Don't Let Your Sweepstakes Sabotage Your Brand

Chris Kolbenschlag, Director of Deliverability

While contests and sweepstakes can be very effective methods for collecting email addresses and growing your list, they can also damage your brand and your reputation if not done correctly.

Unfortunately, it’s fairly common to see companies offer contests and sweepstakes that use misleading tactics to lure people in. Their pitch is “Enter your email address to win a home!” instead of disclosing the real intent, which is “Enter your email address to subscribe to our marketing email newsletter.” When you fail to ask for permission or clearly disclose that contest entry equals subscription, you begin to sabotage your core email list by filling it with contacts that really have no interest in anything more than a new home.

This method of luring people in for the wrong reasons can really be costly for marketers since it only invites unengaged contacts to your lists. Imagine training superstar athletes for months, but prior to the start of the big game, you drag a bunch of couch potatoes into your starting lineup. No coach would ever consider doing this, but some marketers won’t even hesitate. Yes, you will grow your list temporarily, but how will this affect your reputation and, more importantly, your deliverability?

These days, getting an email into the inbox is all about engagement, which you won’t usually see from a list of subscribers who only “signed up” to win your prize. When you don’t clearly ask someone to subscribe to your list, how would you expect them to respond to your emails? Instead of a bump in engagement, you will most likely see your spam complaints spike, which is by far the #1 way to trash your brand name and reputation.

I’m not saying that contests and sweepstakes are a bad way to grow your list. They just need to be done correctly. Here are a few do’s and don’ts for creating an effective contest or sweepstakes:

Do’s

  • Provide a checkbox on the form so entrants can decide if they want to subscribe to your email newsletter while entering the contest.
  • Use an unchecked box to build an even stronger list. When someone checks the box, they are actively saying, “Yes, I want to hear more from you.” You can also use a pre-checked box as it allows people to uncheck it if they are not interested. While you hope all entrants will remain on your list, it’s much better to allow them to opt out now. Otherwise, they may use the dreaded spam button when your emails arrive, which reports you as a spammer to their ISP.
  • If you don’t want to use a checkbox, be sure to provide clear disclosure front and center: If they enter the contest, they will receive marketing updates from your brand name.
  • Immediately after sign-up, send an email asking entrants to click a link to confirm their subscription. Alternatively, you could send a basic welcome email with an unsubscribe link should they change their mind.

Don’ts

  • Hide the fine print on a separate page within the terms and conditions. People don’t tend to read those details.
  • Force people to agree to contest terms and conditions that require being added to a marketing email list.
  • Use confusing language during contest sign-up. (Example: “Click here if you do not want us to unsubscribe you from opting in to marketing emails.”)
  • Include language that says they will be added to affiliate or partner emails. You should clearly identify your brand name to help build brand recognition so they will recognize you when they receive your emails. Otherwise, they may view your emails as spam.
  • Put the pre-checked box in a place where no one will notice it. You should try to feature it front and center. There is no room for trickery when building your lists.

Contests and sweepstakes can definitely help build a marketer’s list, but be mindful of these recommendations as you start your planning. Be clear and honest about your opt-in process and the communications to expect in addition to the fabulous prizes you have to offer. Remember, the big prize caught their eye, but it’s up to you to help them see the benefits of being part of your brand.