This post was written by Simon Cave You want more email subscribers.

The only problem is, you don’t know how to get them.

You’ve probably added a few opt-in forms on your website and currently get anywhere between 1 to 5 subscribers a day with them. It seems like it will take you years before you land your first thousand.

But don’t be discouraged!

There are proven solutions out there to help you build an email list faster. One of them is running giveaways. You probably already know that giveaways can be a great strategy to grow your email list. You may even have tried to run a contest once or twice on your blog but were disappointed because you didn’t get the results you’d hoped. The reason so many people get little result with giveaways is that their strategy looks something like this:

  1. Set up a contest
  2. Share it on social media + newsletter
  3. Sit back and wait for the contest to go viral

I’m going to be honest with you.


This “plan” will fail every single time.

You can’t create a giveaway, share it with your (still small) community and expect to score thousands of subscribers overnight. That’s just not how blogging works.

If you do want to get subscribers, ditch the “share and pray approach” for proactivity.

Today you are going to learn real strategies to run giveaways and attract thousands of subscribers in a few weeks.

The techniques that I’m sharing with you in this post are the ones that I used to get more than 4,000 subscribers over the past year.

I’ve tested them so I know for a fact that they work.

I cover a lot of things in this post (this post is more than 3,000 word long). To remember the most important points I recommend you to download the checklist that I used to attract more than 4,000 subscribers with giveaways. This is a sum up of the whole post that will give you the basic roadmap to run successful giveaways.

list building giveaways

How to Choose the Perfect Giveaway to Save both Time and Money

To choose a giveaway that will attract thousands of targeted subscribers, you have to find a giveaway that attracts the right people and that makes them “sneeze”. They must also be able to easily share it and understand it.

Choose a Giveaway that Attracts the Right People

You could choose to give something away that attracts everybody. An iPad, $500, an Amazon gift card – that will drive thousands of subscribers, right?

Well, not so fast.

You want to attract the right people: people who are interested in what you do, who would actually engage with you and get massive value from the product you sell.

There is no use running a contest that attracts everybody. It will be a waste of time, money and energy – unless you love getting unsubscribers en masse.

So ask yourself:

What giveaway would attract the right people to my business/blog?

Choose something ultra-specific to your niche… something that makes people “sneeze”.

Choose a Giveaway To Make People “Sneeze”

Seth Godin explains in Unleashing the Ideavirus that remarkable products/services attract influencers and early adopters (sneezers) who naturally spread the word (sneeze) to their family friends, which creates a snowball effect that helps the products/services get known.

With a highly valuable giveaway, you can make use of the same “sneezing effect” and land thousands of targeted subscribers as a result. Here are a few type of giveaways that you can offer to make people “sneeze”:

Choose a Shareable and Understandable Giveaway

When choosing your giveaway, choose something that’s easily shareable, understandable and catchy. You must be able to explain what you offer in 140 characters or less. This point is very important. Let me explain why. About a year ago I thought that I had found the perfect viral giveaway. I offered $100 cash, a $50 Amazon gift card and … a space expedition! – wait, what?! Yes you read that right. I had seen some cool guys launch a GoPro into space. They basically put a GoPro inside a box and attached it to a weather balloon.

I thought that I could do the same while offering people to include an object of their choice in the box. Sounds like a good idea right?

Well not really. I had difficulty explaining in a few words what I was offering. The only thing I came up with was:

“Get a chance to win $100, a $50 Amazon gift card and space mission! Click here (link)”

The whole message was confusing. Offering some money, a gift card and a space mission didn’t make any sense at all. It didn’t cross my mind that it would attract the wrong audience. As a result, that contest was a big fail.

A few months later, I had learned my lesson and ran another contest. I chose to offer something in large quantity that would attract the right people.

Here’s what I offered:

contest on twitter

That time my offer was clear and shareable. People could easily spread the word in 51 characters.

That contest turned out to be a great success (more on that later in the post).

So let’s make a quick recap before moving on to the next part.

To run a successful contest, you must first choose a giveaway that attracts your target audience. Second, it must be so valuable to them that they can’t help but to spread the word. And third, it must be easily shareable and understandable in 140 characters or less. So once you've decided what to give away, how do you actually set your giveaway up so that you can start collecting those email subscribers?

Run Your Contest Using the Right Plugin

Most contests don’t become viral because they are dysfunctional. When you enter a contest, this usually happens:

  1. You see the contest with a chance to win a great giveaway
  2. You enter the contest
  3. You are asked to share the contest on social medias
  4. You leave the contest page without sharing and do something else

Sounds familiar?

