By Rieva Lesonsky
Everyone likes to win. And one good way to win over customers is by holding a contest. It’s one of the easiest marketing tools small business owners can use to draw attention to your business by creating excitement and participation for your current customers and building buzz that attracts new customers. Contests don’t have to be costly to put on, so don’t worry—you won’t need to tap your business line of credit to stage one.
As you design your contest, think about the contests you have entered, and what has bothered you about the application process. Are you asking too many questions or making people fill in too many blank places on the form? If you ask people to spend too much time entering your contest, you’re not going to get many entries. Make your contest easy to understand and easy to enter.
Whatever you do, don’t be boring—make the contest fun to enter. Since pretty much everyone has access to a video camera these days, why not have your contestants turn in a short video for their entry? Try to bring out their creativity by asking them to name your new product or give their best tips for something related to your business. A decorator could ask for the best tips for refreshing a home’s appeal; a personal trainer could ask contestants how they motivate themselves to exercise. Being creative will also get more attention from the media such as the local newspaper, radio station and bloggers.
Decide what the prize will be early on, because that can guide the whole theme of the contest. The prize can be as elaborate or simple as you want and whatever you have the time and money to invest. Own a restaurant? Contestants could enter to become chef for a day or just win a free meal.
Every state has its own (very specific) legal guidelines for running a contest. In California, for example, the rules must be clearly posted throughout the contest period and include specific stated criteria for judging, the retail value of prizes, etc. If you have a random drawing (anything won by chance), that is considered a “sweepstakes,” and other regulations apply. Check with your state’s consumer affairs office for more information and search online for a rules template you can edit for your own purposes. Make sure you run the rules by an attorney to make sure the language is legally correct.
Luckily, social media has made getting the word out about a contest a lot cheaper and easier than ever before. Post your contest not only on your website, but also in your store; in your email newsletters; and on your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages. Be sure spread the word by mouth, too, telling everyone from your hairdresser to your small business loan officer and then getting them to send the link to your contest to their friends.
Put together a simple press release so your local media knows about the contest, and once the contest deadline has passed, keep everyone engaged by tweeting about all the great entries you received. When it’s time to pick a winner (or winners), make it a big deal. Videotape the winner and share the news on your website and in social media.
Apply For Funding!
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports