20 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Contest Vendor
Before hiring a contest vendor you should ask lots of questions. Not all vendors are created equal. Some may be technically proficient but lack legal expertise. Some have the legal credentials but can’t build a web site or do registration and bonding.
- How well do they know sweepstakes law and advertising and mobile?
A top notch promotional marketing agency is well versed in national and international laws that pertain to promotions, sweepstakes and contests. They should also have legal representation and know social, mobile and advertising laws and regulations. If they can’t explain the differences between sweepstakes and contests, or if they don’t know what states require registration then move along to another vendor.
- Do they have samples of past work?
Ask about those work samples. Most contest vendors will show you images of past work, but the good promotional marketers will also be able to explain what made every project unique and what made it successful.
- Have they ever been involved in a lawsuit that involved a promotion they ran, and do they have insurance that offers indemnification protection?
You should expect some level of protection for the work a contest vendor does. Ask if they have insurance and what their coverage is. If named in a lawsuit ask what the outcome was for them and for their client.
- Can they handle registration and bonding?
- How do they handle winner notifications?
Winner notification does not mean you call people and simply say “You Won!” There are affidavits and tax forms to be considered. Ask about the winner notification process and how they verify eligibility of winners. If they don’t have a process then you might be in trouble if you use them.
- Who is actually doing the work?
Don’t be conned into thinking a salesperson who makes all the promises will actually do the work. Ask to see an organizational chart or to meet the person you will actually work with on a day to day basis. Does that person have the same level of understanding of promotions as your sales person? And how long have they been doing their job? Look for experience at the day to day level to ensure you are getting someone who can handle your project once it starts.
- What digital experience do they have and what do they mean when they say “custom”?
Make sure if you are looking to a contest vendor to build a web site for your contest that they are technically proficient. If they promise a custom build of a site find out what that means. Some “custom” web sites are full sites with URL management, security, creative, copy, and unique data or survey questions that you design – and some are really just a template with one or two options in color or font to make it yours. Ask to see an example of a few custom designs to makes sure the contest vendors idea of custom isn’t really the same cookie cutter promo with a different color background for each contest. And while you are checking out the customization make sure their other sites work!
- What are their data security procedures and policies?
Ask to see a security policy. Make sure it meets or exceeds the standards your own company uses.
- Where do they host the data they collect on your behalf?
Does the hosting facility offer 24/7 support and is it in a place where your company is comfortable having data stored – or even where it can legally be stored? Make sure you do your homework on this one or what seems like a great idea to save money could end up being a disaster.
- What are their privacy policies?
- Do they have a business continuity plan?
Ask to see what written plan they have in case of emergency. If an earthquake or hurricane hits who do you call to reach them? If they haven’t thought about it already then think long and hard about using them!
- What fraud prevention measures do they have in place?
Paying for votes or entering using fake email addresses is on the rise. What safeguards do they use to prevent fraud? And what do they do if they catch someone cheating?
- What types of analytics and reporting do they offer?
Will you get weekly reports on the number of entries and traffic to your contest web site? Reports at the end? No reports? Make sure the vendor can give you what you need to track success.
- Will they be able to track your ads?
Don’t ask this question too late. Make sure your vendor can add tracking tags for the ad buy you have invested in already.
- Do they have experience with judging and moderating content and contest entries?
Ask for references on this one. Some vendors claim they can moderate and judge entries but in practice you end up using a poorly built one size fits all tool (that rarely fits any promotion well) and doing it yourself. Another thing we have seen is tools that vendors build that only allow one judge to score entries at a time. This is not helpful if you have thousands of entries and need to judge lots of entries with multiple judges. Make sure you know how the vendor’s judging process works and that it is a good fit for your promotion.
- What kind of quality assurance do they do?
Are they doing testing on multiple browser and platforms? If they are printing collateral or game cards do they check them and have a secure seeding process? If they can’t tell you how the process works then it probably doesn’t work at all.
- Do they have any data validation procedures for data they collect on your behalf?
Can they verify formatting of emails and zip codes as forms are completed? Can they tell a valid address from an invalid one? Ask before you go live and end up with thousands of unusable leads because the form allowed consumers to put in bad emails.
- What is the process for change orders?
Can you make changes and how much do they cost? This is how many vendors make their money so watch out for this one!
- How well do they understand the social media platform guidelines for contests?
ALL social media platforms have promotion guidelines. Ask if they know what they are and if they can’t rattle off what you can and can’t do on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram then find another vendor.
- Are you really getting what you pay for?
We hear clients complain all the time that they get widely varied bids from different vendors for the same proposal. You have to ask questions to make sure you compare apples to apples with these bids. And as the old adage goes, “You get what you pay for.”
When you finally decide who you want to trust your next promotion to, seal the deal with a signed statement of work that details EXACTLY what work you are expecting from your contest vendor.
And here is a hint: Marden-Kane can answer all of these questions for you, and knows their stuff. Call us for your next promotion and you get experience (our average employee has 17 years experience in the field and 13 years with Marden-Kane!), security, protection and peace of mind that your next contest will be run efficiently, legally and smoothly!
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