We generated a list of 1109 hyperactive buyers in the online escape room space, in 14 Days, without spending a dime on advertising.

Back in December 2020, it was my son’s 6 month birth anniversary.

It was also when our city was still under a COVID lockdown.

Out of options, I decided to take inspiration from working with escape rooms.

A live remote birthday party (was in the making)

We arranged for customized food packets to reach guests via food delivery services right before the event.

The party would take place over a Zoom call.

The highlight of the party would be an online escape game, hosted by an Escape Room in Sydney

“Are there more such online escape games?”

I began the party with some anxiety as to how it would go.

And I ended it with a smile, and proudly accepting comments ranging from “Great party!” to “When can we have another one?”.

 

BUT

It was this comment that caught my attention:

“Are there more such online escape games?”

Why was it such a surprise?

As part of my work with escape rooms, I am on several escape room groups and forums all day.

I hear about amazing escape rooms – whether online or in-person – all the time.

And so, it really was a jolt to face questions from the massive demographic that does NOT know about escape rooms.

Which is what gave me this idea…

Reaching out to people who haven’t heard of escape rooms

How could I create more awareness about Escape Rooms? I’ve worked in this industry for over 2 years, and it was a shock to me that even my family members were unaware of this concept. 

The pandemic has pretty much shaken the entire world and ramshackle the Entertainment sector. The escape room industry had suffered enough already.

It was painful to see some very prominent rooms, with fascinating and innovative escape games shutting down.

Some that fought hard innovated for survival and started offering online escape games.

At such a time, it might seem counterintuitive to organize a promotional campaign…

As it would involve giving away a few games for free, foregoing much-needed revenue.

To do or not to do…

But that’s not the spirit in which I viewed the promotional campaign.

I saw it as a means to grow awareness about a nascent industry that needed some help. 

I did not want to see another Escape Room, anywhere in the world go out of business.

An opportunity to reach out to new untapped markets where people had no clue what even Escape Rooms were.

There was a lot at stake, but of course, it was merely an idea in my head. I wanted to get people on this mission. 

Our objectives from the campaign

To add real value to participating escape rooms, the promotional campaign would have to:

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Spark conversations about them amongst participating players.

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Place the rooms on people’s lists of exciting group activities, even amidst a lockdown.

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Lead to an increase in metrics like: Web Traffic, Social Media Likes & Followers and so on.

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Grow escape room partners’ email lists.

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Reach out to people who’ve never heard of escape rooms.

With these mission in mind, I started plotting the execution.

A Major Breakthrough..

Any promotion will create a general buzz as long as it runs, but I didn’t have clarity on the best way to approach this at once.

I didn’t want to make it just another, insignificant promotion – it was a MISSION where:

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I wanted all my objectives to be met

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And with lasting benefits for participating escape rooms, instead of the excitement fizzling out once a promotion ended.

The format of the giveaway

  • People would just need to fill up a basic form with their contact details to enter.
  • Participants would be given specific incentives for specific actions (like visiting partner escape room websites, sharing it with friends, and so on).
  • The ‘incentives’ would be in the form of bonus points.
  • The more bonus points someone accrued, the greater their chance of winning a prize.
  • And the winner would be decided via sweepstakes.

Giveaway website

Creating a separate website to host the giveaway would boost its profile.

We also wanted to give each participant a dashboard to track their progress towards accumulating bonus points – and that is easier to design if you have a website of your own.

The Facebook group

A giveaway on its own can create a buzz and spark conversations.

BUT.

If you want conversations to sustain, and…

More importantly, if you want to be a part of these conversations…

You need to be on social media.

Which is why we decided to set up a giveaway Facebook group.

Looking for escape room partners

With the giveaway format decided, we started looking for escape rooms who would want to take part in the giveaway.

We curated a list of 3000+ escape rooms across the world.

A shocking, but expected revelation..

As we went through the list, we got a first-hand experience of the damage faced by the industry from the COVID lockdowns – so many rooms with great reviews, had shut down, or were planning to, within weeks.

Selecting escape rooms offering online games

From the initial list, we eliminated those rooms that aren’t offering any online escape experiences.

That yielded 250-300 potential giveaway partners.

We chose Online Escape Rooms, mainly due to the global accessibility, and ease of access. Anyone from anywhere in the world could play these games.

Our escape room partners

We reached out to the shortlisted rooms, asking them if they wanted to take part in the giveaway. Seven escape rooms and one escape room conference agreed.

