How to run a crazy successful blog giveaway [case study]

blog giveaway

This post will teach you how to create and run a blog giveaway to grow your email list. Specifically, we’ll walk through my own giveaway results, then we’re diving deep into strategy and set-up!

A quick warning:

The case study you’re about to read was only accomplished thanks to a personal skill I have: pitching and negotiating.

Thanks to these, the $1,600 Do You Even Blog Giveaway cost me $350.

But there’s good news.

  1. We’re going to look at how I managed that
  2. You might not need these skills at all 🙂 🙂

First, what’s the point of running a giveaway? Why is this important?

Bloggers run giveaways to build their email list, which is a key channel for marketing their blogs. The rest of this article assumes you already recognize the great value of your email list.

Let’s break down the numbers:

  1. Beginning email list – 421
  2. Ending email list – 980ish (a few unsubs during the giveaway)
  3. Emails added – 579
  4. Cost of giveaway items to me: $300ish
  5. Facebook Ads campaign for Giveaway: $100
  6. Real ending email list, 1 month later – 940

Given the newness of this blog, I considered this giveaway to be a massive success, and definitely plan on doing them again soon.

The last 3 months of email list growth lol

That said, let’s break this thing down like a fraction.

Inside the Do You Even Blog Giveaway

1 – Generating giveaway ideas, etc

Step #1 in this process is probably the single most important part of running the giveaway: Choosing the thing you’re giving away.

This point cannot be overstated. This is important for a few reasons:

  1. (Good) blog giveaways cost time and money
  2. You NEED these costs to be considered an investment, rather than an expense.

If Mike from NinjaBudgeter.com were to give away his favorite recipe book, the cost of that book would be an expense.

Why?

Because the resulting email subscribers wouldn’t be in his target market.

However, if Mike had given away a lifetime subscription to Personal Capital (a personal finance app), chances are good the giveaway entrants are more aligned to his target market.

Huge Pro Tip #1 – Choose a giveaway prize only your target audience would enjoy. Simply speaking, the item needs to fiercely attract people directly in your niche.

Given my audience is bloggers, I choose a suite of blogging courses and paid blogging tools. Roughly $1,600 worth if someone paid retail prices, which leads us to…

Huge point #2 – Choose a giveaway prize that is really, really, really, really, really, really desirable. Like, something your audience would kill for.

The level of “success” you see from a blog giveaway is directly related to the desirability of the prize. $1,600 worth of blogging tools is better than $1,500 worth. Both of which are infinitely better than $400 worth.

Good news: It’s not actually about the monetary cost. It’s about the value.

Josh Earl is famous for growing his list over 3,000% from a $30 giveaway. How?

That $30 product (Sublime Text pro) is something any developer in those days would kill for. It wasn’t even a huge upgrade. Just “one of those things” that hit Josh’s audience with “Ugh YES that’d be so nice. I’m entering.”

Additional tips for choosing your giveaway item:

  • Include more than just your own info products. Please. No more “win a free copy of my $9 ebook!” That’s not an effective prize on it’s own.
  • Ask yourself: What paid products do my audience usually spend a lot of money on?
  • Ask yourself: What subscription/service does my audience usually think they need?
  • Which of these items could you barter for? (See below)
  • Make it bigger. Just, bigger.

If you truly want your giveaway campaign to go “viral” (whatever that phrase means to you), the prize you giveaway needs to turn heads.

You’ll be spending time, energy, and money for the giveaway anyways, don’t skimp on the prize.

Make it count.

2 – Obtain as much of the prize as you can…discounted or free.

This point is going to be a bit controversial.

Also, you might not need this section at all if…

  1. You’re loaded with cash, and can pay retail for your giveaway item
  2. You’re giveaway item doesn’t require loads of cash

If you’ve already got this down, skip to the next bullet point. If not, let’s proceed.

If you’ve been in the Do You Even Tribe for long, you probably noticed something in the giveaway…

Many of the prizes are from former podcast guests and other blogging friends of mine.

This was just coincidence.

#jokes

When setting up the prizes, I hand-selected these products and reached out to their owners to pitch them a barter. Bartering in the blogging world is SO underrated.

Here’s an email I sent to Monica Louie bartering for a coupon to Flourish.

trading a coupon for promotion!

Here’s the email I sent to ConvertKit bartering for a 3-month credit to include:

Again, bartering.

Annnnd with my buddy Jeff (who would LOOOVEEE you to visit his new site, DollarSprout.com lol)

saaaaamee thing. Thanks Jeff!

If you’d like to view ALL of these emails, I’ve included the swipe file download below

Download

IMPORTANT NOTE: Very little of this outreach was “cold.” Rather, I have spent a great deal of time building friendships with these other bloggers and influencers.

