How to Grow Your Email List with Contests: Lessons from Travis Ketchum, Founder of Contest Domination

Posted by Anant January 13, 2023

Travis is the founder of Contest Domination, which uses contests to grow your email list. In this episode Travis teaches us the right way to run a contest, including what to give away, how long to run it for, and how to promote it.


→ The topic is the creation and purpose of Contest Domination, a platform for small businesses

→ The platform helps generate more qualified leads through the use of contests

→ The idea for the platform came from the founder’s desire for more leads in his business

→ The founder saw a gap in the market for a platform that focused on lead generation through contests

→ The platform has an intense focus on building a marketable email list

→ Contest Domination is a SaaS that allows easy setup of contests without coding

→ Setting up a contest includes providing information, customizing the email and social media, and publishing

→ Includes API integration with an autoresponder and easy Facebook installation

→ Account setup and contest creation can be done in as little as 10-15 minutes

→ A Facebook page is required for running contests on the platform

→ And a whole lot more


Travis’s LinkedIn Profile

Contest Domination



Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Travis Ketchum with us. Travis, thanks for coming on the program.

Travis: Yeah, I’m really happy to be here. Thanks for having me on.

Bronson: Yeah, I think we’re going to have a fun discussion about contests today because you’re the founder of contest domination. So let’s start with that. What is contest domination?

Travis: It’s what we think is the most powerful and easy to use contest platform that helps small businesses use contests to generate more qualified leads.

Bronson: All right. That sounds like something we all want. So what made you feel the need to start this? Was it something you wanted to use yourself? Was it something you needed or was it just you saw it opening in the market? How did you become the guy that created this platform?

Travis: Sure. So it, you know, pull initiative of, you know, the fire of why did I want to go create something was just because I simply wanted more leads myself. And I knew that just looking at the overall buzz and engagement from everyone else, the contests were really effective at generating interest. But when I didn’t actually researched all the tools, none of them really seemed to have this focus on leads. A lot of them had a focus on social followings, which is good for social proof. But given my kind of like in performance marketing background, the money’s in the list, right? So I wanted something that really had a focus on leads and the social aspect was just grease to get you more leads. It’s all the points were wanting for leads. Things were just had this intense, intense focus on building marketable email list. And since there was no solution out there, I decided it might as well be me.

Bronson: There you go. So walk us through the logistics of how someone actually sets up a contest. And tell us, as you do it, about maybe some of the features you guys have. Because like you said, anything is the easiest way. But you also you think you have a feature set that’s unique and different than what you saw out there. So walk us through your product for a moment.

Travis: Sure. So since we’re a host like software as a service, you don’t have to know encodes you literally just set up your account and then we ask you for the variables that we need, like title description, maybe, you know, if you want to embed a YouTube video, you don’t have to do embed code. Just literally grabbed the link out of the URL. We make a nice responsive container, you tick a box, make it autoplay. You do an API integration with whoever your autoresponder is, which is as simple as clicking, connect, logging in, and then picking which list to go to. So there’s not even form code to mess with, but the general way that someone sets up their contest is they give us the information about what the contest should be, for how long it’s going to be run, where they’ll each go, and then they can customize things like an email referral invite, which is a new feature we can talk about later, or it’s really killing it. And then they can also customize, you know, what their preloaded tweets look like, Facebook messages, what they want to encourage people to like and follow after they’ve already entered, after they’ve already captured the lead and then click publish. And then as far as getting it into Facebook, they just click install into Facebook and we take care of all the. So we give you a mobile friendly link for Facebook, which is pretty big since Facebook apps technically work on mobile. I mean, an average an average customer, you know, assuming if they have graphics ready, if that’s something that they need for the template they chose. It usually only takes about ten or 15 minutes for the time you set up your account to the time you can get your first lead.

Bronson: Perfect, and you have to have a Facebook page for your business to run the contest.

Travis: You actually don’t. So a lot of a lot of contest apps are either solely outside of Facebook’s walled garden or solely inside Facebook’s walled garden. And we actually give you a hosted page and we consider Facebook to be one kind of lead source. And so it’s easy to install into Facebook. But then you also have your own dedicated page outside of the Facebook garden that you can use for any of your other leads sources you want. So it doesn’t have to run through Facebook. Some people prefer to run all their campaign traffic through there, but it’s a choice you have, whereas most applications you don’t. It’s either all or nothing. And we try to blend that. So you have both? Yeah.

Bronson: No, that’s great. So let’s talk about contests for a moment from kind of a marketing perspective. You know, you would know this as well as anybody. Are consumers put off by contest or do they actually enjoy them because it’s hard? Because, you know, I’m an entrepreneur, you know, type cleared personality. I don’t have time for games a lot of time, but I know that that may not be the way that general consumers actually feel about things. So how do they view contest?

