How to Use Competitions and Incentives in Your Customer Acquisition Strategy

The following is a guest contributed post by Priscilla de Groot, Customer and Partner Marketing Manager at Mapp Digital  

Way back in 2003, Juniper Research looked at how people spent their time online. The top four will come as no surprise: email, search engine searches, researching products and services, and gathering local information. Number five on the list, with a 59% share of internet users’ time, was online contests and sweepstakes. People in the noughts loved a quiz!

2003 is a thousand years ago in digital marketing terms, so let’s get a bit more current. A decade later, a survey from Unbounce showed landing pages running a $500 prize collected 700% more email subscribers than those devoid of contests. A pretty impressive growth rate by any standards.

Coming right up to date, the value of incentive marketing is stronger than ever – and it’s seen in terms of real message cut-through, and corresponding click-throughs and conversions.

A recent project we facilitated introduced fashion brand into the UK market. The win for the customer was a weekend trip to Paris. For the brand, it was the (completely transparent) collection of customer data, gathered through a survey. Data it would later use in ongoing consumer acquisition and nurture campaigns.

Over 34,000 people completed the contest, at a rate of 93%. Once completed, an incredible 40%, then signed up to become members. Check out the dramatically reduced cost of acquisition Vinte-privee achieved here.

Why clear incentive messaging is key got it right. It didn’t just attract with the headline competition prize, it engaged audiences with clear incentive messaging that went far beyond this.

Consumers typically ‘hope’ to win, but rarely ‘expect’ to. Knowing this, the online fashion and lifestyle brand positioned a completed survey as an opportunity, not only to win the big prize, but to better understand the customer. By doing that, it could offer each contestant exclusive, personalized promotions. This transparent approach and additional value caught the imagination of its audiences. And they responded.

How to make your quiz or survey engaging

As we’ve seen, consumers like quizzes, love chances to win and are happy to share data. Here’s the big ‘but’: only if the contest/quiz is engaging, and if the prizes offered are appealing to them as individuals.

There’s another thing for the brand to consider. While your consumers may be tempted by a ‘win the latest tablet’ offer, if you’re a clothing boutique, there’s little connection to your brand. In fact, you’re promoting someone else. Added to this, audiences can tell a ‘lazy prize’ when they see one . Either way, the wrong prize or incentive is a huge missed opportunity.

Back to Vente-privee. Its all-expenses-paid trip to the haute couture capital of the world was more than simply a great prize, it embodied the brand, creating an instant and unconscious association with high fashion and lifestyle. The email did something in seconds that would have taken days and weeks for a pay-per-click or banner ad campaign.

It’s not only the prize. Promotional messaging must be accurate and clear. Getting this right will not only swell participant numbers, it also ensures entrants clearly understand the proposition, retain a positive brand sentiment and are incentivized to take that all important next step. If you’re new to the market or geography and looking to acquire customers, don’t take the easy option of collecting basic details – make competition entry conditional on parting with more details.

Surveys work best when information gathering is transparent, and individuals will share more if they see value in doing so. So, reward every entrant – perhaps with a special discount code – to make potential customers feel like they’ve won something already. It’s also a great way to capture data that can be used to craft more effective and relevant communications in the future.

So, while the initial aim of the game may be to spur entrants to action, competitions also represent a unique opportunity to develop a true sense of your brand and a lasting relationship with the consumer.

When choosing your channel, consider your audience and your objective. Quizzes and promotions abound on social media, and offer easy sharing opportunities. But if you’re looking to move above the noise, the direct engagement of email offers a less scattergun approach. If the offer’s compelling, the audience segmentation right and the survey or competition easy to enter, everyone’s onto a winner.


Priscilla de Groot is Customer and Partner Marketing Manager at Mapp Digital. Mapp Digital is one of the largest, global independent marketing technology companies. Our Customer Engagement Platform, with integrated Data Management Platform and customer-centric services assist mid-market and Fortune 500 companies maximize return from digital marketing executions.