EcomCrew PodcastEcommerceMarketingSocial Media

Episode 17: Executing a Facebook Contest

Today Grant’s going to step out of the podcast. I'm Mike Jackness and I’m going to talk about my experience with running a Facebook contest for my site

On December 5, 2015 we launched We had tried our product out on Amazon and decided to make the move to our own site to build the brand.

Our first contest was January 1st. We offered a set of colored pencils every day for 30 days. At first I wasn't sure if this approach was going to work, but I have to say I have been very surprised and pleased with the results.

During today’s podcast I’ll share these key points with you:

  • The number of entries, sales, and overall social media hits this contest has gotten us
  • The email campaign we developed to keep our brand in the forefront of people's minds
  • The discount deal we offer non-winning contestants
  • How we’re providing value to our customers
  • How desktop vs. mobile interaction during this contest

Resources Mentioned in Today’s Episode:



If you have any questions or anything you’d like us to discuss on the podcast please go to and fill out the contact form. Also we would really appreciate if you would leave us a review on iTunes. Thanks  for listening!

Full Audio Transcript

Mike:   Hey, everybody.  This is Mike Jackness and welcome to this week’s edition of the Ecom Crew podcast.  This week, I’m without my trusty sidekick, Grant Yuan.  I want to talk about something that we’re working on in our business today and this is something that Grant and I will be doing from time to time, just talking one-on-one with you guys about things that we might individually be working on in our businesses.  It’s things that we’re both doing.  We’ll obviously be on the podcast together, but this is something that, you know, I discovered recently and Grant’s probably going to be trying it next couple of months, but it’s been working really well for me and I wanted to talk to you guys about it and that’s running contests to attract new customers.

And just to give you a little bit of background here, you know, we’ve been talking about our new brand, ColorIt, our adult coloring book brand, and it’s a brand that we started over the summer and, you know, I talked a lot about this in the brand building podcast, the three-part series that we did.  And if you haven’t listened to that yet, I highly encourage going back and checking that out.  And, you know, basically our business model is to use Amazon to launch our brand, to get out brand started, see if it has any traction, see if it has any teeth, make sure we’re getting some sales, get initial feedback if there’s anything we need to do to, you know, improve the product.  But over time, our real goal is to sell things on our own site and be less reliant on Amazon.  Obviously having them as a channel is great.  Some people prefer to buy there and that’s the way that it’s always going to be, but we want an ability to sell things on our own site and create a brand and have more brand awareness, so if any time Amazon decided to shut us down for whatever reason that might be, we’re not completely out of the creek without a paddle.

So that’s kind of the background of our brand, you know, the ColorIt brand.  Like I said, we started doing that over the summer and on December 5th, we launched and, you know, it was basically a one-month or six-week project, whatever it was, and during that time, we actually got a couple sales.  We actually had just a base Shopify store up there until we got our custom template up and running.  But, you know, once we launched our store, obviously we were in a position to start doing Facebook ads and doing direct response advertising and things of that nature.  And we’ve had good luck with those in the early going, but the thing that has brought us the most success is a contest that we started on January 1st and, you know, basically, the last couple days going at the end of December, I kind of had the idea of, “Why don’t we give away a set of our coloring pencils every day for a month?”  And, you know, the pencils cost us about $15 all in shipped and so basically, we’re looking at $450 in product giveaway, but the perceived value to the customer is $40 a set and so, you know, we were giving away $1,200 in product.

So, to the customer, the perceived value was definitely way higher and my thought process was, “What I really want here is to grow our social media channels,” and I wouldn’t say artificially inflate them, but to inflate them in a way that wasn’t unethical.  And I think, you know, doing these contests where you require an action in order to get entries into a contest works really well for that and I was like, “Well, you know, if we can increase our Facebook audience by a little bit and our Pinterest audience, Instagram audience, and Twitter audience, whatever and make those numbers look a little bit more impressive to a new prospective customer, than it’s probably worth $450.”  I mean people do way more unscrupulous things, like going over to Fiverr and paying a bunch of people to do nothing more than Like them that have zero interest in those products, which I think is, you know, an awful way to do business.

