If you're looking for marketing strategies that will boost your business, you've come to the right place. One of the most effective ways to gain and retain customers while spreading brand awareness is to run a contest.
Whether you host a contest online or in-store, it can positively increase just about every aspect of your business from the number of your daily website visitors and social media followers to employee enthusiasm to sales.
Best of all, the contest you decide to run doesn't have to cost you much. For a lot of consumers, participating in the contest itself is more than half the fun, which means you don't have to allocate a lot of pricey prizes to a lot of winners. In fact, the point of running a contest is to spread awareness about your brand and interest new customers in checking out your products or services.
Your contest should result in a sizable number of new customers who end up doing business with you, as well as one, lucky winner.
CONTESTS BUILD BRAND AWARENESS
There is a difference between a "brand" and a "business." Though many people like to use these two words interchangeably—us included!—the words "brand" and "business" actually have very different connotations in the minds of consumers. Your business connotes the company that sells your products or offers your services, whereas your brand connotes the identity, values, and image of your business.
In a sense, consumer perception of your brand is your brand. For this reason, businesses focus their time, money, and attention on effective marketing strategies to carefully shape the consumer perception of their brands. A well-perceived brand has the power to transform a dwindling business into a booming one. Take Amazon, for example. Jeff Bezos launched Amazon.com in 1995. At that time, the innovative eCommerce site only offered books. Three years later, it added CDs and videos. But Amazon's popularity didn't surge until Bezos decided that Amazon should carry every product under the sun.
By the time Amazon was able to offer its customers so many products that the general public began to regard the site as a one-stop shop, a full-blown rebranding had taken place without Bezos having lifted a finger. Suddenly, consumers across the world regarded Amazon as the best place to buy just about everything. Today, Amazon engages its customers even more deeply, offering endless hours of exclusive entertainment in the form of original movies and serialized shows.
Depending on not only what you offer your customers, but how you offer it, you will shape their perception of your brand. Though hosting a contest might seem like a modest strategy compared to what Jeff Bezos accomplished at Amazon, contests can powerfully define your business's brand and spread awareness about your brand at the same time.
The biggest benefits of hosting a contest include:
● Gain Consumer Data
● Engage with Your Audience
● Drive Online and In-Store Traffic
● Cultivate Brand Equity
● Win Over New Customers
DEFINE THE GOALS OF YOUR CONTEST
Before launching any contest, you'll need to define your business goals. After all, if you don't know what you want to gain from hosting a contest, why host one? If you know your goals, however, then you will be able to gauge whether or not your contest went well once all is said and done.
First decide the ultimate end result you would like. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for you to measure if your contest succeeded or fell short. For example, rather than aim to "boost sales," which is a vague goal, aim to increase your Facebook followers by 10% instead. Here are some tangible goals, but be sure to only pick one to shoot for:
● Gain X number of new followers on Instagram
● Increase eCommerce site unique visitors by 5%
● Sign up X number of new email subscribers
● Increase blog comments by 30%
● Enroll x number of new members into your customer loyalty rewards program
CORRECTLY MARKET YOUR CONTEST
In the world of digital marketing, it might seem as though hosting the same contest across all of your online platforms is a good idea. Doing so wouldn't be difficult since duplicating the digital content such as images and contest rules is as fast as clicking the Save As button. But when it comes to running a successful contest, choosing a single online platform to host your contest is your best option.
Contests generate excitement and participants tend to feel competitive when they're engaging with your brand via a contest. As more people join and participate in the contest, the more excited and competitive everyone feels. If your contest is spread across a number of platforms, not only will managing it become complicated, but your contestants will assume that their only competition is the other participants on the same site as them.
In other words, you don't want fifty participants on seven different platforms. You want all 350 participants on one platform.
That being said, you should definitely market your contest across your most popular platforms, providing links to direct visitors to your contest hosting platform where they can enroll in the contest and start participating.
Of course, be sure to also market your contest on the hosting platform you choose. Here are some examples to inspire you in terms of your hosting versus marketing platforms:
● Run a "photo contest" on Instagram, and market the contest on Facebook, your website and / or blog, and on the bulletin boards of local community art centers
● Run an "answer this question" contest on Twitter, and market the contest on Instagram, Facebook, and your website and / or blog
● Run a "win a gift card" contest in-store, and market the contest across all of your social media platforms as well as on your eCommerce site
CONTEST IDEAS THAT WORK
Creating an engaging contest that will be sure to generate excitement and build buzz about your brand doesn't have to be hard. No one knows your customers better than you. Once you've chosen a hosting platform for your contest, scroll through our specific list of ideas and pick the best one for your business.
Social Media Contests
● Photo Caption Contest: Post an attention-grabbing photo on Instagram that's relevant to one of your products or services and ask participants to "comment" with a creative or funny caption.
● Video Contest: Leverage the power of user-generated video content by asking participants to create and post a short video to your Facebook wall within a specific time frame. Provide participants with a content starter, such as suggesting they use your product in their video or explain why they, more than anyone else, deserve to win.
● Selfie Contest: Social media was made for selfies, or was it the other way around? Either way, participants will love posting a selfie of themself in your store, or shopping on your eCommerce site. Be sure to provide them with a unique contest hashtag. Then pick the winner of your choosing.
● Answer This Question Contest: Create a graphic that contains an engaging question and post it on the social media platform of your choice. Participants can answer the question in the comments section. The winner can be the first person to comment correctly, the first five people to comment correctly, or simply the best answer so long as it's correct.
● Product-a-Day Giveaway: To increase daily engagement and greatly boost your brand on social media, host a product-a-day giveaway where all participants need to do is "repost" the contest and "tag a friend." Make sure the daily prizes are thoughtful and be sure to keep the contest going no longer than a week.
