The Simple Strategy We Used to Land 13,603 New Email Signups in 10 Days

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Comment below to win a copy of Foundr V1.0

I’ve been to the promised land and come back to show you the way, with an in-depth, behind-the scenes post showing you exactly how we grew our email list by 13,603 subscribers in 10 days. I’ll show you exactly what strategy and tools we used, and who helped us pull off this quick win.

And more importantly … how you can apply these strategies and tactics to boost your own business and get a bunch of new fans and customers.

Our motivation behind landing this boost in growth was the launch of a new, somewhat niche product we had put together and wanted to promote. And while our number one goal was more email signups, the strategy we used led to an overall surge in attention across different channels.

Check out these results during the competition:

13,603 New e-mail signups & 84,117 pageviews (FB Pixeled)

Email Signups- New Email Signups and Views

19k Facebook views and 232 shares of our promotional video:

Email Signups- Facebook views and shares.

507 comments on a paid Facebook ad:

Email Signups- Comments and Shares on Facebook Ad

544 Blog Comments:

Email Signups- Blog Comments

We also ended up with an additional 1,000 Youtube subscribers and a big boost in shares across all of our social media channels – including a few lesser used ones like Pinterest.

So, want to know how we did this whilst running a full scale product launch?

Of course you do.

Let’s roll.

The Challenge

We were three weeks away from launching a new Foundr training course, and as our head of product and business development, my team and I needed to create some anticipation, interest, and yes, some new email signups. Preferably a crap-ton.

We had just partnered up with Gretta van Riel of ecommerce and influencer fame to create an in-depth training on running a business with physical products, “How to Start & Scale Your Online Store.” As big as the ecommerce field is, this training is a relatively niche product,

because it assists students looking to start and build businesses from scratch with their own new physical products.

That takes some commitment and a little bit of spare cash, and it’s not for everyone. So I needed to find more of the right kind of people who would be interested in the training, tell them about it, and get them educated enough to understand that the course was worth at least 10x what we were charging.

We had seen the course and Gretta’s results. The training was gold, now I just needed to get some of the single most valuable commodity on the internet.


My goal was to get (at least) another 10,000 email signups to our email interest list for the course before we launched in just 21 days time, and as many views of our course trailer video as possible. We’d dropped a bit of cash on a fancy looking trailer, so we wanted to make sure that it was getting watched and shared.

Email Signups- Start and Scale Video Trailer Screenshot

How were we going to do that in such a short time?

We have a lot of followers on social media and who read the blog and are on our list, but we needed some new people, particularly those who would be potential customers for this product.

Fortunately, we had just spent a few weeks hanging out with Gretta, who is a total master when it comes to attention and ecommerce, and picked up some of her wisdom along the way. One particular tactic of hers that she uses to scale and accelerate the growth of her ecommerce stores stood out to me.


Now if you’re anything like me, the idea of running an online competition sounded tacky and gaudy, with visions of flashing “free ipad” popups and the like.

But I had learned from Gretta that when a competition is done well, it can be a massive value add for the audience—a fun, exciting, and a powerful way to rapidly grow your following and still be on brand and classy (as classy as Foundr gets, that is).

Foundr CEO Nathan and I had a quick session with the whiteboard and decided a competition was the way to go. We laid out the following goals, which we felt were challenging but achievable.

  • 10,000 email signups
  • Maximize views and sharing of our video
  • Increase referrals and resulting new signups

We also needed to finish the competition about a week before the course was going to be launched so we could get new email signups into the pre-launch sequence to find out more about the training and decide if it was right for them. That shrunk our window down to just ten or so days.

Key Elements of a Competition

Next we hashed out how could we achieve this with a competition and considered the following options:

  1. What could we give away? What could we give away that would incentivize email signups and add potential buyers to our list, without spending cash? We’d already spent our marketing budget on creating extremely high-quality studio filming for the course.
  1. Which tool should we use? What SaaS tool should we use to run the competition?
  1. How could we maximize sharing and referrals? How could we get people to not only sign up, but also spread news of the competition and the online course?