So my feeling was, “If we advertise this contest on Facebook and, you know, do ads to this contest, at least we’ll have people that have an interest in these products.”  So what I did was we set up this contest and we set up different – we used a product called by the way, and we’re using the $39 a month plan, but most of you probably can get away with using their free plan.  And we set up all these different actions, ways that people could enter the contest, and it was, you know, Like us on Facebook, Like us on Twitter, Like us on Pinterest, Like us on Instagram, Like a particular photo on Instagram, Like a particular photo on Pinterest.  We also had refer your friends and get into the contest.  We also did 50 extra entries if you placed an order, which we’ve now upped to 75 in February.  But that was the things that’s really blown me away is the number of people that actually placed an order just to get more entries into the contest.

So, you know, my initial thought was, “You know what?  We’re just probably not going to sell very many pencil sets.  We’re probably not going to sell very many books, or sell very many products period.  It’s probably going to be a bunch of moochers that are going to come into this contest and have very little value to us, but we’ll, you know, use the value that we’re getting from them to increase our social media channels and that’ll probably be it.”  And that was kind of my mindset going into it.  And what’s blown me away is the actual value that we’ve gotten out of all of this.

So I’m going to go over some number with you real quick and I think you’ll be really surprised, as I was.  Let’s start out with the number of people that entered the contest.  We had 8,145 people enter the contest.  We had 6,589 sign up for our newsletter, which means that we got their email address and we were able to market to them in a funnel afterwards.  We had 1,870 follow us on Twitter.  We had 1,442 people follow us on Instagram, 3,137 new Pinterest followers, and we ended up with about 8,900 new Facebook fans.  So, to me, that alone is worth the $450 in product that we sent out.  And we also spent some money on ads.  We spent $678 on Facebook ads throughout the month and all that was was us boosting that post and we did nothing more.  And when I say “that post,” when I launched the contest on January 1st and made a post saying – and I think it was two sentences basically just saying, “ColorIt is going to be giving away a set of coloring pencils every day in the month of January, one for each day.  There’ll be a winner each day.”  Whatever.  Something like that.  “We’re going to give 30 away in total.”  Just something very simple like that with a  high quality photo of the pencil set and then we boosted that post, and that boosting cost us $678.

Now, the end result is we got 98 orders.  98 orders.  I mean it’s crazy to me.  98 orders of people that did that as an action on the contest, meaning that they, you know, had the wherewithal and understood that, “Hey, you know, if I place an order, then I’m going to get these extra 50 entries.”  Now, not everyone even realizes that.  I mean you have a lot of people that don’t even know how to use the internet very well, but the 98 order number is incredible to me.  And we actually got significantly more signups on top of this.  Or not signups, but customer sales on top of this, which I’ll get into in a minute.  So now, attributable to Facebook, we had a $678 spend, but we ended up with $2,914 in revenue, which is, you know, more than 400% return on ad spend (which is incredible to me), doing nothing more than boosting a giveaway post.  I mean we weren’t trying to sell them anything, which kind of goes a lot to give them value first and they’ll buy later, and there’s going to be more podcasts about what we’re doing in this regard down the road.  But yeah, I mean we spent $678, got $2,900 in the door.  I will put $1 into a machine and have $4 spit out every day of the week.  You know, it’s not a bad thing to have happen and it actually resulted in 78 orders.

So on top of this I mentioned we got 6,589 people that gave us their email address so now what we’re doing there is we have a pretty complex multi-step autoresponder funnel series where, you know, we start out by saying, “Hey, you know, welcome to this contest.  Thank you for joining.  Here’s the official contest page.  Again, thanks for joining,” kind of thing.  And then we send a follow up email the next day with more chances to win.  So basically in this email we say, “Hey, look, you might not have realized that you can win by referring your friends, you can win by Tweeting every day,” or whatever it might be.  So we give them this “more chances to win” email.  And that’s really interesting is that email is getting a 32% open rate and a 13% click rate, which, to me, is incredibly high.  And it’s really important to deliver emails that have a high open rate to keep your email out of spam and things of that nature so what we’ve done is we’ve A/B tested the living crap out of this at this point with Klayvio and picked the best subject line.