Travis: Well, it’s important to note that any marketing initiative anywhere is not going to appeal to everyone. However, that being said, we’ve noticed and this is true of really almost any niche that’s tried doing it, is that most of your audience loves contests because it’s engaging and everyone loves the chance to win, whether they’re, you know, whether they’re like gamblers or not. Everyone gets a little bit of a kind of temporary high monitoring a contest and if it’s a really cool. Fries. It can really actually greatly improve their perception of you or your brand with the fact that, you know, you’re giving back to the community. So it’s like it’s this big kind of ball of, I can maybe win something. I have more respect for the brand and person that’s doing it, and it’s actually kind of fun. And the fact that when they get their friends to enter and you know, they get the notifications of earning more entries, it’s a little bit gamified, but it’s not to the point where, you know, I don’t play Facebook games. You just say you don’t either. I hate that. But, you know, if you have this kind of idea of winning and you can get you can see the immediate rewards of, you know, being exponentially rewarded. Most consumers like that, even if they’re not gamers. So it has a pretty broad appeal for almost any niche. And they seem to have a really high tolerance for contests more frequently than other marketing initiatives. Of course, with anything, there’s a limit, but they seem to be more apt to engaging with contests than almost any other marketing channel, at least right now.

Bronson: Yeah, no, it’s good to know. Now, you mentioned earlier the primary goal is to build the list. You know, the money’s in the list and that’s what you’re trying to really grow and just make sure we’re clear. We’re talking about email, is that right? Sure. Of capturing email addresses. So the ultimate goal of the contest is a capture, an email, and then tell me if I’m wrong. Once they input an email, then they have the ability to share socially because that’s kind of a secondary thing if it happens at all. Is that the way you view it?

Travis: Yeah. So the social is there, but we only at we do the ask for social after we’ve captured the delete and the way it works, you know, the basic version and the way it works kind of from the beginning up and you know, and then we’ve added the email reverse step, but the basic social interaction was when someone enters their name, an email, they get one unconfirmed lead or one unconfirmed entry, and that becomes confirmed when they double opt into your interest. Okay, so they become a marketable lead. But then for each person that they can successfully refer through a unique referral link, they get ten additional entries.

Bronson: So, so while.

Travis: There’s a saying.

Bronson: Unless they refer.

Travis: Yeah, I mean technically with one, with one confirmed entry, you can win because we have a lottery picker and that’s how most of our audience picks their winners. But it’s a substantial difference in your odds if you can just get one person to enter. Yeah. You know ten X your chances of winning.

Bronson: Yeah. No absolutely. And so talk to me about kind of do you feel like that contest are underutilized tool for growing a startup because we hear about it sometimes but it just seems like there’s success stories but I don’t feel like a lot of star is really utilizing it the best they could. Is that what you feel as well or now?

Travis: Well, let’s take a look at something like launch, right? Right. Which was kind of a phenomenon when it came out. And a lot of people have tried that approach. And, you know, one track kind of takes part of the essence of why it’s work. And I think contests when done, effectively take that and pump it full steroids. Right. Because what Landshark did is they had scarcity mixed with a real value that their audience cared about. And the thing that was really meta about Launch Rock is it was launching for a launch truck software, right? And so he was appealing to the startup community. But what’s funny is that’s why I actually doesn’t translate as well over the other start ups because they’re appealing to regular consumers. Right. And so people who are appealing to regular consumers, they like the launch truck idea. But what they’re really saying is they like the idea of contest. And I think they’re really underutilized in the sense that it’s one of the only ways, once you package up a nice offer, that you can get explosive growth of qualified leads that care about what you do and sell. And then as soon as the contest is over, hit them with a follow up consolation prize of an instant discount. And it actually converts more leads any other way we’ve seen. And so I’m just amazed that more people don’t do it. I mean, even even if someone doesn’t use us like that’s fine. Just you do use someone because it’s so powerful. Yeah. It’s got to be something in your marketing mix, right? It’s not the end all, be all. You know, I probably should say that I’m a contest guy. It’s not but it’s not the end all be all. But it’s a very important spoke in a marketing mix, at least from what we’ve seen.

Bronson: Yeah. You know, just hearing you speak just now, it help me put together the pieces in my mind of something I’ve done in the past, but I didn’t do it to the full extent. Maybe I could is actually use launch, Rog, about a year or two ago to launch a product. And I kind of, you know, put together my own contest, sort of, but didn’t really work that well. And basically what I said was on the launch page, hey, input your email address, and the more people you refer, you get to come into the product first. So it’s not based on first come, first serve is based on kind of points, but you know, points one per referral is what I was doing and I got almost 10,000 emails from that, but I didn’t follow up with an offer afterwards. You know, we converted, you know, pretty well, but now I see using something like what you have with a follow up with an offer and then it’s an explicit contest, I think you. Could be really, really powerful. So that’s great.

Travis: Yeah, because I mean, the thing with Landshark is they’re just playing on scarcity, right? And so what they’re doing is as early adopters, people are usually really hungry for the newest, latest and greatest. And that’s kind of the only scarcity metric that can drive the success of Landshark. But the problem is, is that honestly, most normal consumers, if you look at the early adopters, you know, mainstream and laggards, most people don’t care about that factor. Right? They don’t care about being first. There’s a reason that Apple still sells the iPhone for us and the icon for it’s because not everyone cares about having the newest, latest and greatest, and most markets aren’t dealing with early adopters, to be really honest. And so a contest lets you kind of broaden that appeal by putting together a, you know, a contest prize that’s valuable to everyone in that spectrum of the bell curve. So you can have a much wider reach and then you follow with a focused offer, right? That’s based on what you do on sell, just like the prize. You have a huge list of people that have just raised their hand saying, I’m interested in what you do and sell, and if they don’t win, it’s a perfect opportunity to turn them from prospects into customers.

