February 9, 2011

Email Acquisition via Sweepstakes: Attract the Right Subscribers Fast

According to the Email Experience Council, email marketers can expect to lose one-third of their subscribers annually due to bounces, unsubscribes, or spam complaints1.  If you don’t follow email acquisition, relevancy, and deliverability best practices, your attrition rate can be even higher.  That’s why it’s so important to combat issues that contribute to subscriber churn while actively growing your lists with the right subscribers.

Your main acquisition goal should be attaining and engaging the right subscribers – people who are interested in your brand and will buy and brag about your products.  Your goal should NOT be to acquire as many email addresses as possible.  After all, the success of your campaigns depends on the quality and interest of your subscribers.

Even with quality lists, segmenting your audience and sending targeted emails will outperform the general promotional email every time – with higher open and click rates, increased conversion rates, and higher average order values.  However, with churn rates of 30% plus, you can’t completely disregard the number of subscribers on your list.  While the emphasis shouldn’t solely be on a specific percentage of growth, as that takes the focus off of the type of subscriber, you must find a strategy that allows you to quickly acquire the brand appropriate subscribers.  And, once acquired, it’s your responsibility to engage and interact with them in relevant conversations.

One way to achieve this is through an email acquisition sweepstakes, contest, or other viral campaign.  But, be careful.  If this strategy isn’t executed correctly it can be risky.  Here are some tips that will help you implement a successful sweepstakes acquisition strategy while avoiding the associated dangers.

Keep it Simple

It might be tempting to create a contest that runs for several weeks as it gives you an extended time frame in which to acquire subscribers.  However, sweepstakes that are strategic, targeted, and limited in time give the appearance of exclusivity and prompt people to respond quickly.  In order to maximize acquisition during a short time period you must have a plan in place prior to launch – including automated emails, banner ads, social and mobile announcements, etc.

Make it Personal

One way to guarantee that entrants are interested in your brand and products is to give away your own merchandise as the prize.  You might get more entrants by offering a cash prize, but then you have no way of knowing if those entrants are interested in your brand or simply the money.  By giving away your own merchandise you’ll attract people who are interested in what you have to offer.

Encourage Social Sharing

Offer your members some incentive, a second entry or a free gift, if they invite friends and social networks to participate. This tactic will greatly expand the reach of the campaign.  However, be sure to maintain control of the contest.  Provide a form to capture the additional email addresses and immediately send a message stating the name of the person who provided his or her email address along with the details of the contest and an easy way to enter.

Promote in the Right Channels

Email is the most effective communication channel as you promote the sweepstakes to your subscribers and members; however, it shouldn’t be your only channel.  Announce your contest in your social media and mobile networks, and include banner ads on your website and other relevant sites.

Send Entry Confirmations

An email confirmation is one of the most important steps of the process as it validates the email addresses of each entrant.  The last thing you want to do is add invalid email addresses to your list because the increase in bounces will negatively affect your deliverability.  An automated confirmation email will safeguard your reputation and ensure that only legitimate email addresses are added to your list and only real people are entered into your sweepstakes.  Also, if you’re worried about bots inundating your sweepstakes with junk email addresses, a simple CAPTCHA on the registration form will prevent that.

Welcome New Subscribers

Subscribers are most engaged within the first few weeks of opting-in so you should use this time to start building the relationship.  An email welcome series designed to engage and interact with subscribers should be part of your usual acquisition process, but it is especially important for sweepstakes.  A welcome series will help you weed out the entrants who were only interested in the contest as it gives uninterested subscribers time to opt-out and provides valuable open and click-through data so you can measure engagement.  That way, you’ll be able to focus your attention on the subscribers who are most likely to purchase from you.

Monitor New Subscribers

We’ve seen a well planned sweepstakes grow lists by 20% or more in matter of days; and, even if you follow the best practices for attracting the appropriate entrants for your brand, you’ll still get a number of invalid email addresses and people who are only interested in the prize.  In order to protect your reputation, closely monitor the results of your confirmation email and welcome series.  Not just the open and click-through rates, but bounces, complaints, and unsubscribes – and watch the inactivity levels for the new subscribers.  If they don’t show interest in your messages, try a re-engagement campaign or remove them from your list.

Get the Legalities Right

Before you launch a sweepstakes, it is imperative that you have attorneys review the concept and structure of the contest, set the official rules, perform the federal and state requirements for bonding and registration, complete the federal tax documents, create affidavits of eligibility and publicity/liability releases, set guidelines for winner selection and validation, validate content entry management and data collection, etc.  Every promotion is subject to complex federal, state, and local laws, and you must be sure to have the correct procedures in place.

January is the perfect time to launch a sweepstakes so you can engage the new subscribers you gained over the holiday season and start the year off right.

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