You know what people love? Free stuff. Giveaways are one of the best ways to increase audience interaction because they both engage their love of free stuff and get them to actively participate with you and your brand.
There can be a lot of moving parts to a giveaway, though. If you don’t think it through, it can really cost you more than you intended — monetarily and in terms of time, energy, and resources. Luckily, WordPress is incredibly suited for peppering people with prizes, and as long as you keep things in perspective and don’t go too overboard, running a giveaway is going to be one of the best marketing strategies you’ll have undertaken in years.
Step 1: Why Are You Doing a Giveaway?
Outside of the obvious to give stuff away, you need a real reason to run a giveaway. It does take time, and it does take effort to handle correctly, so if you’re looking for set-it-and-forget-it marketing, a giveaway is not the right strategy. Sorry.
But if you want engaged users, interaction from your community, and the potential for viral sharing and maybe even the Reddit hug, giveaways can be your ticket to expanding your sphere of influence.
So why do you want to do this? It’s best if you have a specific reason and a specific, measurable goal. Like all other marketing strategies, having these will give you a general guide for how to execute your giveaway.
It’s important to think about why you’re doing a giveaway before you worry about how to pull it off. The reason you conduct a giveaway should be more sophisticated than I just want to get people excited about a prize. It needs to further your business objectives at the intersection of your brand values.
For us here at Elegant Themes, one of our core values is empowerment. We realized early on that both our membership as a whole and Divi in particular are popular (and therefore sell well) because they empower people to create websites they wouldn’t otherwise be able to create. And so we follow that same strategy with our giveaways.
We try to find features or dev/design elements that are difficult for people to create themselves (i.e. high quality images/illustrations, professional level page design, and advanced functionality) and we provide those things for free to our community. This strategic good will builds our brand reputation and sells more memberships while quite literally empowering our community members to be more successful web designers.
For everyone involved it’s a real win-win situation. My advice would be to make sure you can create a similar win-win scenario before deciding to do your own giveaway.
Like all marketing strategies, measuring the success of a promotion is imperative. Without numbers and metrics, you can’t justify the resources you’re putting into the project. And whether that justification is to yourself, your superiors, your partner, or even your customers (who will definitely ask why are you doing this giveaway instead of working on X, Y, and Z?), gauging the return on your efforts is important.
So set a goal like 100 new email subscribers per giveaway or 1,800 social shares per project. That way, you have a goal that you can work toward over time. If you hit it early, great. If you need to adjust it to see what you can do better, awesome. However, if you see that after tons of effort that your goal is simply unattainable, you may need to switch tactics from posting blog posts about the giveaway to something like buying ads or working out a cross promotion deal with someone who has the ear of people you want to attract.
WordPress helps a lot here, too, because many of the plugins we talk about later in this article are rife with metrics and numbers you can use to calculate exactly what’s going right and wrong with your projects.
Step 2: What Are You Giving Away?
Step 2 might be even more important than Step 1. Sure, knowing why you’re giving something away is imperative, but if you don’t know what you’re giving away…well, then the whole thing’s a bust. So take a look at your business or your website and consider what you can offer your users.
And think outside the box, too. Sometimes sponsorships happen, and you can partner with another brand. Just look at our Black Friday sales. We work with a ton of other WordPress companies to provide freebie giveaways across the duration of the sale. They provide free products and licenses and services for us to give away because giving away free stuff is fantastic marketing. It’s a try-before-you-buy situation for most folks.
With all that in mind, we introduced the Divi Design Initiative. Every week we give away new professional layout packs from our design team. These packs are the perfect way for us to tie back into our motivation because they obviously give you multiple high-quality design resources every single week. Depending on the week, you get around a dozen different page layouts with original, royalty-free photography.
If your company has a product or service that ties directly into your reason for doing a giveaway, then maybe you’ve found exactly what to put out there.
Step 3: Freebies vs Contests
Now, here’s where you have to buckle down and get this thing started. Deciding what format your giveaway is going to be will either make it or break it. You need to strike a balance between accessibility, maintaining control of the product (such as making sure folks download it from you, not elsewhere), and getting your users truly excited about what you’re doing.
The two major ways to hold giveaways using WordPress are offering freebies or holding contests.
For the Divi Design Initiative, we chose to go the freebie route. The primary reason being that with this method, there are the least number of hurdles between the user and the product. One of the biggest issues with providing a good user experience (UX) is friction, and we want as little friction as we can get between you and us.
The freebie route for a giveaway is super easy: you find a way give your folks something for free. For the Divi Design Initiative, we post two blog posts a week with instructions on how to download the layout packs. The blog posts have previews and photos and even videos that walk you through the entire pack. And to remove friction, we have multiple places in those posts directing you on how to access the packs.
With just a few clicks, you are the proud owner of the new Divi layout pack. No fuss, no muss. A high-quality design resource right in your wonderfully talented, Divi-loving, hands. For free.
Contests are another way that folks hold successful giveaways. Instead of having an unlimited number of free products for whoever wants them, a contest gives you control over how much of your bottom line is hit by the giveaway, while at the same time encouraging engagement and exciting your userbase.