Bronson: Yeah. And you talked about the scarcity of people getting in early, but see that scarcity can only happen at launch once everybody’s allowed in. You’re done. Like you use that trick, it’s out of the bag. You can’t, you know, redo it, you can’t relaunch, but you can always have a contest even in the future. And that’s something I ran into, is I could build up pent up demand early before it launch, but I can never get that same level of pent up demand later in the lifecycle, the product and to a broader audience. So this is good. This is putting together in my mind here, this is helping me. So talk to me about some of the success stories of people or companies that have used content domination. You know, whatever you can disclose, you know what they grew their list by or how it helped them or what doors that open, anything like that.

Travis: Sure. So, you know, we have some kind of like really interesting types of scenarios that people are using contests. And and I think we all have merit kind of in their own way. You know, and the question mark here is, what do you find a success? So is success getting the most number of emails? Is success generating the most amount of revenue or is success generating the most revenue per user? Mm hmm. And depending on where you are in your business cycle, it may be one of those things, right? Yeah. So, I mean, we’ve had everything from like Julep whose a local nail parlor actually here in Seattle use our software. And they were giving away an iPad with their full collection of nail polish, which helped kind of gender, you know, specific as far as who had attracted. And they had over 31,000 people into their contest. Wow. And they’re able to follow up with an offer because they have a monthly box service for about 25 bucks a month where they send a couple of nail polishes and some other stuff to primarily women, you know, in their network. And they did an offer where he didn’t win the main prize. You know, you all 31,900, whatever if you but you can get your first month of our box service for a penny and then it goes into a $25 rebuild. Right. So that that was a great example. I think considering they run they’ve run a lot of contests in the past and they usually only have eight or 9000 people enter, you know, like double their Twitter following added like, you know, something like 8000 new likes to Facebook. You know, it’s pretty successful in terms of social proof and relatively successful in terms of generating more rebels. On the flip side, we have people that do like local agency work. Mm hmm. And, you know, I think their success is measured by the amount of revenue that their agency can charge for doing contests for other small local businesses. You know, we had we had someone in Corvallis, Oregon, that he was kind of like running on shoestrings at like $30,000 in revenue before our contests. And inside of 12 months, he and his wife could do agency work. You know, grew it to about 200,000. So that’s a success because.

Bronson: Charging their clients much hotter than the monthly fee you’re charging for them to run the contest.

Travis: Yeah, it’s a very easy conversation for them with clients, you know. And then if you look like, you know, revenue per entry, you know, I don’t know if anyone here has heard of James Wedmore, who’s kind of known for YouTube marketing, but he used our service in conjunction with our go to webinar integration to use it as a viral webinar registration page. And that one webinar, which had like four times the number of people on it, generated $50,000 in sales for him off of one webinar. So there’s all these different kinds of case studies, but the end of the day, they all walked away with a big email list, a big list of people who were interested and qualified subscribers and all essentially generated instant revenue as a result.

Bronson: All right. So now we’re going to get to the details of how to create a great contest like that. Because, you know, I hear about the nail polish. I hear about the YouTube guy. It’s like, all right, like I want to imitate those results. And that’s what people are thinking as they watch this. And so I want to kind of get inside your mind and have you walk us through the details of what really makes a great campaign. So let’s start a kind of a high level. What kinds of companies should consider running contest? I mean. So far you’ve mentioned an agency and a nail polish company and a YouTube marketer. I mean, that seems very diverse. Is it just kind of anyone that has something to sell or how do you how do you see it? Who should be using this?

Travis: So I think any business who is B2C, you know, business to consumer with a little creative because there’s some judges that are sort of boring, right. With a little creativity. Basically, any business to consumer company can do very well with contests. Now it gets much more difficult with business to business. It’s not impossible, but you have to be extremely creative to package the kind of prize it only attracts the right kind of leads. And so that really kind of leads us into the first step, which is the most critical step, which is picking your prize. Yeah. Now, you know, there’s this knee jerk reaction that almost everyone has to give away an iPad. And I’m sure you’ve seen it. Right. Yeah. Especially now I trade shows and stop by, drop in your card and win an iPad. Like that’s just. Come on, guys. We can get more creative than this because unless you’re BestBuy or Newegg or an electronics retailer, an iPad does not pre-qualify the lead. An iPad brings you leads that want an iPad.

Bronson: Which is every does it.

Travis: Yeah. Your prize needs to be something. Either that is what you do on sale or is highly correlated to your ideal customer profile that only they would want. Hmm. Right. So that you can then follow up with what you do and sell. So an iPad is terrible because, you know, let’s say you do yoga services, right? Does an iPad really pre-qualify someone who’s interested in yoga? I’m lazy and I want an iPad, but I don’t know yet. So, yeah, I could enter and I would not be a good lead for that person. Whereas if you were a yoga instructor, for instance, or you know, kind of if you did, you know, high in your classes plus D or so if you’re doing intangibles with your time. Mm hmm. Right. Especially if you don’t normally do one on one client working yoga and only do group work if you say, hey, I never do. I never do this one on one time, but I want to do something special for my community. Right. So it’s a it’s an event. It’s something unique. It’s something with at least explicit value, but even higher perceived value. Mm hmm. Right. Because your time is obviously worth whatever it is, but that you never do it. The perceived value is much higher.

Bronson: Yeah.

Travis: And the only people who be clicking in and entering those contests are people interested in yoga. Right.

Bronson: And qualified list.

