How to use a giveaway to get 2,239 email subscribers in 10 days

Bryan Harris —  Bryan Harris /

It was 8:15 a.m. on Monday, September 15th.

My day was completely planned out. I was gearing up to launch the Vault in two weeks and was on a tight deadline.

And then Twitter happened.

I came across a case study by Josh Earl where he showed how he collected over 60,000 emails by hosting a giveaway.

60,000 email subscribers? In 10 days? That completely blew me away.

So I canceled all of my plans and set up my own giveaway.

3 hours later it was live.

I gave away a 10-year subscription to LeadPages, a tool that I talk about all the time on this blog.

One week later 2,239 people had entered the giveaway and subscribed to this site.

It’s easy to read about someone getting 60,000 subscribers in such a short time frame and call it a fluke.

Will you get 60,000 subscribers by running a contest? Probably not.

But can you grow your list significantly? Absolutely.

I used 13 different strategies to promote my contest and make sure it was a hit. Today, I’m going to share with you 5 of the most effective strategies that I discovered.

I’ve compiled all 13 strategies into an easy-to-reference training guide you can download and follow when you set up your contest.

Click here to download all 13 promotional strategies

Three Steps to Create and Promote Your Giveaway

I’m going to walk you through the 3 key steps you need to follow to set up and promote your first giveaway.

Step #1: Create the Giveaway

The first thing you need to do is pick the prize you will be giving away. No amount of promotion will overcome a crappy prize.

There are three characteristics your prize needs to have:

1. Highly Desirable: Your prize needs to be something that your target audience covets.

For example, if you run a food blog whose primary focus is organic cooking, you could offer a $2,000 gift card to Whole Foods.


If you are a self-help coach, you could offer free tickets to Tony Robbins’s next event (a $750 value).

2. Shocking: To maximize your giveaway’s reach, it needs to have shock value.

In other words, when your target audience hears the headline of your giveaway, it needs to make them stop and turn their heads.

Which of these giveaway headlines are more shocking to you?

“Win a $2,000 Gift Card to Whole Foods”


“Win an Entire Year of Groceries from Whole Foods (a $2,000 value)” 

In my contest I used this hook: “Win a One Decade Subscription to LeadPages.”

I could have gone with a lifetime membership, but what I found was that many other giveaways in my industry use the lifetime angle. I wanted to be different.

By using the “decade” angle, the hook was unique and thus played a big part in my contest getting as much traction as it did.

3. Authority Leaching: Pick a prize owned by a company that will be likely to help you promote the giveaway.

The entire purpose of the giveaway is to reach new people. Leaching off of the audience of the prize owner is an easy way to do that.

I did this with LeadPages and was able to reach 3,099 more people via their Twitter account:

4 Steps to Pick Your Giveaway Prize

Step 1: Recon and research.

The best way I’ve found to pick the perfect prize for your giveaway is to do a Google search for “[Keyword] + [Service]”.

For example…

When our organic food blogger types in “organic food service,” he or she would instantly find an organic food delivery service that delivers to anywhere in North America.

That would be a great prize to give away to the blogger’s audience.

For Videofruit, I searched for “landing page service” and got a list of 10 potential offerings.

Tip: Focus in on the paid ad listings marked by the yellow “AD” icon in the search results. These slots are nearly always occupied by highly relevant services and products.

Step 2: Make a list of the potential options.

Next, write down a list of all of the products that come up through your searches.

I keep a simple Google spreadsheet of the site’s name, URL and product offered.

Tip: Also include in your list any products that you regularly talk about on your blog and that you know your readers use on a regular basis.

Step 3: Write a hook for each potential option.

Now you need to write the headline (i.e., hook) for each potential giveaway.

Ask yourself this question:

“If I were tweeting this giveaway out to my audience, how would I write that tweet?”

Use that as your hook.

If you’re having a hard time coming up with your hook, go to and browse through some of the most popular giveaways. Rip off their headline structure.

For example:

If you were giving away a subscription to the conversion testing service Optimizely, you could borrow this headline:

…and re-spin it to work for your giveaway like this:

“Win $2,000 in Conversion Testing with Optimizely”

Before moving to the next step, you need to write a unique hook for each potential offer.

Step 4: Run them through the filter.

Lastly, you need to grade each of your potential options against the criteria we identified previously.

