Holding a contest: How to get free stuff to give away

The Overview

Over on one of the sites I run we’re having a huge contest where we’re giving away over $1500 in stuff in the winner. Did we shell out $1500 to buy the stuff to give away? Heck no. And we’re not just giving away 800 small items donated by small companies. We’re giving away items from Wacom, Adobe, Computer Arts, and iStockPhoto. So the question lies, “How did you get all of those companies to give you stuff for free?” Ah, good question.

First, what exactly we’re giving away, just so there is no confusion:
1) Wacom 4×5 Graphire3 tablet
2) Adobe Creative Suite 2 Premium
3) A one year subscription to Computer Arts
4) iStockPhoto goodie bag (free credits, tshirts, bags, etc etc)

That’s it…just those 4 things. Also note that I didn’t have a single contact with any of those companies other than the fact I use their products.

The Process

So what’s the process for getting this sort of thing? Well it’s actually fairly simple.

  1. First, come up with a contest or giveaway idea. Decide what it will actually be…a contest or a giveaway. Will the participants actually need to complete some sort of task (write a review, design something, etc)? Or will they just simply need to send in their email address or register on your forums? Write your details down. And by “details” I mean every little aspect you can think of. From deadlines to file sizes and more.
  2. Second, 5-6 weeks ahead of your contest date, compile a list of the companies you’d like to be involved in your contest. Do you think the new The Movies game would be a killer giveaway for your movie community? Then add Lionhead Studios to your list. At this point all your doing is making a list, you’re not contacting a soul just yet. I would also advise going ahead and actually getting contact info for each company, just to save yourself some time. You’ll want the contact info for the marketing/PR department.
  3. About 3-4 weeks out from your contest, start contacting the companies on your list. I’d advise calling over email as your first attempt at contacting. The marketing/PR folks get tons of email from people everyday and your chances of actually getting a response (and a positive one) are much more likely if you can get a hold of them on the phone. But make note, do them and yourself a favor and cut right to the chase. Don’t talk about the weather or what you did this weekend. Tell them quickly what it is you’re calling about. Something like, “Hi, this is Josh from SITE NAME. We’re doing a contest over here and would be interested in involving COMPANY NAME in the contest in some way.” At this point they’ll either say “No, thanks” and hang up or inquire more about the contest as well as your site. Be prepared with site details such as traffic and demographics and make sure you have your contest details handy.

    While you’re explaining all the details of the contest be sure you don’t forgot to hit on a very important point…how will this contest benefit them? As nice as people can be, Adobe isn’t going to want to give $1000 worth of software just because you are nice to them. They need for this contest to benefit them more than it benefits you. So be sure to come up with some way to really push the companies that are involved and let them know that you plan on pushing them and that this really will benefit them.

  4. At this point, if everything goes as planned, you’ll have yourself a few nice prizes to give away in your contest. Most companies will just ship the product to you and let you ship it out to the winner. You’ll do yourself a favor if you keep them up-to-date on how the contest is going as well as when it’s over and who the winner is. Many times they’ll like to send the winner a little “congrats” email or letter. Plus, keeping them up-to-date will generally form a good relationship with them for future contests.

The Closing

What is so great about a contest is that pretty much everybody wins. You get increased traffic, the prize providers get publicity, and the winner(s) of the contest get some sweet gear. So what are you waiting for? Get that contest moving!

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 15th, 2005 at 5:55 pm and is filed under Business. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Dec 15 2005

11 Responses to “Holding a contest: How to get free stuff to give away”

Nice read! Thanks.

MaxS on December 16th, 2005 at 1:12 pm

How to get free stuff to give away

Blogger and Designer Josh Pigford has an interesting how-to on giving things away via a contest. Specifically how to get those free goodies to pass along. Over on one of the sites I run we’re having a huge contest where…

Lifehacker on December 16th, 2005 at 5:03 pm

I love how you left out the actual real crucial bit: what to tell them to convince them they benefit from the contest. I sorta figured you’d have to make a list, and call them, and stuff. Way to go and make a completely useless article.

Anonymous Coward on December 16th, 2005 at 6:13 pm

The point about “leaving out what to say” to the donating company is a good one — though I wouldn’t have been so nasty about it. ;) Some of the basic info, in fact, was offered. As a marketing and communications type, I humbly offer my thoughts, too:

- If your traffic numbers are good, be sure to point out that the donator will have access to lots of readers.

- If you have detailed info about your readership, all the better. Primarily females, males, 18 - 25 or 26 - 40? If it matches the donator’s/product’s demographic, you will have an excited vendor. Be sure to be able to offer some proof.

- Offer to place free donor advertising on your site during the contest. Ensure that you’re not losing money on the placement, of course — but offer them something, if you need to.

- Remember that sometimes, all the donator needs is the attention that comes with having a picture of their product and a glowing description (they will help you write the copy).

- Don’t spend too much time on any single vendor trying to convince them — if you get a hold of a decision-maker, and if you have the right numbers, and IF they still don’t agree, move on. There are lots of potential donors out there.

- Don’t just call a person listed on a vendor press release in the “news” section of their website. Go to the “management” page too and look for a VP or Director-level person in charge of marketing. Write to that person, and cc another (not the CEO) if you need to.

One last point — start a lot sooner than 3 or 4 weeks prior to your contest. This is about relationship-building with the vendor, who is also a potential advertiser, etc. As someone who makes these decisions of behalf of vendors every day, if I’m approached by someone and it’s a “rush-rush” situation, I’m immediately skeptical.

Hope this helps.

Timothy Johnson on December 16th, 2005 at 9:39 pm

Thanks for a great idea for kicking off a long overdue renovation on our (sad face) resort’s website. The hospitality industry has so many! terrific things swirling around it, I’m sure many would like more exposure. :)=)

dunebug on December 17th, 2005 at 6:19 am

Good article, I can see how this would work but does anyone have ideas for the small niche site with less readers etc?

Murdock on December 19th, 2005 at 7:14 am

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Links - 2005-12-27 at Isaak’s World on December 26th, 2005 at 9:17 pm

One thing you might want to mention that we’ve notived while running contests on Gizmos for Geeks is that the contributors of prizes tend to want your users information including at least their name and email address. If you’re concerned about your users privacy this could be a problem.

the Geeks

The Geeks on January 22nd, 2006 at 1:44 pm

I know a lot of people would not give out this information - but let’s say hypothetically, what would be a decent number of daily visitors that would perk a marketing person’s ear?

Sam on April 18th, 2006 at 4:12 pm

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