Many people leave without sharing because they don’t have a reason to share . They know that sharing = more contestants = less chance of winning

If you want to run a successful giveaway and attract thousands of people, you have to make the act of sharing rewarding. You have to actually give people a reason to share.

Instead of just asking contestants to share your giveaway page without any reason, tell them that their chances of winning depends on the number of people they invite, which means that the more they share your contest with their friends, the more likely they are to win.

To create a contest with this viral system, you can use the Kingsumo Giveaway plugin (for WordPress).

With this plugin you can set up your contest in such a way that every time contestants share it, they earn entries, which puts them in a good position to win. Noah Kagan has been using this plugin for Appsumo to grow his email list to +700,000 subscribers. It’s also the one that Josh Earl has used to get almost 200,000 subscribers in 10 days. Bryan Harris and I have also used it to get thousands of new subscribers in a matter of days.

There exists other plugins out there, such as Rafflecopter, that offer the same kind of virality system but you often have to pay a monthly fee to use them. With the Kingsumo giveaway plugin you only have to pay once and you can use it for a lifetime.

Now that you know which plugin to use to run your giveaway, it’s time to promote your contest.

How to Promote Your Contest

Promoting your contest is the most important steps of all and yet it’s where most people get stuck. So let’s do something about that.

I’m going to share with you the ten techniques that I used to get more than 4,000 subscribers with two contests over the last year. I’ll start with the most obvious techniques and will end with the most advanced ones.

1) Email your list to let them know about your giveaway:

If you have an existing email list, send your subscribers an email about your giveaway. Send them a first email to tell them what they can win. Give them a few info about your contest, tell them that the more they share it the more likely they are to win. Don’t forget to tell them how long it lasts. Three days after sending your first email, go to your email stats and create a segment by selecting the people who didn’t open your email. Send the same email to this segment with a different subject line. This will bring you a few extra contestants and shares.

2) Email your personal network:

Sharing your contest with your personal network is a sure-fire way to get new entrants. This includes your family, friends and colleagues. Even if they aren’t your target audience they will help you share your contest and get in front of people who might be interested in what you do.

If you don’t get an answer after a week, don’t forget to send them a follow up – always follow up!

3) Share your contest on social media:

Here are a few guidelines to share your contest on social media:

  • Facebook: Share your contest once a week

  • Twitter: Share it 3 times a day with different tweets. This will allow you to reach most of your followers (every time you tweet, only 5% of your followers see it). Tweeting multiple times a day will insure a better coverage
  • LinkedIn: Sharing an update is fine but writing a LinkedIn post about your contest is better. When you post something on LinkedIn, your whole network gets a notification, which is not the case when you share an update.
contest linkedin
  • Pinterest: If you want to share your contest on Pinterest, make sure to create great visuals. To do so, you can use Canva. It’s free and simple to use.
contest on Pinterest

4) Add a Sumome Smart Bar or Welcome Mat on your site

Smart Bar is a free Sumome app that allows you to add a bar at the top or bottom of your website to promote something.

That’s pretty effective way to get new entrants. More than 100 people entered my contest after I set it up on my blog (a good idea might be to also add Welcome Mat as well to promote your giveaway).

5) Email bloggers in your niche manually

Emailing bloggers manually takes a little bit of time but works quite well. All you need to do is contact every blogger in your niche and ask them to help you spread the word about your contest.

Here’s the step-by-step process to do it:Step 1: Find blogs that are related to your contest

For one of my contests I offered “the 8 books that have created the most millionaire in history” so I searched for keywords like “How to build a business on the side” “How to become a millionaire” … Those research lead me to posts that bloggers had written and that I wanted to reach out.

In the Google results, I only focused on blogs and avoided sites like the New York Times, Entrepreneur…

When you do your research don’t hesitate to go to page 2,3 or even 4 of the Google search results. You will find tons of people willing to help you there.

Step 2: Find the contact information There are many ways to find contact information on a blog:

  • Click on the Contact or About link in the menu/the footer of blogs
  • Use the Email Hunter extension for Chrome to find emails instantly
  • Subscribe to the blogger’s newsletter to get an email from him/her so you know his/her email address

Step 3: Create an Excel sheet to make a list of every blogger to contact. For my contests I created a very simple Excel Sheet with a few columns like this:

Step 4: Email every blogger manually

When reaching out to bloggers I made sure to customize my emails with the bloggers’ name. I also used 3 tools:

Sidekick: This free tool allowed me to know who opened my emails, when and how many times.