So then after three days, we sent them another email that’s four free drawings.  Now obviously, everyone’s going to have a little bit different, you know, promotion they can run in this regard, but we do four free drawings and again, it’s just creating more value for the customer.  They already obviously were looking for free entries into the contest, but we can send them a PDF, which costs us nothing, and get them more aware of our brand.  So we send them four complementary drawings.  That email has a 39% open rate and a 20% click-through rate, which is even better and that email converts as well.  And then we have our next email in the series is we talk about our promotion of the month.  So in this case, we say, you know, “*The person’s name* Hey!  Our February special will melt your heart,” trying to do a little something cute for Valentine’s Day there.  Again, fairly high open rate, 28.6%, and more sales.  And the thing is every one of these emails throughout the chain is generating sales.

The next email that we send out is a ColorIt product offering email where we just basically segment out the different things that we do, which is coloring books, pencils, greeting cards, journals, sketch pads, et cetera.  So we break out the different categories, say a coupe sentences about that, have a nice image of that category, and a [inaudible 10:47] for them to go buy.  Again, generates more sales.  Then we have another email that says, “What community members are doing,” and it’s just an email that does nothing more than display pictures that people have sent in of the work that people have done.  So, you know, it’s just more social proof, it’s a beautiful email of all these colored drawings that actual customers have done, and it’s doing amazingly well.

So that’s our contest sequence.  Now, on top of that, we have a post-contest sequence.  We had to actually have a separate sequence to do the post-contest flow because we need to draw a line in the sand and say, “Hey, we’re going to send out these emails on a particular day.”  So what we do is I found a plugin that lets you do a countdown timer and we have a three-email sequences that we do, which is a 20% off offer.  We’re going to test a different amount each month and basically see which one performs the best for us.  But I want to use a really high offer at this point.  Now, the thing is I have it filtered, so it only goes out to the people who didn’t purchase yet.  So I don’t want to offer a 20% discount to someone who’s already purchased and shown us they’re willing to pay full price.

So my feeling is that after a month, you know, all these other emails that we’ve sent out, if they’re waiting for the contest to see if they’re going to be a winner or they just want something for free, these guys are going to need a little extra nudge.  So offering them 20% off, and we have thousands of people in this flow – like I mentioned, we had 6,589 people in our January contest.  We’re going to end up with way more than that in February.  So what we do is the first email goes out and it goes out immediately and it just basically says, “Here’s a 20% off coupon.  You didn’t win.  We’re sorry, but here’s 20% off.”  And there’s a countdown timer saying that this thing’s going to expire in 72 hours.  And then 48 hours later, we send out another email saying, “Hey, time’s running out,” and it’s basically a reminder with the countdown timer going down.  And then we do another email 72 hours later, which is basically a day after the other one saying, “We’ve extended it by one more day,” which we use a different timer that has an extra day on it.  And every single one of these emails converted.  All three of them.  Now, it was diminishing.  The first one did the best, but the second and third one didn’t do bad either.

So I mean it’s just done phenomenal.  And then what we’ve noticed is that going into it in February, we’re doing a similar thing.  Instead of giving away one set of coloring pencils, we’re giving away a set of three books.  So what we did this month is we got a little bit smarter and we sat down and we were like, “Okay, first off, what should we give away?  We want to do something that’s equally as cool as we did last month, so three books has about the same value as one set of coloring pencils.”  And what we also did is we tied is that promotion of buying three books at once at discounts and made a monthly promotion that equals what we’re giving away in the contest so we can talk about the promotion in the email sequences like I mentioned and it’s normally a pack that sells for $47.98, but in this case, we’re doing it for $39.99 and our sales have exploded.

And the results this month are even better than last month.  We’re going to end up at least the pace that we’re on this month is to beat all the numbers that I mentioned to you from last month by 50%.  And that’s across the board.  That’s in sales, that’s in our return on ad spend, that’s in followers, number of emails we’re going to get, et cetera, et cetera.  Plus, on top of it, you know, we found like a magic pill here that running this promotion on Facebook, just sending people directly to the three-book promotion has done incredibly well as well.  So all these different things are kind of firing on all cylinders now.  The promotion of buy three books and get a discount, the promotion of enter this contest and you have a chance to win, and the synergies that we have there, and then we’ll obviously so some stuff in the post-contest follow up, are working really well together.

