Win a Free Month in Ecuador! What International Living’s Contest Teaches Us About Portable Careers

park in Cuenca, EcuadorInternational Living has just announced something absolutely brilliant.

They are offering an all-expense-paid month in Cuenca, Ecuador for one lucky winner (or couple).

I wanted to let you all know about it because, if Ecuador’s a country you’re considering, you may want to enter. Heck, I’m even thinking about it!

Whatever your feelings about International Living (and if you’ve been reading Future Expats for a while you know I have some reservations about them), they are great at marketing and this contest is a real marketing winner.

Here’s the e-mail they sent out to kick off the contest.

“We’re looking for someone to spend a month in the world’s top retirement haven—on us.

“If you like the idea of relaxing in a spring-like climate, exploring a colonial University city, making new and interesting friends from all over the world, trying new things and maybe even reporting about your adventures…this could be for you.

“You don’t need any writing experience but you should be willing to let us know how you’re getting on in your new home overseas.

“Apart from the tasks I mentioned above, you must also be willing to go to concerts, attend festivals, eat out at great restaurants and any other fun activity you can think of.

“We want to send this explorer (or a couple) to Cuenca, Ecuador to experience first-hand the life we report about regularly in this e-letter and your magazine. We’ll pay the round-trip airfare, your apartment rental, and a generous expenses allowance.

Apply here. (Applications close in six weeks.)”

The contest contains some valuable lessons for those of us pursuing portable careers. Let’s take a look.

What Will it Cost?

One lucky winner will have a chance to test-drive life in a desirable and inexpensive overseas retirement haven. That’s a very appealing reward!

I’m just guessing at what this will cost the company. They’re offering airfare from the US or Canada, an apartment rental, and $1,500 spending money for living and entertainment expenses. They don’t specify what kind of apartment they’ll provide, but let’s assume for a moment that it’s very high end.

Estimated Cash Value of Prize: $5,000 (and possibly a lot less)

What Will They Gain?

Now let’s look at what they’re likely to get from that $5,000 expense.

  1. Increased signups. They expect you to subscribe to their daily e-letter, and provide three opportunities to do so on the contest page
  2. An ongoing “reality” experience
  3. Increased magazine subscriptions
  4. Increased sales of their Ecuador publications
  5. Increased attendance at conferences and special events
  6. More high-end sales

Do you think they’ll make back their $5,000? You betcha! Many times over, I’m sure.

Increased E-Letter Signups

Why is this significant? Well, if you know anything about marketing, especially online marketing, you know that you want to get as many people as you can into your marketing funnel, as quickly as possible.

Your marketing funnel is the series of steps a reader takes before becoming a buyer. It’s a funnel because more people enter at the top than flow through to the bottom. You can find out a lot more about it by searching for “sales funnel.” Here’s a quick blog by Seth Godin about it.

The free e-letter (IL calls it the Daily Postcard) is the first step in the funnel. People who sign up for it are self-identifying themselves as future customers. They’re raising their virtual hands and saying, “I’m more interested in what you offer than the average person is.”

IL spends a lot of money attracting people to its Daily Postcards through online advertising. Do you think offering an incentive like a free month abroad will improve their advertising results? Um, yeah. . .

An Ongoing “Reality” Experience

You can bet that IL will be promoting the contest every step of the way. From directing readers to view the video entries, to writing about the contestants, to showing video of the winners and writing about them, they’ll be using this contest for all the traction they can muster.

Once the winner goes to Ecuador, there will be tons of articles, reviews, videos, interviews, you name it.

And they’ll attract more people into their sales funnel. What happens then?

Increased Magazine Subscriptions

International Living magazine is the company’s first “sale” item in their sales funnel. They rely on converting a certain percentage of their Daily Postcards signups into paid subscriptions. With an annual price of $49, the magazine is their flagship product.

The increased Daily Postcard readership will convert to an increased subscriber base, and they’ll probably see a better conversion rate during the contest period. So if one out of ten Daily Postcard readers currently buys a subscription, I would expect that number to go to one out of seven or eight.

Increased Sales of their Ecuador Publications

As greater numbers of readers get caught up in the contest excitement, more of them will want to research Ecuador as an overseas home for themselves. Sales of Ecuador, the Owners Manual and other publications will skyrocket.

Increased Attendance at Conferences

I’m quite sure the majority of IL’s conference attendees are people who subscribe to their magazine. As magazine subscriptions increase, so does the pool of prospective attendees. (Remember that sales funnel we talked about earlier.)

Conferences are a much higher-ticket item than the magazine, and readers who attend conferences are far more likely to purchase the really high-ticket items.

The Takeaway for your Portable Career

Whatever portable career you develop for yourself as an untethered expat, you’ll be dealing with a sales funnel in some form or another. This contest can serve as a model for you of the impact a well executed campaign can have on your bottom line.

Oh — and in the interests of full disclosure vis a vis my portable career — the links above to the magazine and the Ecuador book are affiliate links. If you click on them and complete a purchase, I’ll earn a small commission.

So, who’s going to try for a free month in Cuenca?


  1. Well written, Susanna. I think you’re right on as far as them building their sales funnel. But also, if you expect a month in Ecuador for free, then you should at least be in their sales funnel. I’m curious to see how this works out for them.

    • I’m interested in watching it, too 🙂 They’re not requiring people to be in their sales funnel as far as I can see, but on the info page about the contest they provide three different places to sign up for their Daily Postcards, so they’re definitely encouraging it!

  2. Hi Susanna, it looks an interesting competition and will significantly boost their newsletter – with people interested in Ecuador. will be interesting to watch how this plays out and good luck if you entered.

  3. This contest intrigues me, although I probably won’t apply because I abhor IL and their sales tactics. However, if I applied, I would be sure to do a 3 minute Youtube video on the importance of cultural diversity, cultural understanding, and cultural immersion. They probably wouldn’t even post my Youtube video, but hmmmm…maybe I can sneak in my opinions subtly. Quien sabe? Anyway, you are right on about their marketing tactics. Thanks for your honest opinions.

    • Thanks, Sarah and Debbie. It will certainly be interesting to see it unfold. If you figure out a way to sneak in your not-so-subtle opinions, Debbie, let me know. I’d love to see it! 🙂

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