Everything I Learned From Running a Free Online Challenge

If you come here often or follow me on social media, you no doubt noticed the emails, Facebook posts, and tweets that started in late August talking about my Famous in Five Challenge. I had never created a challenge before, but I had a hunch that A) my community would really love it and B) it would help me sell my signature program, Creating Fame. (Remember, the goal of your content marketing is to lead to a sale!)

Like most new strategies, creating and coordinating the Famous in Five Challenge was quite the undertaking, but it turned out to be a huge success.

Since the Challenge reached so many people, I wanted to share with you exactly how the Challenge worked as a marketing tool. Below I’ll explain exactly what the Challenge was, how many people participated, how it affected my Creating Fame sales, what I loved about it, and what just didn’t work out too well. Plus I’ll answer the question I’m still getting emails about: Are you going to open up the Famous in Five Challenge again soon?

Here comes the complete breakdown of the Famous in Five Challenge:

LKR coaching

What was the Famous in Five Challenge about anyway?

The Famous in Five Challenge was a 5-day challenge encouraging you to take the first steps to becoming business famous. My flagship program Creating Fame is an in-depth look at how to go from small-fry-ville to recognized as the go-to expert in your field. The Challenge is like a compact and action-packed Creating Fame, designed to get you to see results in literally 5 days.

What was the point?

I wanted to give my community a taste of Creating Fame before asking them to open their wallets. It’s one of the biggest concerns people have before signing up: can this kind of program actually work for my business? We showed how just a few elements of the Creating Fame strategy can lead to legitimate results, and quickly too! My theory was that if more people saw the effects Creating Fame could have on their business, they’d be more likely to enroll in the program.

How did the challenge work?

My team and I created emails, videos, and worksheets. For each day of the five-day challenge, you’d receive an email from me addressing a different topic, usually something that holds small business owners back from going out and claiming their big fame. (It’s really easy to put major obstacles in your own path – sound familiar?) In the email was a link to that day’s page on the Famous in Five site where the first thing you’d see was a video. In each video, I explained the day’s challenge, giving very explicit instructions and addressing any pitfalls you might come across during the task. On the same page as the video were links to download that day’s worksheet, as well as other resource material.

Each day’s task involved completing the worksheet and then reporting back on your progress by leaving a comment on the day’s page (the same one with the video and the worksheet download). If you headed to the day’s page in the middle of the day, for example, you’d see the video, the links to the worksheets, but also comments left by people who had already completed that task for the day. These comments were overwhelmingly positive and acted as a motivator for anyone who was struggling with the task.

How did you promote the Challenge?

We got the word out about the Famous in Five Challenge using a lot of the standard tools in our marketing shed, but we also tried some new ways to get people pumped up about it. We sent out a few emails to our entire list, announcing the challenge and explaining the benefits. I made some promotional videos that drove people to using social media.

We asked Ann Harris, a regular guest blogger on our site, to “live blog” her Famous in Five Challenge experience. So she wrote an intro post and then 5 more about each of the days’ tasks, her feelings about it and any difficulties she ran into for each assignment.

Finally, we ran Facebook ads to our fans and friends of our fans, using my favorite kind of Facebook ad, the promoted page post (get the promoted page post ad tutorial here).

What was the response like?

AMAZING. In our initial beta run, we had over 3,200 people signed up, and nearly 600 comments total across the 5 different days. As a result, our list grew by about 1000 people. (The rest of that 3,000 were people who were already on our email list.)

We were really thrilled about the enthusiasm of the people who were going through the challenge. Even better, though, were the emails we received in the few days after the challenge from people who had seen amazing results from the work they did, like guest posting and interview opportunities! They couldn’t believe how easy it had been, and that they hadn’t been doing this sooner.

Here’s some of the data that we analyzed about participant engagement in the Famous in Five Challenge:

FIF Postmortem Data

FIF Postmortem Data 2

FIF Postmortem Data 3

Copy of FIF Postmortem Data (2)

And here’s a bit more in-depth info about where all these sign-ups came from, plus the cost of the sign-ups generated by Facebook Ads:

FIF Postmortem Data 5

FIF Postmortem Data

And what was the impact on sales?

Creating Fame stopwatch

The Famous in Five Challenge had an incredible impact on the Creating Fame sales. I decided that a great way to celebrate the end of the Famous in Five and the opening of Creating Fame enrollment would be by throwing a live online party. It was a bit tricky considering I was on the other side of the globe in Thailand (with some touch-and-go internet to boot), but we were able to make it happen. Even though the online party started half an hour late, over 500 people joined in at some point in the event, and we offered a great deal to those who were there live.

47% of the Creating Fame sales we made in this enrollment period came from that one offer, and 76% of the people who enrolled in Creating Fame this time around had participated in the Famous in Five Challenge.

So what is it that made the Challenge such a success?

Here are the things I think most contributed to the success of the Famous in Five Challenge:

  • The content of the challenge provided the participants with an accurate taste of the actual Creating Fame program and how effective it can be. It was a great way to “try before you buy.”

  • The videos and worksheets were top-notch. They were filled with extremely detailed instructions so we literally got zero emails asking for clarification on any of the tasks. In the end, they helped people make small steps toward big goals.

  • The emails we sent out on each day of the Challenge were chock full of compelling content, which we think really encouraged people to sign in and take part in the Challenge day after day.

  • In the live event at the end of the challenge, I got to address a lot of the concerns people have over making such a big investment in their business. I was also able to share some really killer selling points of the program, namely the tight-knit and extremely active community within the Creating Fame Facebook group.

  • A big chunk of the live event consisted of a Q&A session. When people can get some free coaching out of you by having their questions answered, you can help them a lot further along the Know-Like-Trust process that’s essential to selling more expensive products and services.