So again, these are just things that are working well on our business and, you know, before I even got into this, like I mentioned off the top, I really thought that this was going to be a flop in terms of the number of sales that it generated.  But again, it’s provide value first.  It’s something that, you know, you hear preached a lot.  You know, I was reading a lot of stuff from Digital Marketer and obviously, traffic and conversion is something that’s happening around the time I’m recording this podcast and it’s something they’re talking about quite a bit there.  But even before that, you know, Ezra Firestone talks about it a lot.  It’s being talked about a lot in the eCommerceFuel forums.  It was talked about at eCommerceFuel live.  You know, all these different things are being talked about quite a bit and provide value first and then make the sale.  It’s better than, you know, going up to someone and just saying, “Give me money.”

We’re giving them something for free, introducing them to our brand, and then when they get hit with a retargeting ad, they like already know who we are – all things we’ll talk about on another podcast, but this contest of “get free stuff” does that.  It’s, you know, “Here’s some stuff that you can get for free.  We’re providing you value and we’re not asking you for any money,” but they open up their wallet anyway because they see all the reviews and they see our website, they see our brand, they’re into coloring.

And now the important thing here that I didn’t mention before that I want to mention just before we sign off here is the real key is that the audience that I targeted on that $678 of ad spend was people that have an interest in coloring books, you know, specifically.  And I also targeted only people that were female that were over 40 years old.  You might be wondering, “Well, why that particular group?”  Well, first of all, you know, the relevance score on Facebook ads is really important so we have a 10.0 relevance score on this contest because people are clicking through and the click-through rates are incredibly cheap.  We target people that have an interest in coloring books because we want people that have an interest in coloring books.  It’s a slam dunk.  They’re going to want free coloring book products.  And we picked females that are over 40 because we know from all the other Facebook ads that we’ve been running and the slip testing we’ve been doing – if you remember our niching down podcast that we’ve done before, and if you haven’t listened to that, I definitely encourage you to listen to that, but we know from running tens of thousands of dollars of Facebook ads at this point that the over-40 crowd females is what converts.  I’ve tried to convert 30- to 40-year-olds, I’ve tried to convert 20- to 30-year-olds, I’ve tried to convert males over females.  You know, I can’t do it.  I cannot do it not matter how hard I try.  But females over 40 are a slam dunk.

So we did a very narrow audience, which still was 300,000 people or so, maybe 400,000 people so still a huge group.  And the first month we only did desktop because we found that desktop converts the best, but I thought, “You know what?  Let’s try mobile.  The contest interface has a good mobile interface,” and I split tested between desktop and mobile.  Mobile was actually outperforming desktop.  And I think, you know, the reason is people are on their Facebook thing.  They can enter a contest really easily, they can put in their email address really easily.  We then hit them up with Facebook retargeting ads either on their desktop or mobile and they’re getting emails that they can read on desktop or mobile and all of it together, whether they end up ordering on mobile or desktop, it just all kind of coming together.  And we’ve notice a huge spike in mobile sales.  We’ve worked very hard to make our site incredibly mobile-responsive.  We think that, you know, looks beautiful on an iPhone and it’s easy to checkout and it works perfectly on an iPhone, which I think is really important.

So, at any rate, hopefully you guys have found this stuff really interesting and helpful.  Highly encourage you to run a contest, give it a try.  If you have any questions, you know, you can hit us up on the Ecommerce Crew website on the contact form.  Leave us a note in iTunes if you have a chance to leave us a comment.  We really appreciate that.  Send us email if you have comments or leave a comment on the blog.  Love to hear about that.  We can talk about that on a future episode.  But if you have an ecommerce store, especially if you have your own brand and you have the margins to be able to pull off a contest like this, I highly encourage it.  So until next week, everybody, have a good one and we’ll talk to you then.


Michael Jackness

Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.


  1. Hey Michael, Really did your Podcast. I think your link above for is wrong.

    Cheers, Jonn

  2. Hi Michael,

    Did you have a set budget to run the facebook post ad per day? I would like to follow and run similar contest, trying to see how much I should be budgeting.

    1. We typically cap ads around $300 per day. However, we start at just $10 a day and then inch up the budget to make sure it’s still profitable with the bigger spend.

  3. Hello Mike,

    Would you kindly post a link to the slides to the ecf2016 presentation? Learnt a lot from your video presentation.

    Many Thanks

  4. Hi – the link/player to the podcast is missing. Would you please add it to the post? Thanks!

  5. Hey there! Love this episode; super helpful. We’re running a similar contest and was wondering how you get around the “No Purchase Necessary” laws? Want to make sure we’re in compliance. Thanks!

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