How to Use Contests to Grow Your SaaS

What’s one guaranteed way to market your business, generate excitement, and get new social media followers—at the same time?

If you blurted out, “contests!” you win. 

A contest is an amazing marketing tool for your SaaS. It’s an attention-getter that spreads like wildfire. If you want to build awareness for your business or a new service/ feature, running a contest is the quickest way to do it.

You may not be able to get people to comment on your regular posts, but just barely whisper the word “contest,” and watch people from all over the globe show up to say the secret word.

That’s powerful. You can convert those contestants into prospects and prospects into customers if you make the right moves.

In this post, we’re sharing the best tips for running a contest for your business. If you follow these steps, you will win.

Let’s get started.

How to Use Contests to Grow Your SaaS

Set a Goal for Your Contest

There are many reasons to run a contest. The ultimate goal may be to generate business for your SaaS, but there are multiple ways to get there. Here are some of the goals you can set for your contest:

To grow your email list – As part of the rules of your contests, you can ask customers for their email address (along with permission to send marketing emails). This gives you the opportunity to nurture a relationship through their inbox.

To increase your number of social media followers – Would you like to build your community on social media? Use a contest to increase your follower count exponentially.

To increase your trial sign-ups – If trial sign-ups are the top of the sales funnel, you can get more leads through a contest. Simply make it part of the contest entry requirements. But remember to have a follow-up plan in place to take advantage of all of those sign-ups.

Be clear on the goal for your contest so that you can know when you’ve hit the goal.

Create S.M.A.R.T. goals for your contest. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for the following:

  • Specific – Set a specific outcome (i.e. I want 500 new sign-ups)
  • Measurable – Choose a method for measuring the progress of your goal (i.e. calculate the sign-ups throughout the contest)
  • Actionable – Decide what steps you need to do to meet your goal
  • Realistic – Choose a goal that you can actually accomplish (i.e. 500 sign-ups not 5 million)
  • Time-bound – Set a deadline for achieving your goal (this should be the end of your contest)

Where Should You Run Your Contest?

You can run your contest anywhere, but the best place to run it is on social media.

Why use social media? Here are 3 reasons:

  1. Your audience is on social media 
  2. Your audience can easily use social media to share your contests with their friends and family
  3. Running a contest on social media is dead simple if you use a giveaway tool

Here are 8 tools you can use to run contests on social media.

What Type of Contest Should You Run?

There are dozens of contest types that you can choose to run. Here’s a quick rundown of the most popular contests for SaaS:

Caption a photo – This is a fun way to interact with your audience. 

Comment – Ask your audience to share what they love about your service or why they want to use your service. You can use these comments for future marketing.

Complete a survey – Get valuable feedback about your product from your current users.

Join the newsletter – Build your email list so that you can continue marketing to your leads.

Refer a friend – Ask followers to tag their friends. More tagged friends equal more entries. 

Share a selfie with your service in the background – This is a win-win for you. Win #1: Get user-generated content that your contestant shares on their social media page. Win #2: Use their content for future marketing.

Submit a video – Ask contestants to upload a video of them using your product. You get the same benefits that you would with a selfie entry.

Many contests ask for a combination of the above (such as like, follow, and tag). If running a contest on Twitter or Instagram, be sure to select a branded hashtag so that you can track entrants and generate interest in your contest.

How to Use Contests to Grow Your SaaS

How to Choose a Winner for Your Contest

Here are three ways to choose a winner for your contest:

  1. Draw – Choose a winner at random.
  2. Vote – You, a panel of judges, or your audience can vote on the winner.
  3. Count – The person with the most entries wins.

Select a Prize for Your Contest

As tempting as it may be, do not, under any circumstances, give away a prize that’s not related to your SaaS. That includes iPads, PlayStations, televisions, or even cold, hard cash.

Remember that the goal of your contest is to generate more prospects for your business. While prizes like PlayStations are sure to attract a crowd, they may not attract the right crowd. Even if your prospective customers are in the mix, there’s still a huge percentage of people who are only entering for the prize. They don’t want to become actual customers, and they’ll forget about your SaaS as soon as the contest is over.

So, what’s the right prize to choose for your contest?

Your product is always the best prize. Whether you’re giving away a month, 12 months, or a lifetime subscription, choose your product.


Your SaaS product will appeal to a smaller group of people than a fancy electronic like an iPad would. If a person enters your contest because they’re interested in winning access to your product, then you know something important about that person: They’re a lead. 

And now, thanks to the fine print in your contest, you can send marketing emails to them. This will allow you to build a relationship with your leads and eventually convert them into customers. But it all starts with the prize you choose. So choose wisely.

Choose a Duration

How long should you run a contest?

The answer depends but, for most SaaS, the sweet spot appears to be 30 days.

The trick is to give your contest enough chance to bloom. You need time to attract enough people to your contest. How long will it take for you to get the word out? And how long will it take for others to share your contest with their friends and family? 

But you don’t want a contest that runs forever and ever. People have short attention spans, and if the finish line is months away, people won’t be as motivated to act immediately. They’ll think, I have plenty of time to enter that contest. I’ll just come back later.

And you know the rest. 

They won’t come back later because they’ll forget.

The best contests are pure dopamine hits. They push a person to act right away to get a fast-approaching reward. Urgency needs to be a component of your contest. 

For this reason, don’t extend your contest beyond three months into the future. 

It may take you a few contests to figure out the ideal length for your customer base.

Rinse and Repeat

Who says you’re limited to running just one contest? After you’ve run one contest, you’ll see just how rewarding it is in terms of generating new leads for your business. You’ll want to run more contests, and that’s great. Do it. 

Running contests regularly is a good thing for your business. 

Here’s why you should run frequent contests:

Repeat contests give your audience something to look forward to – What’s more exciting than a competition?

Repeat contests provide your audience with an incentive to stay connected to you – Your audience will want to know the results of the contest.

Repeat contests are an affordable way to generate new leads –  The more contests you run, the more leads you’ll generate. 

Repeat contests help you learn more about your audience – You can use social media statistics to learn about your audience, including who they are and when they’re most active online.

The Bottom Line

Running a contest is one of the best marketing strategies available to SaaS. Contests are exciting and engaging, and have the power to generate new leads for your business. Be sure to follow the above best practices when creating your contest. 

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Before you go, check out these related posts:

Don’t forget to check out this list of 8 tools for running social media contests.

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