The 10 Steps of Sweepstakes Management

sweepstakes winner

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A sweepstakes is perfect for creating immediate attention to get your brand noticed.

The sweepstakes objective is to use excitement to build immediate awareness
The sweepstakes objective is to use excitement to build immediate awareness

While the premise of a sweepstake is fun, you do not want to be the one to drop the ball on any part of the 10 steps of sweepstakes management process. Poor results, potential lawsuits, fines imposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), customer frustration and loss of your cushy marketing job may await those who don’t pay attention to these details.

It is important that you determine the key aspects of the sweepstakes promotion, such as duration, budget, prize amounts, number of prizes, logoed promotional products to produce, etc. at the very beginning of the planning stage. This plan will establish how to approach all the other steps. Once the sweepstakes begins, and the rules are published, it is next to impossible to legally alter any of the material.  Here proper planning is very important.

Start With an Objective

A sweepstakes objective is to build immediate awareness, to get your brand noticed. How your sweepstakes campaign relates to the marketing plan is often the reason the technique is considered. Building a database across social media platforms, getting a point-of-purchase display noticed, or launching a new product or feature are some examples of why creating immediate brand awareness is the chosen strategy.

Develop The Creative Concept and Prize Structure

WIN and FREE are powerful words that get our attention, try to use one or both of them in your headline. Remember to keep your ad simple. Consumers get confused when your ad has more than one message. The sweepstakes ad should promote the sweepstakes, period. Here is where creativity is king. For example, The Ford: Make The Switch Sweepstakes, features the subhead 4 Vehicles, 4 Videos, 20 Chances To Win. The first copy point is: Watch a short video then enter for your chance to WIN a new Ford vehicle. Four videos are presented and with one click you are off and running. For the consumer the process is simple. Setting it all up takes some well planned creative execution.

The prizes or promotional items should tie-into your sweepstakes theme. I often mention that giving away your product may backfire as some consumers may have subliminal thoughts about “why buy it when I will win it.”  Crazy, but that’s how wishful thinking tricks us.  Why do so many of us believe we will win the mega lottery before the prize is awarded?

Establish Metrics

Since the objective is to get your copy read by featuring an opportunity to win a free prize, how will you measure success? Tracking ad recall, number of social media likes, increased brand awareness, views of your online video and yes, even sales increases can be items you may like to track from your sweepstakes campaign. Thinking this step through pays big dividends in the end. Small business and non profits can benefit from some of the inexpensive sweepstakes software their larger competitors are using. Sites such as Rafflecopter, ViralSweep and Votigo offer some great sweepstakes management features that allow you to distribute across social media channels and track performance. Check out this simple case study from the ViralSweep site to get some perspective. Remember, if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it!

Determine the Fulfillment Process

Delivering the winning prize, winner’s list and official rules are items you will need to have a fulfillment process for.  Accepting sweepstakes entries, and alternate means of entry if necessary, are also part of this process. Prizes must be awarded within 60 days after winners are selected in Florida or 90 days after in NY, or the sponsor faces serious fines and penalties. Having a third party pick the winner and fulfill prizes and other requests, somewhat releases you from others questioning your brand’s integrity.  If you are going to handle the fulfillment process in-house, be sure to be as transparent as possible so that questions don’t cause customers to think you pulled a fast one on them. When I worked for a sweepstakes company, fulfillment was a major part of our business with a warehouse so big it had it’s own zip code. Our clients appreciated the fast turn-around, documentation and metrics they were provided.  We often became a mutual partner in the planning of their future campaigns. A good fulfillment partner is well worth the added expense to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. Using companies such as Crestline, Amsterdam Printing,  National Pens or other producers of promotional products gives you the opportunity to develop logoed prizes that you can feature in your ad to provide additional brand awareness.

