The Difference Between Sweepstakes and Contests

Oct 28, 2022 | Engage

Any idea that drums up interest in your business can qualify as a form of marketing. The challenge is figuring out which ideas actually work. 

Giving something away is one tactic that can capture people’s attention and peak their interest in your business. While not every one of these people will become customers, you undoubtedly will benefit from the effort.

Two of the most common types of giveaways are sweepstakes and contests. While some people use these terms interchangeably, they actually are quite different.

In deciding whether to run a sweepstakes or a contest, it will help if you understand how they differ, how they are alike, and which one will best fit your marketing needs.

Sweepstakes Defined

To explain the difference between sweepstakes and contests we’ll start here. A sweepstake is a game. It involves chance, and there is an equal opportunity for everyone who enters to win.

In general, people will need to obtain an entry in order to participate in a sweepstakes. You may allow multiple entries per person or you can choose to restrict it to only one entry per person. Allowing more entries will give some people better chances of winning.

As Realtime Media explains, you will always choose the winner of a sweepstakes through a draw. That means every entry has an equal chance of being chosen because the draw is completely random.

Another key point of a sweepstakes is that it usually offers a large grand prize. It may also include smaller prizes to give more people chances to win something, as well as to increase their interest in the game.

The key distinguishing points of a sweepstakes are the following:

  • Game of chance
  • Random draw for the winner

Reasons To Run a Sweepstakes

One of the appealing aspects of a sweepstakes is that it is fairly simple to run. You only need to figure out how people will enter and what prizes you will give away.

It is also easy for the people entering as well. Entrants don’t have to do anything other than provide a name and contact information.

You can use a sweepstakes to generate attention for your business and to increase your lead database. And since it doesn’t require a lot of work to pull off, you can quickly set it up without excessive planning.

There are some options to make the game a bit more exciting while also gathering additional market information. For example, you could ask entrants to answer a question about your business or products as part of the sweepstakes. Doing this will help you get an idea of what people like about your business or what improvements they would like to see in your products. It also can be a great way to learn more about your customers.

These are the main benefits of running a sweepstakes:

  • Getting customers excited about your business
  • Promoting word-of-mouth advertising
  • Receiving more visits to your website or store
  • Building a new lead database

Contests Defined

A contest is not a game of chance. It is a well-thought-out opportunity for people to compete for prizes.

To set up a contest, you will have to develop an idea where people must do something or submit something to win. At the end of the run, judges will pick the winner based on how well the entrant complied with the rules and requirements of the contest.

The prizes may be smaller for a contest, and you will usually have winners for first, second, and third place. However, you can also just offer a grand prize and a runner-up.

People will want to be able to view the winning contest entries, so you will need to create a place to display them. For example, if the contest requires submitting a video, you can play the winning videos on your website’s home page.

The key distinguishing points of a contest are the following:

  • Competition
  • A set criteria to win
  • Winner chosen by judges

Reasons To Run a Contest

Now, a large matter in the difference between sweepstakes and contests is a contest does require more work than a sweepstakes. You have to put thought into how people will compete for the prizes. In addition, you must draw up requirements or guidelines for the entries.

Contests also involve more work on the part of entrants, so you need to ensure that the requirements are fun or compelling in some way. Whatever task or project you are asking entrants to submit needs to appeal to your target audience.

It’s also important to specify how judging will work. You must be completely clear and transparent to remove any concerns about bias in the outcome.

A contest can create a huge buzz if you do it correctly. It also will allow you to connect with your market in a more personal way.

Because of the requirements, a contest involves more interaction with your audience. This can help you learn a lot about the people who buy from you.

These are the main benefits of running a contest:

  • Connecting better with customers
  • Building buzz for your business
  • Creating usable market research

Comparing Sweepstakes and Contests

While both sweepstakes and contests give people a chance to win something from your business, that is where the similarities end.

A sweepstakes is easier for both you and the customer, but a contest can offer more benefits on both sides. And while you can get some basic database information from a sweepstakes, you will gain more detailed market information from a contest.

Sweepstakes take little preparation while contests require sincere thought and planning.

According to Marden-Kane Digital Promotions, the biggest difference between sweepstakes and contests is the method in which winners are chosen. Sweepstakes winners are randomly chosen, whereas contest winners are selected based on their entries.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to choosing between running a sweepstakes or a contest, you have to decide how much time you want to invest in it and what works best for your customer base. For example, if your customers are highly interactive and engaged with your business, then a contest can be a huge success.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a lot of buzz around your business or you haven’t had much engagement with your customers, then a sweepstakes is a better first step. Because of this, sweepstakes usually work best for a newer company. Then, as you can drum up interest in your business, you can set the stage to later hold a contest that helps boost your company’s popularity with your target market.

Ultimately, your business can—and should—make use of both sweepstakes and contests in order to achieve marketing success. As long as you consider what stage your business is in, what you are wanting to achieve, and what sort of relationship you have—or do not have—with your customers, you can determine which tactic best fits your circumstances.

When looking into The Difference Between Sweepstakes and Contests we are eager to highlight the use of our Experience Surveys to generate leads for your business.

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