Travis: Yeah. And so the runner up prizes can be things like yoga mats or, you know, workout gear. But if you’ll notice, if you did that kind of price stack. Mm hmm. The only people that would enter again would be people that are interested in what you do. And so and so then you follow up with, you know, 25% off your first group class or, you know, essentially do your own Groupon, but keep like three times the amount of profits and be able to have those prospects again in the future.

Bronson: Yeah, you’re on the list. You don’t own the Groupon list when it’s all said and done. So what else have you learned about prizes? Besides that, they need to be integrated with the kind of business you are? Have you learned anything about the kinds of prizes that works in terms of should there be physical goods? Should they be digital goods? Should there be intangibles like your time? Or does it matter as long as it’s innovative with your business?

Travis: So that’s a great question. So I think, you know, for a lot of people, if they’re worried about time constraints or about giving time back to their community, which I think is a mistake, but if you’re in that situation, physical prizes are still great, however experiences that you can offer your customer or intangibles absolutely rock because those are what people really care about. Honestly, we’re very social creatures. We, you know, we connect with brands, we connect with people. We remember experiences, you know, maybe, you know, you only keep an iPhone for two years, you know, but we keep photos of Kabo forever. So if you if you can offer experiences either with yourself, with your team, with your brand, or experiences that are highly, highly correlated to what you do and sell, you’re almost always going to knock out of the park compared to just saying, I’m giving away X because especially it’s on. It’s readily available because if I can walk into any store and buy it and I know the exact price that is worth 59, 98 or whatever the price is, right? It’s worth 59 bucks. But if it’s something that I can’t necessarily get, even if I have to go bucks. Mm hmm. Then my perceived value of that might add a couple of zeros, really. And more importantly, people will act irrationally in your favor to get to get you new leads to increase their chance of winning when it’s something that they feel passionate about. And honestly, there’s very few products in the world that people feel that passionate about. Yeah. Experiences or the chance to meet someone that they idolize is a huge opportunity to get people to react the best way possible in terms of marketing. And I don’t think that’s manipulative. I think it’s just you’re giving people what they want and then they’re reacting accordingly.

Bronson: That’s great insight on prices. So how long should the contest run for to really maximize the effectiveness of it? Should it be shorter? Should that be longer? What have you learned there?

Travis: So the big question you have to ask yourself as a as a brand or a company bear, is how much effort are you willing to put into driving fresh traffic to a contest? Mm hmm. Because you can run longer contests and be effective. You have to understand that your existing audience is only going to care for about this long. And after that, it’s up to you to drive new cold traffic into essentially the funnel. Mm hmm. And it’s a great opportunity to convert cold leads into a warm up sequence, especially if using something like Infusionsoft you can do like tag testing in India, existing leads through one channel in a warm up sequence and another. But more importantly, it just depends on your kind of dedication to driving the traffic. Now, for most businesses, you know, they have a real budget and a realistic timeline. I typically tell them to run it for a month. Mm hmm. Because that’s long enough to let your audience know. Remind them twice without emailing them every day. Mm hmm. And then closing it out and giving them closure and saying, hey, this was the winner. Thank you all for participating. Because I think, you know, at least half to three quarters of businesses, you run contests, they just want to have a very simple strategy for you. And if they honestly just have a strategy of giving back to their community like quarterly, because I think I think it’s we want to gather questions about how often. Yeah, you know, if they if they if they take a month of plan, a month execute and I’m up to follow up a month to plan month execute them on the follow up, that’s going to be a really great rhythm to get this nice organic growth off of whatever their existing tribe is. And every time that they mail, even if they get the same percentage growth, they’re going to get more and more and more and more leads. And it’s going to be a good, effective strategy with really pretty low impact as far as what they have to think of how many ads they want to buy necessarily in the ads. They just have to get creative four times per year for for good prices and experiences and what their audience know about it.

Bronson: Yeah.

Travis: It’s something that something that’s simple with that kind of timeline is a great way for most small businesses to do very, very well.

Bronson: Yeah, well, that kind of leads into my next question. How big of an existing up is existing audience do you need? Because, you know, a lot of small businesses or a lot of startups that watch this show, you know, they’re getting going. They don’t have a huge tribe. They have maybe, you know, a few hundred, maybe a few thousand Twitter followers. They don’t have 10,000. You know, they have a few hundred a few thousand likes. They don’t have 10,000 likes on Facebook. Their email list isn’t huge. Does that really diminish the amount of returns they can expect or do they have to just get really creative with it?