Criteria #1. Is it coveted by your audience?

Criteria #2. Will the headline of your giveaway turn heads?

Criteria #3. Is the prize owner likely to share your giveaway?

Grade each of your selections in the spreadsheet on a scale of 1-5.

When you are done it should look something like this:

Now add up the totals, and the product that is graded the highest is your winner.

Bonus: Download a copy of this spreadsheet in the resource center .

Step #2: Promote the Giveaway

There are 13 different strategies you can use to promote your contest. I’m going to share with you five of my favorite.

Each of these take a lot of manual labor to implement, but they work no matter how big your list is or how much traffic you get.

Note: We won’t be going in depth about the technical part of setting up your giveaway in this post; however, the plugin that I use to run the contest as well as a 50% off coupon and a tutorial video are all included in the resource center linked at the bottom of this article.

Strategy #1: Call in favors.

Look, I hate asking for favors. I especially hate it when I’m selling something. It just feels weird.

But this is different. A giveaway is a GIVE, not an ASK. You are trying to GIVE something of extreme value away for free.

When this mentally registered with me, I unashamedly went on a campaign to ask everyone I knew to help me share this GIVEaway.

The first thing I did once launching my giveaway was to talk to every friend I have and ask them to share the giveaway with their audiences.

Big audience.

Small audience.


I started on Skype and went down the list, messaging to share the giveaway on Twitter and Facebook.

Here is the message I used:

Results: This strategy produced 349 subscribers.


Strategy #2: Manual outreach to interviewees.

The second thing you need to do is reach out to anyone who has performed an interview on your topic or related topics in the past 90 days.

This was fairly straightforward since LeadPages has a dedicated podcast called Conversion Cast.

I made a Google Doc and listed out every guest that had been on their podcast in 2014.

Then I found and listed their email address in the Google Doc.

Next, I manually sent each interviewee an email.

Here is the email I sent:

Of the 38 emails I sent, 22 people responded and shared the contest on Twitter.

This allowed my to reach nearly 200,000 more people.

But what if your product doesn’t have a dedicated podcast? What then?

Look for related podcasts.

For example…

Our food blogger who is giving away a $2,000 Whole Foods gift card doesn’t have the luxury of using a Whole Foods podcast to siphon past guests from.

However, there are 100s of podcasts in the Fitness and Nutrition category of iTunes that do interview-based podcasts.

Step 1: Make a list of interview-based podcasts in the Health & Fitness section.

Step 2: Make a list of every guest who has been on their show.

Step 3: Contact each guest with an email about your giveaway.

Step 4: Ask them to share your giveaway.

Results: This strategy produced 620 new subscribers to my giveaway.


Strategy #3: Manual outreach to roundup posts.

Another easy place to find people to share your giveaway is roundup posts. For example, LeadPages runs a monthly roundup post where they list some of their favorite implementations of their product.

Many of the people who use LeadPages have audiences that would be interested in using LeadPages. So I emailed each person listed in every one of their roundup posts with this email:

To find relevant roundup posts for your industry use the Google search query “best + [keyword] + blog”

For example:

Our organic food blogger could search for “best organic food blogs”.

This one search produces a list of 55 blogs that would potentially be interested in sharing your giveaway with their audience.

Step 1: Search your industry’s top blogs.

Step 2: Make a list of 50 of the top blogs.

Step 3: Email each site’s owner and ask them to share your giveaway.

Results: This technique produced 590 new subscribers to my giveaway.


Strategy #4: Manual outreach to backlinkers.

The fourth tactic I used was to manually reach out to any site that had linked to a LeadPages article in the past 90 days.

My thinking was this: If a website is linking to a LeadPages article, then their audience should be interested in a LeadPages giveaway.

So, If I email them and tell them about my giveaway perhaps they will share it with their audience.

Follow these 4 steps to identify and contact backlinks:

Step 1: Make a list of every article you want to track.

I use BuzzSumo for this. For my contest I entered the LeadPages domain to get a list of all of their top blog posts over the past year.

Step 2: Identify every website that has linked to each article.

To do this use Open Site Explorer (OSE). Type in the blog post’s specific URL into OSE and it will give you a list of every site that links to that article.

Step 3: Email each site owner and ask them to share your giveaway

Lastly, email each site owner who backlinked to the source article and ask them to share your giveaway.

