Learn exactly how to get hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of new email subscribers for your business using a proven system we’ve tested with several brands across multiple different consumer verticals.
The best part: you don’t need a huge social media following or even an existing email list (though it doesn’t hurt), and it costs approximately $0 in ads :)
I spent years running giveaways with straight-up bad results (19 subscribers here, 67 there, never converting into actual sales). #winning.
Using the viral partnership approach we cover in this post, we’ve helped our clients grow their lists and customer bases exponentially faster than normal.
Note: I put together all the email copy templates and resources mentioned in this post, along with a PDF Guide version of this post in one easy-to-reference place. You can grab that here.
The idea is to create a giveaway that requires an email address to enter. You partner with 1-3 brands with similar target audiences to yours to donate prizes and leverage their audiences to get a ton more giveaway entries than you would normally get on your own.
Here are the steps we cover in this post:
This is step #1, and unfortunately, it’s where a lot of people miss the mark.
I remember the first giveaway I ever ran. We tried to attract clients for a creative agency and chose to give away a Kindle. It was a generic prize that had nothing to do with the business or the target audience; in hindsight, the lack of results isn’t surprising.
We got about 250 entries that became newsletter subscribers, and not one of them ever bought anything from us...ever. #FAIL
Remember, the goal here isn’t just to get a lot of subscribers; the goal is to get a lot of the right subscribers.
Keep that in mind as you decide what prize to give away, where to promote the giveaway, and what potential partner(s) to contact.
Here’s a good question to ask yourself: what related product could you give away as a way to qualify the people who enter as leads?
For example, if you have an ecommerce store selling hiking backpacks, pick a couple of your best sellers to give away. Instant qualifier. Go this route if possible.
You could also give away something hiking-related that you don’t sell, like hiking boots, or a trip to a national park if you have a bigger budget.
It’s important to note here that more expensive doesn’t always amount to more entries.
I once ran a giveaway for a one-year membership of Buffer (before it was well known), worth $100, and only got about 50 entries because the audience of entrepreneurs wasn’t dying to get their hands on it. Today, that reward might be the perfect fit for that audience.
Alternatively, I got over 1,500 entries from giving away a 12-count of Quest protein bars worth $24.99 marketed toward fitness enthusiasts. It’s all about demand and audience fit.
Now that you know the prize you’ll offer, it’s time to find other brands to partner with for the giveaway.
You’ll want them to donate prizes of their own and agree to help promote the giveaway when it’s up and running so you can get in front of their audience.
Here are the criteria for potential partners:
They should be “adjacent” brands. Adjacent brands are in your same niche or serve the same target audience but in different ways. They are not competitors of yours. For example, if you sell workout supplements to young adults looking to lose weight, you might partner with a brand that sells workout equipment, apparel, or fitness programs.
If you partner with only one other brand, they should have roughly the same audience size as you or be 1-2 tiers bigger at most. Since both brands will both be promoting the giveaway, the pitch is easier if you’re at a similar size because it’s an even trade to get equal exposure.
If you don’t have much of an audience to leverage, don’t worry, you can still get big results. Identify at least two other brands to partner with so you can leverage their audiences against each other. We’ll go through how to communicate that later in this post. The criteria here is that the other 2-3 brands each have relatively large audiences.
When making your list of potential partners, start first with brands where you already have a connection — you know people who work there, or you use and like their products.
At JumpX Marketing, we often pair our clients together for giveaways since most of them are adjacent brands, and we already have relationships with them, so it’s easier to get a “yes.”
I find Instagram to be useful; two tactics I use that help identify potential partners quickly are:
Tactic #1: Look for adjacent brands that you follow and that follow you, and match your needed audience size.
What you want to do is find some common ground to make a warm pitch when you reach out. It’s easier to get your foot in the door saying, “...we follow each other on Instagram” than it is saying, “...we don’t know each other, but….”
If you don’t have an Instagram account for your brand, look for 2-3 brands that follow each other. It’s useful as a reference point when pitching the giveaway to those potential partners because they’ll recognize the other brand name.
Tactic #2: Search hashtags and keywords to find potential partners.