Travis: So, you know, I think most people, probably especially in your audience, saw the Dropbox for Life contest set up similar to it was two years ago, year and a half, something like that. And if you look at that, they didn’t really have to spend that much in Facebook ads. But what they did is they worked more time and effort into coming up with a prize that would capture the attention of their audience. Mm hmm. And so, honestly, we see people all the time that literally have zero I’m talking zero emails, zero Facebook, zero Twitter. Right. Nothing coming in completely called by that agency. You know, one of the agencies like they used to work department defense, they weren’t allowed to have Twitter, Facebook, like they literally had nothing. Right. It’s like they were able to come into a market. In this case, Corvallis, local deals was the thing. They were starting out and they literally cornered the market in a matter of just a couple of months, just a few hundred dollars on Facebook ads running it to a very specific contest that captured the attention of their local audience. Yeah. And so I think for someone who starting from absolute ground zero spend a lot of time and energy figuring out an awesome prize that’s going to give that experience. It’s going to get the people to react on the right psychological triggers and then spend a little bit of money to seed that traffic. And you’re not going to spend 100 bucks and then end up with 100,000 people on your list. But you’re going to build that first tribe, right? Yeah, you’re going to build that first base audience. And, you know, once you have this offer put together, which is really what a contest is, that’s also the best way. Like if you find someone that’s relevant, especially if you’re like a tech startup, right? If you went to any of the tech sites that have an audience, that’s a great time to, you know, maybe sponsor one of their newsletters, right, with a link to your content. That’s great, because it’s one of the highest converting landing pages you could possibly have with this huge viral coefficient. So if you’re if you’re talking user acquisition strategy, right, this is your best opportunity to emotionally connect with your prospects, convert them at like unheard of conversion rates on the landing page and have this really high viral coefficient so that. Every dollar you spend an average, as in when it’s coupled with a contest, will be the most effective ad spend you probably ever have.

Bronson: And let’s break that down just a little bit to make sure they’re on the same page, because I think there’s really great insight there. So you have a contest and you don’t have many, many people in your own tribe. So you have to seed the contest somehow. And you’re saying buying space in a newsletter from some other company? Is that what you’re saying?

Travis: Yeah. Either buying a space there newsletter, just a couple hundred bucks on Facebook ads. I mean, if you’re starting a business, even if you’re on bootstrapping like we did. Mm hmm. If you don’t have a couple hundred bucks to put into building your first tribe, you probably need to take a real serious look at what you’re trying to accomplish. But most of us, you know, with kind of pinching pennies, can get together a couple hundred bucks to build that first audience.

Bronson: Yeah. And if they want to go and buy an ad in the bottom of a newsletter, because you said it’s a really high converting landing page, if you think about it that way, because it’s email. I know there’s one place where you can actually buy ads in newsletters, but do you recommend going to them, you know, one on one in negotiating something? Is that how you would try to do it early on?

Travis: Sure. I mean, there’s there’s some services like I think you’re probably referring to newsletter directory.

Bronson: I haven’t heard of that one. There’s another one called Launch something I can’t read the name of launch bit. Launch bid. There you go. Yeah.

Travis: Yeah, it’s the same company. Okay. I think they have a couple of other names for the different services, but it’s essentially the same thing. They keep changing, but it’s a Y Combinator company anyway. Yeah, that’s one service. So you can use something like the newsletter directory. But if you can find someone who has the audience that you know, you need to be successful in your business and you’ve done your research. You’d be surprised how receptive these people are because they want more sponsors and advertisers for their site, especially if they’re primarily content driven and they’ve already done a lot of the hard work to corner you audience you need to reach. Mm hmm. So ask them, how much does it cost? Not necessarily for a solo mailing, because that would be expensive if they even do it. But say, hey, you know, I love your content, your audience is great, I really want to sponsor your next newsletter that goes out just, you know, your next blog post that that you do just say sponsored by, you know, blah, blah, blah, who happens to be giving away and people can go and check it out. It’ll be a nice lure to capture some of that initial audience, especially considering there’s kind of inferred endorsement that comes with that out of that audience. And so that’s going to be relatively warm traffic and it’s going to convert even better than normal.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s a great idea. I’m actually going to try that. Seriously, you mentioned some of the things that, you know, really good contests have in common. They have prizes that really match the business itself. They do it quarterly. They seed the contest some way with Facebook ads or the, you know, sponsoring the newsletter. Is there anything else that kind of comes to your mind or are those the main things that really make for a great contest?

Travis: To be honest, that’s sort of all it takes. Right. And then just making sure that people care about it. You know, one of the easiest ways to see if you’re doing it right is to take a survey after you’ve done something. Mm hmm. You know, what did you like? What kind of content you want to see in the future? You know, what could we have done to, you know, if you didn’t you know, if you didn’t share or what could we have done to entice you to share? Just really getting to understand your audience. But that’s the same process everyone should be going through, in my opinion, anyway. This is just one of the more effective marketing channels that, just like anything else, requires follow up, requires a little bit of research to make sure that every time you implement it, you’re just a little bit better. A little bit better. A little bit better.

Bronson: Yeah. And so what’s the what’s the single best contest that’s ever ran on contest domination? It might be one of the ones you mentioned earlier, the case study, but maybe it might be something else.

Travis: The single best.

Bronson: Single, best.

Travis: We’ve run thousands of contests, so I only even notice. Like I try to stay on top and I have a Twitter feed that shows me all of the things that are being shared in real time.

Bronson: Uh huh.

Travis: There was one contest that someone ran last year, and we actually just recently did a blog post about this, and he was a guy who started near zero, and he actually did a local event promotion and he had it took him like a year to do to get his first 2000 leads. And it took him like 3 to 4 months to get the next 2000. And then when he really nailed the scarcity, he got his hands on some sold out tickets for a popular concert in Vegas. He got over 2100 leads in 12 hours.

Bronson: Wow.

Travis: Organically with no ads.

Bronson: Yeah.

Travis: That’s great. So. So to me, like, wow, that’s not like the total largest number. I think that’s one of the most awesome stories of someone. He had a comparatively small audience and, you know, got a year, a prior year’s worth of effort in 12 hours of qualified process.

Bronson: An awesome story. Absolutely. Now, let’s talk about conscious domination as a product to kind of change gears here a little bit. How long is content domination being open to the public now?