Remember the first words of this blog post? You might not have these relationships in place for your blog. If this is the case, you should:

  1. Start building relationships YESTERDAY. It’s so vital.
  2. Choose different giveaway items.
  3. Pay retail for giveaway items.

Technically set-up the giveaway

(Edit: After publishing the post, I reached out to Sumo.com and got a discount code for 20%off  this Kingsumo plugin! Use DOYOUEVENBLOG at checkout 🙂 🙂 🙂 )

There are entirely too many giveaway tools and software to choose from, all of which are ludicrously priced in my opinion. (It’s the simplest software, why do they cost so dang much??)

Boggles my mind.

Still, I used KingSumo, and would therefore recommend it for a few reasons:

  1. I’ve used Interact and Rafflecopter before, and DID NOT enjoy them at all.
  2. Both of those (and most other) giveaway tools require monthly subscriptions. (Really people?)
  3. Kingsumo is incredible easy to set-up, and only requires a one-time payment.
  4. Kingsumo comes w/ built-in social sharing vitality (You can make it where when an entrant shares their “unique URL,” they can get more entries. Basically just an incentive for them to share your giveaway. It works.

If you plan on running more than one giveaway ever (and I think you should), grab Kingsumo.

Here’s what my giveaway page looked like:

And here’s what the backend looked like:

Click to view larger image

What should I include on the giveaway page?

There are only a few required things:

  1. A detailed list of giveaway prizes and their value.
  2. Terms and Conditions (see below)
  3. Minimal sales copy.

That’s it.

The truth is…nobody cares about the copy, they care about the prizes. That’s what they’re looking for when they land on the page.

Therefore, they shouldn’t have to go looking for the prizes.

Keep intro copy short, and exciting! Giveaways are fun, so your copy should be too! As far as the list of prizes, be detailed! The more you can show off what the winner’s will win, the better. This includes retail/cost of the items if they’re available. Just don’t inflate.

Terms and Conditions —> This is important for legal reasons! Let’s not get sued, ok? I went to RocketLawyer, signed up for the free trial, made the giveaway terms, then canceled the free trial. (You’ll actually still have the document to reuse in your account, even after you cancel the trial!)

How long should I run my giveaway for?

7-10 days. That’s just enough time to let social shares run their course, while still maintaining a sense of urgency for contestants to enter and share.

Next question.

Small Pro Tip for your Blog Giveaway – When it doubt, keep everything as simple as possible. Do NOT hold yourself back from launching or taking action because you’re obsessing over the background image on the page, or the copywriting to describe the prizes, or anything else for that matter.

Keep images simple, and keep the giveaway page simple. People understand what they’re signing up for. Show them what they’ll win; that’s what they’re there for!

Blog Giveaway Phase 2 – Promoting and enhancing virality

First, here’s a broad but important summary of what makes a giveaway go blog-viral:

An incredibly desirable prize (that specifically attracts your target readers), combined with your giveaway software’s built-in share incentives…is what forms viral giveaways.

However, strategic promotion is still important to get the very first batch of entrants and sharers!

Here is the bare minimum of promotion:

1 – Announce the giveaway….BEFOREHAND.

Tease it to your email list, Twitter followers, etc. Mention it in a blog post. The point of this is to build anticipation so when you send the first “Hey my giveaway is live!” email….that email will have a massive open rate.

Tease us.

2 – Send to your email list

We’re all bloggers by this point right? This should be a “duh” moment for you. Send a very brief note to your list informing them the giveaway is live, and include a partial (or complete) list of the prizes in the body of the email.

This will drive click-throughs.

3 – Schedule, IN ADVANCE, tweets, posts, pins, etc.

Hopefully you’re already using a tool like SmarterQueue or Buffer to automate social media posts…so queue a few up for the week of your giveaway. Pin on Pinterest as well. (TailwindBoardbooster, etc)

IMPORTANT: Frequent communication and ongoing engagement is vital to keep new subscribers on your email list. If I’ve heard one question the most, it’s “doesn’t everyone who signs up just leave after they hear they didn’t win?”

Some do. Most don’t….are there are definitely actions you can take to minimize subscriber churn.

Pete’s “secret sauce” of continued promotion without annoying your list.

…I’mma use another H3 tag to tell you how important this is. Buckle up.

Here’s a common dilemma: Whenever bloggers launch products, conduct giveaways, have special promotional periods, etc….it usually leads to a huge spike in emails sent.

People don’t like to be spammed.

It’s my personal opinion (watch out world) that even loyal followers can start to lose interest in your brand during periods of high email frequency or intensity

That said, here’s what I came up with…

Find really good excuses to email your list. That’s it.