  • We were able to set up an auto-login feature for the Challenge website. Easy access for users means more engagement, every time.

  • The special offer during the live event was crucial to driving so many sales. People love a great deal, and they need a deadline to take action!

Was there anything you weren’t so thrilled about?

Honestly, the Challenge went so well that it was hard to pick out its flaws. There was a snafu with some Facebook ads going live before all the pieces were in place to start processing sign-ups. Some people signed up early on Monday August 19 but didn’t receive any confirmation or materials since their names were incorrectly tagged inside our system. Also related to the sign-up process, we noticed was that by not closing enrollment as soon as Day 5 was over, we had some difficulty managing some of the sign-ups that kept rolling in.

One thing we expected to have more of an impact was the live blogging series. We knew these blog posts weren’t going to get the usual numbers of shares or engagement on social media, but we were surprised to see that only about 3.45% of the Challenge sign-ups came from those blog posts. Considering the coordination of these posts and the manpower it required on both sides, I’m not convinced that this part of the marketing plan is something I’d repeat in the future.

What were your biggest take-aways?

Here are the biggest things my team and I learned from running this challenge:

  1. There’s no substitute for high-quality content.

  2. Keep it fun! Even though there was a lot of work involved we keep the Challenge upbeat and light, and invited everyone to a virtual party at the end instead of the usual informational webinar.

  3. A great offer with a deadline works every time – this is sales 101 but sometimes we make things too complicated!

What comes next?

If you’ve been reading my stuff you probably already know that one of my biggest pieces of advice is to “put it on repeat” – that is, when you find a winner, create a system to implement it over and over again. So that’s step two of the Challenge – now that it’s proven itself to be a success we’re creating a system for putting it on repeat. With a Challenge like this you can either set it up to start automatically when someone signs up, or you can just run it over and over again.

So if you didn’t get a chance to get in on it, don’t despair – you’ll be seeing it again soon!

Did you participate in the Famous in Five Challenge? Got any feedback for us on how we could improve it going forward? If you share with the group in the comments below, I would REALLY appreciate it, and someone somewhere will almost definitely raise a glass to you (maybe it’ll be a symbolic glass, but still). :)

Need more actionable advice?
Get your FREE weekly marketing “to-do” list
straight to your inbox every Wednesday:
About Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who gives businesses of all sizes the tools they need to make their mark on the web. She is the creator of the social media scheduling software Edgar, as well as social media marketing web courses like Creating Fame and Social Brilliant.


  1. You inspire me to run every aspect of my business fun, effectiveness and automation whenever possible.



  2. I really enjoyed the challenge, especially since it’s something I can go back to and repeat on my own. Five days felt like the perfect length, and even though there might have been a day when I didn’t finish all of my tasks, I didn’t feel behind everyone else.

    It’s great that you included some metrics on Creating Fame conversions. Trying to convince clients to give away valuable content can sometimes be a hard sell. Showing them actual numbers and an example of how it can pay off in the long run can go a long way in bringing them around!

  3. Hi Laura,

    I loved your FIF Challenge, and you offered some REAL things in a free program. It’s valuable for everyone who went through the challenge and did the exercises.

    However, I have one little suggestion, if you don’t mind. And I think that is also probably why you see a decline in the number of video watched and comments left as the days progress. It would be nice, and most likely, good for business, if you can actually maintain the same level of engagement over the 5 days, instead of seeing it decline, right?

    The reason, I think, and from my own experience in doing the challenge is that, the task to complete the challenge gets harder as the days progress. Especially for day 4 and 5, I think it takes a lot of time, energy and thoughts to figure out what a blog’s audience are, what they care about, what they worry about, what make them click etc.

    Of course, it is a challenge, and we should work hard to claim our fame. But I’m thinking perhaps many of the people who signed up for the challenge either have another full-time job, or are quite occupied by their business, kids etc. And may not have enough time in a day to finish this one particular day’s challenge. Thus putting them off taking further action or continuing with the challenge.

    Maybe that’s why the engagement did not hold steady over the 5 days?

    Just my thoughts. I understand it is a challenge, and you want to make people to do the work, and get the results. Perhaps there is still something that can be improved upon to keep up the engagement. :)

    Hope you don’t mind the long comment, Laura.

  4. Laura,

    A thought suddenly came to my mind about why the live blog method wasn’t as effective as you expected. I think it doesn’t really align with the feel that the FIF created. Let me see if I can explain what I mean.

    The FIF challenge gave a sense of urgency, or immediacy. The building up of anticipation to the start of the challenge and the daily emails and videos, and you urging people to do it TODAY, most likely made people feel that they should start from Day 1. That’s why your sign-ups are huge prior to Day 1 and dropped by 3/4 on Day 1, another 2/3 on Day 2 and etc. People feel they already missed the boat after two days, or it’d be too late or too hard to enroll, and even if they did, they probably didn’t engage.

    So it is directly reflected in the conversion rate of the live blog posts. The posts did not align with the sense of immediacy or urgency in the emails leading up to the challenge, or the “do it now” message you’re giving people in the videos. It’s more like a review. People read it, and say “good on you”, but then it didn’t encourage them to take action now, but instead perhaps make people think they already missed the train, or they will sign up next time it runs. Do you see what I mean?

    If your blog gets a lot of visitors, perhaps still give the blogging strategy a go the next time, but do it slightly differently? Perhaps try to use it to help building up the anticipation to the challenge prior to the start, make it more aligned with the rest of the tools you used.

    Just a thought. Let me know what you think :)


    • I think you are dead on Lucy – it was important to get signed up early so that you could start from the beginning, yet clearly anyone signing up from the blog posts wasn’t able to do that. Thanks for this and your other comment, they are both really insightful and helpful!