Podcast 56: How to Generate Up to 190,000 Email Optins Running Contests with Travis Ketchum

By Spencer Haws |

After a long winter's break…I'm finally back with another podcast!

I was recently in Mesa, AZ visiting my family for Christmas and New Years.  I had every intention of getting lots of work done over the holidays, but playing card games, basketball, and other activities with my family just seemed like more fun, so I did that instead.

I also got my yearly portion of chocolate, so I think I'm all set now!

Anyway, I'm excited to be back and have lots of great things planned for the new year; but I'll save all that for another post.

Today, I would like to introduce you to Travis Ketchum of  I've known Travis for a couple of years now, and Perrin and I were able to sit down and record today's podcast.

In this episode, Travis shares a bit about his own story and why he created Contest Domination (software that helps you run and manage successful contests online).  In addition, Travis shares some really amazing success stories of clients that have used Contest Domination to grow their business.

One of those companies was able to generate over 190,000 email opt ins from just one contest!

If you have ever been curious how to run a contest to grow your business, this episode has exactly what you are looking for.  I had several “ah ha” moments while interviewing Travis; and I really do plan on applying some of these techniques in my own business very shortly.

If you are interested in get a 7 day free trial for Contest Domination, you can get it here.

Podcast Interview Notes

Below you will find the questions and answers given during the podcast interview.  Please be aware that this is an abbreviated summary and not a full transcript.  For all the questions and answers please listen to the entire podcast.

Give us a summary of your entrepreneurial background?

Like many entrepreneurs, I was always hustling when I was younger.  My first official business was when I was 18 years old, I started a computer company.  I did a bunch of dropshipping on eBay, but the profit margins quickly eroded.  This business fortunately earned enough to mostly pay for my college education through Washington State University.

After graduating and getting a good job, I learned that I didn't like the corporate world after 9 months.  So, I quit my job and started helping speakers and others do media buys and lead generation.

Finally, I decided I needed to build my own list and build a real business.

I learned that contests were one of the fastest ways to build an email lists.  However, I found that most of the tools were not very useful for doing contest.  So, I decided to hire a developer to build the first version of contest domination and that's how the business started.

How long has contest domination been around and what kind of financial success are you having?

It will be 3 years in April.  We have about 20,000 customers at varying price points.  We've grossed about a million dollars in gross sales since inception.

Do you have any success stories from your users that you can share?

Sure, I have 2 examples I'd like to share.

When doing a competition, you need to make sure that what you offer in the contest is actually something related to your business (something that you do and sell).  This is so critical because you want leads that are qualified for your products.

An example that worked really well was that one user gave away a ribbon printer.  This is a very niche product.  And by giving this away she got very qualified leads.  If she would have given away an iPad, she would have got TONS of emails, but most of them would have been useless (not really interested in her business).

The first time she ran this contest, she got 310 leads; which doesn't sound like a lot…but ALL of them were highly qualified leads. After giving away the ribbon printer, she followed up with all the “losers” and give a special offer for 72 hours for a discounted ribbon printer.

This follow up offer generated $6,000 in revenue to her business.

The other example is for a company called Snapshot.  This is a photographer marketplace where brides to be can find wedding photographers.

They wanted to build up a massive base of photographers.  They decided to give away a high end DSLR camera.  But they were clever in the fact that they allowed the winner to choose which camera they wanted and asked entrants what camera they would like to win.

In addition, they asked some additional information about each entrant.  This actually started a good buzz as photographers discussed which camera was best.

To improve the reach of the contest they worked with some sponsors which allowed them to link to any special offers that the sponsors had.  In return, the sponsors were excited to email about and mention the contest.

As a result, this company was able to generate almost 190,000 emails opt ins and with over 55% of that coming from referrals.

They've repeated this process several times and built a list of 600,000 leads; all in 3 to 4 months.

Can you give us an idea of how that success compares to the more typical contest?

If you go back to the first example where they generated about 300 leads; that's still a quantifiable ROI for their business.  So, you don't have to generate a huge amount of leads to still be successful…as long as they are the right leads.

Even a few hundred to a thousand leads you can still generate a good number of sales.

Do most people use Facebook ads as part of their contest?

Lots of people do.  But depending on your business, your ideal prospect may not be on Facebook.

Our average conversion rate across the board is that about half the people that see a contest will input their information.

If I decide to run a contest for Long Tail Pro; how would I go about actually launching the contest?

Contest domination hosts the contest; so the page with the contest details is on the hosted page.  Optionally, you can install the same page in a Facebook tab.

You tell the system how many winners there should be and any sponsors; we handle all the rules.  Once you have the page live that can accept entries; then a great way to kick it off is to email your own list.

Your own list is usually your best brand ambassadors anyway, so they are the most likely to spread the word about your contest.

An example of this is Mixergy, which gave away a lifetime access to Mixergy Premium.  People starting coming out saying things like, I've been following Andrew on Mixergy for 5 years and if you don't enter this competition you're crazy.

If you have purchased something you really love, you will be excited to tell people about the contest.

How do people earn points in a contest typically?

The default rules if someone inputs their own name and email they get an entry.  When they share on social networks, they don't get additional entries until their friends click the link and input their name and email.  That's a core feature we built into the app.

Twitter and Facebook can have different results; and the app really focuses on the results.

So points are really focused on when other people enter the contest; rather than just socially sharing.

What's a standard contest length?

Part of it comes down to, how long can you keep sending new leads through the contest.  The response will go down over time.  For most small businesses; 2 to 4 weeks is going to be the sweet spot.

Once the contest ends, when do you recommend launching the special offer?

