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3 common mistakes when running online competitions

Competitions are a great way to engage your audience, build your list, curate fantastic user generated content and even fundraise.

However, if not done properly the results can fall flat.

Over the many years we have been hosting online competitions, we often see the same mistakes being made time and again. I’m going to share the 3 most common mistakes made when running an online competition so you can hopefully avoid them.

What’s the actual goal?

I know this sounds simple and you may be saying to yourself, “You cannot be serious!” however this is one of the most common mistakes we see when discussing a new campaign with a prospective client.

What’s worse is that this mistake can have the most negative impact on your result. Setting clear and quantifiable goals will help define the whole premise and structure for the competition.

For example, if your goal is to attain leads and build your contact list you should quantify how many leads you need, what type of contacts you want to attain and what the potential impact these leads would have for your business. The business impact could include the conversion rate for these leads to perform a follow up action such as purchasing your products, attending follow up events, etc.

This can then help you define your budget, the type of submissions and information you want to collect, where you need to promote it and what type of prize will incentivise the quantity and quality of the participants you are trying to attract.

It will also enable you to quantify the success of the competition to achieve funding for the next event or identify opportunities for improvement.

You call that a Plan?

I’ve got to say that this one is my favourite and is commonly overlooked. What I mean by a plan is thinking about how the whole operational aspects of the competition.

For example:

  • When do you want the contest to start?

  • What platform(s) are you going to use to manage the competition?

  • Who is going to help design, configure, market and manage the competition?

  • What time have you allowed to get everything setup?

  • When and how long should you allow participants to submit?

  • When do you want voting or judging to start and end?

  • How many rounds of submission, voting or judging are you going to run?

  • What about the legal terms and conditions?

  • How many winners are you going to have and what determines how you select them?

And there are many more…

The problem is that many of these aspects are not thought about thoroughly until the competition has already been promoted or has commenced accepting submissions. By that time, it can often be too late.

Before participating in a competition people like to understand how it is going to run, their chances of winning and what’s in it for them. If that is not clear it can significantly impact participation rates.

Worse still is that a poorly planned and managed competition can have a negative impact on your brand. So you need to ensure you have a plan before you start.

To be completely fair, many of our clients do not have a lot of experience running online competitions. That is why you should speak to someone like Launchpad6 or another organisation that has done this before. We also have written a best practice guide which can help with planning the operational aspects of a competition which you can source from the following address:

But I want More!

Ok I have left the best for last, because without doubt this is the most common mistake made.

If you want people to participate in your competition there needs to be a reward which is commensurable to the effort you are asking them to contribute.

This is where you really need to think about the demographic of the people you are trying to attract to your competition. What incentives them?

The more effort required to enter the competition, for example a video submission competition, the more valuable the prize needs to be for the participant.

While cash prizes are great, prizes do not have to involve cash. For example, you could provide one of your own products as a prize. This could be either merchandise or services. The great thing with doing this is that you then know that the people participating in the competition are interested in your product enough to enter. This is great for lead and list generation.

You could also offer other benefits such as rewarding winners with promotional exposure. Particularly if you or your organisation are seen as an authority or have public reach beyond what the participants would ever be able to achieve on their own. News and Media organisations do this to great effect by publishing photo competitions with the only prize being the winners photo being published in the daily newspaper.

Also note that prizes don’t have to be just provided to winners. You could provide discount coupons to your products for just entering or voting.

Another great way of rewarding participants is through the judging or selection process. For example, you could enrol a celebrity or an authoritative person in the field your competition is aligned to. This will attract people to participate just because their content is being assessed or reviewed by someone they admire or aspire to be.

If you can avoid making these three key common mistakes you will have a much better chance of achieving fantastic results with your online competition.

For making it this far through the article we are offering you a comprehensive Best Practice guide for running online competitions. It covers these and many other aspects of running competitions and you can get your no-obligation free copy here: or by selecting the button below.

Alternatively, if you would like to have a chat about your next competition and how we can help don’t hesitate to contact us at

Good luck and we hope this advice helps with your next campaign.

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