Create the Official Rules

The most important rule here is always have legal counsel review and sign-off on your sweepstakes’ official rules. Sweepstakes with a prize value of $5,000 or more needs to be insured, by a surety bond, and registered in NY, FL and potentially RI.  Many companies that develop a sweepstakes with this dollar level of prizes often go directly to a sweepstakes management agency to benefit from their expertise. We all refer to what has come before us as a template for writing rules. While this is a good way to start, it gets risky when you don’t concentrate on the specifics of your promotion, prizes, geographic area, or a slew of other things that fall under the category, ‘we never saw that coming.” For example if you are offering an adventure vacation package as a prize, you may want to include that winner must sign a medical waiver and/or release waiver before the prize is awarded.

Purchase Surety Bonds and Register Sweepstakes

If your prize package is above $5,000 you will need to register the sweepstakes in NY and FL. Rhode Island requires that a sweepstakes be registered with the secretary of state if the promotion takes place in a retail establishment and the total announced value of the prize is valued over $500. In NY registration needs to happen 30 days before you can begin your sweepstakes, 7 days in Florida. I have seen companies do all the planning and even go as far as printing POS and other marketing collateral, only to find that they missed the 30 day registration requirement due to their internal oversight.

Determine Communication Strategy

Where you communicate your sweepstakes is often a driving factor of the creative process. Understanding the psychographics of your prospective customer will give you specific insight to arouse them to action toward  your desired goal. Using the same message across several targeted media and social platforms often takes the expertise of a media buying company, a sweepstakes agency or a sweepstakes management software provider. Since a sweepstakes is a short-term promotion, the more awareness you can create among your target will directly impact your success. Remember to strive to measure each outlet to test the effectiveness of your strategy. And, always write a Press Release about your promotion and make sure to get it into the right hands and published in advance of your promotion start date.

Pick the Winners

Seems simple, just pick a winner and enjoy their surprise. Did you account for something going wrong at this stage? Did you consider it when you wrote the official rules? Did you create a prize waiver or release form?

In our litigious society you want to be on top of everything to make sure everyone is satisfied
In our litigious society you want to be on top of everything to make sure everyone is satisfied

What if the winner can not accept the prize due to any number of reasons. What if they request cash in lieu of your exciting prize? This is where the experience of a sweepstakes management company comes in handy. They have seen and experienced problems with awarding prizes that you can’t even fathom. Hopefully your process goes off without a hitch.  If an alternative winner needs to be selected or if other contingencies come up, be flexible and handle the situation with grace and respect. Remember any opportunity to interact with a customer is an opportunity to exceed expectations and improve customer loyalty. Take the high-road and the good will you create will add to your brand’s ongoing positive image

Create Winner List

The winner’s list is another simple step that you must do, right after the winners have signed their releases. Post or deliver the list according to your official rules, and promptly deliver the list to anyone and everyone who requests it. Transparency and accountability are the two important elements of this step. Any mis-step on your part may result in unnecessary consumer backlash.

Fulfill Prizes and Winners List

What may seem like simply logistics can get out of hand if you do not insure the product being delivered, have the winner sign off on delivery or follow-up with major prize winners to make sure they are satisfied. In this day of viral social media and our litigious society you want to be on top of every aspect of the process to make sure everyone is satisfied

Review Results for Future Marketing Programs

In marketing,  and all other aspects of your business, there should be an ongoing cycle of testing and optimizing results.

In all aspects of your business, there should be an ongoing cycle of testing and optimizing results
In all aspects of your business, there should be an ongoing cycle of testing and optimizing results

In reviewing your sales promotion tactics, such as the message, communication channels, time period, ROI, etc. you can identify what worked well, what moved the needle for your pre-established metrics and the adjustments to consider for future marketing campaigns. In addition, consider the “soft” returns to your campaign. Did you increase awareness with the trade, did your competitors react, or did your industry take notice. These types of soft results are often as important as the more quantifiable results in gaining awareness, notoriety and respect for your brand.

Evaluate, evolve, experiment and enjoy your sweepstakes promotion as you continue to learn what motivates prospects to take action.

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