#1 Deciding What to Give Away

Since a major goal of our competition was to generate interest and leads for the new ecommerce course, it was important that the email signups and leads were relevant.

We were firm that the grand prize needed to be something highly desirable for the target audience of the course.

That way, the chances that participants who didn’t win would go on to purchase the training would be much higher. They would also be higher quality leads, i.e., someone who was signing up out of interest in ecommerce and Foundr, not just a rando who wanted to win free stuff.

The first key factor was linking the prize to our product and our target audience’s desire. And naturally, our second factor was cost. What could we give away that had value, but low fixed or hard costs?

Here’s what we came up with:
Email Signups- Competition Giveaway

First prize was the course and everything you could need to succeed with ecommerce, starting with our newest training, How To Start & Scale Your Online Store.

We spoke to our friends at Shopify to see if they could get behind us, which they did, and lined up Nathan Chan (our CEO) to give a Skype mentoring call, and our awesome graphic designer Giuliano to give branding support.

To increase the value, we bundled in a lifetime membership to our private entrepreneurs club and Instagram training as well. Both immensely valuable, but there was no additional cash needed from us.

The extras were also in line with ecommerce—if you wanted to get into ecommerce in a big way, winning first prize would be a godsend.

Fixed costs to us: $0.

We also added in a leaderboard, but more on that later.

#2 Deciding which tool to use

Given quite a few people have written about the strength of competitions to rapidly grow a following and email list, a number of SaaS and software tools have popped up over the past few years that you can choose from.

Each has its own pros and cons depending on your goals and your marketing stack.

We wanted a competition software that had the following features:

  • Referral-based: Something that would enable people to refer their friends and create a viral element
  • Had a Leaderboard: They look cool and make people more competitive
  • Integrations: Could ideally talk to Infusionsoft
  • Idiot-proof: Didn’t require coding so that I could get it up and running quickly on my own
  • Incentivized: Would reward people for for each and every share on social with tracking of referrals
  • Fun: Something that our audience would enjoy.

Some options were:



Vyper had sweet-looking leaderboards and the CEO Jack had recently emailed Nathan to ask if he wanted any help with competitions.

This was such a simple, smart business development move by Jack. His email meant that Vyper was top-of-mind, met most of our needs, and we knew we could most likely chat with Jack and get things moving.

The only thing at the time it couldn’t do was easily integrate with Infusionsoft. We had a workaround (export to .csv and upload to infuso), and it was otherwise what we were looking for, so all good. Naturally, we still did some research on other competition software to see if we were making the best decision.

But please note, at Foundr, we move fast.

I didn’t have time for extensive research, so Nate and I jumped on Google, opened five tabs, read the features, tested things out, and made a decision on the spot within about ten minutes.

That’s to say, I’m sure that there are plenty of other competition tools that either I hadn’t heard of, or have been developed since the time of writing this. In fact, if you know of any good ones that you can recommend (and you aren’t just spamming links), please let me know in the comments below.

But for us, Vyper was the tool for the job. Even better, I got in touch with Jack (who turns out was a fellow Aussie), who gave me some insider tips on how to run a successful competition.

A large part of the reason our strategy succeeded was from following a lot of Jack’s advice.  He had some clever ideas to maximise each part of the competition.  Since I was in go-mode, I just did my best to follow his advice and GSD.  So sure, I’m a genius, but what I did well was to listen to the expert and do my best to execute on his advice.

Some of this is hard to explain (and since the competition has now ended the page is no longer live) so instead, here’s a quick walkthrough of the signup process.

Steps Involved in Setup

If you want to run a competition, it’s important that you factor these steps into your project plan.

Graphics: You’ll need great graphics that people can share and use to refer others. We used our own designer, but if you are running lean you could do it on Canva. Be sure to allow time for this.  You’ll want a shareable image correctly sized for each social media channel.

