Advice for Better Contests

Contributing Writer

2 minutes

Contests and giveaways always sound like a good idea for lead generation, name recognition and member loyalty. But as is the case with any marketing effort, there are ways to excel and ways to screw it up. Here’s the advice our industry experts offered.

1. Always follow up on the leads you generate. If you’ve spent the time and effort to run a contest, why wouldn’t you want to capitalize on it? Failure to contact the entrants afterward will torpedo your return on investment. “I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes that not only credit unions, but other clients I used to work with, would make,” says CUES member Jennifer Norris, chief marketing and development officer at Cleveland-based $235 million Firefighters Community Credit Union.

2. If your contest involves social media—for example, if people enter the contest by commenting on Facebook or posting a photo to Instagram—make sure you have the staff resources to keep on top of it. “It can get away from you quickly,” warns CUES member Carol Lloyd Neill, VP/interactive media at $1.2 billion Altra Federal Credit Union, Onalaska, Wis. “It’s all right if you’re going to get a couple hundred people entering, but if you’re going to have thousands of people enter, that can be very time-consuming to try and track.” Some CUs might fare better running large contests a different way.

3. Don’t use online “speed bumps” and gateways. Contest-specific landing pages can run afoul of people’s ad and popup blockers, keeping potential entrants from getting through. “We used a gateway page early on for a holiday contest,” Lloyd Neill says. “The amount of time that we spent troubleshooting and walking people through it probably undid any goodwill that we gained. And it made it much more time-consuming than it needed to be.”

4. Give a prize that befits the audience. If you’re not sure, give entrants an option to take the prize value in cash, or just offer cash in the first place.

 5. Be active in schools, says CUES member Patrick Redo, CEO of $39 million allU.S. Credit Union, Salinas, Calif. “Let them know you have knowledge that you’re happy to share. They’re looking for somebody to educate the kids, but the big banks aren’t doing a whole lot. It’s an opportunity for us.” Bonus: Kids are wildly enthusiastic about such small prizes as pizza parties and $25 checks, and they look great in publicity photos.

 6. Finally, promote your contests and giveaways heavily. Allocate a significant percentage of your contest budget to marketing, be it in-branch signage, emails, mailers or social media ads. If you don’t advertise, no one will enter.

Jamie Swedberg is a freelance writer based in Georgia.

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