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Contest Winners or Customers? When to Give it Away for Free

by Stephanie Faris
craft & maker

Barbara Casasola

You work hard creating your crafts, spending hours developing concepts and turning them into winning pieces. Designing and building are only part of the business, though. Once your product is ready to go on the market, the next challenge starts. For many artists, getting the word out about the hard work we do can be the most difficult part of running a business.

Many makers find the best type of promotion is word of mouth. This is especially true in a social media era, where many customers learn about unique products through @mentions and tags on sites like Instagram and Facebook. But in order to make such an impact, you’ll first need to get your products in the hands of those customers.

With a new product, one of the best ways to give your promotional efforts a jumpstart is to offer it for free. But it’s important to have a plan in place to make sure you aren’t just handing items out to people who won’t help. Here are a few instances where giving products away can be a great marketing tool.

Getting Social Media Notice

An established social media following makes it easier to get the word out about any new products or events. But building that audience can take time. A well-designed giveaway can boost your follower numbers quickly.

Mei Pak, owner of Tiny Hands Food Jewelry, recommends using bold visuals to attract attention. “The moment someone decides, ‘Let me check Facebook,’ they’re going to go to their newsfeed and they’re going to keep scrolling until a picture or video that looks kind of cool, just at a glance, makes them stop,” Pak says. “If it’s just a picture of your product, no one’s going to know it’s a giveaway. What I would recommend for you to do is use text overlays to plaster on there, ‘Giveaway’ so no one can miss it.”

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Gain Social Media Followers

If your goal is to gain more followers, it’s important to create a giveaway that encourages sharing. Your followers will repost it to their followers, who will hopefully move it forward. Giveaway tools like Rafflecopter let entrants earn entries by tweeting a message, following a Twitter account, visiting a Facebook page, or following a Pinterest account. This is a great way to build an audience on those platforms, but you may, unfortunately, attract people who only follow you long enough to gain entry to your contest. Even with that in mind, these types of giveaways can be valuable because they expose your brand to a large number of people.

Building a Subscriber List

With a strong mailing list in place, you can send out newsletters and special offers, giving you a long-term solution. Mei points out that collecting email addresses will reduce your number of entries, since many consumers are uncomfortable with handing over an email address. However, by collecting email addresses, you’ll be able to build a strong mailing list of loyal customers.

Mei details four steps to the giveaway funnel:

Email sign up—Direct entrants to a sign-up form. This should be a requirement to join, so if they sign up without providing an email address, they aren’t eligible to win.
Automatic email—Entrants should get a confirmation email thanking them for joining the giveaway, including a link to visit your website.
Contest ends—Choose a winner randomly or based on predefined criteria.
Final email + coupon code—All participants should receive an email announcing the winner, plus a coupon code offering them a discount on your products.

When handled correctly, giveaways can give your products a boost in visibility. It’s important to set your giveaway up with a goal in mind, whether you’re interested in increasing your following or getting the word out about your products.

Want to remember these tips? Download the Contest Rules Infographic and cross-check your next promotion to ensure you are running a contest that’ll earn you customers.

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Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip, 25 Roses, and the upcoming Piper Morgan series.