Prizes_CoverBasic truth: people love to win prizes. Why do you think people love Las Vegas so much? The thrill of winning is addicting.

Contests have always been a great way to engage customers, but now with the integration of Internet marketing, there are many more innovative ways to get people to participate. So what makes for a successful Internet contest that won’t cost you a fortune (remember, budgets are important)? Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

The Art of Contests

Running a contest on the Internet isn’t something you can just make up as you go along. You need to plan, plan and plan some more. Start with a clear idea of what you want to accomplish with the contest. Are you looking for people to share information or images which spread your brand message, or are you simply doing it to raise awareness or collect email addresses? The end goal will effect the type of contest you create.

Once you have decided on the general idea of the contest, you can start fleshing out the details. Will it be a photo contest, a sweepstakes or an essay contest? Will the entry with the most votes win or will the winner be chosen at random?

Just because your business is in an industry that isn’t necessarily Instagram-worthy, doesn’t mean you can’t host a photo contest. We recently ran a photo contest for an HVAC company. No, people didn’t submit pictures of their air conditioner to win a prize- that would be dumb. Instead, we played off of the company’s love for animals and created a “Coolest Pet” photo contest. Get it? Coolest pet, because air conditioners produce cool air. Cute, right? It worked like a charm.

Location, Location, Location

After you have hashed out the details of the contest you need to come up with a plan of action for where it will be hosted and how you will promote it. Are you going to host the contest on Facebook? Are you aware that Facebook has a specific set of guidelines and rules for hosting promotions on their site?

What about Twitter and Instagram, will your contest need a specific hashtag? If you host the contest on your blog, what software will you use to support it? Wishpond is a great resource to use for creating contests. This tool also makes it incredibly easy to promote your contest on social media or your blog. Do you send out a monthly email newsletter? Don’t forget to mention your contest there. It’s a great way to reach people who might not be as social media savvy, but still want to participate.

Your work doesn’t stop once the contest launches. Create a follow up email to send to everyone who has entered the contest. Wishpond allows you to create settings that will require everyone who enters your contest to provide their email address as part of the submission process. All you have to do is download the email addresses from Wishpond’s dashboard and upload them to your email subscriber list.

Also, don’t forget to send an email to everyone once the contest has wrapped up. If you’re feeling extra generous, use this as an opportunity to offer anyone who entered the contest a coupon for a service your company offers.

Contests are an excellent way to engage with your customers. The prizes don’t have to cost you a fortune and you don’t have to run an expensive ad campaign either. All you have to do is properly plan it and use the right tools to make your contest easy to share. Oh, and make it fun. People like fun and they like free. When you combine the two, everyone wins.

Lorraine talked about running contests at Mixwest a few weeks ago.  You can watch an excerpt of her presentation below.