This is the email I used:

Results: The strategy produced 325 subscribers to my giveaway.


Strategy #5: Email campaign to your list.

No matter your email list size, telling your existing audience about your giveaway is very important.

Your current subscribers are your biggest fans and are the most likely to share your giveaway with their friends.

I wrote two emails: 1) announcing the giveaway; and 2) reminding them it was about to close.

Email #1: Announcing the giveaway

Email #1

I sent this email on the day that the giveaway started.

Email #2: Reminding that it was ending

Email #2

I sent this email the morning of the last day of the launch.

Results: These 2 emails resulted in 725 new subscribers to the giveaway.

9 more strategies: There are 13 total strategies that I recommend you use to promote your giveaway. For sake of time and space, I included the rest of those strategies in the resource center. You can access them for free here.

Step #3: Incentivize the Laggards

There is one last thing you need to MAKE SURE you do in order to give your giveaway the best chance at working: incentivize the laggards.

Incentivize everyone who has a low chance of winning.

99% of the people that enter your giveaway won’t win and they know that. One tactic I used to help encourage them to share anyway was to offer a secondary incentive for sharing the giveaway.

Anyone who entered and was able to get 5 friends to sign up would get a free LeadPages premium template valued at $900.

Before announcing the secondary incentive, I imported all of the contestants who had entered the contest into my email system. Then, on the afternoon that the contest was ending, I sent this email:

Laggard’s Email

Here are a few ideas of freebies that you could use to incentivize your laggards:

  • Copy of your book
  • Resource guide
  • Training material
  • Extended trial to a relevant software program

Results: This technique accounted for 380 new subscribers.


Giveaways are incredibly effective.

Just be sure you follow these three steps to make sure your giveaway is worth the time and effort you put into it:

Step 1: Pick a killer prize that your audience covets.

Step 2: Use all 13 promotional strategies to reach the maximum number of people possible.

Step 3: Incentivize all of your laggards to share your giveaway with their audiences.

I’ve packaged up a set of killer bonuses to help you set up your first giveaway. Inside the resource center you’ll get:

  • 50% off coupon for the WordPress plugin I use to run my giveaway
  • Tutorial video of how to take care of the technical part of things
  • All 13 promotional strategies that I used in my giveaway
  • Access to my swipe file of email templates to email key influencers
  • Killer prize-picking spreadsheet. This will help you pick the perfect prize for your giveaway.

Access the bonuses here :

  • So i guess you are happy with the cost of about $2 per subscriber?

    Also how do you handle actually delivering the prize? Did you pay cash all at once? Or will you send $37 each month?How does it work? ))

    Thanks for a good post )

    • Yeah I’d like to hear if $2 a subscriber is worth it. I wonder about the attrition rate of these subscribers also compared to an unmotivated (entering a competition, downloading something) subscriber i.e. someone who signs up because they genuinely like your content.

      • Unsubscribe rates have been up 1% over the last 5 emails (post-contest) but have leveled off with the last 2 emails.

        In total I lost 145 more subscribers than normal. A major net win.

        Cost per sub was $1.33

        • 1.33 per sub is excellent, I’m used to at least $5/sub with FB ads……..I’d also like to add that I discovered VideoFruit via this exact giveaway being posted by someone else on Facebook….and I’m very glad I did….I’ll definitely be here awhile!

    • I’m not Bryan, but I do sell a book… I sell a $40 book, and I sell it (eventually) to around 1/3 of my list, at varying price-points. Let’s say that averages out to $30/sale (it’s a bit higher). So a subscriber is worth $10 to me at my normal subscriber quality. In that case, paying $2/sub would be a steal. And that’s just for a straight-up “sell one product” thing. My ebook isn’t even particularly expensive.

      Once I get my current class cranked up, I hope to move that number a lot higher.

      $2/sub isn’t a particularly high number, is what I’m saying.

      • Sure, but would 1/3 of those subscribers actually buy a book? I’d imagine your conversion rate for those freebie hunting subscribers would be well under 1 percent, meaning you only make $600 for a $4000 spend.

        The numbers aren’t the most important thing here, I’d have said the quality of the subscriber was very important as well, something that Brian didn’t touch on.

        Conversely, maybe there are more effective ways to get subscribers much much cheaper, using paid advertising.

