After building a program I recommend soliciting feedback from one or two invested parties, if you can find them.

It's incredibly helpful even if they're not familiar with your program. The questions that come up from seeing the applicant side of things are hard to consider when you've been focused on the admin side. 

I just finished speaking with a client that runs a "Program Testing Contest" each year before relaunching their actual contest program. Once the program has been updated the admin sends the direct to program link with info on what to look out for and test while submitting entries into the program. The deal is sweetened with the chance to win a gift card for participating!

They've been doing this for years with great results! Have any thoughts on using such a strategy to prepare for a program launch?

Sample Launch Email the admin was kind enough to share:

Esteemed colleagues:

Please assist us by testing the operation of the photo contest sites for Program Name. Please do so by February 12; those contests will open once the March/April editions of the magazines begin arriving in homes around February 20.

To access the site, go to URL. That should take you directly to the hosted page. If it doesn’t, please make a note of it to me in an email (see below) and use this link instead: Direct URL.

At the site, please poke around the various pages and let me know if you detect any typos and/or instructions that are unclear or are out of date by referencing an earlier contest. On the rules page, please try links in the prize section to ensure that they go to the right place and open in new screens. There are email links at the bottom of each FAQ page and each page of the entry process; please use one of those to make your comments.

Then please attempt an entry. If you did this before, the system might remember you. See me if you encounter any difficulties. It would be very helpful if you entered at least one of the contests from your home computer. I’m told that it’s also possible to do this by cellphone, so try that if you’re so inclined.

Upload any photo that you’d like, but for photos that adhere to the contest parameters for subject matter in the rules, I will conduct an internal contest and offer minor prizes of gift cards to the winners’ preferred caffeine provider and/or bookstore. Deadline is 5 p.m. on February 12. As in the actual contests, the decision of the judge is final.