Travis: Sure. So that’s that’s kind of a I’m going to have a two part answer because we didn’t start as a hosted app. We actually started as a WordPress plugin. And that was a little over a year ago. I started I came up with the idea of how I wanted to structure the plug in. About a year and a half ago, I was like around Christmas time and we are officially launched it like, well, I guess Beta launched it kind of late March and then we did a full blown launch in April of last year. Mm hmm. And we sold, like, thousands of copies of the plug in, and then it kind of leveled off. And we started getting, you know, the reviews are coming in, our sales went back up. But as soon as that happened, you know, the plug in itself was quite basic. Mm hmm. And it was just kind of more of an MVP more than anything. Right. Minimum viable product. And I just put a couple of grand plus on credit card debt to get it made originally. But once we made all that back, I knew that there was a lot more intensive things we could do to be awesome and that we could make it so you didn’t have to touch code or even have a website? Mm hmm. So I knew I wanted to do a hosted product, and so I coupled up with a really good SaaS developer almost immediately. And we started working on that just like a month and a half to two months after the initial launch. Mm hmm. And then that was the kind of the seeding of what there is today. And this version has only been out for about eight months. And we have over 10,000 users just on this platform, if you include, the people that were on the plug in were over 20,000.

Bronson: Yeah. And so have you seen that having it where you don’t have to have your own WordPress or WordPress site, is that helped you as a company to kind of just reach a lot more new kind of people?

Travis: Hugely, hugely. So we saw kind of, I guess, several things. One is it’s easier to get people because people honestly just don’t want to touch code and they don’t want have to install yet another plug in and they just honestly want to kind of play around with software. And then when they realized after going through our settings and in the free mode and, and what they can do with the paper paid model, it makes it easier for them to just pay a little bit of money and then click install and want to be one. That’s the only barrier left to launching because they don’t have to download something first, maybe not have to pay, then download, then set up and execute. They set up pay execute. Yeah. When, when we flipped it on its head as a SaaS product, we found that a lot more people are willing to stick their toe in the water. Right. See if it’s going to be something they want and then just pay to activate. So that’s allowed us to to bring in more leads with the free reg. Obviously, that converts better than a paid offer. And then we’ve seen that people are much more likely to come back and use it instead of just having the zip file stuck somewhere in their desktop or and never actually use it. And then now we can give kind of constant feedback and constant interaction because we can actually have more of a visibility as far as what’s working for people and what’s not. Mm hmm. And so that really helps guide our product development, not just based on what users tell us, but based on what users are actually doing. Yeah. And so that has also kind of changed the perspective of our scope.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. How long or how did you get your initial traction? How did you get your first little bit of traffic to come and even know you exist? Because you know you have the same problem every other product does. You know, we have something where, you know, you had this WordPress plug in and then after that you had the product. How did you let people know about it?

Travis: Sure. So originally, I just let a I just kind of like told my. Show blog audience, which keep in mind at the time was like a couple hundred subscribers, which is why I wanted to contest to grow my own list, because I’d been out there building email list for everyone else and a client basis, and it’s of like the shoemaker’s kids have no shoes. I was like, Wow, I don’t have an email list. This is embarrassing. I need to change that quickly. Which was the whole kind of reason for trying to do this product. But then once I had it, let my first couple hundred people know I’ve never really sold anything on my blog and boom, I had sales. I was like, That was interesting. Okay, well, that’s a good test. And then I had prior JV and affiliate relationships with people and I asked just to friend to me for it. Boom, made my money back. Okay, that was me and I. Have you ever heard of the Warrior Forum? Yeah. Kind of internet marketing community at the time. WordPress blog. They’re still doing well there, but they were really hot a little over a year ago, and so we launched it there and it sold really, really well. I partnered with someone to help me launch it just in that space. And so we quickly got thousands of users, you know, that much, you know, steeply discounted price plus. A lot of it went to affiliates, but it helped me kind of order my tribe, get feedback, do my first release on the iteration, and then I had a good story and audience to go and kind of spreading the message.

Bronson: Yeah.

Travis: Once the stats came out, the challenge was similar but greater because now we had higher server costs and there was a, there’s a bigger monthly kind of number we had to hit. Yeah. Whereas before it was all one time sales. Now it’s mostly subscriptions. So you know, we had to do something similar and you know, we are fortunate in the fact that our product is kind of naturally viral. So people that are demoing the product are usually in there and giving us their lead, then tweeting about it, sharing on Facebook, inviting friends via email that generates thousands of leads for us every month. So it’s kind of naturally viral, I guess.

Bronson: Yeah, well, that was the next question I was gonna ask is, where does most of your growth come from now? Where does the kind of the evergreen growth is it just people using contest domination and people are hearing about it because they’re being marketed a contest from somebody else.