        • I would expect well over 1%, if only because I give away free chapters to everybody who subscribes, and that conversion rate is over 30%. So for the giveaway subscribers, I’d expect, oh, maybe 15%-ish over time. The 30%+ isn’t immediate, either.

          So they’d be worth more like $5 each, but I’d be spending $2 to get them.

          It would also depend on the incentive. If I’m giving away the right thing, the people who show up will want my stuff. Like, if I used a Hawaiian vacation package, that would net me really, really low-quality subscribers. I sell an ebook on Ruby on Rails internals, so I’d want to give away something more like a package of Rails ebooks or 10 years of NewRelic.

        • Quality is everything. If you pay $0.01 per sub and no one buys it wasn’t effective.

          If you pay $100 per sub and each sub buys your $1,000 product it was a major hit.

          Are there more effective ways to get subscribers? Perhaps.

          This worked extremely well for me though.

      • Bingo. $2 per sub is great. This came out to $1.33 per sub.

    • Good question Allstair.

      Total cost per subscriber is $1.33 (for me that is an excellent acquisition cost).

      Prize is being delivered annually, $300 per year is sent to the winner. Which helps defer upfront cost to me and doesn’t affect the end user.

    • As a followup to this, these 2,300’ish subscribers produced just over $40,000 in revenue in our Spring 2015 product launch.

  • I’ve been looking forward to this break-down post since you launched the giveaway (ultranerdy, but true!). This one’s going to take some time to implement for my clients, but will definitely be worth it.

    “So I canceled all of my plans and set up my own giveaway.

    3 hours later it was live.”

    BADASS! 😉

    • Ha! Thanks Brian. You could charge a premium to offer this as a service. In fact, I’d pay for it. Hit me up 🙂

      • I pitched this to two folks yesterday. #1 is on board (booyeah!) and #2 said “not now, maybe later” and is a mutual Internet buddy of yours. When #2 sees my results from #1, then he’ll be on board I’m sure. 🙂 thanks for *all* you do!

      • tayhowe

        Hey Bryan, fantastic article! I’m already starting to pitch this as a service to potential clients.

        I’d be happy to run a contest for you as well whenever you need it.

        • Very nice! Are you selling it as a package?

          • tayhowe

            Yes, selling it as a 100% done-for-you service.

            I run contests via Facebook apps for small businesses at my day job so it’s right up my alley.

            The social sharing functions and flawless UI of KS Giveaways make it a no-brainer.

            Thanks for writing such an awesome “how to” article on it!

          • Cool! Followup with me and let me know how it goes.

  • Hey Brian – nice article. What was the total “new” subscribers. Did all these people confirm? How many were already on your list?

    When I ran my giveaway I got 530 entrants but only 350 new subscribers.

    • Good question. 520 were existing subscribers.

  • WOW!

    Bryan, I was looking forward to this post and you didn’t disappoint. Stellar Effort!

    I did a mini test for one of my events and ended up with 130 entries solely through a small list I had.

    What your post has shown me, is that more EFFORT is required if you want truly awesome results.

    Thanks for the tips as usual and will be rolling up the sleeves to give it an epic go!

  • Awesome post Bryan. I was really looking forward to this post.

    Another possible strategy is to use retargeting. Target everybody who viewed your giveaway but didn’t sign up and show them an ad that reminds them of what they can win. They’ve already showed interest so it shouldn’t be hard to convert them eventually.

    Or target people who already entered and tell them their chances increase the more they share.

    Granted, retargeting costs money, but I think it would be worth it in the long run.

    I really enjoyed this post, thanks Bryan

    • I dabbled in PPC a little, but with my short time frame I didn’t get heavy into it. I know several that have had great success with ad traffic though.

      Good suggestion!

      • Retargeting is generally has a much higher roi also, so it could work wonders…

  • We are looking into this, but offering our services for free for a fixed period instead.

    Its the ideal offer our potential customers would want, we won’t be able to leverage off the “prize” company which is the only issue..

    We may get 12 subscribers ha

    Will test it out with some paid traffic to a landing page perhaps…

    • Just make sure your hook meets the 3-step criteria.

      “just offering our services” might be too boring to attract people.

      The prize company angle is just one of 12 strategies. You don’t HAVE To have that.

