William (Tommy) Rollins is a marketing professional who managed contests and sweepstakes at the electronics retailer, Circuit City, from October of 2007 until January, 2009 when the company went out of business. He has agreed to share some of his insights about contests and sweepstakes from a sponsor's perspective with About.com's readers. Read Tommy Rollins' Bio.
Hello, Tommy, and thanks for speaking with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started with contests and sweepstakes?
I had zero experience with contests and sweepstakes when I started at Circuit City. I was told that the Drive to 65 Sweepstakes was coming up, and I was in charge. I had to learn everything on the fly.
I was the entire sweepstakes department at Circuit City. I worked with a copywriter and a graphics designer, and I handled everything from coming up with the concept of the sweepstakes to drafting & filing the rules with the states, handling prize fulfillment for winners, and analyzing the marketing success of the promotion so that we could do a better job next time.
Do you ever enter sweepstakes yourself?
Yes, sometimes I search out sweepstakes for prizes that I'd particularly like to win, or prizes that fit with my hobbies.
As a sweepstakes sponsor, what did you think about people who enter sweepstakes as a hobby?
Sweepstakes hobbyists are great. They help companies reach one of the best forms of marketing – viral marketing, word of mouth marketing. People tell their friends and family members about sweepstakes, and it's a great way to increase a company's brand awareness in terms of their products and services.
Can you tell us how you actually drew the winners for Circuit City's sweepstakes?
I would compile all of the sweepstakes entrants and use a randomized process I devised for selecting winners.
Can you think of any commonly-made mistakes that people made when they enter sweepstakes?
One of the most common mistakes I saw was entering a bad email address on the sweepstakes form. It's really important to proofread before you hit submit.
Another mistake was not responding to email notifications. I would hate to have to give a prize away to someone else because I didn't receive a response to a winning email. I believe you have information on your website about using a separate sweepstakes email. I think it's important to do that, and to check it regularly.
What was your favorite part about running sweepstakes at Circuit City?
My favorite part was notifying people of their wins. They would get so excited, it was really wonderful. One older woman won a prize package from us, including a TV and other prizes, and she just couldn't believe she had won. Even when the technicians were installing the television and other electronics at her house, she just couldn't believe that we wouldn't take it all back again.
Did you ever have trouble with sweepstakes winners being rude or overly demanding?
Some people would ask, "Is that all I get?" Or they'd demand that a prize would arrive overnight.
Winners should realize that it takes time to complete the prize fulfillment. I have to verify the winner, make sure that all the sweepstakes rules were followed, sometimes there were problems with delivery or it took a while to actually get my hands on a prize. So it would take a while before the winner would actually receive the prize.
Are you familiar with Roboform? As a sweepstakes promoter, do you have objections to it?
No, I don't think that Roboform is a problem. As long as you're actually filling out the forms yourself, it's fair to use a program like Roboform. What I would have a problem with is using scripts or programs to enter hundreds or thousands of sweepstakes.
If there is one thing that you would have preferred all of your sweepstakes entrants to do, what would it have been?
Read the rules more closely. And providing feedback is very important. I received lots of thank-you cards and emails, which always made us feel good, and helped us know that people appreciated our sweepstakes.