I recently ran across a promotion from McDonalds that lined up with the Olympics. I was in the store, eating with my family on vacation, and had to visit a website to enter a code to be eligible to win. The only device I had available at the time was my smartphone. I imagine just about every single entry for this contest comes from a mobile phone due to the way the contest was set up and the game pieces were distributed. Here’s the issue, I had to fill out a form that was about 15 REQUIRED items long, and every time you clicked on a box to fill it in, the entire page scrolled to the bottom.
Once I finally got the form filled out, I thought I had submitted my registration correctly, but when I entered the codes for the game, I was given an error that my codes werent valid. I double and triple checked them, still not valid. What is going on? I got frustrated and gave up.
About 14 hours later I received an emailed registration confirmation for the account I wasn’t sure I created. I deleted it. I don’t care about their contest anymore, they lost me when their mobile-website wasn’t working correctly.
They Weren’t Ready
If we go with the Olympics as an analogy, you could argue that the most successful athletes are the most prepared. They check and double check equipment, test their process and form time and time again, so when it really matters, when they’re in competition, they’re not thinking about how their shoes are tied, they KNOW they’re tied the exact perfect way. You can liken running an online contest to preparing for a race. A racer needs to condition, to practice, test equipment, shoes, socks, clothing, headbands, drinks, foods, everything you need to be successful has to line up. A marketer needs to do the same thing, because your window for success might only be a few hours long, or a few weeks long – and a malfunction during the process can sabotage your whole outcome.
Here are just a few things you MUST understand before you launch your contest.
Can your website handle the load? Sudden huge spikes in traffic to a website can completely blow up your server, your host can shut your website down in a flash. A down website = missed opportunities. Talk with your IT and hosting departments or companies and be sure you’re prepared. Even if you dont implement the high-traffic contingencies right away, now what you need to do to impelement them quickly, just in case.
Does the process actually WORK? Has your website and form been tested in every type of browser known to mankind? This might be a bit drastic, but make sure it works well in IE, Safari, Opera, Firefox, Chrome, iOS and Android. View the screen on mobile phone simulators that will show you how the smart phone interfaces will work.
Can you deliver if it does go viral? Are you giving away a product or service as part of your contest? Do you have the manpower, supply and process in place to deliver if your orders exceed your expectations? I’m not saying stock up or hire based on a “possibility” but you might want to have a few contingencies in place just in case. Maybe some outsourced talent to pick up the overflow or a few ideas for letting participants know their product might be a bit delayed. If you’re going to promise, you’re going to need to deliver.
These really are just the beginning steps to preparing and running a successful promotion. There are so many pieces to think about. Consider how social media will play a role in your promotion…Who will handle the complaints? Where will an entrant pick up or receive their prize? Are you going to limit the winners? Without proper planning, your contest can run amok and set your brand up for criticism and failure.
Not every contest will go viral, but if it does, are you ready?