So, you’ve planned an awesome contest or sweepstakes to promote your small business that is going to be a BOMB! You’ve got a great idea, awesome prizes, an interactive design, but it’s one week in and you only have 10 entries. Of course, as long as you have two entries you can select a winner, but you know your promotion was destined for something greater.
The truth is, if you are a small business or an entrepreneur, you can’t entirely rely on the power of social media and the word of mouth to promote your business contest. For big-name brands like Coca-Cola, Victoria’s Secret, or even HubSpot a single announcement on Facebook might be enough to generate interest and engagement. As for the rest of us, small businesses owners and solopreneurs, until we have 50,000+ Facebook fans, we’ll have to develop a strategy to bring attention to what we do.
Here are a few ideas on what you can include in your contest or sweepstakes marketing plan.
Whether you are hosting your promotion on Facebook or not, you can still advertise it there:
- Start building excitement a week before by revealing some of the details.
- Post every day reminding your fans to enter and set the first announcement as a highlighted post, so it stays on top of the page.
- If your page has more than 400 fans, use the “promote” feature to make your posts visible to more fans and friends of fans.
- Use Facebook ads to attract more people and target by region if your promotion is limited to certain states.
- If you are choosing daily or weekly winners, announce them on Facebook after you’ve notified them and confirmed the win. People like to see that someone is actually winning; it makes people more enthusiastic about entering.
Regularly tweet the link to the entry page using such hashtags as #win #contest #giveaway #sweeps #free. You can also use promoted tweets to gain more visibility.
Blog about your contest. This will inform your regular blog readers, provide new content for your blog and serve as food for the search engines. They will index your post and make it easier to find for anyone searching for related sweepstakes or contests. Definitely write a blog post or two if you are hosting a giveaway on your blog.
If you don’t subscribe to a paid newswire service, you can use one of the available free options. Press releases get picked up by search engines very quickly and, besides spreading the news, might help with valuable backlinks to your website.
If your promotion is designed to engage your current customers, readers or leads, email is the perfect way to reach them. Send an email blast to your list or casually mention the promotion on a sidebar in your monthly newsletter. If you are doing a direct mail campaign, print promotion details on a postcard to send with your scheduled mailing.
No matter which platform you are using to host your promotion, make sure it has built-in sharing options. Make it easy for people who already entered to share the contest with their friends via social media or email. If in order to enter participants are asked to fill in the form, customize the page that loads after they click “submit” or “enter.” A post-entry page, among other things, can be used to encourage sharing.
While simply asking participants to share doesn’t hurt, you probably won’t see great results with this strategy. After all, the more people enter – the worse are the odds of winning, so it’s generally not in the entrants’ interest to spread the word about your sweepstakes. Quite the opposite – the less people know, the better chances have those few who entered … unless they get rewarded for referrals.
Awarding bonus entries for friend referrals is a fairly common practice. However, you will most likely need an advanced sweepstakes app to track such entries. Here is how it typically works: each participant is assigned a unique link that they can share with their friends. Every time someone enters using this referral link, the owner of the link receives additional entries into the sweepstakes.
If you are giving away something other than your own products or services, you can try seeking endorsement from the prize manufacturers or retailers. Let’s say you are giving away a gift card to a furniture store. Contact the store manager or social media team and ask if they could mention your promotion on their Facebook or Twitter. It’s a win-win for both: you get publicity and the store gets guaranteed customers. While large stores like Target or BestBuy are likely to decline your proposition, you might have a chance with smaller online or local retailers.
Advertising is, probably, one of the most effective ways to reach a specific audience. You will need to research what websites your ideal contest participants visit and then place ads. For example, if you have a pet-grooming business, you are looking to attract people that (a) own pets and (b) like to take care of them. These people are likely to be reading pet-related blogs and participating in forums. Find these blogs and forums and contact the owners about advertising opportunities. If advertising on a particular website is powered by Google AdSense, you can set up and run a short pay-per-click campaign with Google AdWords.
There are plenty of forums and online communities that are specifically dedicated to helping people enter various contests and sweepstakes. You can register in a few and submit your contest details. Because there are a lot of people looking to win something, you can expect to receive substantial traffic from such places.
However, keep in mind that most of these people enter contests as a hobby, so they might not be the ideal audience you want to attract. But even if they are only interested in the prize, you are still reaching at least one goal: making more people aware of your business. Who knows, maybe one day they will be looking for a service you offer and remember they entered your contest.
Sweepstakes and contests are a great way to gain more visibility for your small business. Online prize giveaways come in many different forms and give you a lot of flexibility when it comes to design and structure. No matter how great you think your idea is, take the time to promote it to ensure the return on your investment. Feel free to add to this list and share tips from your experience.
What tactics have you used to get more visibility and engagement for your contests or sweepstakes? Post your ideas in the comments below!
About the Author
Elena Meadowcroft is a social media enthusiast and content strategist working for a Baltimore-based internet marketing and web design firm PDR Web Solutions.