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Five tips for an effective prize draw

Prize DrawTo many PR and marketing people, prize draws are cheap marketing. All you have to do is offer something for free and people will fill in forms, right? At the end of the prize draw, most people who entered don’t know who won, nor do they ever find out if anyone won. I don’t like to run prize draws that way at all, because there’s so much more marketing potential if you do it right. Here are my top five tips.

Make the prizes worthwhile

The more attractive the prizes are, the more entries you are likely to receive. It’s not just the prize value that makes the difference though – it’s the quantity too. If you are giving away ten prizes, there are ten times as many chances to win, so that’s likely to encourage more people. The prize does not have to be wildly expensive, like a car or a £10,000 holiday. Offering a gadget, such as a Wii or a PlayStation will attract a good number of entries.

I’ve written a separate post about prize ideas here.

Don’t obsess about links in the competition form

Prize sponsors tend to obsess about getting their link into the copy on a competition page. This is a fruitless obsession because the people filling in the entry form are not likely to click a link that will take them away from the entry form. What you should do is ensure they can see the link after they enter. I like to do this a couple of ways. First, you can make it so that the link appears on the page with the thank you message after their entry form is submitted. Second, each entrant receives a confirmation email, which can also include promotional text for the sponsor along with a link.

Use the competition directories for promotion

Websites like Loquax, The Prizefinder and Compaholics are directories of online competitions. Submit your competition or draw to these sites, and others like them, to reach online users you would perhaps not normally reach.

Capture the data into a database

Don’t just run a competition by asking entrants to send in an email. Yes, this will give you their email address but it is inefficient. Use a database to capture their full contact details as well as the date information related to their entry – this will help as a record for Data Protection purposes. Also, decide on a clear policy on data use. Do you want all your entrants to join your mailing list? Tell them clearly as part of the entry process. If you want to also get their permission for other third party communications, you need to expressly ask them to say that’s OK. Decide, too, whether you will allow entries from previous subscribers who since unsubscribed from your newsletters.

My preference is to let anyone enter a draw who wants to enter. Once they have been added to the newsletter list, they can unsubscribe, but they are still eligible to enter prize draws.

Tell them who won

When you have drawn the winner(s), put their names on a page of your site and send out a follow-up email to all the entrants, inviting them to that page to see the names. This is a good way of generating follow-up traffic, but it’s also great customer service. How many companies bother to contact competition entrants afterwards to announce winners? Another great idea you can employ on this follow up email is to offer something exclusive, like a discount voucher as a thank you for entering the draw.


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Published inDigital Marketing


  1. Thanks for the mention Steve. One aspect of competitions you don’t mention is entry management. These days automated entry services (where a subscriber pays a fee to be entered into comps via a script) are dumping over 20,000+ entries into competitions. These are people who don’t even visit the website, engage with the brand or leave an email where they can be contacted direct.

    Brands/competition organisers can avoid this by making it clear that automated entries will be disqualified and by being vigilant with regards the entries they receive, page views vs entries etc. We’ve even given a list of email accounts and IPs to watch out for on

    • Steve Masters Steve Masters

      Thanks for the addition Jason, that’s a really good point. I once contacted one of these services to tell them why I was removing all their entries from the database and they claimed they were doing me a favour by giving me hundreds of entrants’ details. The problem was that those individuals had no knowledge of the website’s existence, so when they start getting the newsletter and complaining about never having subscribed, you have to explain to them how they got on to your list.

      I think these auto-entry services are unethical.

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