Mellow Mummy: Baby Stuff For Free: Lesson 3 – Winning Ways : Taking life as it comes...

Monday 21 December 2009

Baby Stuff For Free: Lesson 3 – Winning Ways

Entering competitions is in my blood. My Mum is a hardened 'comper' (the name given to people who enter competitions as a hobby, or even as a living) and I was trained to spot the word "WIN" from a distance, at a very young age.

When I became pregnant, it opened up a whole new realm of competitions for both me and my Mum to enter. We set to work finding all of the websites and retailers who run competitions for baby goodies in an attempt to stock up before Lara arrived. Lara is 6 months old now, and in the last 12 months my Mum and I have managed to win her bath toys, smellies, blankets, books, seats, DVDs, bibs, feeding equipment, clothes and even a video camera with which to record her finest moments! Entering (and winning) competitions is a great way of getting your hands on free baby stuff that you probably wouldn't have bought otherwise - those little luxury items that you'd love, but can't justify. And, as with most of my 'Baby Stuff for Free' lessons, entering competitions is a great way of finding out about products and retailers you'd previously never heard of.

Pic: Lara showing off one of our latest winnings, a Bambino Merino sleepsuit that absolutely rocks.

I thought I would share a few of my tips for entering and winning competitions for baby bits and pieces. I'm not going to guarantee that by following the tips below, you will be inundated with prizes... but it can't hurt to try them out, can it?

  1. You've got to be in it to win it

    If you're someone who, having read the first part of my post thinks "aaaww, you're so lucky, I never win anything" then let me tell you this... you can't win a competition you don't enter! If you enter a competition, perhaps once a year then don't be surprised if the postman isn't hammering down your door with piles of free goodies! The more competitions you enter, the more likely you are to win something. You can find lists of competitions online at comper's websites such as loquax, or in specialist publications such as my Mum's publication, The Competition Grapevine.

    Lara was two weeks late; in those two weeks of maternity leave, when I was too huge to venture out, I sat in front of my computer and entered every competition on the entire internet! Trust me, I spent every waking hour systematically working through all of the competitions listed on loquax. First the baby ones, then the family ones, then for cosmetics, holidays, kitchen gadgets, gardening gear and computer games! I must have entered perhaps 400 online competitions and what do I have to show for it? A bottle of seriously trendy shampoo, some baby massage oil, tea tree oil for my nappy bucket, a Mister Men seat, £100 of hair & beauty vouchers and a hosepipe adapter. Nice.

    If you see a competition for something you fancy, enter it; you never know, you might be the lucky winner... on the other hand, you might not!
  2. Hidden Treasures

    Entering competitions with a high success rate is an art. Not only do you have to find lots of them to enter, but you have to choose wisely. If you enter a widely publicised competition, perhaps in a well-known magazine or on a popular TV programme, your chances of winning are minuscule. The more people who know about the competition and the more people who enter it, the lower your chance of being the winner. That's not to say you shouldn't enter these competitions - someone has to win them, and who is to say that won't be you? However, if you can find one of those hard-to-reach, little-known, closes-before-most-people-have-heard-of-it type competitions, then you are much more likely to win something.

    If you are looking for competitions to win free baby stuff then the places to start are the big names such as the parenting magazines or baby clubs (Emma's Diary, Bounty etc.) which have frequent competitions for great goodies. Gurgle, thinkbaby, baby expert, askamum, practical parenting, and the baby centre are all great places to start. Once you're done there, start looking for the smaller, or less well-known baby websites such as thebabywebsite, askbaby, bambinogoodies. Then, start searching google for brands or retailers offering one-off competitions. Silver Cross and Mamas & Papas occasionally run competitions, Tomy, Philips Avent, Boots and a whole host of independent retailers and smaller publications are known to offer baby goodies as prizes.
  3. Reducing the Odds - Qualifiers, Slogans, Quizzes and Tasks

    One of the best ways to increase your chance of winning a competition is to choose ones that are hard to enter - ones where lots of other people will be put off by the effort involved! For instance, thebabywebsite, mumsnet and thinkbaby all offer prizes for things such as great product reviews, contributions to their forums (its that word again... one day I really will look up the word ending), blog entries and twitter/facebook involvement. Some websites such as askamum and Gurgle tend to run competitions that feature a question whose answer can be found elsewhere on the website... they're never very taxing, but that extra few seconds of effort is enough to put off many potential entrants.

    Even more likely to reduce the number of entrants is the requirement to make a purchase to enter the competition. Unless you're a hardcore comper like my Mum, its' a bit silly to buy something JUST because it has a competition on it... but if you really want that prize, then maybe its worth it? Remember, there will only be a limited number of people who have made the purchase, and of those, some will never bother, or some will forget to enter the competition - improving your chances of a win.

    And then there is the piece de resistance of the competition world - the slogan competition. You know the thing... complete the following sentence in no more than 16 words "I'd like to win a complete set of nursery furniture with Jeff's Taste-ee Jam because...". Slogan writing is not a skill I've ever perfected, and to be honest, there are not many baby-related slogan comps around but slogan competitions offer the most impressive prizes, and the greatest chance of a win. Specialist comper publications such as The Competition Grapevine or Compers News can point you in the direction of a whole host of slogan competitions, and can show you examples of prize-winning slogans and occasionally tips on how to pen a sure-fire winner!
  4. Social Media

    My final tip is to use social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Many retailers both big and small now have a social media presence in order to help promote their wares.

    Twitter competitions usually involve retweeting a phrase/link or following a specific user. On my very first day on Twitter I won Estee Lauder goodies worth £85 from @DebenhamsRetail... okay so its not baby stuff, but I couldn't resist.

    Facebook competitions usually involve becoming a fan of a brand, posting a comment or liking a status.

    Twitter is also a great place to discover smaller, more relevant baby competitions. A number of mummy bloggers run competitions on behalf of baby brands they support and they promote their competitions through their tweets.

There are a whole host of competitions out there, waiting to be entered. If you are interested in finding out more about entering competitions, not just for baby stuff, but for holidays, kitchen gadgets, smellies, books, CDs, DVDs and a whole lot more, then take a look at the magazines/journals mentioned in this article.

Coming soon...
Lesson 4 - Offer Your Views
Lesson 5 - Great Ways to Get Something for Nothing

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