Contests can make people crazy (in a good way), and depending on the rules you set forth, you can really drum up a ton of interest about your contest. For instance, you can have a skills-based contest that is judged according to a rubric (such as design the best Divi layout pack). Or you could have a random-entry contest where the contestant shares a post on Facebook for an entry, comments on the blog for the contest, or maybe Tweets about the thing. At the end of the contest, X number of entries would be randomly chosen and those people get the prize you’re giving away.
Or maybe you would hold a scavenger hunt, and entrants would need to prove they’ve found or done very specific things that you list. The first person (or however many you decide) to meet your criteria would then get your giveaway. WordPress would make the verification easy with the number of user-submission and user-role management plugins you can use to keep most of the work away from you.
Whatever your method, running a contest is a way to keep your community active while still providing the benefits of a giveaway.
Step 4: Prep Your Files
Okay. Now you know why you’re holding a giveway (to provide high-quality design resources). You know what you’re giving away (professionally designed Divi layouts). And you know how you’re giving them away (free downloads from your website).
But…what happens now? Well, it’s time to get your rewards packed up adn ready to go.
Usually, it’s a good thing to put all of the files in a single .ZIP archive (you can use .RAR or .7z, but that’s adding more friction). If you really want to be a good giver (and you know you do), separate the assets you provide. For instance, in the Divi Design Initiative downloads, we include full-size, high-resolution photos embedded in the JSON files as well as a folder of just the images themselves. Doing so will make your users feel as though what you’ve given them is really theirs.
Also, make sure that the files are accessible to your patrons. If you are sending the files by email, it’s probably a good idea to give your users a link to Google Drive or to Dropbox instead of attaching the file directly to the mail. And if you’re hosting the file yourself, make sure that you won’t go over your allotted bandwidth or make your service provider pull the plug on your usage. These kinds of throttles can really hurt if you have a successful giveaway going on, but your people can’t pull their prizes.
Additionally, WordPress has a hard limit in most installations for uploads (this can be adjusted via PHP). If you want the download file to be in your WordPress media library, you should probably FTP the final archive into your wp-content folder, and then use the Add From Server plugin to import it. Just because the file is in the directory doesn’t mean it’s in the database. The plugin puts it there.
Install and Set Up Plugins/Services
Speaking of plugins, while you’re tossing Add From Server into the mix, you need to figure out what plugins your giveaway needs to be successful. While giveaways are not a hands-off marketing strategy, there are some great tools out there that can automate aspects of the event to make it a lot easier to handle. Each of the following plugins or services take some up-front configuration, but once it’s done, you can get by with just ongoing maintenance or setting up new giveaways.
Giveaways by KingSumo
Let’s start out with the big player: Giveaways does one thing, and it does it well. It works by displaying whatever you’re giving away, collecting an email address, and then choosing winners after a set time period. Setting up the giveaway is as easy as posting a blog. If you want ease and polish for your giveaway, KingSumo’s worth a look. The plugin does come at a high cost ($198 for a lifetime license), but there’s a 60-day, money-back guarantee and great support.
Invitebox is pretty neat. You can set up four different ways of doing your giveaway, each based on different parameters you set. For instance, if you want them to share a blog and then get a free ebook or Divi layout pack, you can do that (this is for the freebie-style giveaway I mentioned above). Additionally, there are goal-based rewards where they have a threshold of shares to make and then they get the reward. And you can do a referral contest (who can get the most referrals back to you) or a more traditional random giveaway based on the number of entries (like KingSumo above). Invitebox has a 14-day free trail, but then charges you on a tiered system based on your number of entries and participants on a monthly basis — $29 for 100 entrants, $59 for 1000, and $199 for as many as you’d like.
Contests from Rewards Fuel
If you want a free option, Contests should work for you. It’s not as robust as Giveaways, but performs much the same way. And it shares a lot with Invitebox, too. You collect an email address, have them watch a video or read a post, maybe share, and they get X entries for each. You can have daily, weekly, or any interval of winners you’d like. And even though there’s a free version, they Rewards Fuel offers a more robust plugin for a fee — it is fully unlocked at $29.95 per month.
Easy Digital Downloads – Free Downloads Add-On
Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) is a huge membership site plugin. You can sell courses and online content super easily using EDD. But you can also give that same stuff away for free. If you install their free plugin from the repo, you can head to their site and add the Free Downloads add-on for just $49 a year. After they put in their email address, they get sent to a download page. Type, click, free. Awesome.
Email Autoresponder Drip
Setting up an autoresponder drip is a great way to handle the freebie giveaways like the Divi layouts. Basically, you will have an email signup form on your giveaway site, and when the user verifies their email address, whatever your email service is (MailChimp, for instance) will send out an automated message. The message will either have an attachment or a download link where the person can download their free stuff. And if you want to send them more free stuff, you can set up an autoresponder series to send them something new and free every week! After all, weekly freebies are pretty great. Wink wink, nudge nudge.