This is a quick way to find potential partners who want more exposure. If you were looking for a fitness supplement brand to partner with, you could search #fitnesssupplements and look for a supplement being promoted.
Chances are, if a brand leverages influencers for their marketing, they’re open to other types of collaborations as well.
A good goal is to find 10 potential partners to contact. Prioritize your list, and start reaching out.
Now that you have your list of potential giveaway partners ready and organized, it’s time to connect. I’ve gotten the best results by using email, so that’s what we’ll focus on.
Typically, emailing the founder or the head of marketing gets the quickest response.
If you’re not sure who to contact, email the brand’s info@ email address, sign up for and reply to an email newsletter, or send a DM on Instagram to discover the right person.
What you want is the email address of the person in charge of marketing. Here’s a screenshot of an Instagram DM I used to reach out to a brand that is a mutual follower, but I’m not sure who the marketing person is:
Once you have the email address of the right person, reach out to see if they’re interested in participating.
When reaching out, the most important detail is to highlight WIIFT. What’s in it for them?
Highlight that giveaway participation will get their business in front of a lot of new potential customers and that you’ll take care of setting everything up (like hosting the giveaway, coordinating everything, etc.). All they need to do is donate a prize and share the giveaway link on their social media and email list when it’s live.
Make it as easy as possible for them to say yes.
Win-win-win, no matter what (win for each brand, win for their audiences, win for you).
If you’ll have more than one partner, and your current audience size is pretty small, mention in your pitch email to each potential partner that there will be another brand involved too.
After you get your first yes, you can mention that brand’s audience size in other pitch emails you’re sending, which then gives you some leverage!
Here’s a slightly modified version of one of my pitch emails:
I run all my giveaways using KingSumo, so this section talks a lot about that specifically. Whether or not you use KingSumo, a lot of the thoughts and methods should still be helpful for you.
I love KingSumo’s baked-in viral factor of incentivizing the entrants to share the giveaway with their friends and follow your brand on social media for extra entries.
Remember, people don't want to share your giveaway unless they get something out of it. Every time they share it, they add to the competition and decrease their chances of winning, so the incentive of getting extra entries is vital to get people to promote your giveaway.
KingSumo also sends automated email reminders to entrants, encouraging them to share their unique URLs, which always gives an extra boost to the number of shares and entries.
OK, onto the setup.
KingSumo makes it super easy to set up and walks you through the process, so there’s no need for me to bore you with the basics. I do want to touch on a couple of things I’ve found helpful.
The giveaway’s title (chosen during setup) is the exact text that’s used when people click to share the giveaway on social media. It’s important to remove any chance that they’ll send a tweet that says, “Enter this giveaway!” with not much context for their audience.
After all, these shares are the lifeline that will keep your giveaway from becoming stale.
Here’s a simple template: [Giveaway] Enter to Win [whatever you’re giving away]
It’s important not to be too clever and just shoot it straight, so when it’s popping up all over social media, it’s clear that it’s a giveaway, and people will know exactly what the prize is.
Keep the description on the landing page short but informative.
I like to give a couple of quick facts about the product and at least one strong benefit (either a bulleted list that’s easy to skim or all in one concise sentence).
Follow that with quick instructions on how to enter. Ex: “Submit your email address above to enter. Winner will be chosen by random drawing.”
Then one of the most important things goes at the bottom — let them know they’ll be added to your newsletter, and that they can opt out at any time.
This protects you from GDPR violations and from people hating on you later when you email them, because they’ll know it’s coming.
I strongly suggest running your giveaway for at least 10 days (I usually opt for 14). Entrants have time to promote it to its full extent, but it’s not so long that people forget who you are if they’re new to your brand.
For example, after I got the first 500 entrants of one of my giveaways, it had been somewhere around seven days when a little miracle happened and pushed it past 1,500. If I only had a 7-day giveaway, I would have missed out on 1,000+ more, because the second wave hit on day 11.
Obviously, you can’t just run a giveaway forever, or everyone who entered will forget who you are. You want them to remember you, so I think 10-14 days is a good length of time.
