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How to Use a Contest to Generate More Leads

This is a guest post by Travis Ketchum, founder of Contest Domination, a robust contest solution with thousands of customers.

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A lot of people have the desire to run a contest to generate more buzz for their business, but many fall into the trap of giving away the wrong prize (like just an iPad), and end up with a big list of unqualified leads that don’t help their bottom line.

Well executed contests have proven themselves time after time to produce high converting landing pages for fresh leads, with strong viral mechanics that let your audience do the hard work of convincing new prospects to care about you.

There are three components you’ll need to know in order to run your own effective contest that generates what your business benefits from the most: more leads & sales.

#1 Pick a Prize with Intrinsic Value

It’s easy when first thinking about what to give away in your contest, to choose something that will generate a ton of interest because it’s shiny and has mass appeal. However, in practice this generates very unqualified leads.

For example, you’ll see a lot of companies choosing to just give away an iPad or an Amazon gift card as the contest incentive. This is massively flawed for most businesses.

Unless you’re an electronics retailer, this doesn’t make much sense because someone who wants an iPad is not necessarily interested in what you do or sell. The goal of your contest should be to get qualified leads who are excited to share your contest.

In most cases it’s not just a prize that is considered “nice”, but instead it’s “experiences” or “fan paraphernalia” that have true scarcity and get people the most excited to enter your contest and share like raving fans.

Fan Paraphernalia

A brick & mortar shop in Vancouver, BC that sells fan gear like hockey jerseys etc, had never done very much internet marketing. They wanted to generate more leads and Facebook likes for greater visibility in the Vancouver area.

While they could have likely had decent traction by simply giving away some apparel or a gift card to their store, that wouldn’t have been enough to actually inspire their ideal customer to become passionate about the contest and share it like crazy.

So how did they light a fire and get people to go crazy over their contest? They got Dan Hamhuis – a local, well known hockey player for the Vancouver Canucks – to sign a jersey to give away as their grand prize.

The results? More than 60% of their total leads came from referrals, and not their own direct traffic. The viral coefficient was very strong because those who entered would do just about anything to improve their chances of winning something that was flat out cool.

This simple strategy of speaking to their fans generated monster results.

Word of Mouth Leads

(More than 60% of their leads were from word of mouth!)

As a nice side effect (since Facebook “likes” weren’t required for their contest), this company added over 300 new fans to their Facebook page in roughly 30 days. These are all people who are extremely engaged, qualified and care about what the company has to offer.

#2 Reward the Right Metrics

The entire reason the Contest Domination platform even exists is that in late 2011 we wanted to use contests for one thing and one thing only: to get more leads for our business.

We were completely shocked to see that the “other guys” out there seemed to be building contest software for the sake of letting people run a contest that had no clear, measurable goal beyond “generating buzz”.

While buzz is good, it can’t be the basis of whether a campaign is successful or not. No one but the Coca-Colas of the world can spend millions trying to stay top of mind.

For the rest of us, we need to be able to correlate our campaigns to real tangible results that impact our bottom line to justify the money and energy we put into something as intensive as a contest.

To put it simply, if something isn’t delivering it needs to be killed off from the budget.

Since we couldn’t find a contest software that was laser focused on rewarding users for actually driving us more leads (vs just taking social actions), we built a new way of doing contests ourselves.

The basic principle is this, when someone enters your contest they get one “unconfirmed entry” into the contest. That entry becomes “confirmed” once they’ve double opted-in to your marketing list.

In order to earn more than the base entry, they will need to convince their friends to enter the contest as well through a unique referral link they are given after entering. Each person they can successfully get to enter your contest gets 10 extra points (entries).

Pretty simple right? That’s the idea, keep it easy to understand and to the point.

Couple this process with your highly valuable, intrinsic prize and it’s a recipe for success.

#3 Maximize Your Campaign’s ROI

There is a rhythm to running a contest that you need to understand in order to leverage each campaign to provide the largest ROI possible. Every business has its own complexities, but these guidelines will help you define what can work.

The Timeline

One of the more common questions we get from customers is along the lines of “How long should I run my contest for?”. While there are benefits to both short contests (scarcity) and long contests (allows for more people to enter over time), we’ve found that 30 days is just about the sweet spot to run a contest.

Running it for one month allows you to give your contests several “pushes” so you can reach a nice wide audience. It lets you get a decent amount of runway from one set of prizes but doesn’t drag on so long that people lose interest.

The Messaging

When you’re working with prospects, it’s always most effective to tell them exactly what you want them to do so that there is no confusion, and you don’t just hope they do what you want. Make it easy for them!

Make sure that you give your audience a friendly reminder that they can earn additional entries by being more active with their unique link. Drive those who have entered back to the share page of the contest to encourage more sharing to get even more mileage out of each person who entered and effectively raised their hand to say “I’m in!”.

Paid Advertising

This one scares some people off because they don’t want to have to spend any extra money to get their contest rolling. However, once you’ve committed to putting the prizes together and to taking the time to run a contest, even a small ad budget can go a long way.

To make things even more attractive, most companies can find their core demographic on Facebook, and when you use an app like Contest Domination to install right into your Facebook tab you’re able to run ads within Facebook.

Why is that important? Because historically speaking, Facebook has given much lower cost per click rates to people advertising within the Facebook walled garden. This means you can acquire real leads inside Facebook for less than your competitors who might be trying to drive the traffic offsite.

Even a $5-$10/day budget can go a long way towards extending your reach, helping you build that initial audience & tribe that can stick with you through future campaigns and give you the kick start you need.


I hope by now you’ve seen just how easy it is to put together a successful contest campaign in a matter a minutes, and taken away a few of the key elements that dictate your success. If you’d like to get started with your own contest you can do so at Contest Domination, absolutely risk free.

About Travis


Travis Ketchum is the Founder & CEO of Contest Domination, a powerful contest platform. Travis is a performance marketing expert and entrepreneur.

Having worked with celebrities, best-selling authors, and starting several companies before (including drop-shipping, affiliate shopping portals & more), he’s focused on creating a performance marketing suite of software that anybody can use.

You’ll find his software and influence across many top blogs as well as by household brands who depend on creative, scalable marketing solutions to meet their growth objectives. (And he has the love letters to prove it.)

Check out Contest Domination today!

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