I advise people to couple the special offer with the announcement of the winner.  You can drive people to a page that announces the winner and then extend a special discount for people that entered the contest.

How do you think market affects contests?

Yes, I think it has to do with more the type of person and transaction that is required to make money.  For example, a B2B marketplace can be a more difficult nut to crack.  If you are looking for only chief marketing officers, that could be difficult.

A consumer facing product is going to be easier to do a contest.

Are there any additional benefits or features of Contest Domination that you would like to add?

One common question is whether contest domination interfaces with your auto-responder…yes, it does.

In addition, we have a fraud scoring system in place to make it very difficult for people to game the system.

The software is very simple to use and makes selecting a winner very easy.  We are also very open to listening to our customers and adding new features as needed.

Any final words of wisdom?  And where can people follow along with you?

People can sign up for a 7-day free trial of contest domination at:

In addition, people can download a free guide: 10 Steps to Success for Contest Marketing

For parting words, regardless of your strategy the most important thing is to just get started.  It's easy to get excited about projects and it's so important to just take action.

Your Thoughts

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts or questions in the comment section below.


Podcasts | 20 comments

By Spencer Haws

Spencer Haws is the founder of After getting a degree in Business Finance from BYU (2002) and an MBA from ASU (2007) he worked for 8 years in Business Banking and Finance at both Merril Lynch and Wells Fargo Bank.

While consulting with other small business owners as a business banker, Spencer finally had the desire to start his own business. He successfully built a portfolio of niche sites using SEO and online marketing that allowed him to quit his job in 2011. Since then he's been involved in dozens of online business ventures including: creating and exiting Long Tail Pro, running an Amazon FBA business for over 3 years and selling that business, founding, and co-founding You can learn more about Spencer here.

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Great insight re contests and generating leads.

I’ve been testing a different service for my giveaways along with Facebook ads.

Will have to consider a proper prize for my next one that connects with the audience as Travis mentions.

Great job guys.

P.S. Any update on your Authority Site and getting into Google News? Was really interested in that case study. Not sure if you changed strategies based on the success of the Kindle book launch.

Thanks again!

Spencer Haws

Glad you enjoyed the podcast…I’m definitely planning on implementing some of the strategies.

Yes, we’ll be doing more updates on the authority site! As a sneak peak…we got into Google News! We’ve been approved for about a month and seeing some decent results for sure. I’ll share more in a future post.

Lee Trends


Looking forward to it Spencer.

Nick Logan

Thanks for this post. Will try it out and see how it works.

Email Marketing

This is incredible idea to generate leads i.e. by running contests. I am extremely glad because I have picked gems out of this podcast. Would be implementing in my business very soon.

Thanks Spencer for this crazy podcast.

Raj Vasireddy

Great post Spencer, Loved the idea of right contest to get qualified leads. Loved the Ribbon printer idea discussed in this post.

Last 2 podcast (Backlinko and this one) best out of all I read here.

stephen aidoo

Great spencer !! I really love this idea. Will have it in mind after launching my authority website. This is a great strategy to get good email list related to your market and niche. I think the most important thing is given your contestants options to choose from various related products to win and using that data for marketing purpose. The second thing is the product you choose is very essential to the survival of your leads. Great one there. Thanks guys


This is amazing!! I believe this is one if the best ways to build a email list and get massive brand awareness. The viral concepts are the most important part of each contest. When you reward people for sharing they will treat it like a game and compete with their friends and basically you get free marketing.

I might do something like this in the future with one of my twitter accounts.

Spencer Haws

Thanks Kyle…glad you enjoyed the podcast!

Matt Hagens

Great podcast. I used to own an ecom site where I ran contests to get signups – worked great! I never tried using FB ads though.

Just curious – how would you do this with an Amazon affiliate site – or wouldn’t you? Hard to give a discount to a product you don’t own 🙂


Spencer Haws

I’ve worked with many owners of products as an affiliate and negotiated discounts. So, first negotiate a discount…then run a contest where you giveaway the affiliate product. Then do special offer to “losers” of contest with negotiated discount.


Thanks for sharing this great post and it is really helpful me to learn something new ideas. i would also like to replicate some tips to my practical life.


I don’t actually see the benefit which one could gain by using this service for running a campaign vs using Facebook Ads or even a private channel. Yes I understand that this simplifies the process entirely but other than that is there in other specific benefit which we could gain?

Spencer Haws

Calculating a winner is near impossible without software. The software incentives people not just to share, but rewards them when people actually sign up through sharing. Doing it just on facebook or on your own makes it very difficult to incentivize properly.

john (the tenth man)

Hello Gentlemen,
Great podcast. Was wondering what kind of campaign one would run if one only has Amazon affiliation. What would be the goal? It might be useful to use Perrin’s A Penny Shaved as an example. Thanks.

Spencer Haws

I would suspect you could just offer the affiliate product as a giveaway (electric shaver for example). However, would work best if you knew there was a discount on Amazon going on. Then you could take people to a landing page where they could then buy the discounted amazon product through your affiliate link.

This process of course does work easier if you are the creator of the product.

John The Tenth Man

Thanks Spencer for your thoughts. I have a pocket survival kit I can give away but trying to figure out what the main overall goal. Is it to try to incentivize the audience gather through the contest to buy on Amazon (how to do this is not clear) or to create just to create a community of readers to be loyal weekly readers to my blog. I guess I’ll have to think about it some more.


Thanks to Spencer, Perrin and Travis for podcast.
I am interested to use Travis service in the future and I got many ideas for my future contests now 😉




Brandi Gates

i like it to much your website
thanks for sharing

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