There is an option to hook up the giveaway entries to import directly into your email platform (such as Mailchimp or SendFox), but I suggest you don’t.
You can export from KingSumo and import the emails after the giveaway. The reason I say not to hook up the integration is most email service providers charge you by the peak amount of subscribers you have in a given month. If you’re on the $9.99/mo plan and you have an explosive giveaway with 5,000 new subscribers, you’re getting automatically charged for them.
If you wait and import yourself afterward, you can check through for fake emails or spam bots and remove them first to save yourself some money. We’ll go over how to quality check your new email subscribers in step #7.
Once you’ve set your giveaway up, publish it, and admire your new landing page in all its glory!
OK, enough admiring, back to work :)
This is where the actual work begins :) Don’t allow your hard work to be for nothing — finish strong and promote well.
Before the first day of the giveaway, make sure the partners know the start and end dates, and send them any creative assets like images you’ve created that might be useful for promotion.
For example, if they’ve agreed to email their list about the giveaway, write email copy for them that they can use.
Tip: Try not to demand they use your creative assets. They might want to promote their own way, but let them know they can use it if they want to.
On the giveaway’s first day, remind your partners that it’s live and ready to promote, and be sure to provide them the giveaway page URL.
Day 1 of your giveaway is when 90% of your promotion should happen because the results of a viral-based giveaway will compound with each new entrant since they’ll be sharing it with their social followers, friends, etc.
Have an existing email list? Email your people about the giveaway. Even though they’re already subscribed, they’ll share it with their friends and followers. Have a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, or LinkedIn presence? Promote promote promote.
Even if you don’t have much of an audience, use your personal network and anything else you have to promote the giveaway. Other places I’ve had great results with, and that anyone can use with or without an existing audience, is Reddit and Facebook groups. Just remember not to be spammy and operate within the rules of the groups.
Don’t be a spammer and promote everywhere every day; but on your main social media platforms, post the giveaway once per day. People aren’t on social media all day every day, and we want to make sure that all your followers have a chance to see the giveaway and enter it if they want to.
When the giveaway ends, follow the steps in KingSumo to select your winner(s) randomly and contact them so you can award the prize.
Email the winner and have them send you their mailing address, and forward that along to your giveaway partner(s) so they can ship their donated prize as well.
When your giveaway has ended, you’ll need to upload your new subscribers to your email list.
Before uploading them, you’ll want to do a spot-check for fake emails. Sometimes people like to use their unique link to enter with fake emails to boost their entries, and it can negatively impact your open rates and your sender reputation if you import a bunch of emails that aren’t real.
There are a couple of ways to go about this.
The free way is just to spot-check it yourself. After you’ve downloaded the CSV file from KingSumo, open it and sort it alphabetically. Most of the time when people create fake emails, they’ll just add numbers to the end. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org, dustin2@..., dustin3@...
Find those clusters and delete them.
The second way that does a better job, but is not free, is to validate the emails using a site like Validity or Bulk Email Checker. A current Validity promotion, https://www.validity.com/l/bv-strength/ lets you verify up to 5,000 emails for free, but even normally, it’s still very affordable.
Once the winner has been notified and confirmed, and your new subscribers have been quality checked and imported into your ESP, it’s time to turn subscribers into customers!
Send them an email to thank them for participating and let them know a winner has been selected and notified. Introduce who you are and what your company and your newsletter are all about, and give them a clear chance to unsubscribe. Big numbers are fun, but what really counts is a community that is engaged with your brand and what you have to offer them.
In this email, you’ll want to make them an introductory offer like 20% off (whatever works for your business) and put a deadline on it; 48-72 hours usually converts well for me.
Send a second email the last day the offer is available and remind them to purchase before it’s too late.
You can get all the email copy templates, the resource list, and a pdf version of this guide in one easy-to-find place here
If you haven’t already, I recommend grabbing KingSumo for your giveaway. It’s a game changer!
Whether you get 200 or 2000 subscribers from your first giveaway, remember that one is better than zero, and you can do new giveaways every once in a while and test new methods and partner with new brands.
Make it rain!