Email marketing is at its best when it is used as part of an integrated campaign. Given the low on-costs it will generally be the leader but to get the best return on investment you should use all opportunities open to you. One method of promotion that is often overlooked is a competition. Yet they can be very cost effective means of promotion.
What attracts people to competitions is the same thing that puts most people in email marketing off them: it is basically something for nothing.
You might wonder why you should throw money away just to make someone else feel good. Let me try and convince you.
A competition is a marketing tool with multiple uses, one that can be modified and adjusted for your particular needs. The costs are easily controlled and it can run and run. They can be used in multiple forms of marketing, running consecutively or concurrently. As long as you do not want to get stones out of horses’ hooves a competition is email marketing’s Swiss Army knife.
Competitions can be used to collect customers, to convert them to online sales and then get them to subscribe to your email marketing lists. If you want to encourage visitors to your website you can hide answers there. If it is merely brand awareness then they can do that with ease. They can multi-task.
You will probably be expecting a ‘but’ around here. And you will be right. There is one essential that you should not ignore. The history of competitions in email marketing and promotions in general are littered with disasters. Twenty years ago Hoover’s air miles campaign demolished their good name and cost them millions of pounds. Recently a fresh soup manufacturer did not have to spend £500,000 but got themselves a much commented on mention in The Mail Online.
You would think that after many such high profile disasters companies would never again fail to take precautions. You can, no doubt, sense another but. Mercedes-Benz, one of the biggest car manufacturers in Europe, ran a competition recently which blew up in its face.
It resulted in a complaint to the ASA, which bizarrely resulted in the complainant being banned. It is well worth reading the adjudication here.
Their plan was excellent: user generated content is always a bonus. If you cannot think up a decent catch-phrase, get your customers to do so for a prize that is a fraction of what a professional company would charge. Isn’t email marketing all about saving costs?
Whilst the ASA criticised what they felt was a change of rules half way through the Mercedes-Benz competition, their error was in not thinking things through, a lesson that we all should learn.
Most of us looking for the edge in email marketing will consider competitions and for good reason, but there are two rules:
Keep your first competition simple by limiting the prize and restricting competitors’ options, and
Once you have experience, keep your subsequent competitions simple.
If the big guys can score own goals then so can you.