Five Reasons Why Online Sweepstakes Work

When you say “sweepstakes,” it's hard not to imagine Ed McMahon's voice bellowing, “You could be the next $10 million Publishers Clearing House winner,” nor is it hard to dream of an all-expense paid vacation around the world.

But have you ever considered how costly and time consuming traditional sweepstakes programs can be? The amount of paper used for sweepstakes programs in a given year would stretch to the moon and back three times.

Thanks to the Internet, companies are beginning to discover how easy and economical it can be to implement online sweepstakes programs. Online sweepstakes are an efficient and cost-effective way to generate qualified leads and build brand awareness. These online campaigns also can help companies drive sales, prequalify customers, build a database of prospects and disseminate value-added information.

By implementing online sweepstakes programs, companies can use electronic banners and e-mail to reach a very targeted list of prospects. The Internet also allows people to respond immediately and electronically enable companies to say goodbye to postage, telemarketing, data entry costs and all of their associated expenses.

Online sweepstakes programs are much faster and easier to implement compared to direct mail sweepstakes campaigns. Unlike traditional sweepstakes, in which you wait for the mail to drop, Internet-based campaigns provide immediate feedback on how well the campaign is performing. The Internet also allows companies to test and modify messages and offers at any point during a program to see which combinations are the most popular. This instantaneous feedback increases the overall return on investment and reduces the cost-per-lead by continuing to refine the prospect qualification process.

Here are five ways to make an online sweepstakes program more effective:

* Use banners, e-mail and satellite Web sites. Banners and e-mail are a highly effective and cost-efficient way to promote a sweepstakes program. The Internet allows companies to test, monitor and modify messages, offers and graphics to determine which combinations perform best.

To track and monitor this information, use satellite Web sites. Satellite Web sites sit outside the primary corporate site and track Web-site traffic. This information allows immediate modifications and alterations to the online media mix where the banners are placed and to the content contained within the banners.

* Buy banner space in short increments and monitor results in real time. To help generate the maximum number of qualified responses, purchase online banner space in two-week increments on a variety of Web sites. By doing this, you can test an array of offers, graphics and product messages on each of the sites to see which combinations are most effective.

By purchasing banner rotation space in short increments you can analyze, in real-time, the amount of traffic and interest generated by each banner placement. Although short-term buys may be more expensive, you can eliminate under-performing Web sites from the mix. Conversely, every two weeks you can purchase additional banner rotations on Web sites that yielded the highest traffic and the lowest cost-per-response.

* Qualify entrants. In many instances, the objective of a sweepstakes program is to generate leads. However, for the program to be successful these leads must be qualified based on predetermined criteria. The Internet is a great medium to help companies qualify potential customers while reducing the overall cost of the program.

To qualify customers, post a form that asks for information about the sweepstakes participant. This form should contain a set of questions that will help determine the quality of each lead. Because this information is electronically transmitted, each lead can be scored and instantly routed to the appropriate departments for follow-up.

By having sweepstakes participants fill out a form on the Internet, the need for telemarketers or data entry clerks is eliminated.

* Offer a prize with high visual appeal. To boost response, it's important for banners and Web sites to have graphics with high visual appeal. Offer prizes with high visual appeal such as a car or Hawaiian vacation. Free software doesn't work well because all you can show is a box. Also, the more valuable the prize, the more information people will be willing to provide.

* Extend the campaign with ongoing electronic communication. Companies can extend the life and value of a sweepstakes program by implementing an ongoing communications program with sweepstakes participants. Ongoing communication can take the form of electronic newsletters or e-mails notifying prospects of new products or services.

As an example, let's say your company sells long-distance telephone service to businesses and the company runs a sweepstakes program to give away $10,000 in long-distance service. When prospects enter the sweepstakes, you can ask them if they would like to receive a monthly electronic newsletter, which contains tips on managing long-distance telephone charges.

Maintaining contact with people who take the time to fill out a form or register for a sweepstakes allows you to continue the process of turning prospects into paying customers. This not only extends the life of the original program but adds continuing value to a company's overall marketing and brand management efforts.

Using an electronic medium such as the Internet reduces overall program costs because it eliminates the need for paper, printing, mailing and staffing. Qualifying prospects, providing value-added information and creating ancillary programs to maintain contact with potential customers are elements that should be considered when implementing an online sweepstakes program.

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