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9 Steps to Launching a Successful Online Competition [Examples Inside]


9 Steps to Launching a Successful Online Competition [Examples Inside]


Online competitions. You’ve heard about them, you’ve seen them, maybe you even participated in a few.

You probably already know about the benefits they can bring to your business.

But what does it really take to launch a successful online competition?

Include the right elements, take the right steps, and you’ll be fast on your way to major Return on Investment. Here’s how.

Step 1: Define your goals.

I’ve never heard a business to launch a successful online competition just for fun. First, you need to answer the question:

What do I actually want to achieve?

If you can’t find an answer, then your business isn’t ready to launch a competition yet. And timing is just as important to success as anything else.

There are a lot of goals you can set, such as:

  • Create buzz about a new product/business
  • Generate leads  
  • Engage with your current audience
  • Encourage sales

Once you’ve defined your goals, figure out exactly how to measure them. These are called Key performance indicators (KPIs). Without them, there’s no way to know if you launched a successful online competition or not.

Here are some examples of KPIs you can measure based on certain goals:

  • Generate buzz — Change in brand mentions on social media, Google Alerts, etc.
  • Generate leads — Number of new email signups.
  • Audience engagement –Social signals (Retweets, new followers, etc.), Number of new email signups.
  • Encourage sales — Number of sales from contest coupons.

Step 2: Pick your campaign type.

There are a lot of different ways to launch a successful online competition these days. Knowing your goals will help you choose the right campaign type:

  • A Giveaway/Sweepstake: People enter for a chance to win the prize.
  • A Contest: People enter and then compete to win the prize whilst in a league type format.
  • A Promotion: Everyone who signs up gets a prize. Also, they can win more prizes by referring their friends.

If your goal is to encourage sales, the promotion campaign type is probably the best option — you can give away coupons or other incentives to everyone encouraging them to make a purchase.

With a contest you actually have to determine how people will compete, e.g. creating and sharing something creative on social media.

A giveaway or sweepstakes is a simpler option because you don’t have to actually judge entries and choose. But it creates less buzz and engagement than a contest.

Step 3: Pick your prize.

Picking your prize is one of the most important parts of launching a successful online competition. Here are some tips to help you choose:

  • Make sure it fits your audience

There are a lot of great general prizes you can give away that anyone would be interested in, like a free phone or gift card. But these can attract a lot of buzz and signups from people who aren’t interested in your brand.

Say your business makes custom BMX bikes. You launch a giveaway for a free iPhone and get 5,000 email signups you can now market to. How many of those 5,000 actually have any interest in BMX bikes?

So chose a giveaway that targets your audience and your audience only. One of your products is always a safe bet.

  • Make sure it’s valuable enough


Giving away coupons is fine if you’re running a promotion, but a sweepstakes? Not so much.

Make sure you choose a prize with enough value to encourage interest and action. Especially around Christmas-time, you see a lot of brands running competitions for mystery gifts:

It’s intriguing, but it doesn’t exactly encourage action.

  • Consider offering more than one prize

One way to make your contest more interesting for entrants is by offering more than one prize. For example, run a sweepstakes where people enter to win one of 5 prizes. Or run a contest with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes.

Step 4: Create your landing page.

Your contest will need a dedicated landing page so people can sign up to win. I’ve seen some marketers turn their home page into a contest landing page, but then you have no way to differentiate traffic from your contest and regular site traffic.

Choose a simple, confusion-free design that limits barriers to sign-up.

The key elements :

  • Contest instructions
  • Clear start and end dates (to create a sense of urgency)
  • Images of your prize/prizes
  • Your contest entry form
  • A call-to-action to sign up
  • Social sharing buttons

Here’s an example of a great (no-frills) contest landing page:

Step 5: Create an incentive to share.

If you want to launch a successful online competition that really gets reach, you need to give entrants a reason to share it. One way to do this is by making social sharing a mandatory part of entering the contest. But that only gets you one share per entrant — no way to go viral.

The best method I’ve seen to incentivize participants is through a reward. Every time someone shares the contest with a friend they get an extra entry. That way they’re helping promote your competition and increasing their chances of winning at the same time.

All you have to do is install an app like ours onto your landing page to start incentivizing your entrants.

Step 6: Promote your competition.

Create buzz about your competition in the weeks leading up to it by posting about it on social media.

When you’re ready to launch, schedule posts to go out on all your social platforms promoting the contest every day. Be sure to use competition-related hashtags:

Post frequent updates about how the competition is going. Always include a link to your landing page and important details like when the contest ends.

Send out an initial email to your current list about the competition:

As people start signing up, send out follow up emails encouraging them to refer more friends and get more entries.

Step 7: Watch your benchmarks.

Remember those goals and KPIs you defined before? Now’s the time to track them to see if you launched a successful online competition. You can even create benchmark goals you want to achieve (e.g. 1000 email signups, 100 new Facebook fans, etc.). 

You should also keep a close eye on your landing page behavior (Google Analytics can help you with this). Does it have a high bounce rate? That means a lot of people are coming to your landing page and leaving without signing up. Look for any design or user experience issues that might be causing this.

Step 8: Celebrate your winners.

Once your competition’s over, all that’s left to do is tally things up and announce your winners. You should:

  • Revamp your landing page to focus on your winners
  • Announce the winners on all your social platforms
  • Consider featuring the winners on your blog

It’s great publicity get a picture of your winner(s) holding your new product or prize:

It can encourage interest for your next competition too!

Follow these 8 steps and you can’t go wrong when you launch your successful online competition.

BONUS TIP: Use Tools to Make Your Life Easier

Launching a successful online competition can be a lot of work, especially if you don’t know about the tricks you can use to save time and do each step perfectly.

As a bonus tip, here are three types of tools you should use make your life easier during an online competition:

  1. A Growth Hacking Tool

If you want your online competition to go viral, a growth hacking tool is essential to help you track your signups and incentivize them to share your product.

Use a tool like Maitre to capture emails and go viral with zero coding skills. You can also discover your super-fans (see which customers refer the most friends) and lower your cost-per-email in the process.



  • user

    AUTHOR Peter Indelicato

    Posted on 9:13 pm June 13, 2016.

    Hi Natasha – this post is a goldmine. Thanks for sharing. Can you elaborate on this: “Users can comment / hashtag to enter”?

    • user

      AUTHOR Natasha

      Posted on 12:01 pm June 14, 2016.

      Hi Peter, glad you like the post! I meant that when hosting competitions on social media (e.g twitter) users can enter the competition using a specific hashtag within their tweet.

      • user

        AUTHOR Peter Indelicato

        Posted on 2:33 am June 18, 2016.

        Hi Natasha – can you tell me where to find info on how to allow users to enter with a hashtag?


      • user

        AUTHOR Peter Indelicato

        Posted on 7:49 pm June 23, 2016.

        Just FYI: our Maitre contest is up and running at Check it out (and enter if you are interested in a free month of business coaching)!

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