marketing is effective is because it can be personal when executed properly. The contest or giveaway is to build the email list—in the future. You’ll need to actually tap into it in order to drum up anticipation and sales. Therefore, you’ll need a platform that gives you the ability to not only store those names but the important demographic information that comes with it. That way, you’ll be able to see the highest return on your investment for years to come.

A complete guide to building your email list using contests and giveaways


Likewise, you need to set up a GDPR-friendly landing page that lets people know A) that their data is being collected and B) what you plan on doing with that data. This is of paramount importance in the modern era. Data privacy regulations are not to be trifled with, and violations can be quite severe. Therefore, you need to have a landing page that allows people to opt into the experience—you can’t just collect their information and use it as you see fit.

Then, you need to pick a powerful contest builder that will allow you to put together the type of experience that people actually want to participate in. This, too, will likely lead to its own landing page where people can go and read about what the contest or giveaway is all about, learn about the rules, and see what they can do to engage. The more immersive you can make the experience, the more likely people are to be enthusiastic about it—which is why the contest builder itself is so important.

A complete guide to building your email list using contests and giveaways


Beyond that, you also need to make sure that you’re defining your target audience very carefully. Remember that not all people have the same preferences—meaning that if you have a broad audience filled with many different ages and demographics, a promotion that appeals to young people might not have the same impact on an older generation. You need to know exactly who you’re speaking to in order to work your way backwards to how the contest or promotion should proceed.

Decide your giveaway concept/type

On the subject of defining your target audience, you also need to decide on your giveaway concept in much the same fashion. Again—not every promotion is going to appeal to every audience. Don’t start with an idea for a promotion and hope that it resonates with your audience. Instead, you need to start with your audience and work your way back to land on the idea that will make the biggest impact.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to what you’re doing. Every business will be different. But so long as you always keep your audience in mind, you’ll naturally land on something that speaks to them in a way that attracts the right type of attention.

The key elements of a successful contest

Of course, none of this matters if you haven’t accounted for the most important element of all: the contest itself.

First, it needs to be not just easy for participants to enter but effortless. Nobody wants to jump through hoops in order to potentially win something they’re not even sure if they’re going to like. You need to limit the number of steps for entry as much as possible in order to see the highest number of signups.

Likewise, you need highly shareable content in order to drive entries which will help you get the ball rolling and build your email list even faster. It’s not enough to just put your current email list on notice. Your offer needs to be compelling enough to the point where they want to tell their friends, family members, and other loved ones about it, too.

A complete guide to building your email list using contests and giveaways


Again, you still need to make sure that you’re always appealing to your target demographic—the importance of this cannot be overstated. If yours is a brand that appeals primarily to people over the age of 65, for example, a promotion that gives away video game merchandise likely isn’t going to strike the chord that you think it will. But if yours is a brand that appeals to fitness enthusiasts, a contest that can see someone win a pair of workout leggings will likely fit that bill.

You should also make an effort to collaborate with influencers on social media—particularly those who speak to the same general audience that you do. It’s a great way to give your contest not only a boost of attention but a bit of additional legitimacy as well. If you pick the right influencer, you can carve out some of their audience and make it your own—exposing your promotion and your brand to more people than you would likely be capable of under normal circumstances.

Picking the perfect prize

One recent example of a brand that used these ideas to great effect comes by way of Goldfish Crackers, who leveraged the platform TikTok—with the help of basketball player Boban Marjanovic—to launch the #GoForTheHandful challenge. Here, the beauty was in its simplicity—Marjanovic was able to hold 301 crackers in his hand at one time. If you could hold more, you were dubbed the Official Goldfish Spokeshand.

Brands like PepsiCo have also had a tremendous amount of success with similar techniques over the years. In 2022 they’re hosting their regular “$2,500 Feeling Lucky” sweepstakes on their website, for example, timed to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day.

Where to find ideas for giveaways and contests

All told, ideas for giveaways or contests can come from anywhere. If you’re about to launch a new product or service, you could hold a promotion that sees one lucky winner get a chance to use it early. That way, they get to experience what you have to offer before anyone else (thus creating a sense of exclusivity). You can use their experience to turn it into a testimonial later on.

A complete guide to building your email list using contests and giveaways


In general, pay attention to similar brands to yours on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to see what they’re coming up with for building their email lists. It’s a great way to get inspiration, mainly if they’re speaking to a similar target audience to your own. It’s not necessarily that you should take their ideas outright—you should instead use them as a foundation to do something even better.

Plus, by paying attention to similar brands, you can see what is working and, more importantly, what isn’t. That way, you can possibly learn from some of the mistakes that they’ve made in the past without making them yourself.

Promoting your giveaway

Another crucial step for building your email list using contests and giveaways comes from the actual promotion itself.

First, let your current email subscribers know what is going on and provide all the details they need to participate. You can’t keep your current subscribers out of the running just because they’ve already given you their contact information—they need to be included, too.

Then, you’ll want to include pages on your website and even other websites letting people know what is happening when the deadline for entry is, and why it is worth their time to invest the effort.

Social promotion can also be a great way to get the word out. Sponsored posts on Facebook and Twitter will be seen by a huge number of people, including many of whom may be experiencing your brand for the first time.

A complete guide to building your email list using contests and giveaways


Another option is running an Instagram ad or a Facebook ad that can even be targeted to run in front of people in a specific place or of a certain demographic—thus increasing the chances that your promotion will be seen by the people who are most likely to participate.

Speaking of advertisements, paid ads on sites like Google can also be a great way to get your contest or promotion in front of as many eyes as possible. All told, it will likely be a combination of all of these things that will drive as much engagement as possible.

Finally, if you have a set list of influencers, consider reaching out to them to help you promote your giveaway. If you’re just kicking off your influencer outreach, make sure you master the art of Direct Message (DM) to make the best first impression. Influencer outreach can amplify your contest or giveaway immensely!

Pick a winner and tell people about it

A complete guide to building your email list using contests and giveaways


Once all the elements are in place and you’ve closed your contest, you then need to broadcast the results far and wide. Post about it on social media and create an announcement for it on your website. It’s a great way to show people that it actually paid off—not to mention the fact that it will have them coming back to see what promotion you’ll run next, which is always a good thing.

Double down on what works to drive even more results

Throughout your contest or promotion, you’ll have been collecting a massive amount of data about the people who have entered. You’ll be able to see which techniques you used that worked and, crucially, which ones didn’t generate the activity you thought they would.

Rather than running a similar contest next time, double down on the former and get rid of the latter. Then, do it again, and again, and again moving forward to see even better results in the future.

Monitor your data

Speaking of data, always make sure that you’re paying attention to the information you’re collecting in real-time. Doing so can shed valuable insight into the success of your contest and the level of engagement that people have with your brand. Data is only worthwhile if you’re paying attention to it—if you’re listening to the story being told underneath all those 1s and 0s. It is absolutely in your best interest to do so.

A complete guide to building your email list using contests and giveaways

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

Final thoughts

Overall, contests and giveaways aren’t just a great way to build your email list—they’re a great way to increase awareness of your brand and boost a sense of loyalty in customers as well. There’s a reason why some of the largest brands on Earth regularly hold contests for high ticket items—the consumers love them, and they’re an effective way to increase engagement. The good news is that there is no business too small for this simple rule to apply.

Tim Matthias
Tim Matthias is an independent writer with a passion for marketing and business research. In his 3 years of creative copywriting, he has learned to condense his knowledge in engaging, simple, and yet comprehensive blog posts.