Setting up a competition or prize draw is fairly easy. However, getting it right isn’t always as straightforward. With a little bit of forethought and organisation it is possible to set up a competition and get it to achieve your aims.

The competition mechanic is incredibly important – Do you want to ask a question? Do you want to collect data? Do you want to do co-registration? Choose the wrong mechanic and you may well end up disappointed!

The type of competition you run can have an effect on the number of entries you receive. A caption competition for example usually will attract less entrants than a simple multiple choice question. If you’re new to competitions or want to maximise entries we suggest sticking to simple prize draws (either enter your details and/or asking one question).

So, let’s assume you want to ask a single question and collect a user’s name and email address. The aim of your competition is to bring new user’s to your website and you want them to visit your new product section.

First, entries to your competition should not be via email – please use a form on your website! If you offer entry via email, it is possible (quite likely!) you will get entries from people who don’t visit your website. With a form a user has to visit your site in order to enter the competition. Some entries may come from automated systems – in effect people getting entries without ever visiting your site – therefore you may also want to consider using a Captcha option or monitoring IP addresses.

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Automated entries: There are services where people can pay to be entered into competitions without ever visiting the websites that run them. They don’t see your offers or promotions and never visit your site, and in all honesty shouldn’t be accepted as a valid entry. It’s up to you to decide whether you think these entries are acceptable but it’s something to look out for.
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Second, make sure your question is about the section you’re keen on promoting (user’s can’t see your new products if you don’t point them in the right direction). If you’re concerned about answers being posted around the web then consider randomising the question. We currently run a competition where users have to find out a price – each user gets a random product – this reduces answers being shared and also can reduce the effect of automated entries.

To make life easier you should try and store your entrants details in a database as opposed to them being sent via form to your email address. This will ensure that you don’t lose any entries plus you can use database scripts to pick a winner – for example using the RAND() option in SQL.

In short, when setting up a competition:

1. Don’t use email as an entry route
2. Consider randomising questions
3. Watch out for automated entries
4. Store entries in a database

But what about the rules? Ah yes, every competition needs some rules and that’s next time.