Email List Contests
● Essay Contest: Ask participants to write three paragraphs about why they love your brand. The best part about this idea is that you can use the participants' essays in your future marketing as customer quotes.
● Sweepstakes: Host a sweepstakes to get new subscribers to opt-in to your email list. Have participants share a photo of themselves with your products on Facebook, using the hashtag you provide. The sweepstakes itself can offer one lucky winner an exclusive item.
● Best Tips Contest: Another great email newsletter opt-in incentive—ask participants to share their best tips on how to use a particular product you sell. Participants can write about their tip and include photos or a video. Host this contest on Facebook, Instagram, or whichever site will best support the contest.
● Artistic Contest: This idea can also be hosted on your blog. Provide participants with a "prompt," such as how your brand makes them feel. Ask them to create a drawing, painting, or any kind of artwork based on the inspiring prompt you give them.
● Cutest Pet Photo Contest: This idea is tailor-made for pet supply retailers, including online pet stores. Have participants email you their cutest pet photos along with a few sentences about their pet. Then, to announce the winner and runners up, email your entire subscriber list. Your customers will love seeing each other’s adorable pets.
Blog Engagement Contests
● Fill-in-the-Blanks Contest: Remember Mad Libs from your childhood? This idea combines all the fill-in-the-blank fun of a Mad Lib with the excitement of winning a contest. Publish a blog article that contains the fill-in-the-blank template along with a description of the contest itself and any rules. Then ask participants to post their filled-in template in the comments section beneath the blog post.
● Name a New Product Contest: Publish a blog article with photos of a soon-to-be-released new product and ask participants to post their most creative product names in the comments section. The contest prize can be the product itself.
● Vote for Your Favorite Item Contest: Publish a blog article about ten of your products or services, being sure to include excellent photos. Then have participants "vote for" their favorite one by naming it in the comments section. The winner can be picked at random and receive the product or service they voted for.
● Favorite Recipe Contest: Publish a blog about the "favorite recipe contest" you're hosting and invite subscribers to submit their favorite recipes to you via email. Then announce the winner, the runners up, and any "staff picks" you want to share with your readers in the next blog article.
● Win a Gift Card Contest: Gift cards are as good as cash, and who doesn't like cash? Using this contest, you can potentially incentivize hundreds of shoppers to enroll in your customer loyalty rewards program. Just make joining your rewards program a prerequisite for participating.
● Trivia Night Contest: Trivia game parties are popular for a reason. Host an in-store trivia night where a portion of the trivia questions are about your brand, products, services, and company history. Participants can play in teams with their friends and family or play solo.
● Holiday Contest: This fun idea can work for any holiday. Ask participants to decorate a holiday item in-store that you provide. This is an in-store craft idea, so you'll have to provide a table, chairs, and supplies. Keep all of the decorated items on a display table throughout the contest duration. Then, hold an in-store event to announce the winner.
● Win a Free Service with a Specialist Contest: One of the best ways to get customers into your store is to reward them with a free consultation with one of your specialists. For this contest idea, the prize can be as valuable as a free haircut & color or as inexpensive yet appreciated as an oil change.
● Host a Raffle Drawing: Ordinarily, companies use raffle drawings to raise money, but in this case, all a participant needs to do in order to enter the raffle is enroll in your loyalty rewards program, sign up for your email newslist, or complete any other action you want them to do.
A GREAT CONTEST CAN HELP BUILD YOUR LOYALTY PROGRAM
A successful contest is one that achieves the goal you set for yourself.
As we mentioned throughout this article, contests have the power to effectively market new products and generate brand buzz. But marketing products and generating buzz about your brand aren't the biggest benefits that hosting a contest can provide.
Ideally, you want to convert contest participants into loyal customers and retain them indefinitely. This is where your loyalty rewards program comes in.
You can use your contests as an incentive for signing up for your customer loyalty rewards program. Meaning, in order to participate in your contest, the customer must enroll in your rewards program if they aren't already enrolled—a concept we incorporated in some of the specific contest ideas we listed for you above.
Loyalty programs collect valuable customer data which you can leverage during the creation of future contests as well, so be sure to include information about how to sign up for your program within all of your contest marketing.
YOUR LOYALTY PROGRAM HOLDS THE KEY TO RUNNING A GREAT CONTEST
We all know that customer loyalty rewards programs are one of the best ways to collect valuable customer data, such as customer favorites, wishlist items, and member preferences. Using this data can help you choose the best contest prizes to offer your winners, and that's not all...
The customer data you pull from your loyalty program can also enable you to personalize the contest you're planning on running.
When it comes to the particular contest prizes, the same contest can offer one customer a prize that is personal to their preferences while the next customer would be offered a different prize incentive that's personalized for them. Let's take a look.
The greatest benefit of having a customer loyalty rewards program is that the collected customer data can tell you that John frequently buys a specific brand of dog food, but Damian only stops in to purchase cat toys. When you know what your customers prefer, you can use those specific products to tailor personalized contest prizes. Meaning, the same contest will reward John with a free bag of his favorite dog food if John wins but will reward Damian with your latest cat toy if he wins.
You don't have to offer products and services as prizes if you don't want to, either. Offering your loyalty program members a whopping number of points if they win the contest will be enticing enough. Best of all, using this "points prize" method will incentivize the winner to shop at your store with their newly acquired points.
Want to learn more about what Loyal~n~Save can do for your brand? Contact us to discuss loyalty strategies and contest marketing techniques that have been proven to boost businesses in your industry. Our marketing specialists can help you go beyond advertising with our effective, affordable solutions.
This article was written by Loyal-n-Save, an omni-channel customer loyalty solution for retailers looking to increase customer retention and new customer acquisition.