Travis: That that actually is a big driver for us because as an incentive to leave powered by conscious domination turned on, we let people drop in and affiliate it. And so they all have the opportunity to earn by just leading the powered by turned on a lot of companies tried to restrict the ability of even remove that for really high tiers. I mean I understand that they, you know, they want the traffic because we benefit greatly from it. But as far as I’m concerned, our customers are already paying us and were paying us anything to be able to remove that. But as an incentive, we just say, hey, you can earn a commission on that. And most of our audience has been pretty receptive to that. But more importantly is people like when they use it, because we have this such a strong focus on leads, they actually do, you know, g they get results and people get results and it works. That gets them lots of leads quickly. That’s so starting be different, you know, like shockingly different for them compared to every other method they’ve tried for, you know, in the past year they’ve gotten 1050 or 100 leads and then they run a contest based on our training and tools, and they get 1000, 2000, 10,000 that’s like mindblowing. And then, you know, there’s the old saying of of stone as a bad experience. You we tell what ten people get experience. You tell maybe two. We found that if people have an amazing experience, it’s more people than you’d expect. So a lot of it just kind of word of mouth and affiliates.

Bronson: Yeah. Walk us through the plans that you have right now. You have a free plan and then what are the packages beyond that that people actually pay you?

Travis: For sure. So the free plan is pretty restricted. Like like you could imagine we actually do allow people to pay as you go for those who run contests and frequently how we think people should be running them more frequently. But there is an audience that was buying a subscription and canceling. And so we are we allow people to buy on a per contest basis for 37 bucks. So it’s run a single campaign. 37 bucks gives you the features of pro, which lets you kind of try to respond or remove the power by contest nomination and start a Facebook, you know, some kind of the base features you’d want. Or for 30 bucks, you can run unlimited contests. And that stipulation on the bootstrap, the single pay is it can be longer than four weeks. So if you want to run a longer campaign or you want to run more than one campaign, if you just want to have the tool accessible, actually we offer a discounted rate and then we offer pro plus, which increases the number of integration points we have. So instead of just adding your autoresponder to collect the lead in this, they’re just allowing you to install on to Facebook. We also add things like go to webinar integration if you want to register the lead for about an hour, chart beat integration. But what’s more exciting, it’s on that we haven’t totally surfaced the feature yet for people, but we’ve been collecting the data is this idea of channel tracking. And so what we’re able to do now is actually see what the traffic and conversion is of every channel. So we can tell you exactly how well your referrals are doing from Facebook versus Twitter versus LinkedIn. And it’s like with extremely high confidence because we’re not relying on referring agent like, you know, Google Analytics relies a lot of times on referring agent. It’s not always right. Instead, we have all these unique tokens. And so we can give you this like really granular breakdown of what channels are doing well, and then we’re allowing you later in about a week, yet you have campaigns so you can create unique tokens per channel. So you know exactly which Facebook post you did perform to the best and which email announcement you did drove the most lead and which tweets you did, drove them, you know, so you know what kind of messaging works with your audience or what ads are converting beyond just, you know, doing a Facebook script of, you know, hey, these ads are converting. You just use a unique token and, you know, with confidence exactly how well that ad is doing.

Bronson: So yeah. Know that it’s great to have that analytics there.

Travis: Yeah, it’s the high powered analytics and the go to ever integration really kind of separate that. And then for those who do client work, we have something called our agency solution, which is a four way labeling of the app. We give you multiple client dashboards. We allow you to invite unlimited account managers so you can invite your team to help you implement and execute. Or you can invite graphic designers or copywriters or specialized skills into your application as an agency and give them either a holistic access or granular access. So you can say, okay, I’m inviting you to write copy for client B, I’m going to send you an invite and then only give you access to Client B’s dashboard. Okay. So it’s very fine tuned for those who do client work, but that’s pretty much the gamut of what we offer right now.

Bronson: Yeah, sounds like great offerings. What are what percentage of people end up upgrading to a paid plan? What kind of premium to paid conversion do you guys see there?

Travis: It’s actually pretty strong. So, you know, I’ve heard people like Buffer for sense, you know, convert like 2% from free to pay.

Bronson: They actually just had buffer on yesterday they’re at 1.9% I think she said.

Travis: Okay, yeah, yeah. So I haven’t tabulated it like in the last week or so just because we’ve been focusing on other features. But typically we we’re like between 15 and 20%. It’s actually a pretty high conversion. And I think that’s just because once people get in there, they’re typically already kind of excited when they’re in the app. Take a look at the feature. So another thing too is we’re looking at and I’m sure most companies are, we look at total conversion, right? So we’re not saying like, you know, in a first visit or third visit, it’s like, say, in a couple of months, usually 15 to 20% of those who set up a free account are converting into a paid account.

Bronson: Yeah. Has anything surprised you about the growth of content domination kind of going through what you’ve been through in the last year? What’s kind of shocked you about the whole process?