The prize

Based on the collected prize pool, we realized we could either giveaway 1 escape room experience to 21 winners, or giveaway a package of 7 escape room games to 3 winners. 

From the winning, and appeal standpoint – the latter seemed like a better choice, so we went with our gut.

Which added up to a prize pool of twenty-one escape games valued at $3200.

Our giveaway plan

With the giveaway objectives, partners and prize decided, it was time to make a detailed plan.

Length of the giveaway

In deciding how long a giveaway should run, you need to consider:

  • It needs to be long enough for your objectives (participants visiting escape room websites, sharing on social media etc) to be met.
  • It shouldn’t be so long that the excitement fizzes out and participants lose interest.

With that in mind, we planned to run it for 2 weeks, from February 1st to February 14th, 2021. (Leading up to my birthday :D)

Running the giveaway without ads

As we were playing with extremely tight marketing budgets and didn’t want to blow up the campaign with overheads.

Given our limited marketing budget, a paid global promotion would be ineffective, so we decided to stick to only organic channels of promotion.

Giveaway website and Facebook group

We decided that a single page website would do, given it had a single purpose.

However, onboarding participants and creating a dashboard for them to keep track of their progress was a key challenge.

As part of social media outreach, a Facebook group would also have to be created.

Marketing collateral

We took stock of existing assets and available marketing channels for promotion so that we could maximize the benefits.

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Blogs, to be featured on partner escape room websites.

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Social media posts.

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Tweets

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IG Posts & Stories

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Facebook posts & stories

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Email Outreach

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Press Releases

And an array of fresh content to roll out regularly during the course of the giveaway.

The sweepstakes

Hosting the sweepstakes inside a private Facebook group was ideal as we wanted to maintain 100% transparency in the winner selection process, as well as create a community for fans to come and share their excitement about the giveaway.

Our role

As the giveaway coordinator, SEO ORB would

Get the giveaway website up and running.

Create the Facebook group.

Generate the marketing collateral, and make them available for our escape room partners.

Coordinate with our partners to ensure everything happened in sync across different time-zones.

Host the sweepstakes on Facebook.

Take care of other sundry activities

Fundraising

We didn’t want to profit from this campaign. 

Then why opt for fundraising?

Some expenses were necessary for running the giveaway, like:

Acquiring hosting services for the giveaway website.

Hiring an attorney to ensure compliance with privacy and other laws (xzCCPA, GDPR and other Global Regulations)).

Hiring a graphic designer to create the images needed for the marketing collateral, and so on.

Hiring a writer for creating all the marketing content for emails, blogs, social media posts etc.

Getting a website built that would host the giveaway.

Getting an email marketing service for obvious reasons.

A professional tool that would allow us to create a giveaway

Doing PR and Influencer outreach

Supporting the giveaway partners where needed

Other general admin work for the giveaway

Thankfully for us, we didn’t need to go at this on our own and we were able to raise $2200 from our partners.

Though it wasn’t enough to pull the campaign on its own, we made the rest of the contributions from our end. 

Creating the giveaway collateral

First, we created a flowchart to map out the sequence in which different tasks would have to be done. Then, we divvied up the work amongst our team members, to speed things up.

Collecting partner data

The first thing we needed to do was collect data from our partners, which would be necessary to create marketing content.

We listed out what data we needed to collect.

And then we set up this collaboration form for our partners.

Brand assets from partners

These folders were meant to be used solely by the respective partners to upload their brand assets.

Creating the website

Our web design team got to work on the website. It was created with WordPress, and hosted on Siteground.

Marketing timeline

With the giveaway scheduled to run from February 1st to February 14th, our creative team got to work creating a marketing timeline featuring a bird’s-eye view of all the marketing content.

This sheet was shared with all escape room partners.

Generating the marketing collateral

With marketing collateral requirements listed out, our creative team started work on the written content:

Emails

Blogs

Tweets

Social Media Posts & Stories

Press releases

For images, we decided to consult with a graphic designer.

Our giveaway platform

Apart from the basic website, we needed a few processes running smoothly for a successful giveaway:

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Collecting participant information.

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Executing giveaway elements, like:

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Generating referral codes for every participant

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Tracking participants’ progress on actions like visiting partner websites, getting referral signups and so on

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Generating an entry card/dashboard for each participant to track their progress throughout the giveaway.

We selected the ViralSweep platform for this.

