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My approach to marketing has always been similar to that of a contractor. I see myself with a virtual tool belt holding a myriad of tools I can utilize based upon the job at hand. Many times it’s a combination of tools that gets the job done. One of my all-time favorite tools are online sweepstakes.

If the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.
Abraham Maslow

Online sweepstakes is my favorite marketing tool as it is the one that can incite the most excitement and engagement between a brand and its customers. It also creates memories that last a lifetime. 

When I meet people in a casual setting and I tell them I run giveaways for a living, I discovered that everyone has a winning story. 

I hear about teens phoning in to win concert tickets, kids who met sports heroes, people that win trips to places they only dreamed of, etc. Imagine being the brand that is not only top of mind, but will be thought of first for a lifetime.

Here are the seven steps you can take to effectively use online sweepstakes as a marketing tool to create a lifetime of brand loyalty. 


Do you have an annual marketing plan? I am amazed at the number of companies, especially smaller businesses, that do not set goals and plan out the steps they need to take to meet them.

If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
Reverend H.K. Williams

An annual marketing plan would include every promotional activity you plan to take throughout the year along with a goal for each one. Why do it if it has no purpose?! 

Activities could include grand openings, newsletters, Twitter parties, Facebook Ad campaigns, etc. Anything and everything you do to promote your business in any way. Some activities will be time-sensitive such as those tied to holidays; Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, Halloween or Thanksgiving, etc. Some will be tied to specific activities such as re-branding and product or service launches, etc.

Get out a calendar and start plotting what you are going to do and when. Then work backward. How much lea way do you need beforehand? Ensure you build in enough time to have all the steps required to have a successful promotion. Better to overestimate than under.

If a whole year feels overwhelming, try just doing six months, one quarter, or even a single month, and see how you fare. Plus also a smaller chunk of time will allow you to get your feet wet and comfortable with the planning and execution process before committing to twelve months.


Where do online sweepstakes fit in? Now that you have an annual plan, with a full calendar, what marketing activities best lend themselves to giveaways? Do you want to hold stand-alone online sweepstakes or use them to fill in any gaps? 

If you have a booth at a trade show, it’s a great place to entice attendees to give you their information by offering a prize. If you are hosting a product launch, giving away gift baskets with swag and samples is a great way to build excitement and awareness. If you are having a sale, giving away gift cards so winners can take advantage of great prices is a fun way to attract attention. If you have holiday promotions you can giveaway items and/or services tied to the day such as Valentine’s Day with all red, pink and white prizes or Halloween with all things orange and black.

The only limitation here is your imagination. Put on your thinking cap and get creative.

Additional Reading: 6 Benefits of Running Social Media Contests

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What is your sweepstakes budget? Now that you have determined you want to include sweepstakes as part of your planned marketing activities how much do you have to spend? 

Remember, the budget just isn’t the cost of the prizes, but the entire giveaway. Everything from creation, social media contest rules, execution, advertising, prizing, fulfillment, follow-up, etc. 

Budgets are blueprints and priorities.
Kevin McCarthy

Are you a small business with limited funds? You can give away gift certificates to your restaurant, or store. You could giveaway products you sell such as sauces, t-shirts or hair care products, etc. 

You might not have to spend much money at all. Once I was cleaning out my office and thought my followers would like all the swag I have collected at conferences and conventions over the years. I grouped the stuff into five piles, took pictures and gave away one pile per week on Instagram. Not only did it increase my Instagram followers and activity, but I only paid for postage.

What if your budget is really tight? Reach out to colleagues and peers. Combine forces with a business that has similar goals and dovetails nicely with your offerings. A lifestyle blogger and a chef. A moving company and real estate agent. A hairdresser and beauty products company. You get the idea. Plus all costs are shared, benefitting both parties. This also helps reach a larger audience in Step Six.

Additional Reading: 6 Twitter and Social Media Contest Ideas Worth Exploring


What type of online sweepstakes do you want to hold? The goal you want to achieve will determine the type. (Remember, the goals you wish to achieve should have been determined in Step One.)

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.
Tony Robbins

GOALS: Do you want to increase your newsletter subscriber base? Up the engagement with your Facebook followers? Get people to attend an event you are hosting?

TYPE: Will it be hosted on your blog? Then Rafflecopter or Gleam are good choices. Is it a social media giveaway? The EasyPromos or Woobox are good choices. Are you hosting an in-person event? Then collect paper entries, business cards or have people fill out a form on an iPad.

Also, your budget (Step Three) can also be a factor in which type of promotion you choose. Are you choosing to use the free version of Rafflecopter, or purchasing a monthly subscription to Woobox?

Additional Reading: The 5 Most Skipped Steps When Running a Sweepstakes


What will you be giving away? What is the carrot you will be using to entice people to enter?

Before selecting a prize, first put yourself in the winner’s place. Envision you won the grand prize. How would you feel? Dream what it would be like to go on your first airplane trip. Feel the joy of outfitting your kitchen with brand new appliances. Will you have butterflies in your stomach just before meeting your favorite celebrity. 

Even small prizes can elicit a similar response. How wonderful would it feel to be able to buy Christmas gifts, not in your budget, with a gift card you won? Use beauty products you always wanted to try, but too rich for your pocketbook. Take your kids to a preview of a big blockbuster movie.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Mayu Angelu

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The prize selection is a combination of two factors: your budget and goal. If you have a large budget, you can giveaway cash, cars, trips and more. If you have a small budget, you can give away gift cards or items/services tied to your business.

As a small business, I cannot compete with the likes of McDonald’s, Budweiser or Disney. I can giveaway prizes related to my business and audience. I discovered Amazon gift cards are the most coveted and garner me the online traction I am seeking, either on my blog or on my social channels.

Additional Reading: 15 Facebook Holiday Contests You Can Create in Minutes


How do you plan to advertise your online sweepstakes? Really. This isn’t the Field of Dreams when ‘if you build it, they will come’. 

I am consistently amazed at the number of companies that contact me requesting I viral market their online sweepstakes. When I send them my services information sheet, I get the response, “That’s not in our budget.” How did they get so far in the marketing process and not budget for advertising? Do not be the person that drops the ball this late in the game. 

The advertising component of the budget varies. McDonald’s can afford to buy primetime TV advertising slots, magazine inserts, and billboards. As a small business owner, I use my newsletter and social channels to promote any giveaways I am hosting. Even boosting a Facebook post for a few dollars can have a large impact if the demographics are targeted properly. 

Additional Reading: How to Run an Instagram Contest: The Six Elements Needed for Success


Who won? I get that question all the time. It is amazing to me the number of companies that do not engage in Back-end Marketing. All their efforts are on planning and executing, but not following up.

Either you follow-up or you fold-up.
Bernard Kelvin Clive

As most companies are always seeking to post and share quality content, share who won. It will not only give you something fun to post, but it will satisfy the question of who won, plus show entrants that you run legitimate giveaways. You could even follow that up with a teaser for your next promotion, giveaway or event creating a bit of Pull Marketing.

Now that you know what my favorite tool is in my marketer’s tool belt. What is yours?

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