Click to tweet: I wanted to make the process of sharing as easy as possible for bloggers so I used Click to Tweet to turn links into pre-filled Tweets, like this. I would include a Click to tweet link in each email.

The Samuel. L Jackson Marketing Hack: To help bloggers spread the word by email.

In all, I contacted 300 people manually, about 15% of bloggers got back to me and helped me promote the contest. Cold emailing will get you anywhere from 10% to 20% or response.

6) Send emails to those who commented on your blog

People who leave a comment on your blog are already engaged with your brand so why not contact them and ask them to share your contest?

To do so go to your WordPress dashboard (if you use WordPress) click on Comments on the sidebar to find every email address of people who commented on your blog. Then you just need to reach out to them.

7) Submit your contest on the right sites There exist many sites to submit your contest but most of them are junk. Here are the ones that brought me the most contestants:

8) Run a Facebook Ad

For one of my contests, I tested Facebook ad to see the results that I could get with it. So I set up a contest with Kingsumo, offered 10 books and spent $900 for 4 weeks. The results? 1907 new people entered the contest and joined my email list.

Here’s what did:

  1. I set up my contest with Kingsumo and offered 10 books
  2. My targeting was pretty simple. I targeted people who were 25 – 44 years old, who lived in the United States and who spoke english. As for their interests, I used the name of each book as well as the author's’ name.
  1. I created an image and a post on Facebook. I also decided to display the ad only on mobile phone and not on desktop. I wanted to make sure that people would see it.

  1. I kept track of the results every day. My cost per result was pretty low (0,17 euros or $0.18) which was pretty satisfying so I kept a daily budget around 30 euros ($32) for 4 weeks.

9) Build a relationships with people This is a very indirect way to get people to spread the word about your contest but it’s still a valid way to get traction. Relationships in business are everything. They allow you to unlock many opportunities, this includes getting some help for your contest.

Here are a few ways to build relationships with bloggers and entrepreneurs before running your contest:

  • Interview them
  • Share their content on Twitter (include a @ to notify them). You can do it automatically with Twitterfeed
  • Guest post
  • Give them what they want (review their podcast, comment on their blog, link to their site…)
  • Offer their products as giveaways

  • Help them promote their products as an affiliate

If your relationship is sincere, they will help you in return.

contest facebook
contest on twitter

In my case for example I helped the Penny Hoarder by mentioning their awesome posts and helping them find partners. As a result they shared my contest on Facebook and Twitter, which brought me a lot of new subscribers.

10) Get influencers to share your contest

This last strategy is one of the most effective of all. It brought me hundreds of subscribers for free. I basically managed to get 8 influencers that I didn’t know share my contest. How did I do that?

Well to understand, you need to take a look at this simple system:

One winner get the 8 books (2).png

The contestant who got the most entries would win the 8 books that I offered and those who shared but didn’t win would get 8 other free eBooks written by influencers. Those free eBooks were those that influencers used as lead magnet on their site.

To set up this system, I contacted each influencer by email and wrote this:

I basically offered them to get their eBook in front of hundreds of people. All they had to do was to take two minutes to share my contest with their community. Since they had no reason to refuse many of them said yes, which brought me tons of new subscribers. That last strategy worked very well for me.

Before concluding, I want to make sure that you remember all the promotion strategies that I shared with you. So let me do a quick recap of what those strategies are:

1) Email your list to let them know about your giveaway

2) Email your personal network

3) Share your contest on social medias

4) Add a Sumome Smart Bar or Welcome Mat on your site

5) Email bloggers in your niche manually

6) Send emails to those who commented on your blog

7) Submit your contest on the right sites

8) Run a Facebook Ad

9) Build a relationships with people

10) Get influencers to share your contest

If you follow this roadmap, I guarantee that you will grow your email list. BUT you actually have to implement what you’ve learned in this post to make it work!

So do yourself a favour: download the checklist that I used to attract more than 4,000 subscribers with giveaways and get to work asap.

Now it’s your turn. Have ever run a giveaway before? If so, do you have any other techniques to share? Leave a comment below and let us know.


Simon Cave is the founder of the Becomer, the place where entrepreneurs find actionable tips and insider strategies from millionaires.

2 thoughts on “The Sure-Fire Way to Attract Thousands of Subscribers with Giveaways

  1. Tom says:

    This remind me Louis Howe’s post on how he promoted his book like there is no tomorrow. I guess the essence of marketing is that you have to gather up the courage to squeeze the most out of it, and the roadmap presented here is one of the blueprints that can be followed. Great job!

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