Basic Setup: Setting up the competition (title, name, dates and other basic info rules, etc.)

Pages: Creating the competition page (this is the most time-intensive aspect, it’s basically a landing page using a WYSIWYG editor with basic html) and a “thank you” page.

Email Signups- Contest Settings

Actions: Deciding on different actions and incentives for users to take to increase their competition points and chances of winning, e.g. comment on a blog post, etc.

Add Facebook Tracking Pixel: If you know about FB ads, then you’ll know about retargeting, and you want to be pixeling people who visit. Make sure you pixel visitors for later on.

Emails: You’ll need to create an opt-in/follow-up email as well as any emails when entrants hit certain milestones or points, to keep them engaged and incentivized.  As a minimum I recommend you write 1 x “thank you for entering” e-mail.

To increase the gamification of the competition you can also trigger e-mails to be sent when entrants achieve or unlock certain aspects.

Here’s the email we sent when somebody signed up to enter the competition:

Email Signups- opt in email

You’ll notice that it rewarded them for taking action and then motivated them to take more actions and encouraged them to get competitive and check the leaderboard.

#3 Maximizing Sharing and Referrals

A key part of any viral competition is to encourage and land referrals. That is, get people to get their friends to sign up to your competition and reward them for doing it.

Vyper and most competition tools allow you to do this by creating special referral URLs for each entrant that they can share with their friends, which is then tracked to figure out how many friends they are sending to the competition.

You want to make it as easy as possible for your subscribers to spread the word about your competition, and that means getting them to share it across social media.

This is what users saw on our thank you page:

Email Signups- Thank you page

The options are to either manually copy and paste their unique url, or to click on the social media icons that generated pre-populated messages and shareables.

For example, this is what it looked like when Maria shared her link on Twitter:

Email Signups- Sharing the Competition on Twitter

Leaderboards increase sharing

This was really where Vyper had a lot of built-in and ready to go tools that we wanted.

We decided on a “leaderboard” competition, because this created a visual scoreboard for everyone who had entered.

Email Signups- Competition leaderboard

Why do leaderboards work?

Well they just do. But since that’s not a great answer I found this one instead from Steve Sims of Behavior Labs.

“Competition is a hardwired part of human nature.

It is one of the greatest forces that motivate people to perform better, work harder, and strive to reach their goals…

When multiple people are competing, those who are highly self-motivated by internal goals and aspirations are typically found in first place – at the top of the leaderboard. Those in the top spot need a degree of self-motivation since they are already besting their competitors.

Those in second, third, fourth and even last place have a different kind of motivation.

The competitive psychology that drives the need to evaluate ourselves and compare our own performance with those around us kicks in for those further down on the leaderboard, and it can be fueled by a variety of factors, including situational dynamics, rivalries, time and even fear…

Leaderboards are an excellent way to leverage competitive drive, gain insights into user behavior and keep engagement levels at their peak.”

Basically, we are competitive and wired to win.  A leaderboard engages our ego and desire to beat others.  Even just the other day I got suckered into a competition when I found out I was in 16th place.  Damnit, I wanted to win so put in a few extra tweets to see if I could climb up the ladder overnight.

Using Gamification To Increase Our Followers:

To increase their chances of winning, users were rewarded additional points for following us on our different social media channels.

Vyper tracked if they followed our different social media accounts and rewarded them an extra 25 points each time they did.

Here’s a screenshot:

Email Signups- Vyper Screenshot

The results?

We have pretty good growth on our social channels so it was a little hard to track, except on YouTube, which we hadn’t been promoting at all until this competition.

I checked some analytics on for our youtube account.  Have a look what happened in May during the competition (an increase of about 1,000 subscribers):

Email Signups_ Social Blade Analytics

Not bad.

Bonus Gamification Hacks

Jack told me that we could add in custom actions or milestones to further incentivize users to take specific actions.