Ensuring compliance

We hired an attorney to:

Vet the entire giveaway for compliance with global privacy regulations

Advise us on potential risks.

Draft the privacy and data sharing policies.

And finally, we were ready with the giveaway by January 25th, almost a full week before its February 1st launch.

Running the giveaway

As planned, the campaign ran from February 1st to February 14th.

As the entire timeline was planned beforehand, we weren’t expecting any major problems.

The Facebook group

Participants who wished to indulge in further discussions or over-see the sweepstake annoucement were ushered into a private Facebook Group.

Coordinating with our brand partners

With our partners spread out across three continents, coordinating with them would be difficult.

Thankfully, the timeline took care of most of the coordination.

There was a small notes section on the timeline, which we routinely updated to inform people about things that were happening along the process. 

Periodic personalized emails

From time to time we would also create personalized emails for each partner:

Explaining how the giveaway was progressing.

Reminding them about blogs, emails, etc that were due.

Offer our help and support whereever possible.

The sweepstakes

On the 16th, as scheduled, we held the Facebook Live for the sweepstake.

The link to the event had been sent to all participants.

We used streamyard for the livestream.

Practical takeaways about organizing large events

Being our first event of this scale, this was definitely a learning experience for us.

Here are a few practical takeaways from our experience:

Prioritize hiring a compliance attorney when planning expenses

Hiring an attorney can be expensive.

And it might be tempting to use online generators for your legal policies (especially involving privacy) and to check for compliance.

However, when planning your budget, you should invest in an actual attorney (with good ratings).

Especially when you’re planning an event that spans multiple countries and jurisdictions (like we ran our giveaway across the USA, Europe, and Australia).

Plan your Drive folder access policy

As I’m sure you know, Drive allows you to decide who can access which pieces of content in a folder.

And access to has 3 different levels: View, Comment, and Edit.

You must come up with a policy to decide who can access what right at the beginning.

How we went about it…

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First, we listed out all the people who would have access to the giveaway folders.

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Then, we divided them into logical groups:

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Escape room partners

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Our SEO ORB team

E

Outside consultants

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Graphic designer

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Attorney (Privacy and compliance)

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Next, we thought about each of these groups, and what level of access they would need to do their work. That gave us our access policy.

Hire external consultants if you need to

We knew that our creative team was more than capable of coming up with the written content within time.

However, to ensure creation of suitably high quality images within time, we decided to consult with an external designer.

This ensured the entire promotional content was ready by January 25th, a full week before the date of launch.

On the 16th, as scheduled, we held the Facebook Live for the sweepstake.

The link to the event had been sent to all participants.

We used streamyard for the livestream.

Final thoughts

When I was first planning the giveaway, the feedback I got was:

It won’t work if you don’t spend money on ads

Tread carefully, as you can wind up in a lot of legal issues.

Why are you even doing it? You won’t benefit from this. 

Will it really achieve anything?

Well, here’s how I see it…

Not spending money on ads

Like I said, we consciously opted out of paid ads.

Partly as a challenge.

Partly becuase this was a non-profit campaign.

Well, we managed to draw over a thousand – 1109, to be exact – participants based on organic and social media outreach.

So what started with just an idea, from a virtual birthday party, went on to become the biggest giveaway in the history of the industry worth $3200 and generated an email list of 1109 hyperactive buyers that love to play escape rooms, all from a starting budget of $0.00

Legal Issues

Spending money (a big part of our budget) on an actual lawyer took care of compliance and eliminated legal risks.

What did we achieve?

The campaign in total reached over 35,000 tracked people according to combined analytics.

Each partner took home a list of 1109 active buyers that they could nurture and build relationships with for as low as 60 cents per sub.

If you don’t call that marketing win, I don’t know what is. 

With cumulative marketing spend of over $2200 combined and $3200 as a giveaway prize pool, each partner on average contributed around $675 and took home a list of 1109 subscribers, which is roughly around 60 cents per subscriber.

What did we win?

Being able to host such a massive event within a short span of time, without running into any major roadblocks, is a huge win for us. 

Plus, we were able to spread awareness about Escape Rooms, activate dormant buyers, and maybe show a ray of hope to some escape room companies that were going to pull the trigger. 

And the thrill of pushing our limits, challenging ourselves, getting into uncomfortable situations, and doing something purely because we love this industry, is all a WIN WIN WIN for us at the end of the day. 

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