Step 5: Marketing and Promotion
A giveaway no one knows about is no giveaway at all. I mean, nothing is being given away then. So you need to get the word out. You have to shout it from the mountain tops. You need people to hear about your free stuff. There are some pretty good ways to make that happen.
Email Your List
If you already have an email list (and you should), the first thing you should do when you launch a giveaway is to send out a message about it. Let them know it’s coming (or that it’s live), and what kind of free stuff they’ll be getting from you. If you have a referral contest, forwarding that email along may be able to even get them extra entries. Additionally, buttons convert well in emails, and in addition to having a click-through to the contest itself, if you have a big red button that lets someone forward the email using it, that’s way more likely to happen.
Post A “Get Ready” Blog Post
Not to toot our own horn or anything, but have you noticed these cool sneak peek posts about upcoming Divi features? They are for a giveaway, folks! We are giving away these features, and we want people to know about them and get excited. When they launch, we will post a blog, too, but getting you excited about what’s coming up is our main goal. That electric feeling of anticipation just makes the release of a giveaway that much better. So let people know in advance what’s coming up so they can get ready to grab it when you push it live.
Make Your Users Want to Share The Love
Hand in hand with that, you want to make your users want to be champions of your brand. And giving away free stuff is a great way to do that. If you make something that people truly love, they will tell people about it. We want people to love the stuff we love (that’s why you always show new friends your favorite movies). And again, this is a tactic that we employ here at Elegant Themes — we rely on you folks to spread the word about the amazing things you do every day with our products. How many of you have recommended Divi to a client or friend? Or told someone about the Divi Design Initiative and had them go download a layout pack? Or shared a site you made using a customized layout pack and told a designer friend about it?
I know I have. And I know a lot of other folks have, too, if the tags on some Facebook posts I’ve seen are any indication. When you’re doing a giveaway, the best ROI you can get is by making it something people want to talk about.
Depending on your budget, you can get a pretty good ROI on placing Facebook or Twitter (or even Instagram) ads, too. This promotional tactic works best if you have a big ticket item that you’re giving away. A laptop, an iPad, new phone, etc. I’ve seen ads for GPS watches for runners being given away. Or new mics for podcasters. This can be a tactic for typical, digital freebies like our Divi Design Initiative layout packs, too.
However, you’ll want to make sure the giveaway that you’re advertising is a series that will convert into new users or engage existing ones. With the Divi layouts being a weekly/bi-weekly giveaway, it’s possible to do both . Potential users could see the beautiful things they could build with Divi and existing users would be inspired to keep coming back for more resources on a regular basis. Many authors (myself included) run ads for the first novel in a trilogy as a giveaway, using the free book to hook readers and get them to buy others in the series. The cost of the ads, then, would be made up by new Elegant Themes memberships or sales of other books.
And on top of even that, social ads create brand awareness. And even if you don’t convert new users by giving stuff away, people will definitely see your brand and product and be aware that you are willing to provide something to your community for free. That alone is worth the cost.
Step 6: Listen to Feedback
Finally, once you’ve launched your giveaway, you need to listen to the people who participated. Because no matter how great your planning is, something isn’t going to be ideal. You’re not going to be able to anticipate what people actually want versus what you predict they will.
Take the Divi Design Initiative for example (again). When we launched it, we posted a blog each Monday about the giveaway. In each post, there was a description, demo, video, and link to the download. But to get to the download you had to enter your email address and sign up for the email list. Even if you had already subscribed. Doing so was the only way to unlock the download link. And when you downloaded it, you still had to upload up to half a dozen JSON files into your Divi Library manually.
Plus, if you didn’t see that post, you didn’t know about that specific layout pack. Which hurt even more because that post was also the only place where you could download that specific layout. That’s a lot of UX friction. As great as the giveaway was, and as much awesome response we got from you, there was still room for improvement.
So You Told Us About it. And We Listened.
Then, we revamped the entire layout giveaway process. Now, the layouts exist on their own page on our site, and they are available for immediate import into your site via the Divi Library in your builder. As soon as they are available. With just a couple clicks, everything just works. For free. Automatically. Oh, and you told us you wanted more of them. So we’ve moved into giving you two packs a week instead of one. Cool, right?
After all of that, the layout giveaway became as smooth as silk, with the least amount of UX friction as possible between you and your free stuff.
That’s what you want to do with your users. If they provide feedback on your giveaway, listen. Sure, not all feedback and criticism is going to be acted on, but if you take the time to hear what your folks say, you can definitely increase the quality and effectiveness and success of your giveaway.
Are You Ready to Give Your Stuff Away?
I hope so. Despite the almost counterintuitive nature of a giveaway, making your product available for free to your community (and prospective community) has almost no downsides. You build goodwill within your customer base, you get new users exposed to the great work you do, and you have an opportunity to refine your business to match more perfectly what your audience wants. Giveaways really are win-win-win strategies when done correctly.
So get to thinking and planning your next giveaway and be sure to let us know what happens with it. After all, everyone loves free stuff…so give us the chance to get some.
What have been your experiences with running giveaways? What kinds of products have you had success with?
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