How not to run an email competition

Competitions are an awesome way to promote your brand, get people talking about your products or services and get them to do some marketing on your behalf. It’s viral marketing at its sweetest.

I got an email today with a 1Mb Word attachment advertising the sender’s product. The email instructions went as follows: “Send this email to 10 friends and cc us and you’ll be entered into a draw to win this great prize (the product).”

The product sounded really good, so I did just that.

The results of my sending were as follows:
– one email address I used was to myself to test, that went through fine
– four of the other email addresses got bounced as spam
– two of my friends emailed me to say they had it already
– I made a typo in one of the other email addresses so that bounced
– Two email addresses went through fine
– the sender’s email address that I had to cc it to bounced because their mailbox was full (of a billion x 1Mb Word doc attachments, I’d imagine)

So they didn’t even know I’d entered! And I’d used up at least 11Mb of my bandwidth!! (And here in South Africa, that’s an issue!)
Note to self: Send snotty email to competition holder as soon as they’ve cleared their email box to explain to them that this is clearly NOT the way to run an email campaign!

Here’s what didn’t work and why:

1. Large attachments are a problem
They quickly clog your mailbox and clutter up outgoing bandwidth – resulting in you being unpopular from the users’ side, either because they can’t reach you or because you’ve used all their bandwidth. Have a link to whatever you want to show them.
– Doesn’t work for the user OR the
competition holder

2. Word is NOT a display medium
I don’t care who you are, you can’t make anything in Word look as nice as you can online. Word can’t animate anything worth looking at; and it can’t have TRACKABLE clickable links. And not everyone uses Word – or the same version of Word you’re using. Use your branding effectively – display online. And even if you use branded html email instead, most email clients mess up the formatting as soon as you click “forward”.
– Doesn’t work for the user OR the competition holder

3. Have measurable, recordable, trackable everything
What stops people emailing 10 bogus addresses and cc’ing you? (Eg: I mail john@nullabc.co.za, ted@null123.co.za, mary@nullxyz.co.za etc etc … and you have no clue if they’re real or not). And what’s to stop people all emailing the same circle of friends (which irritates the people who get the same mail – ostensibly from YOU – over and over again) and doesn’t get you any new leads. The competition holder needs to be able to measure how effective the competition is, else what’s the point? With the ‘forward email’ method, the competition holder doesn’t know if the email addresses listed are duplicates, or even completely bogus until they run the next competition and try to use them.
– Encourages cheating, and doesn’t work for the competition holder

This is why many “cc me” email competitions fail, as marketing exercises.

I think we can conclusively state that the method described above really isn’t the way to go. So .. what is?

Step 1: Send out a nice pretty html emailer to your website database (or any database) .. and they follow a link in it that takes them to a web page where there’s a form to fill in.

Step 2: The form asks for 10 friends’ names & email addresses; and then does 3 things:

1. Verifies that the email address is correct
2. Checks to see that the email address hasn’t already been entered
3. Sends that nice pretty branded email to the friends listed with a link back to the same form.

Step 3: Get measurable results – make sure you can get your hands on a spreadsheet that lists

– who’s been invited (name, surname and email address) and by whom;
– If they clicked the link to the competition in the email;
– whether they’ve entered the competition
– what answer they provided to any competition based questions;
– whether they’ve opted out (so the competition is ECT Act compliant)
– who has invited the most number of other people

So the result is:
You are provided with ONLY valid email addresses, and you maximise the number of new leads, while minimising duplications. As an added bonus, you are guaranteed to keep your branding throughout every email sent, because no forwarding is necessary. You’re also given all your reports, which means you don’t have to spend time compiling all those names and email addresses into a spreadsheet!

So what’s my point?
pixelmagic has just developed an affordable, completely brandable; completely trackable viral marketing engine, designed to run viral email campaigns 🙂
We’ve called it viral:magic and we’re very proud of our new baby!

Drop us a line today to see what we we can do for your next viral email campaign.