Time after time, email has demonstrated its ability as one of the most engaging and compelling forms of marketing communication. As a business owner, in order to be successful with your email marketing campaigns, you must build up a list of engaged subscribers.

However, due to the implications of GDPR, email addresses are much harder to acquire than ever before. To grab people’s attention, and their consent to market to them, you need an enticing reason for them to hand over their information willingly.

Creating contests to bulk up your email lists is one very effective way to achieve such a goal.

This blog contains a list of actionable tips to give you the foundation you need to build a successful and engaged list of email contacts.

Why Using Giveaways Are Effective

Us humans are naturally competitive; we’re very responsive to the idea of winning. This is why we spent a record £7.6bn on the lottery in 2016.

But, why does that mean we should be tapping into this competitive nature to build an email list?

According to a resource piece from Outgrow:

These statistics really paint a picture; demonstrating that contests can be a highly effective marketing strategy that could improve your metrics in 2020.

However, as with any other marketing form, competitions need to be considered and formulated correctly in order for you to reap the benefits.

Starting Your Email Contest

The initial stages of setting up your email giveaway will largely determine whether your contest will achieve its goal or not. The goal, of course, is to build up a bigger list of engaged email subscribers.

You should think about the following before you begin preparations:

Landing Pages

For your competition to work successfully, you’ll need plenty of new email addresses.

For this, you’ll need to create well designed, GPDR friendly landing pages and contact forms on your website that you’ll be using to gather all the data you require.

Customer Personas

In an ideal world you want your giveaway in front of as many people as possible, but not partitioning your target audiences can cause a big problem down the line.

If you have failed to truly understand who your customers are and who might be interested in your competition, you’ll end up with sign-ups from people who are only interested in winning the competition and care very little about your brand. This leads to disengaged subscribers; high unsubscribe rates and lack of click-throughs.

To avoid this, you’ll want to determine whom you’re trying to reach and the best way to go about doing this is by creating a selection of in-depth customer personas, which are essentially fictional characters, that encompass the most common traits of your key customer demographics.

Creating these characters puts a face to a demographic so you can start thinking about who they are and what they’re looking for.

Now you’ll need to know how you’ll make your contest work and how you’ll get it in front of your target audience.

There are three broad steps that you need to work through to gain more subscribers:


The concept, in effect, is your competition. At this stage, you need to decide what you want your customers to do to enter the contest.

For example, you could choose one of the following:

Clearly identifying what your giveaway concept is will be hugely important, as potential contestants need to know from the outset what they need to do, and they shouldn’t have to hunt high and low to find out.

Examples of Successful Concepts

“Make Our Next TV Advert” – Luxury Escapes

Luxury Escapes

Holiday brand Luxury Escapes recently used a video contest concept with their ‘Make Our Next TV Advert’ competition.

Because the brand is clear on what the competition was and how to enter it, in addition to a winning entry, the competition attracted:

“Ultimate Wedding Contest” – Crate & Barrel

Ultimate Wedding Contest

A few years ago, Crate and Barrel ran a photo competition called “Ultimate Wedding Contest”. It called for newly engaged couples to validate a gift registry, answer three questions about themselves and submit three photos, all for the chance to win $100,000 towards their dream ceremony.

While the idea for the concept is straightforward, it unsurprisingly produced remarkable results:

These examples show just how important it is to nail your concept in the early phases.

It’s also important that your contest is highly shareable, both to increase brand visibility and to tap into audience bases that you may not usually be able to reach.


The easiest thing to offer in your giveaway is cash. However, money is appealing to almost anyone. You may end up attracting people interested in the cash, and not what your business has to offer, which leads to uninterested subscribers. It’s for this reason that there are advantages to providing unique prizes with a personalised appeal.

For example, cleaning product company, O-Cedar recently created an email competition which allowed subscribers to win a high-quality mop each day for the length of the giveaway.

They had ten products on offer, which normally retailed at around $50 each. The resulting campaign gathered:

This just goes to show that even the simplest of prizes can produce fantastic results. This being the case, think carefully about the kind of thing that you could provide and how it might appeal to your target audience.

The Power of Being Different

In most cases, something really unique trumps the appeal of cash prizes.

An excellent example of this is Dove’s “Real Beauty Should be Shared” campaign, which gained huge traction by asking social followers to share why their friends and family represented real beauty.

Dove Competition

The prize was nothing extravagant; in fact, the winner got the chance to front the next marketing campaign for Dove, which many would consider as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Sure, it’s easy to offer a thousand in cash or the latest iPad, but could something more unique and customer-centric resonate more with your audience?


Once you’ve defined your concept and chosen your prize, the next step is to get your giveaway to the people that matter.

There are a couple of ways to do this:

Email Campaign

Your current email contacts are some of the easiest and most engaged people to contact. Although you already have their contact information, reaching out to them before anyone else will help you gain early traction. If you’ve created something that people want to talk about, the chances of them sharing it through word of mouth or via social media are pretty strong.

Use Your Website

Your website is the easiest way to promote your giveaway to your visitors, and the great thing is, is that these are people who are obviously interested in some aspect of your company since they’re visiting your website. Create some eye-catching visuals in the header bar or even nice, clear promotional pop-ups.

Your sign-up form must be as simple as possible; trying to get too clever will ultimately deter sign-ups. It’s also imperative to make it completely clear that the data you’re collecting will be added to an email list; anything less will not comply with GDPR guidelines.

Be sure to create opt-in forms that are GDPR compliant and add a link to your privacy policy.

Promotion Through Social

Utilise your business Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and whatever other social accounts you have to spread the word of the competition. Doing so encourages your following to sign up and share what you have to offer, which is an excellent opportunity to create more interest in your contest through another crowd of interested participants.


By following the concept, prize and promotion stages, as we’ve outlined above, you can create a contest that interests your audience, thereby adding to your email list with further engaged contacts.

There’s no need for huge prizes and cash giveaways. If you’ve done your homework and chosen a prize that appeals to your audience, then you can create a successful competition that attracts email sign-ups.

If you’re thinking about creating a contest in 2020, why not follow these steps and give it a go for yourself?