Using Contests to Promote Your Business

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It bears repeating: social media is essential for most modern businesses. Whether you’re a restaurant, a clothing boutique, or a barbershop, as long as you’re selling something that looks good in pictures, you need to be on Instagram, Facebook, or one of the other platforms, depending on your specific niche. Why? It all comes down to advertising.

Traditionally, businesses relied exclusively on marketing techniques such as word of mouth or billboard advertising. Both tactics remain very important, but we’re well into the 21st century, and that’s no longer enough for most businesses. We’ve already covered how to use Facebook and Instagram for small businesses, but there’s one particular and highly effective tactic that we didn’t talk about then.

Creating a Promotional Contest

Who doesn’t like free stuff? Consumers love entering contests to win restaurant meals, haircuts, a shopping spree, and anything else businesses are willing to offer up through some competition. If you haven’t tried this particular promotional method before, it’s time to consider it.

The best way to run a contest like this is on social media, where you can create rules that incentivize people to share and promote your page, spreading awareness of your business. If you’re a restaurant, when people see pictures of your food on their page, they’ll probably consider visiting your restaurant for a meal anyway, even if they don’t win anything. We’ll get into that further down the page.

When creating a promotional contest, you have to consider a basic cost-benefit analysis no matter what kind of business you’re promoting. Don’t worry, it’s not very complicated. Here are all the pieces:

– Cost of prize

– Number of people you think you can reach

– Duration of Contest

1.Cost of Prize

If you pick the right prize, your entire cost for what might end up being a very effective promotional campaign will be very low. As an example, let’s say you run a restaurant. The average receipt for one customer runs somewhere around $50. That’s the perfect prize to offer — $50. The winner might come in alone and spend precisely that, or they might bring in a dining companion or two and end up spending $150, helping you recoup some of your $50.

2.Contest Reach

The basic reach for a promotional contest is your follower count on whatever social media platforms you run the Contest on, it’s as simple as that. However, if you put the right rules in place, that reach can grow exponentially.

3.Contest Duration

These contests should happen quickly. You could design a longer one, but that gets complicated, and people might forget or lose interest. Let’s say again that you’re giving out a $50 voucher at a restaurant. Create the Contest on a Monday to announce a winner Friday afternoon, with a voucher redemption period of one week. Force participants to act fast!

Contest Rules

The rules for your promotional Contest should be very simple — you want as frictionless an experience as possible so that as many people participate as possible. The more people who participate, the more significant the marketing impact you get, all for just the price of the prize and the time you spend administering everything.

To explain the basic rules for a social media promotional contest, we’ll stick with the $50 restaurant voucher example. Let’s say you’re doing this on Instagram (the basic principles will be the same regardless of what platform you use). Design a quick image to accompany the post. It should be a good-looking picture of one of your composed dishes with text overlaid. That text should say something like, “Contest! Enter by Monday, 7/23 to win $50 to our restaurant. Check below for the rules!”

In the description, you’ll list the rules. These should look something like:

1. Like this post

2. Follow us, if you don’t already

3. Tag two friends you want to share your prize with

4. Repost this post to your story and tag us

5. We’ll pick a winner on Monday, 7/23!

It’s as simple as that. Your followers will be happy to promote your restaurant for the chance at a free meal. You’ll gain followers, you’ll get eyes on your business, and hopefully, you’ll tempt even non-winners to visit you and spend some money.

More Contest Ideas

The format described above won’t work exactly as-is for every business, but it should provide a good template to develop other ideas. If you’re stumped, here are some more call-to-action ideas.

– Simply like, comment, or share to enter

– Come up with a funny caption for a photo

– A once-a-month version of any of these ideas to keep people coming back

– A contest triggered when your account reaches a follower milestone to incentivize people to share and attract followers for you

– Create a video illustrating your love for our business

What ties all of these ideas together is the end goal of promoting your business.

The easiest way to get people to promote your business is to offer a modest prize, like that $50 voucher. It could be even cheaper — a sandwich and a drink at a lunch spot won’t cost $50, but people will still probably want to win it. Just make sure the prize is worthwhile to your customers so that they’ll share the promotional materials. 

Like the “create a video” contest, other ideas get people to create content that you can then use, with their permission, to promote your business further. That’s called “user-generated content.”

Long-Term Contests

Social media contests are extremely low-investment and easy to do. For bigger contests, with more significant prizes, you can bring in other advertising channels as well. 

Let’s say your business has been around for ten years, and you want to have an anniversary contest. The prize is big — maybe you’re a salon, and you want to offer a year’s worth of free haircuts. A big prize requires a more extended contest period and a wider reach.

For bigger contests, consider supermarket advertising. Cartvertising is an excellent way to reach customers — they’re at the grocery store probably at least once a week and are sure to see your ads while they’re there. Bus bench advertising is also effective. Do all this while also running the Contest on social media. If the duration of entry time is one month, post about it at least once a week.

If you execute a promotional contest right, which shouldn’t be too hard to do, you’ll end up with a ton of exposure for a relatively low initial investment. Give it a try!

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