Contests and Giveaways: A Small-Business Owner’s Guide to Making Them Count

When reaching out to our existing and target audience, it’s important to keep in mind that consumers are bombarded with so much imagery, music and marketing that it’s just overwhelming to sift through it all. That’s why whenever you decide to put the energy and money into running a contest to enhance your brand, the most important thing you can do is make it fun and easy for everyone involved. There are many different end-goals to running a contest, from driving traffic to getting likes to selling a specific product. But one goal of every contest should be to get your brand in front of new eyes. And you’ll do that by delivering a fun and engaging contest to your existing audience who will love it so much they can’t wait to share it with their friends.

Here are the tips you need for making the most out of every contest.

Concept and Purpose

There are dozens of ways to use contests to your advantage as a small-business owner, often with very little cost. What they do end up costing you the most of is your precious time. Time is your most precious commodity as an entrepreneur. So be careful not to get caught up in the fun of contests and miss sight of the purpose. Are you looking to drive traffic to your website or better yet, convert that traffic to sales? Or are you looking to beef up your Facebook numbers since most of your online sales come from Facebook referrals.

First, define your goals, then figure out how to quantify them. How will you measure your success with this specific contest? By sales? Facebook likes? Take detailed notes on as much data from the contest as possible so you can continually improve your contests every time. This will keep your audience engaged and prevent you from wasting time and resources.

Get Them Involved

Unless you are giving away some epic prizes, your best bet to get people in your social network excited about your contest is to make it interactive. When they feel included and like the contest because it is fun and interactive, they are more likely to share it. For example, the Coke Zero puzzle game ad was as simple as Minesweeper, yet it doubled their Facebook numbers in just two weeks. And you don’t need to hire a graphic designer to engage your audience in the same way. has a free puzzle maker that you can use to challenge your audience to unlock secret promo codes and promotional offers.

Plenty of Plug-ins

While a free puzzle generated online is about as cheap and easy as it gets, if you’re looking to get a little more in-depth with your giveaways and contests, it’s time to look into website plugins that not only make your website more interactive, but also help you with picking random winners, weeding out cheaters, modify terms and conditions and offer easy sharing across multiple social media platforms. There are several free contest plug-ins available as well as even more that are excellent options for under $50.

Remember the Legalities:  Be sure that all local and regional legal authorities are “cool” with your contests.  Some localities require gaming licenses, and you must follow specific guidelines to register any giveaways.  Last thing you want to do is turn your “hot” contest into one that is much “hotter.”


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