Confessions of a Contest Entrant

I was certain I would get a phone call last month to say that I had won the contest.  Not just any contest, but the Williams-Sonoma, Real Simple Holiday Sweepstakes Extravaganza or something like that.

The prize was awesome. A $5000 gift card to shop at Williams-Sonoma.  There were so many things I needed for my kitchen, I was a sure winner.  (After nearly 20 years of marriage, the pots and pans are sad looking and not all our dishes match anymore.  And the towels….don’t get me started!)

Enter daily to win, the online form explained.  Excellent.  So each morning for nearly 30 days, I would open the bookmarked form and record my entry.  There was only one problem with this strategy — every time you entered, you had to fill out an entire entry form.  All of it.  Name, address, city, state, zip, e-mail, opt-in, submit.

Are you kidding me?  That’s a lot of work, but okay, in this case, I persevered.
It was a fun diversion each morning, thinking of how I would spend the gift card.  I even went so far as to go onto the Williams-Sonoma web site to look at their dishes and pots and pans.

Can you hear their digital marketing team cheering in the background?

Williams-Sonoma Contest Form

Not all Contest Forms are Alike!

So, congratulations to the Williams-Sonoma marketing team.  I was completely sucked in.

Earlier last year, I was equally sucked in to a contest sponsored by Southwest Airlines called Let ‘Em Fly and Win where each day you had one roll of the dice and if you got one of the published Yahtzee dice combos you got a bajillion frequent flyer miles.

“This is fabulous,” I thought.  With our son about to go off to college, this would certainly lighten the damage of all those college trips on our pocketbook.  Like the Williams-Sonoma contest, you could enter daily to win.  So I did.  Every day for 30 days.  There was one key difference between the two contests.  After you entered all your information on the form on the first day, on subsequent days, you only had to enter your email address to roll the dice.


Not once did I get a combination worthy of frequent flier miles, but it certainly got me thinking about what makes a great online contest.

There’s only two things you need to have a great online contest.  First, you need a great prize.  Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the value of a contest prize is determined by the participant.  If your fans, friends or network perceive the prize to be of value, then it is.  For others, it might be a gift card or an iPad.  Frequent flyer miles and kitchen equipment were my motivators — I can confess without blushing that these prizes were sweet enough to motivate me.

The second component of a successful contest – keep it simple.  Too many form fields or requirements will drive entries away.  If the prize for the kitchen equipment was, say $500, I may not have gone through the trouble each day to fill out the form.  Except I REALLY need new dishes.

The Southwest Airlines contest was far easier. And Fun.  Like going to Vegas, without the smoke-filled casinos.

Great prize.  Simple entry.  That’s the key to a good contest.

What types of contest prizes motivate you?

  • This reminds me of a book I read years ago: The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less. Didn’t realize they made it into a movie until I just looked it up. Amazing how her mother had entering contests down to an art back in the 50s.

    Sometimes, I too am sucked into contests. However I hate having to do 12 steps to make my entry more competitive. I note when the contest ends, and then go in and “unlike” all the Facebook pages I was forced to join. Someday I’ll win, just like I won $50 from the Publisher’s Clearing house back in college.