How to Use Sweepstakes to Grow Your Databases, Generate Revenue & More

by Liz Huff Second Street

General Best Practices

Have a desirable prize

Sweepstakes may be easy to enter, but you still need to offer an enticing prize if you want to actually capture entries. Better prizes mean not only more engagement, but also more social sharing. Keep in mind that perceived value is often more important than monetary value, so look for opportunities like (local) celebrity meet & greets, VIP event experiences, and so on. The important thing is to find something that will resonate with the audience you are trying to reach.

Keep your entry form simple

When you are creating the entry form for your sweepstakes, be sure to limit it to the information you actually need and will use. This is because you want to keep the barrier to entry as low as possible – you don’t want your entry form to look overwhelming! I recommend including only the following fields:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Email
  • Zip Code
  • Opt-in Checkbox

If for some reason you want to request additional information – such as birthday, address, or phone number – you want to make sure that the prize you are offering is valuable enough to warrant these extra fields. People are increasingly willing to give up their information, but they are savvy enough not to do so unless they feel that they are getting value out of the transaction in return.

Include an email opt-in

Sweepstakes are far and away the best way to grow your email database – but only if you include an opt-in checkbox on the entry form. When you craft your opt-in, keep in mind that you will receive more email addresses for your list if you have the opt-in checkbox pre-checked and and if you give people an incentive for joining your database.

Run the contest for at least 2 weeks

You want your promotion to be long enough that you can allow the word about it to spread and collect as many entries as possible, but short enough that it remains interesting to your audience (who wants to enter a sweepstakes when the winner won’t be announced for months?). For most sweepstakes, 2 weeks is the perfect amount of time. However, if you are running a big giveaway or offering a larger or more valuable prize package you can extend the promotion even longer.

Use referral features & social incentives

By offering participants sharing incentives – such as extra chances to win for every person they refer to the contest – you can encourage social sharing and attract even more entries.

Make sure your contest is mobile-optimized

Sweepstakes have a low barrier to entry and shouldn’t require much time or effort to enter. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to find your contest and fill in their information – even when they’re on the go.

Allow people to enter multiple times

Setting up your sweepstakes so people can return to enter again and again encourages more engagement with the promotion. While you can set the entry limit as high as you want, be wary of allowing unlimited entries because that makes it so people can set up bots and stuff your sweepstakes with thousands of automated entries.

Promote like crazy

While your traditional media assets certainly help raise awareness about your sweepstakes and increase the exposure of any sponsors who are involved, online promotion will be more effective at driving results. After all, digital assets like banner ads and email messages directly drive digital conversions! (Check out our checklist for promoting your contests.)

Grow Your Email Database

You should always include an email opt-in checkbox on your sweepstakes entry forms, but if your goal is to grow your email database you should be extra careful to make sure that that opt-in checkbox is pre-checked. CAN-SPAM laws require that opt-ins are optional (they’re called opt-ins for a reason), but having the box pre-checked will generate more opt-ins because people are much more likely not to take action than they are to make an effort to actually check the box themselves.

One other way to boost opt-ins, as described above, is to include a special offer in the opt-in text like the one shown below.


Find out more about how KNDD-FM achieved an 88% opt-in rate for their Duke’s Chowder House $100 gift card giveaway!

Grow Your Facebook Likes

If your goal for your sweepstakes is to grow Facebook Likes for you or for an advertiser, follow these few simple steps.

Run the sweepstakes on Facebook only

If your goal is to increase your social following, you need to show people exclusive value on your Facebook Page.

Run the contest via a 3rd-party app

When you run a contest through a third-party app, you are able to have an entry form to collect email addresses and other information about entrants and a Like-gate to require someone to Like your Page in order to enter the contest. This type of sweepstakes – as opposed to one run with Facebook functionality alone – is great for collecting information about your fans, building your social following, and incentivizing shares with referral features. (Here’s a more detailed look at what a contest run through a third-party app looks like.)

For more information about how to succeed with contesting on Facebook, check out our Facebook Big Promotions Page.

Generate Revenue

There are several different models you can use to generate revenue with sweepstakes.

  • Exclusive paid sponsor
  • Exclusive prize sponsor
  • Multiple paid sponsors
  • Multiple prize sponsors
  • Agency-model for one advertiser
  • Agency-model for multiple advertisers

Multiple sponsorship models work particularly well when you are giving away multiple prizes over a period of time (i.e. a “31 Days of Christmas” contest), and targeting multiple sponsors allows you to build relationships with several advertisers at once.

When you are working with advertisers, make sure that the prize and contest theme align with the audience that they want to reach!

Increase Your Website Traffic

If your goal is to increase your website traffic, allowing multiple entries is key. To encourage return traffic, however, consider limiting the number of entries per day or per hour. When you promote the sweepstakes, be sure to emphasize that people who come back day after day have more chances to win!

Acquire Customer Data

You can use sweepstakes to acquire information about your customers (or your advertiser’s customers) by including a few simple survey questions on the registration page. Learn more about how to use sweepstakes as a lead generation tool (and find out how one newspaper delivered $165K worth of leads to a local auto dealer with a sweepstakes) in this article.

Get your copy of The Sweepstakes Playbook.