    • tayhowe

      Did you end up offering your own service as a prize? If so, how did it go?

      • Hey Tay,
        We haven’t as yet, but its set to go live in the next 6 weeks (We have a few articles before then to boost our readership, which we want to have running before the competition, not procrastinating…honest)

        I saw that the giveaway app is actually on sale today for Black Friday?
        So im off to get it now!

        I really have high hopes for offering the service, as it will target our key readers, bring in more of the same type of reader, and of course its something that we can offer very easily!

        More excitingly we will be able to help out some new people!

  • Show Notes Guy

    How much of these tasks did you assign to VA assistance? how much did that VA work cost you?

    • I used a research assistant to tabulate the lists and research emails addresses. I did everything else.

      Total cost was under $150.

  • Alex Vlasceanu

    Some of the ideas to promote the giveaway are simply genius.
    Thanks man!

    I was a bit surprised to see only 2,000 subscribers. I mean, I thought at least 5,000 would want this.

    Then I thought that maybe:
    1. The prize was too much. Maybe it was kind of hard to believe a decade of free stuff, too-good-to-be-true syndrome. It was for me, but I trusted you already so I knew it was for real. But the purpose here is to get new subscribers, who don’t know you.
    2. The prize is desired by a audience that is too small for a giveaway to go viral. Not sure, maybe something else with a broader reach would’ve been better.
    2. Facebook Ads would’ve been better to kickstart virality. I mean, instead of offering a $3,000 prize, offer a $1,000 prize and use $2,000 on FB Ads. I’ll try this for myself, I think it’s a better way to spend the money in this case. I was thinking of having prizes worth $100-$500, to be believable, and using about $500 on FB Ads. I estimate it’s going to be enough.

    What do you think of these ideas, Bryan? Now that you already went through it. Do they make sense?

    By the way, if somebody wants help with doing a giveaway like this, I’m thinking about turning it into a service, like Bryan teaches us. Not only for the cash, but I’m interested to see how different campaigns do, to find the best ways to promote them and choose prizes. Thanks again for that, man – you rock!

    • Alex, great points. My personal goal was 3,000 subs.But that was complete guess.

      I just focused on getting it in front of as many eyeballs as possible. I’m not a Facebook ad guru so I didn’t venture down that path but I’m sure you could make it ROI if done correctly.

      I’d be very interested in advertising your service inside of the Vault if you decide to offer it. Send me an email if you do.

    • Would love to see how this converts for you Alex

      Great idea, testing a different smaller option and then using the funds to boost the reach for it

  • I’m loving the breakdown, I was one of the ones who subscribed and entered! I was already on your list mind you after hearing you on Eofire. Did you get many duplicates? Or is the 2239 after removing doubles? Just another angle I haven’t quite got my head around yet, thanks for sharing all this great value!!

  • Awesome breakdown Bryan. I actually put off running my contest until you published this post. So glad I did now!

  • Hey Bryan, awesome post once again.

    The first day you ran this contest it caught my eye. So I clicked the kingsumo link in your giveaway page, and googled more on it. Anyway, I realized pretty quickly that this was an awesome route to get optins. So I purchased the KS Giveaways the same day and then set up my own contest.

    I teach fighters how to get sponsored so I made a giveaway for highly-sought after boxing gloves. I copied your format. I created a side button just like you did with your Leadpages giveaway (my button example attached). I also emailed my list, then emailed them again when only a few hours were left. I promoted the contest on my social media and relevant facebook groups and relevant forums where I’m a regular poster.

    I ran the contest for 10 days. By the end of the contest I gained 666 new subscribers. Before the contest I only had around 100! The value of the gloves were $79.99 however, I bought them for $42.99 (low price thanks to formerly running an MMA gear store). So the cost to gain each subscriber was less than 16 cents. Awesome!

    I have run the contest twice more for different types of gear. My subscriber count is now over 1300 and it took me less than 2 months to get there thanks to the giveaways and copying what you did. So thank you for that. Great great stuff on your blog.

    I’ve recently surveyed fighters on forums to find out what other types of things they’d like to see as giveaways. Got some great ideas from that that I wouldn’t have thought of. Oh yeah! I also aquired a sponsor during all of this. He saw my giveaways then contacted me and said he’d like to sponsor one with his product (which is also relevant to fighters and fitness-minded people). I just received his product and will be offering it in my next giveaway.

