I’m going to share something with you that doesn’t make me feel good. It’s something that happens to a lot of businesses which run contests, but few will ever talk publicly about it (certainly not while in the midst of it). I hope you’ll find the story to be exactly what it is. An honest confession of inner doubt. And in the spirit of our blog, maybe by talking about it, we’ll prevent someone else from making a similar mistake.
12:40am. Tuesday, July 14th.
Two minutes ago, I was laying in bed. I’d been there over twenty minutes and I wasn’t asleep. I know for some of you, falling asleep routinely takes longer, but I’m one of those dreadful people who falls asleep within moments of his head hitting the pillow. And closing in on a half-hour, I was still wide awake. Worried and anxious.
It all started back about a month ago. While discussing how to increase attention to this blog, I suggested to Chris (my wife, mother of my children, and co-blogger) that we add a contest. We already have a weekly contest sponsored by Out of the Box Games (which is pretty amazing – and I recommend you check it out), but we wanted something that would generate large numbers of new readers quickly. I thought back on my many years working in radio, and how money was always seemed to be the best prize that a station could offer. We kicked some ideas back and forth, and decided on three key facets for the contest:
1. It had to be a short-term, weekly contest. The logic was that with a limited number of opportunities to win, we would have the benefit of urgency. If someone saw the post about the contest, they would be less likely to venture away from it with the intention to return later. If they were interested, they’d act immediately.
2. Contestants had to share our blog with others in order to be eligible to win. Makes sense, right? In exchange for doing some marketing for us, you could win some money.
3. The prizes had to be large enough to warrant the time and energy to enter the contest. I think Chris first suggested $25 per prize, which is wonderful – but I thought there was something rather magical about the amount of $100. I mean, it’s the benchmark “big bill”. I remember the first time I earned $100, and it required quite a lot of work to do so. $100 for a few moments of my time? Sign me up.
Following that discussion, “Christmas in July” was born. We would take a large chunk of our yearly blog marketing budget (pretty much all of it), and allocate it for weekly giveaways of $100 each (in one hundred dollar Target gift cards). Chris set up all the online details, and we kicked back to watch (with naive certainty) for the contest and blog to go viral. I actually remember saying to Chris, “I bet we’ll see a thousand hits in a day, no problem“. If confidence was a marketable trait, I’d be a bonafide promotion guru.
Two weeks into the contest, and viral is not a word I would use to describe the action thus far.
No, it isn’t an abysmal failure. There have been a few dozen entries (and every one of those folks has my sincere appreciation, by the way). Plus, the contest runs through the end of July, so it’s not even finished yet. But at the moment, I’m kicking myself for not being smarter about this. I’m wondering why we didn’t put this idea past some of our more experienced blogger buddies first. I’m wondering why I regularly allow my own enthusiasm for a fun idea get in the way of patience and reason. And I’m wondering why I didn’t look at a calendar to see that there were five Fridays in July (if we just would have made it “Christmas in August”, it would have saved us a cool hundred bucks).
And don’t think I’m blaming Chris either. We’re a team, but I’m feeling the ownership on this, since I was the cheerleader for giving away large sums of cash.
We know why it’s not working, but can’t exactly stop the contest and start over. The first problem is that we require users to jump through a lot of hoops to enter. Too many hoops for a shot at the prizes in question? I didn’t think so, but I’m on the inside of the jar, looking out. It’s tough to read the label from in here. The second issue is the amount of time it takes to review, compile, and track all the eligible contestants. We’re committed to doing this right – and that takes quite a lot of time (mostly on Chris’ part).
Mainly, it’s that $500 price tag that gets me. You remember me saying how dorked-up I was over $100? Well, $500 dorks me up exponentially more. Do you know how much a new Xbox One: Master Chief Collection bundle, with 12 months of Xbox Live and a second bundled game costs? So much less than $500, I could buy a second controller and a third game with the difference. But I wouldn’t have bought that because I’m really responsible.
So here I am at 1am, when I should be sleeping, typing a blog post which points out some holes in my professional blogger game. The post doesn’t talk about how much I love my family, or how little this has to do with parenting, becoming healthy, or pursuing a life of happiness. This is strictly from the business end of the pool, which might even come off as too revealing (or maybe as a stunt, to garner more attention for this dumb contest). This post will probably also hurt Chris’ feelings a bit, since we are a team, and this was our idea. But I consider By the Seat of Our Pants a safe place to share my doubts and ideas – not just as a parent, but as a guy who still thinks of himself as twenty-five years old, full of wonderful ideas, and always willing to take chances to create something wonderful.
There is still so much good to be had from this experience. The two families who have won the weekly drawings are genuinely awesome people. This blog brought us all together to share a bit about our lives – and help each other with stories, tips, and tricks to make life more enjoyable.
*I hear noises coming from upstairs at this point.
LB has inexplicably woken-up. At two-years and a few months old, he does this from time to time. It’s actually kind of sweet, because he just needs a little reassurance from me or Chris to fall back asleep. Great timing, son. In the grand scheme, this dumb contest (and the subsequent limited marketing impact thereof) is just a little blip that didn’t match my unreasonable expectations. There are always more important things.