Like what?

Well we chose a couple of “bonus” actions that we wanted users to take that would benefit us.  The first was asking entrants to like, comment, and share a Facebook post. Jack taught me this pretty sweet little hack to bring your Facebook CPA down (which I hope he won’t hate me for sharing here).

Basically, you set up a Facebook advertisement/promoted post as a “dark post” so that only users with a direct link will see it. Then by encouraging users to engage with the ad, Facebook sees the post getting good engagement, thinks it must be a great ad, which then helps you to lower the cost of displaying that ad. Hope that makes sense, if not, you’ll need to tell your FB ads team or study up.  It’s not covered in the scope of this article.

Other bonus actions we rewarded were “comment on this blog post,” causing one of my blog posts to receive over 500 comments and make me look like a thought-leading rockstar. We also got people to sign up to our Facebook messenger bot so that we could use that as another marketing channel for the course too.

These customizable rewards were game-changers. They lowered the cost of our Facebook ads, boosted engagement on the blog, and got our users taking more and more actions.

This also helps to trigger an important behavioral response that I first learned from Robert Cialdini. He covers this at length in his excellent book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (highly recommended).  In short, research shows that if people commit to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment and see it through to completion. And the more actions you can encourage someone to take, the more likely they will be engaged in the process.

This means that they will be more likely to keep participating in the competition, because they have already signed up, shared it with their friends, and so on. At a basic level, it’s relationship building and engagement. There are more touch points and to keep things fun and fair, more rewards.

We always try to give far more value than we get. So yes, I was asking people to do things for me, but with the built in gamification, they were rewarded with more points and prizes along the way.

Kickstarting the Competition

Finally, when everything was ready to go, we posted about the competition on social media and Nathan ran an Instagram LIVE as well. The obvious issue for us was that even though we have a pretty solid email database and social media following, they are largely already on our email list. So we needed to get additional reach. This is where the referral element was so strong. We could tap into our friends and followers, to tell their social circles about the competition for us.


Competitions work well and will continue to work, especially if you use gamification and rewards for each level of participation. It’s hard to beat the level of desire that it builds for your product, because they have already committed to their desire for having your product. By competing to win your product, that desire is further increased. If they don’t win, the only way to satisfy that craving is to purchase it. And hey, along the way you can share your message, brand, have fun and give them some great content and rewards.

Action Steps

I’ll leave you with a few quick bullet points to consider when you put your own competition together:

  • What can you give away? What can you give away that would incentivize email signups and add potential buyers to your list, without spending cash?
  • What tool should you use? Decide which tool you want to use for your competition. Don’t spend too long here. Do some research, make a decision and keep moving.
  • How can you maximize sharing and referrals? Is there anything else you can do to keep things moving and encourage? Perhaps offer some bonuses along the way such as a guide or ebook, offer milestones and different levels of prizes.

Resources & Links

Our promoted Facebook post

The blog post we promoted



Recommended Reading

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini

Using Competitive Psychology and Leaderboard Alternatives to Drive Engagement

Finally, after getting all those comments on my last blog post, I’m now addicted to it, so I’d love to hear from you. It helps my ego, and in return I’d like to help you.

Do you have any questions about running a competition? Ask in the comments below, and if I can’t answer, I am sure that another Foundr member or internet random will be able to help you.

In the spirit of competition, the best comment (as voted by the Foundr team based on which comment generates the most engagement) on this post by the 10th of August 2017 will receive a free copy of our new Foundr V1.0 book.

Winner will be announced in the comments section below on the 11th of August.


  • Fernando Santos

    Thank u for the info David!!

    • Anytime @disqus_kwun4WiDTr:disqus – thanks for the comment! Great to get some feedback

  • Joel

    Great post! For an E-Commerce business I don’t know how to have a giveaway that costs $0. In fact, in many cases I think the prize needs to be quite large otherwise few will be interested. How do you recommend an E-Commerce business run a competition?