Travis: Yeah. So with the the WordPress plugin, we had this huge spike in the beginning and it, you know, since it was such a huge campaign that dropped off and like anything after that kind of feels like a campaign hangover, right? And then we had these like little bumps here and there and we first launched the hosted version. It was like kind of constant. And we get, you know, little bombs, little bombs, little bumps. But in the last few months, it like last four or five months, it’s it’s been growing kind of exponential. You know, now we’re serving 100 multiple hundreds of thousands of unique visitors to all the landing pages for our customers. And, you know, there’s a good chance that this month we might even hit a million uniques. And considering that it’s very campaign driven, it’s not like, you know, someone like Buffer or Tumblr, like typically when you add a user generated content for you for a while, right? And it’s not just like it’s not counted in days usually, right? It’s kind of ten months. And for us, we’re seeing these people, you know, run a contest and they start running contests in the stop. So to get that exponential growth, that means our user growth is our. Really even steeper. And it’s just really amazed me, I guess, kind of the adoption level. And as we make these micro changes to our feature set, we’re just like constantly shipping new code to polish things. I’ve been surprised at how effective, just kind of a constant compounding of feature sets, not only obviously improves the product, but more than anything has I think, been the main driver of kind of customer confidence of us to be the leading the leading platform. Yeah. And when they have that, I’m really like the kind of leads we get, which is I think quite another factor of us converting free to pay when people come in. They’ve already kind of been pre-sold that, you know, hey, contest domination. They ship code every 24 hours, 24 to 48 hours, and they ship noticeable improvements, you know, every 10 to 14 days. And so coming in, it’s like, wow, sure. As they go in, even before they necessarily launch their first contest, they’re saying things get better and better and better and better. It’s kind of like the same philosophy as, you know, like a chrome, like a Chromebook one. I feel like the hate on early stage technology. But, you know, even one of the reviews, my mentor was like saying that when they dropped it off in the lab that you saw screen results and they got it back a week later. All the initial features they were mad about in their review had been fixed. They had to rewrite that review. So I feel like in a lot of ways we have some similarities there because, you know, we just we’re not trying to like do feature blow, but we’re just constantly trying to get better. And when consumers see that, you know, in a hosted software products where you have full control of the environment, you can ship that often. You know, if I had to log in to WordPress and I had an update every single day, that would be annoying, but in fact it’s seamless. I think that’s been the most surprising kind of silent factor for that’s really helped stimulate our growth.

Bronson: You know, it’s so good to hear you say that because just a day or two ago, somebody came on the show and they actually said, you know, roughly the same thing, that it’s you know, it’s a thousand paper cuts that create this, you know, kind of a snowball effect. It’s a lot of little changes. A little bit of the flow improved here, a little bit of the feature improved there. And then over time, you have a chart that’s up open to the right, but there’s no one single thing you can point to as the culprit, because we all want to point to one thing when really it’s just the life of your product and how it develops and matures is I think you’re saying something, you know, right along the lines with what I’ve heard before. That’s great. So now to go against what I just said. So is there any one thing you’ve done that you think is mattered the most in kind of a visible way that obviously you could take away that one thing? And as long as you’re improving over time in the small ways, you’re doing fine. But has there been one thing you learned like, wow, when I did this one little growth hack, let’s say it did this, it really changed things.

Travis: I’m glad you asked that question because it was part of our iterative process, but it had a you know, so our metrics, our customer success is equally, if not more important than our own success. Right? And so the more successful we can make our customers, generally speaking, the much more successful we become. Right? As if they’re getting their mind blown even more about how well it’s working. They’re going to stay longer. They’re going to be happier. They’re going to help more people. They’re going to you know, we’re going to be kind of solidify as the solution. And so to us, while we haven’t necessarily seen the boomerang effect quite yet, I think we will is just a week and a half. Two weeks ago, we launched a new feature for customers, which is the email referrer that’s totally killing it. And while we always have these social refer before, that was points for driving leads through social or by copying a link and sharing it and say Messenger, we added this extra step you can enable between opt in form and the social share page. It’s an intermediary page, it’s an email referrer. And the way it works is people are asked to invite three friends. I type in three friends emails and they’re given points, a small number of points per email that they type in a boundless amount of points. If they actually do all three and then each of those leads convert, they get their standard ten point performance bonus. And that one feature has been massive. Now think about how many people you reach with social, right? It’s usually like hundreds of people or at least at least 100 people will see or interact that in some way, shape or form across all of your networks for an average user. But we’re only asking for three people to be invited via email. But it’s consistently the best performing channel for our new users. And almost like overnight, most of our users are seeing 2 to 3 X improvement in their total referral base. Wow. And the conversion rate of those invites is consistently 85, 90, 95 conversion rate, I mean, insane numbers. So even though it’s a. Certainly not the most traffic. In many cases, people it’s equal to or greater than all of their referrals from every other channel combined. So when you add that to the normal flow, they’re converting numbers. Their total referral rate explodes. I mean, now people go from at 20% of their total leads being referrals to like 68% of their total is being referral. We think that’s a huge point and I think people can go around and if the consistent story can be, hey, when I run contrast domination, double the amount of leads I get that I can send them. I think that makes it harder for us to lose when we do that.

Bronson: Yeah, I totally agree. Oh, this has been awesome. Travis, I have one more question for you. I guess the best advice that you can give to any startup that’s trying to grow because you’ve been there, you’ve done that, you’re still in the middle of it. What advice do you want to give to fellow entrepreneurs are trying to grow their product?

Travis: I have two things. One of them has been something I’ve always said, which is because I’m not a developer or a designer. That’s also kind of a whole other side story. But get the best team you can afford. And then 20% of your budget. Like really stretch yourself to get the best talent possible because it’s going to save you so much money in the long run, so much headache, heartache, and you’ll have such a better product that is even possible to scale. Like, that’s huge. Like, that’s, that’s number one. And the second part of that is kind of a follow up of of getting the best people is iterate early and often and really lost in the customer feedback. But more importantly, look at customer metrics. And so you can just iterate over the many cuts, you make difference, you know, get the best you can and push code as often as you can. And as long as you have your ears open and your eyes open, you end up with a product that can scale that people love and a business that’s successful.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great advice in on Travis. Again, thank you so much for coming on Growth Aqua TV.

Travis: Yeah, thanks for having me on. It was fun.

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