Lessons Learned from the Pick-It Challenge

by Katie Goodell 


I have the distinct privilege at Pivot to administer our Pick-It Challenge program. Pick-It is the brain child of Pivot principals Dave and Mark, and over the past four years it has grown to be a valuable resource for Pivot. It’s an online contest technology that we sell to our clients as a turnkey marketing tool they can share with their customers, prospects, and employees. Our most popular contests are based on college sports: the Pick-It Bowl Challenge (the college football bowl games) and Pick-It March Mania (the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which wrapped up Monday night with a big victory for UConn!). Click here to learn more about Pick-It.

Though Pick-It is a unique product offering for Pivot, here are few things I’ve learned from Pick-It that are important to keep in mind with marketing projects of all kinds.

1. Offering a turnkey product allows for economies of scale…
As the product manager and Pivot Pick-It point person, I helped to administer March Mania contests for 36 different companies this year. Pivot is able to offer a great contest backed by robust technology in a much more cost effective way than if each of these companies tried to build their own online contest.

BUT you have to remember that each customer and client (and in this case, contest) is unique.
I’ve come to realize that I’m providing 36 unique experiences. Sometimes I  assume that different companies will want to give the same type of prizes to their contest winners, or use the same kind of advertising in their area – but that turns out to not be the case. While a radio spot may drive a lot of traffic in one community, the very same ad might flop in another community. It has become important for me to work closely with the knowledgeable marketing managers at each company to tailor a strategy that would work for their customers. This can be a good check for your campaigns – though you’re only selling one service or product, what do you have in place that will appeal to various types of customers? Are you getting at your goal from multiple angles to appeal to more than just one type of customer or one type of media or scenario?

2. Tying a contest or promotion into an existing current event makes for higher awareness…
It seems like a no-brainer, right? Piggyback your campaign or project on something that is already public knowledge and automatically get more attention or recognition. This is the idea behind Mothers Day campaigns or Super Bowl Sunday deals – people are already thinking about these holidays and events so now they’ll connect your offering to that excitement or awareness. When we advertise a fun online contest tied to the wildly popular March Madness basketball tournament, we piggyback on the existing community and media energy already surrounding this.

BUT it can also have its challenges.
However, we have to be careful in our promotion of the event! The NCAA has very strict copyright rules about the use of their name and tournament trademarks and phrases (which is why we are March Mania instead of March Madness and why we don’t say “Final Four” on “Elite Eight” on our advertisements). We also have to be cognizant that not everyone out there understands how the bracket contest works. I field many confused emails and questions about the structure, rules, and timing of the college basketball tournament itself. March Madness and the idea of filling out a bracket might already be popular in the media but that doesn’t mean everyone participating in our contests already has a clear understanding. Be mindful when attaching your promotion to an existing event that you will have to work within the parameters of that event, and that not everyone is already in the know.

3. People want to have fun…
With March Mania, the “product” I’m selling and that my clients are offering to their customers is something free, fun, and related to the best sport there is: basketball! (I have a pretty great job, huh?) Of course it’s always easier to approach your customers with a product that adds fun and entertainment to their lives. People obviously like to have fun and are more likely to have positive associations with a brand that brings them entertainment, especially for free. Think about the fun factor with your customers – what can you give them as a fun, unexpected bonus?

BUT they’re also competitive!
Believe me – I’ve spent the last day and a half ensuring concerned participants that they received the points they deserved and the tie-breakers and finals scores are correct! For any contest or game your company puts on, make sure you’re serious about your fun. Rules should be clear, comprehensive, and reviewed by legal counsel.  It’s important to deliver prizes in a timely matter and make sure any tiebreakers are fair and straightforward. Just because it’s a fun offering won’t mean people don’t take it seriously.

Whether you’re planning a new campaign, hosting a contest for your customers, or starting a new customer-facing project, I hope these lessons I’ve learned from Pick-It will help keep your efforts and outcomes balanced and successful. Good luck!


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