    Something I did with my last giveaway was to have the host of a podcast I sponsor, push the giveaway during the shout out to my business (MMA Somnia).

    Your post today gave me some great ideas about contacting relevant niche leaders to promote the conest. That’s a fantastic idea!

    Oh yeah, one last thing. I use WP Curve (GREAT service. And again, thanks to seeing you put it to use) and I had them remove the “Powered by KingSumo Giveaways” button from the contest entry window. Using G Analytics, I found that some people found my contest by searching specificaly for it. Obviously freebie seekers. So anyone who runs KS giveaways may want to remove that button too.

    Anyways, novel of a reply here but wanted to give you a huge thank you. Thank you! Always look forward to your stuff and ripping off your ideas for use in my own business, haha.

    “A good artist copies, a great artist steals”

  • Brian Dean

    This is insane.

    As usual, I love the super-duper level of detail you included in the case study. I need to get on this 🙂

  • taylorawelch

    What I love about your stuff is everyone else is looking for a “magic” formula or an “easy win” button – you do the work, you get results. And the framework is excellent. Thanks for taking the time to write this bro!

  • Tom

    I’m late to this b/c I saved it in my inbox…killer post @bharris007:disqus as always.

  • 9 more strategies: There are 13 total strategies that I recommend you use to promote your giveaway. For sake of time and space, I included the rest of those strategies in the resource center. You can access them for free here.

    – missing a leadbox there bud

  • pamellaneely

    Hey Brian. Thanks for this post – and all your others! You published this right about when I launched a Facebook contest for a year of GetResponse email marketing for up to 10K subscribers, so it felt kinda like a gift from the gods. Shameless plug:

    I am following your instructions and have sent out about 50 emails to site owners, content sharers and others so far. Will also be doing some FB advertising, probably just in the last 3 days. So far, honestly, the results are really poor, but it’s early.

    I’m using Heyo for the contest app, so I don’t have the feature of being able to know and reward people who have gotten me more than, say, 5 entrants. Do you know of a way to track that without the giveaway app you used? I was thinking of a google analytics goal, but verifying the referrals might be a big time sink.

    • Hmmm…I’m not familiar enough with Hey-o. But could you just give it to everyone?

  • Great post, particularly liked the manual outreach to Podcasters – something I hadn’t considered before 🙂

  • Such an amazingly detailed blueprint, thank you! I’m planning on launching my website to a core part of my audience at an industry conference. I really want to close it with a strong call to action and convert them into subscribers, and am considering doing a giveaway of the books I’m mentioning during my talk as an exclusive gift to them. Since this is a relatively small but highly targeted audience, would a giveaway be a good strategy here? Or are they really more effective when you already have a large list?


  • Jamie

    This is a cool guide. Thanks dude.

    Out of interest. Have these subscribers turned a profit for you?

    I’ve always even a bit sceptical about giveaways. Yes you build a list rapidly, but are they just a load of freebie seekers? Or is the magic in the relationship you build which then leads to them buying what you offer?

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  • I run giveaways on my site all the time and stumbled across your article via selfmadebusinessman via Google, and I must say that you gave me a lot to chew on and digest for my next giveaway. I’m planning on doing an old giveaway I did a couple of year’s ago and that was offer 5 free Netflix subscriptions for the year. Back then I got about 2,000 email subscribers but am hoping to crack 10,000 this time around now that my site is a little more polished and planning on manually reaching out to people to help promote it.

    Thanks for this article.

  • You mention for mining headlines, but do you have any knowledge of how well they perform for promoting your sweepstake?

    The $200 “usually gets at least 5,000 giveaway entries, depending on the prize, quality and length of the giveaway.” – I can’t help my skepticism


    Excellent post. i think paying $2 per subscriber depends on the product lanuch you offer to your audience. if it is with massive value then paying $2 subscriber seems Good. AND SAME happens for paying more per subscriber.

  • Hi Bryan,

    In your point #3 Incentive the Laggards, you sent an e-mail to each contestant with their own, customized ‘Lucky Link’ they could share on various social media sites.

    Did you have a team custom code this? Or is this available in the KingSumo app?

    I’ve integrated the GetResponse with the app, and now I’m trying to figure out how to send out each person’s Lucky Link via an automated e-mail.