    • I think even as an e-commerce business, you’ve got to create some sort of digital product or subscription as well. Difference between Blockbuster & Netflix & why one went out of business and one skyrocketed. So even if you stay e-commerce, figure out some sort of ebook, checklist or course you can create that would benefit & grow your target audience. Then you can use those digital products as giveaways. Also you can partner with other companies to bundle things. Stack up the value in creative ways & voila, you make partnerships, build relationships, provide a ton of value, help a lot of people, & grow your biz in the process.

      • 100% @barrettbogan:disqus .

        @disqus_IseXm7HURh:disqus some of the prizes we offered were coaching calls/mentoring with our CEO. So the cost was simply time.

        Ideally for ecommerce I would make the prize your product. So let’s say your product costs $20 wholesale to make and send to someone for free.

        But by giving it away in competition you get 1,000 (or even a few hundred) good leads. Then it’s a far cheaper cost of acquisition than almost any other method.

        So it might be hard to do for $0, but it should still have an ROI for a physical product if done properly. (similar to influencer marketing).

        Even better, those leads have shown that they WANT your product. You have now created an itch that they can only scratch by winning or BUYING. There’s some powerful psychology at play there.

        Hope this helps!

        • @disqus_FdzvM9rYA9:disqus this thread might benefit you as well.


          • Thanks @disqus_HpyQMEvrg1:disqus
            Just saw this (in my spam folder unfortunately). Btw, my other comment is still pending, so I’m not sure, you’ve seen my answer to your question.

            Anyway, thanks a ton and cheers!

  • Darkorbit

    Great case study!
    Running giveaways is one of the most effective viral growth methods.

    Another good methods are newsjacking and trendriding.

    • Agreed! Cheers @Darkorbit:disqus

  • So is the winner the person with the most points?

    • In this competition software yes. But we also did: 1 an entry prize for signing up to encourage people to enter as well as a random winner. That way it encourages everyone to sign up, even if they think they have no chance of winning.

  • It would be super helpful to know how many emails you created in your automation sequence & what those were at what points in the process. Is that something you could share?

    • Hey @barrettbogan:disqus ,

      For sure – do you mean emails after they had entered the competition to encourage them along?

      • ya exactly, like how many emails did you create for the whole competition? once they sign up or take their first action it triggers the first email where you gave them something in return, then what? were there future emails that were all trigged by further actions or were there some that would send when there hadn’t been action taken? Just your whole email sequence would be super helpful if you could.

        • Hey @@barrettbogan:disqus,

          I actually didn’t use very many… or as many as I would have liked simply due to time restrictions.

          We sent:
          1x on sign-up encouraging them to “keep going” for the first milestone
          1x on achieving the milesone, encouraging them to the next

          They were the only behaviour based ones. With more time I would have done more.

          And during the campaign we sent I think it was about 2x emails saying that there was X days left in the comp and they should click to share and increase their chances.

          This was the weakest part of my campaign.

          Ideally you should stay engaged, give updates, and keep whipping up the competition. I was just struggling for time and it was doing pretty well on its own so I let it slide.

  • Miloslav Jezo

    Great post, thanks for that! If you would create a detailed step-by-step online training how to run such a competition based on this case study, I would purchase it immediately.

    • David Hobson

      Cheers @miloslavjezo:disqus! Interesting feedback. I just shared with the team on slack. Appreciate the comment too.

    • Ops, wrong Comment account. Cheers @miloslavjezo:disqus

  • Neha Hobson

    What a superstar. Well written and valuable insight for business owners in pretty much any industry. ⭐️

    • Thanks @nehahobson:disqus 😊😊😊, definitely something your clients could use!

