March 10, 2011 -- People who enter -- and win -- a lot of sweepstakes say it's a combination of luck, persistence and, believe it or not, strategy. Here are several low-tech and high-tech tips so you, too, can become a winner.
Better odds with snail mail. Because so many sweepstakes are moving online, old-fashioned snail mail contests are seeing fewer entries. Anytime there are fewer entries, you have better odds.
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Follow the rules exactly. Don't get disqualified for technical mistakes. Pay scrupulous attention to the rules. For example, if the contest requires an index card, don't send a piece of paper. If you must use a number 10 envelope, don't send a smaller one.
Send a thank you note. When you win a contest, write the sponsor and the administrator thank you notes to show your appreciation. You want them to feel that their marketing is working and to create MORE sweepstakes. And you want to be on their list for future contests and offers.
Enter skills contests. You want to enter contests that have less competition. Fewer people enter contests that require a skill like a recipe or an essay, so if you possess these talents, you will have better odds.
Websites compile sweepstakes. These sites compile major sweepstakes, have forums where sweepers trade tips, and offer sweepstakes entry merchandise like envelopes and software.
Try Twitter, Facebook, blog contests. More and more sweepstakes are available on Facebook, blogs and Twitter. Because not everybody participates with these online forums -- and because the announcements can come and go awfully fast -- you may have a better chance of winning.
Use form-filler software. Sweepers swear by software that fills in your name, address and so on with the click of a mouse. Two popular programs are Roboform and Autofill. Along similar lines, the "Shortkeys" program lets you create macros to easily fill in information you are often required to enter. Another shortcut is to use the preprogrammed settings on your mouse for single-click maneuvers.
Enter Contests With Multiple Prizes
Choose Contests With Better Odds
Anytime there will be more prizes or fewer odds, that is a sweepstakes to try for. For example, some contests offer a week-long trip for first prize but a weekend for second, and so on. Others are limited to alumni, or people in your state or dog owners, etc.
Enter Local, Lesser-Known Sweepstakes
Local sweepstakes are often better opportunities because fewer people enter. Avoid entering heavily advertised sweepstakes or, at least, don't get your hopes up.
Listen to the Radio
Radio stations are still a big source of contests. The more stations you listen to, the more contests you will hear of. Or check out local radio station websites.
Dedicated sweepers enter as many as 300 a day, 9,000 a month -- and then win maybe five things. It's a numbers game. The more you plan, the more chances to win.
Enter as Often as Allowed
Some contests allow you to enter dozens of times daily. Others limit you to a single entry during the entire sweepstakes period. Read the rules. If you can only enter once and you are heavy into sweepstakes, you should keep a log of what contests you have entered so you don't repeat any. On the other hand, if a contest allows multiple entries and you really want the prize, flood them with tries.
Time Your Entries
Sweepstakes take place for set time periods, often about a month. Some sweepstakes aficionados swear that there is an advantage to entering either at the very beginning or very end of sweepstakes.
Enter to Win Trips With No Transportation
Most people aren't interested in winning a hotel stay without plane tickets to get there, so your chances of winning are better if fewer people participate. Some sweepers do this if the hotel is driving distance from their home. Or if they hope to win airline tickets through ANOTHER contest.
Envision Your Win
OK, this is kind of new age, but successful sweepstakes entrants say they think positive and imagine that they are going to win. If they don't, they still had the pleasure of fantasizing about a trip or car or other prize.
Trust But Verify
Sweepstakes notices often say that you "may" have won a prize. Yes, that language used to be used to get people to buy magazines and such, but it also is often used because the sponsor wants to make sure you are not disqualified for some reason. So if all else seems legit, call the sponsor to confirm your win. If somebody calls YOU to say you've won something, get their name, number, company name and address so you can call back to verify.
Swap Sweepstakes Wins
Winnings are taxable, so you want to make good use of them. One idea is if you win something you don't want, you can sell it or swap it.