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Published on March 28th, 2011 | by Janine Popick

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7 Steps to Running a Successful Contest for Your Business

Enter to WinRecently the VR Marketing Team has held a few different contests for our users. And in the process they’re discovering lots of great learnings you can leverage for your business! Running a contest can be fun for you and your customers if planned and executed correctly. It can also help generate some exciting buzz for your biz.

Here’s 7 Tips to Run a Successful Contest for Your Business:

  1. Create Your Contest: Before you get started, it’s helpful to define your contest. It can be as simple as a giveaway, like asking trivia questions about your business on Twitter and giving away free goodies for correct answers. Or, you can get more complex and ask your customers to submit videos or photos of them with your product or service.
  2. Define Your Goal: Having a goal is important because it helps you stay on target. As an example, we ran a Email Template Design Challenge earlier this year. Our goal was to engage customers and encourage them to submit email marketing templates, as well as create buzz by mobilizing their social networks and asking for their friends to vote for their template via Facebook Likes. By keeping our goal in mind we stayed focused and did not try to do too many things that would take away from our main objective.
  3. Set Success Metrics: If you don’t define what success means, how will you know if your contest is working? Examples of success metrics for the Template Design Challenge were: Getting viable contest submissions, creating buzz on social media and getting people to vote, as well as placing the email templates in the VR product and having customers use them after the contest. If you’re doing a giveaway through Twitter your success metrics will probably be the number of Tweets and Re-Tweets you get. You might also want to track if you gain any new followers.
  4. Write the Rules: When running a contest it’s important to have clearly defined rules so contestants don’t get confused. When writing your rules it’s advised to consult your legal expert if you have one, or a third party compliance sweepstakes service (many of which are available online for a small fee). Once your rules are established it’s best not to change them, and make sure your rules are easily accessible to all possible entrants. Keep in mind that if you’re running your contest on Facebook there are specific rules and regulations to follow. Here’s the Facebook Contests page with more information.
  5. Promote Your Contest: Now for the super fun stuff – promoting your contest! First, define your audience and find out where they are. For example, we promoted our Email Template Design Challenge to our customers via email marketing, social media and blog posts. We also went after design audiences by way of local art & design schools, and the use of design hashtags on Twitter (i.e., #design). This allowed us to reach a larger audience that would certainly be interested in a design challenge and as a result we got heaps of impressive submissions! If you’re offering a prize, be sure to promote that, too.Design Challenge Email Template
  6. Analyze Your Results: Once your contest period is over it’s time to analyze your results and determine the winner(s). Here’s an example of what our voting page (with likes and all!) looked like when we closed the contest. You’ll notice that the templates got 2,484 Likes total. Each time someone voted via a Facebook Like it showed up on their Facebook stream and provided us a lot of visibility. We also monitored Twitter and received several hundred Tweets about the challenge. But the ultimate testament to the challenge was if our customers were using the templates. Well, good news! The top 3 winning templates have been in our app for just over a month now, and altogether they have been selected over 1,000 times!
  7. Fulfill Your Promise: Once you determine your winner(s) share the good news with your customers. Again, we did this through email, social media, and a blog post. Also, send a nice, personal email to the winner(s). Thank them for their participation, and let them know that their prize is on its way (if applicable). Also, make sure you meet whatever deadlines for fulfillment you specified in the rules. And voila! Your contest is complete.

Do you run contests for your customers? What have your experiences been? Or, are you planning to run a contest? I’m interested to hear about your experience!

© 2011 – 2013, Janine Popick. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

is a contributing author for VerticalResponse.



2 Responses to 7 Steps to Running a Successful Contest for Your Business

  1. I would say #7 is very important. As a direct mail company, we ran a couple of contests for one particular car dealer in which they advertised giving away $10,000 in cash. Well, after a couple of times of them drawing the names and not paying the prize, the word got out and the contest lost all of it’s punch.

  2. RRP Video says:

    Great ideas. We recently started a NCAA tournament challenge. We used steps very close to the ones here and have had a lot of traffic and interest among our customers. It’s an additional (and fun) way to stay in front of them and on their minds.

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