Emailing all your subscribers five times throughout the span of the giveaway simply asking them to share….is stupid. It’s been done way too many times to boot.

Huge Pro Tip #3 – Add additional prizes in the middle of the giveaway period.

This is a solid tactic for several reasons:

  1. It’s keep people interested and engaged, without being spammy.
  2. Your followers/entrants care about this.
  3. There’s a psychological factor that makes the giveaway seem even more enticing.
  4. It “warms up” brand-new email subscribers that just joined your list.

That last point is crucial.

During my campaign, I sent out segmented emails to different parts of my list, including a completely separate email to NEW subscribers that just joined.

For example…

  1. Average Susie enters your giveaway, now she’s on your email list.
  2. She gets a confirmation email.
  3. She receives your normal weekly newsletter (I hope it’s a good one!)
  4. She thinks “Ugh another email list. I just wanted in for the giveaway I think. I don’t KNOW this blogger at all.”

Susie didn’t sign up for your newsletter, she signed up for the giveaway.

So the question is, how do we convert Susie from a “cold” subscriber, to a “warm” one, to a raving loyal fan?

Slowly and carefully.

obvs a fan.

You MUST show new subscribers that you are fully capable of adding value to their lives (specifically whatever you’re blogging about).

For my own example… I added new products to the giveaway on three occasions during the actual giveaway, and maintained frequent (but relevant and useful) email contact with my segmented groups.

Below is the first warm-up email I sent to new subscribers, about halfway through the giveaway.

keep people engaged, and adding more value

And here is the SECOND warm-up email (included the entire list this time): Again, updating people and keeping them engaged, and also delivering value where I can!

The point of these emails was to:

  1. Keep people updated on the giveaway (they’re still invested in the outcome, so they open the emails for sure).
  2. Show them, however possible, that your content and emails is worth sticking around for.
Huge Pro Tip #4 – Give something to non-winners. (It should probably be something scalable, like a discount coupon code or something)

In both my emails and on the actual giveaway page, I mentioned there would be discounted products/services available for NON-winners as well! These included discounts I had acquired through the blogging course creators previously…as well as a few new opportunities I specifically asked for.

Again, the point is to prove to NEW subscribers (heck, old subs too) that you can add value to their lives.

Here’s the somewhat massive email I sent to announce the winner.

click to view larger image

Yes, I also timed it so that this announcement email would land on Black Friday, leading to even MORE deals available to all my email subscribers.

Optional: Running paid ads to your giveaway (I <3 Facebook)

It’s funny, 1/3 of my total investment to run the giveaway was actually Facebook ads. (Half of which were terrible).

Given the viral nature of the giveaway (I.e. entrants will share to get more entries), the potential ROI of a paid campaign can be massive…

…just don’t start like I did.

My ad campaign started off terrible. I spent a good $50 (half my allotted budget) and got ZERO SUBS. Like, actually none.

The reason? Though I had already signed up for Monica Louie’s FB ads course (she was also on the podcast here)….I hadn’t actually gone through it yet lol.

I created my ads based off the first module only (which doesn’t even hit copy and images yet), and those ads did NOT convert.

Luckily, Monica’s course also has group coaching calls, and she let me jump in the “hot seat” to assess my campaign performance.

Everything changed. Copy, images, emojis, everything. We spent a good hour going through and changing stuff.

After that? I converted like crazy.

I was averaging less than $1 a sub ($0.73/sub), which I’m told is great, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve got it much lower with a bit larger budget.

woot! (and derp)

If you’re thinking of going for paid reach, here are few small tips:

  1. Use bright, relevant images that grab attention. Not cat pics, they need to be somewhat relevant.
  2. Use emojis. Everyone likes emojis, and they grab attention.
  3. If driving traffic to a blog post, keep copy short in the ad. For the giveaway, however, longer copy converted for me. People need to know what they’re clicking for! They’re not clicking to read a post, they’re clicking to sign up for something.
  4. Split test audience first. I used an email list lookalike vs. a pixel lookalike.
  5. Minimum of $5/day budget per ad.
  6. For wayyy more meaningful instructions, just grab Monica’s course. It’ll pay for itself in no time, and use PETE20 for $20 off at checkout.
Huge Pro Tip #5 – If you do run ads to your giveaway, you MUST track your conversion rate somehow! This is vital to determining ROI and not wasting money.

In order to track the ad performance, I duplicated my entire giveaway. Two completely separate giveaways.

This made it super easy to track performance, conversions, etc, though still not 100% optimal.

For example, when I sent emails encouraging people to share their lucky URLs, I was then dealing with two different URLs….This was, hard.

Additional fun tips for your giveaway

1 – Give a prize to the person with the most referrals.

Offer fun extras to those who earn the most referrals. It’s a fantastic way to encourage sharing. (Again, KingSumo makes tracking this super easy)

2 – Inform creators/owners of the prizes, hopefully they’ll share!

Hopefully, you’re giving away sweet prizes produced by other people or companies. Do inform these entities that you’re featuring them!

3 – Fairly choose a winner, and deliver what you promised.

This can’t be understated. If you don’t know already, supreme honesty, authenticity, and transparency are THE biggest tools for a successful blogger.

KingSumo (and most other giveaway tools) automatically calculate a winner for you. Given I technically had two separate giveaways, I had to export to .csv and do some combining and annoying finangling to randomly pick a winner.

You can also use free tools like a Random Name Picker.

Summary, and my personal swipe files for pitching people for free products, discounts, etc:

  1. Choose a giveaway prize that is SUPER desirable for people in your specific target market.
  2. Schedule and automate social media posts before the launch.
  3. Tease the giveaway a few times to build anticipation (and the probability that people will open your giveaway announcement email)
  4. Inform prize creators/owners that you’ve included their product in the giveaway.
  5. Share like crazy.
  6. Add additional prizes throughout the giveaway, and inform your old and new subscribers of such!
  7. Think of something useful and scalable you could provide to EVERYONE who enters the giveaway, not just the winner.
  8. Brainstorm additional ways to incentivize additional shares (such as creating a reward for someone who generates the most referrals).

That’s it folks. Hopefully I’ve got you fired up for running your own blog giveaway for list-growth? I really do believe it’s an AMAZING tool to grow quickly, with relatively low cost.

It’ll still cost you something, but it’ll be worth it 🙂

Want to see all the emails/messages/connections I used to barter for free blogging courses, tools, etc?

Well, this my friends is called the opt-in! The CTA! The big hustle!

You can download the swipe file using the form below 🙂

Download

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12 Comments

  1. I want to do this. At this time I don’t have the barter leverage to make it attractive given my small subscriber list and blog audience. It really seems like you have to have several very enticing prizes for the giveaway to be shared. Well your giveaway was effective in getting me to know about your blog?.
    Do you have advice for someone like me?

    1. Of course!

      Today – think on how you can start connecting with other bloggers in a meaningful way. This comment was one, now I’m on your URL. Set yourself up for the point somewhere down the road when you CAN easily reach out to some “colleagues” and get additional items for a giveaway, etc.

      The next 3 months – Keep on building of course (i.e. creating delicious content and smart marketing), and make a mental note….a serious mental note….to attune your brain to listen out for pain points your audience might have, other paid tools they’re seeking out, already paying for, etc.

      The OUTCOME of that goal is hopefully you have a solid idea of resources (some could even be super cheap) that would REALLY make an impactful giveaway.

      It takes some thought, energy, and time….but what doesn’t? It’s what we signed up for 🙂

      best of luck!

      1. This is great! I’m in the same boat as Charmaine, (?? Hi Charmaine!) where my audience is still small. But ive been reaching out to bloggers that I find inspiring, just to comment amd say hi- and actually to make my presence known in a community of people who care about the same things I do! I just started challenging myself to write every day on my blog, and will definitely be keeping my eyes open for pain points for my audience- both to figure out how I can choose content that will serve them and also find some good giveaways! This is so great, thank you for posting!

        1. I absolutely will Akemi, and thanks for the kind words!

          Curious, do you publish every day on your blog too? Or just write?

  2. Giveaways are great but for the longest time I’ve never understood how to actually do a successful. The big mystery part was always how to convert the people who sign up for the giveaway from “cold” subscribers to “warm” subscribers. Thanks for talking about how you did it!!

  3. Damn, I wish I had heard of this giveaway prior! Coming into this blog a little late, but excited to join along for the journey! This is genius and benefits both parties. I couldn’t imagine getting 1,000 subscribers just this year, but you make it seem possible with all your creative ideas.

    How long was the blog up/how many posts before you decided to run this? Or is it irrelevant in your opinion?

    I’m more of a FIRE/PF blogger, so I’m not sure what would be good to offer in exchange?

    1. Hey Olivia!

      Totally irrelevant in my opinion….BUT….there’s a sole exception for having a minimum amount on content on the site. People say have 10 posts before you even launch, or 25 or 40….I’m there with them. As long as those new subscribers have content to dig through on your site should they choose to!

      Other than that, anytime (though there’s also a case of “the more subscribers you have to start with, they more initial shares you might get,” but that goes for just about anything in blog growth.

      I have no idea for a FIRE blogger, but maybe that’s a good thing? None of them are doing giveaways at all. You’d definitely stand out 🙂 Books is always a good starting place.

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