Getting your brand out there isn’t always easy. You can post on social media regularly, advertise locally, religiously publish a quality newsletter, and still, you’re talking to the same people who already follow your Twitter or Instagram, drive past your billboard every day, and are signed up for your email marketing. Are you really reaching anyone new? It’s hard to tell, right? So maybe it’s time for a contest.

Savvy business owners know that giving away small (and even large) prizes is part of speculating to accumulate. What you pay for in prize value, you’ll gain far more in valuable marketing data. But do contests really work? How do you know they don’t simply attract people looking for something free who will forget about you the moment they enter the contest? Let’s first look at the whys of hosting contests, and then we’ll look at the hows.

Why Should You Host a Contest?

  • Brand awareness. The more people see your logo, the more likely they are to remember you. It’s that simple. Close your eyes. Picture the Pepsi logo. You can, right? How about the Tesla logo? Most people would have to say yes. That’s because you’ve had enough exposure to their brand to not only recognize the labels on sight, but you don’t even have to see it to be able to accurately picture it. Contests raise your bran awareness like virtually nothing else. That’s a good thing.
  • Research data. Because people have to give you information about themselves to be entered, you’re tapping into a rich vein of data that you can use for future marketing strategies. Believe it or not, the better the contest incentive, the more information you can request your entrants give you, and they’ll be happy to oblige. There is a balance there, though, so you have to weigh your questions well.
  • The cost is low. As long as you don’t offer a prize you can’t afford to fulfill, the contest can practically pay for in information gleaned for future marketing strategies.


Why Shouldn’t You Host a Contest?

Honestly, as long as you run your contest a certain way, there’s no good reason to stay away from contests. But for some, they can be lackluster.

  • Customer indifference is frustrating. There are people out there whose sole mission is to sign up for every contest they run across, provide as little information as possible, and forget about you the second they’re finished entering. You’re just another sucker in a sea of suckers begging to give them free stuff. At least, that’s what they’re cackling about when they’re filling out your entry form.
  • Lots of brands are running contests, so how does yours stand out? It may not, unless you have an eye-catching giveaway. You may just be starting out and enticing prizes are outside your budget at the moment. That’s okay. You can still read this article and learn effective contest strategy for when you are ready to run one.

Effective Strategy for Giveaways Every Business Owner Needs to Know

First thing’s first: you need good data to make your giveaway worthwhile. How do you separate the wheat from the chaff when you’re casting a wide net for contest entrants?

Define your target audience well. It’s about more than getting their name, email address, and occupation. You need to know their shopping triggers for what entices them to buy. This may not be relevant to the contest itself, but it will be critical later. Once you have your ideal contestant, then you can narrow the field of entrants.

Questions are critical. Once you know what defines your target, you can tailor your contest entrance form questions to weed out not-so-ideal entrants and spammy entrants. For example, a butcher shop giving away a side of beef can ask entrants what their favorite hamburger toppings are. This will immediately and unequivocally eliminate vegetarian entrants who will have no use for the prize. Keep the questions short, fun and punchy, easy to answer, and 96% of those who begin the entry form will finish it.


Photo by Nguyen Nguyen from Pexels

Keep the prize affordable and relevant. It does no good for a restaurant business to give away a tropical vacation. While the recipient may love it, you’re sending them away from your business, not inviting them to it. By keeping your prize related to what you do, you’re attracting contestants interested in what you’re selling, so you can see data about them that could help you in the future. Keep in mind, however, the higher perceived value of the prize, the more information people are willing to part with for a chance to win Some example prizes are:

  • Package deals, like themed gift baskets. These are great for retail stores or even service-based businesses. A photographer can give away a portrait package, or a landscaping company can give away a lawn treatment or two. It gives the customer a small taste of what your company can do for them.
  • Pick-a-prize offers the winner an array of your products to choose from, so you get a window into what makes them specifically happy for future marketing opportunities.
  • Group prizes, like a restaurant offering a 4-person dining experience. This has high perceived value in two ways: one, the price of dinner for four people is a nice chunk of change they’ll enjoy without the hit to their bank account, and two, you’re giving them the opportunity to create memories. Dining out is one of our favorite social activities with those we care about.
  • Gift cards are a fantastic prize, not only because you set the amount where you can afford it, but the winner has the flexibility to spend the value however they see fit, giving you a peek into their buying habits along the way.

Follow up after the contest ends. Notify entrants of the winner(s) and if they’re not the lucky one(s), offer a smaller consolation prize such as a discount on their next order, free shipping, or a low-value gift card. If you add a time limit to the consolation offer, you’ll increase their sense of urgency to keep from losing out again. Don’t give them so much time they can forget about you, and also, don’t budge on the date. If they still don’t take advantage of it, that’s out of your hands.

Last, track results. There’s no point in running a contest if you don’t track the entrants. How else will you know how best to tailor your message for this influx of new additions to your data lists? Take into consideration the best key metrics (this is a good idea to have in mind when you’re tailoring your entry form questions, so you can drill into the best metrics possible), track the information during and after your contest, and you’ll learn the most resonant messages with those particular new customers.

Contests can be frustrating, it’s true. However, some careful consideration of contest hosting strategy can prevent the most common giveaway headaches and make the running of a contest a great incentive, both for you as a business owner and for your potential new customers. With the right strategy, questions, prizes, and follow-up, everybody wins.


Still not sure how to set up an effective giveaway? Sign up for our newsletter for more information on this and more.