This comes up over and over whenever I consult with entrepreneurs and writers: they’ve done a giveaway and nothing happened. People are often encouraged to do giveaways as part of their marketing strategy, but most of the time, they’re not told how to plan a giveaway strategy. This means that most (if not all) of them end up wasting time and resources and end up feeling quite bitter about giveaways.
Although I caution not to rely too much on giveaways for marketing, the right giveaway strategy can help you build goodwill among your fans, create interest in your product or service among people who haven’t heard of you, and help you collect all-important data. But you have to make sure that you watch out for these three common mistakes.
Giveaway strategy mistake #1: lack of goals
I see this most often when authors do book giveaways. An author I’m acquainted with recently gave away an advance reader copy of her soon-to-be-released book on Facebook as part of her promotions. The post got 50 likes, all from her family and friends who already know she has a book coming out. She did the giveaway, and the advance reader copy went to a friend of hers.
So how is this supposed to help with book marketing? I asked her what her giveaway strategy was, and she said that giving away books helps create buzz. I asked what kind of buzz and she said that the winner would post about it on Facebook. It’s enough to make you weep.
When you plan your giveaway strategy, you need to make sure you have a concrete goal that you can later use to measure the success or failure of your giveaway. Is your goal to reward your core believers? Is your goal to introduce a new product or service? Or is your goal to piggyback a paid service or product onto the giveaway?
Knowing your giveaway strategy goal means that you can set up the giveaway properly. For example, if it’s to reward your core believers, then your giveaway should be a premium or added value product or service for them. That way, they feel that you appreciate their loyalty, and they’re excited to talk about this with other fans. This is an actual giveaway strategy instead of just providing a crappier version of what you’re trying to sell, like my author acquaintance.
Giveaway strategy mistake #2: wrong audience
A restaurant client of mine in Hong Kong had a giveaway strategy in partnership with a local lifestyle magazine. Every three months, they would give away a free meal through the magazine’s Facebook page. But despite what seemed to be a lot of people joining, there was no increase in customers or even follows on the restaurant’s own page.
It turned out that many of the people who joined the giveaway were fake accounts set up just to constantly join giveaways. The other people who joined were mostly college kids or fresh graduates hoping for a free fancy meal that they normally couldn’t afford.
So what happened? It turned out that the magazine turned a blind eye to fake accounts so that it would look like their giveaways were popular.
Their readership was also made up of people who didn’t fit the restaurant’s customer profile. The restaurant’s clientele were mostly older and affluent—not the young readership the magazine targeted.
The right giveaway strategy always answers the question: who is this for? Knowing this will give you an idea of the right product or service as a giveaway, as well as the best way to reach people. If your giveaway strategy goal is to reach out to new clients or fans, think of a specific group of people and where you can best reach them. What would they appreciate from you that would lead them to buying your product or service, plus spreading good word of mouth?
Giveaway strategy mistake #3: branding failure
When assessing your giveaway strategy, one thing that you need to always keep in mind is that you should be creating a brand experience. Does your giveaway create the connection or emotion you want to associate with your brand? Or is it a dead end, like the advance reader copy giveaway I mentioned earlier?
People find experiences more memorable and worthwhile than product giveaways (unless those products are very rare or expensive). If you are a bespoke tailor specializing in high-end suits, give away grooming or etiquette lessons. If you’re an author of a book where the main character is an expert on wine, give away a wine tasting. People love to share experiences on social media—the more unique and special, the better. They’re less likely to brag about winning a product.
There are a lot of reasons that giveaways work. But the important part of this equation is “strategy”–to be fair, this applies to all promotions and marketing. Draw up a plan and a timeline and you’ll see better results next time you have a giveaway.