Case Study: How I generated 2,178 subscribers in 14 days with a tiny $60 investment

Edit for 2016: This post was written back in November 2014 but the content is updated and strategy is current to today.


I have a confession to make.

Since starting and shifting focus onto growing, I have put my wellness blog (also a business) to the sidelines (edit: the blog has been sold in 2015). Although the blog has been consistently earning me a nice part-time income, I’ve started taking it for granted and focusing on it less and less. Then I was speaking with my mentor in October and she made me realize how silly it was to just put a “high traffic” blog like this to the side and not maximize its profitability more than before.

What can I say, I like a challenge. I like to make new things happen (with a bang) and grow new communities, brainstorm and create new projects and product ideas, etc…. So I threw myself into to grow it (and have done so successfully so far: reaching 1.5k subscribers in 4 months without any major campaign launches, minimum money spent on advertising and zero affiliates or joint ventures). Truth be told – as much as I enjoy wellness as an personal interest, I know it is not a field I can be focused on entirely as a career. I love marketing and entrepreneurship-related topics more.

But regardless, I like using Sensual Appeal as a guinea pig. So, I decided to dive into more experiments and implementation focused around even more community growth around the brand and monetization of the community on an even larger scale.

One of the best ways to get more money for Sensual Appeal’s business model is to get exposure to more people and then to make offers to more people. That means, the list had to grow.

Although I had plenty of list generating things happening on the site already, we wanted to do an actual time-bound campaign to bump that number up dramatically. We decided to do that with a focused giveaway.

My goal was to hit 1,000 extra subscribers for the duration of the giveaway without spending a lot of money on ads. I ran the giveaway for 16 days. The results were astonishing.

Creation of the ‘Fall Favorites Giveaway’

What is Sensual Appeal? It is a healthy living food blog for women, where everything is “delicious, mindful, and happy” and it was created on the premise that a healthy happy life should be rooted in self-love and real foods, not deprivation.

I launched the “Fall Favorites Giveaway” on November 1, 2014 with the sole purpose of gaining more email subscribers for my newsletter. You can view the post right here. I made sure to outline exactly what was included in the giveaway in terms of the products that would be included in the prize and give proper credit as well as link backs to the brands who participated.

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The blog post featured everything a potential user would need to know about the giveaway EXCEPT how to enter to win. That part was separate. I hosted the actual giveaway sign up on a landing page that was focused on getting sign ups with only one way of getting the entry – leaving your email address.

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The whole process was managed by a fabulous WordPress plugin called KingSumo Giveaways created by Noah Kagan’s team over at AppSumo. By the way, if you don’t know what AppSumo is, you need to get on there, like, right now. They have the best apps, plugins, and bundles for growing a business online. They also regularly have some great deals on their products that you can get on steep discounts.

After a sign up in the giveaway, each entry had to be confirmed through an email. This prevented using of fake emails or unsolicited sign ups. Once the user confirmed their entry, they were then imported into my Mailchimp list automatically.

Permission marketing, people! Always ask for confirmation, don’t just add people to the list randomly – that’s how spam gets reported. And you don’t want the people freaking out later on, forgetting who you are or how they got on the list and reporting you as abuse. It’s partly how I got my first list of 3k subscribers completely erased in Mailchimp almost 2 years ago, but that’s another topic for another day. You live and you learn.

The giveaway itself was valued at over $400, available only to people in the US (sponsors’ rules) and included prizes from brands such as Peanut Butter & Co, Artisana, KIND bar, and more, including some bloggers and health coaches.


A crucial element to easier success – “the viral component”

A big part of why I went with KingSumo was their viral component. Each contestant was able to then share their unique URL with their friends to get extra entries in the giveaway. That’s a win-win for the contestant and their friends AND me.

More entries per contestant = more chances to win.

More people signing up = more subscribers.

This is part of the reason why the giveaway blew up the way it did and it is also a part of the reason why the previous 30 giveaways I have run in the past (yes, I have done a lot of giveaways) weren’t as successful in generating as amazing of results as this one did.



I did not intend to do heavy promotion of the giveaway mostly because Sensual Appeal is still my sidelines business. I love it but the initial passion has dissolved over the years. So I wasn’t planning on spending a ton of time or money on it. If it worked, great. If it didn’t, also great. I’d learn something new.

The promotion of the giveaway can be gathered into two buckets:

  • social media
  • website

I promoted the post everywhere I normally promote on social media. I had a Twitter plan and scheduled tweets that included some outreach on both my Twitter accounts. I shared it in a few Facebook groups where some people were hanging out that might be interested. I also relied on some of the brands’ promotion support in the form of tweets to bring in extra traffic. Lastly, I let my current tribe know about the giveaway and due to the viral component, it gave my current readers more of a reason to share my site with their friends.

Secondly, the website played a big part of the promotion. Since I get about 100k pageviews per month on Sensual Appeal, I knew I had to leverage that traffic and direct it toward the giveaway. I did that by having the initial blog post written on the blog so that my RSS subscribers were also able to see it, as well as including notices and scroll-triggered pop-ins strategically placed throughout the site.


Results of the ‘Fall Favorites Giveaway’

Now, we get into some fun stuff..

For this giveaway, I got a total of 2,178 contestants and a total of 7779 entries. People could get extra points for referring someone else to sign up for the giveaway as well so clearly plenty of people did that. That grew my list from a little over 1k to 3.3k in less than 16 days. Pretty impressive, right?


Cost per lead:

Now, we have to think about costs.. you might be thinking.. man, she had to spent a lot of money on advertising for this one, right? Not quite. In fact, I initially only spent $50 on a Facebook ad for this. Then I added $10 extra because I saw how effective it was and wanted to have it carry through till the end with a bang. That’s $60 total.

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That comes out to paying a little over $0.02 per lead. Obviously, not every single person came directly from the ad but when you think about the monetary investment in this campaign, per lead… that’s literally what it comes out to.

WHEN HAVE YOU EVER PAID SO LITTLE PER LEAD?! Two freaking cents! Well, if you have, then awesome, kudos, but I haven’t so I was beyond happy.

Social Media Community Growth:

Now let’s look at social media growth that happened due to the campaign:

  • New Facebook Likes: 560
  • New Twitter Followers: 534

Social Media Engagement:

Signing up is one thing but was the engagement genuine? Were people actually engaged and interacting with my brand on social media? Oh, indeed they were. Here’s a nice look (and an interesting number) as to how many tweets I got during that period.

  • Tweets: 999
  • Retweets: 53

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I don’t know if it’s just capped at 999 or if that’s the actual number. Regardless, it’s a lot.



There are a few things you can conclude from this successful-ass campaign that can help you when creating a giveaway campaign of your own:

  1. You don’t need to spend a shitload of money to get awesome results. The most important thing is the plan of action, having an awesome prize that people actually would LOVE to get, and a way to encourage the people who are indeed interested to do the heavy lifting (the promotion itself) for you.
  2. You don’t need to be a graphic designer or spend money on any great designs. You saw the landing page and the blog post. It’s not beautiful. I spent maybe 10 minutes putting that together. Not rocket science.
  3. Obviously, not everyone will stay on the list that got on the list. There will ALWAYS be people who only sign up so they can win and then unsubscribe. That’s fine, let them go. You job is to make sure your prize is related to what you already put out and make the stay enticing enough for them to want to stick around after all.

Wanna create viral giveaways too?

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