  • Wow. That’s some serious insight, thanks for that! I don’t have a product yet though, just started my blog recently and am offering a mini guide/short e-book as a freebie for subscription. Not sure, how I could implement a competition without launching a product? I like the idea of partnering up with someone though, maybe that’s the way for me to go. I’d appreciate any other tips – I really need to grow my audience 🙂

    • Thanks @disqus_FdzvM9rYA9:disqus – what industry are you in? That will help me (and others here) to come up with some more specific advice for you 🙂

  • Brilliant post Dave. I’ll be saving this one and follow your steps to the tee!

    • Thanks @jackiedamelian:disqus – always here to help if you have any Q’s. Catch you soon 🙂

  • Amazing post Dave, absolutely genius work, and epic results. I will 100% be implementing these tactics in my new business. I am in Start & Scale, and I am very much applying what Gretta is sharing, and I can’t wait to share results very soon, in our FB group. Thank you!!!

    • Thanks @michellecarden:disqus – can’t wait to see what you do with it!

      Please ask lots of questions there and especially of Gretta, she really is amazing at this. Also I’d encourage you to reach out to whatever SAAS tool you use on how to get the most out of it.
      Talking with @Jack Paxton really helped us make the most out of Vyper

      Exciting times, looking forward to the results

  • Reminder:

    “In the spirit of competition, the best comment (as voted by the Foundr team based on which comment generates the most engagement) on this post by the 10th of August 2017 will receive a free copy of our new Foundr V1.0 book.

    Winner will be announced in the comments section below on the 11th of August.”

    • Barrett Bogan – Winner

      Congratulations and thank you to Barrett Bogan for winning the mini-comments competition! Most comments, most engaged on this post which created the most discussion.

      Can you please screencap this exact comment, e-mail it to [email protected] with your postal details for your free physical hardcopy of Foundr V1.0?

  • Avi Lang

    Amazing post. i actually brought this viral leaderboard but never used it yet i got a good price for it. I love the charts you put in the post and all the juicy details. question where is this contest that you where using this on did i miss this?? would of loved to be part of it?

    • Thanks @avilang:disqus . We ran the competition during a product launch so unfortunately it’s now offline. Appreciate the comment! And yes vyper is a great tool get into it.

  • Chris Graebe

    Great work! Have kept this email as “unread”, cause I didn’t want it to disappear in my inbox. I knew it would be filled with gold. Again, solid work & thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks @chrisgraebe:disqus , appreciate the kind words. Always learning a lot from you, so can’t wait to see what you do with this!

  • Hey David – just noticed you tried to link to UpViral (which is awesome – thanks!!). However… seems you got the wrong link 😉 You’re linking to the .io version while it should be .com.

    Just checked, and I see someone else already “hijacked” the domain to redirect it to their own site.

    Would be awesome if you could update the link in your article 🙂


    Wilco (founder of UpViral).

    • Hey @emarky:disqus ,
      D’oh! My bad. Will update, thanks for the read and thanks for letting me know.


      • Thanks man, appreciate that!! Great to hear you’ve used UpViral as well!!

    • Updated @emarky:disqus – any issues, please just let me know! And feel free to add any ides/thoughts on comps as well. We used Upviral for our book launch and had some good results.

  • Barrett Bogan – Winner

    Congratulations and thank you to @barrettbogan:disqus for winning the mini-comments competition! Most comments, most engaged on this post which created the most discussion.

    Can you please screencap this exact comment, e-mail it to [email protected] with your postal details for your free physical hardcopy of Foundr V1.0?

    And Foundr Support Team, when you see this, can you please arrange for Barrett and cc to me?

    Congrats Barrett. Thank you (NB: It’s the weekend our time, so helpdesk fires up again on Monday to action this for you)

  • Alina Benny

    This is an absolute gem, @David! Say we were to replicate this with a different audience—sales leads, founders and senior sales managers at SMBs, would they actively perform these competition activities? The shares, likes, tweets etc?

  • Alina Benny

    @disqus_HpyQMEvrg1:disqus you didn’t get tagged earlier!


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