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Author Biography:

Stephanie Taylor Christensen  is a freelance writer who covers personal finance, career, health,and small business news. She is the founder of Indebtedless and Om for Mom prenatal yoga in Columbus, Ohio. Connect with her on Twitter.@STCWriting or www.stephanietaylorchristensen.com



How You Can Use Contests To Build Your Customer Base
By Stephanie Taylor Christensen Friday, January 27, 2017
Social media and online marketing can both be inexpensive opportunities to connect with existing customers and new audiences, but it’s become increasingly difficult to cut through the barrage of messages consumers are now exposed to in a day. That’s part of the reason contests have become such a powerful (and popular) tactic among small business marketers. 
 
Here are a few simple tips to help guide and inspire the development of your first contest. 

What is your objective?  

The prospect of winning an item of value for very little effort is a simple way to attract customers and prospects to your business, but even simple contests take time to craft, deploy and manage. Ultimately, the real “winner” in your contest should be your business: Consider what business goals you want the contest to achieve before you determine what you will gift, or how you will promote the event. 

Suppose, for example, that you want to increase the number of customers who “like” your business Facebook page. A contest that awards a free body scrub to every fan who shares one of your social media posts on a given day can accomplish just that, at very little cost. However, if your goal is to increase brand recognition in your local community or on a national level, a sweepstakes that awards one larger prize to one winner could be more appropriate in generating "buzz" with traditional media like radio, newspapers and television stations. Your audience's perceived value of the giveaway will dictate response; the gift (and the steps you require entrants to complete) should correlate to your business goals for the contest.  

What you can give away

Brainstorm appropriate giveaways relative to your goals, budget and operational capacity. If you’ll gift free products to several winners, for example, plan how you will have items ready to quickly fulfill and ship to winners--long before you launch your contest. If you’ll award cash, a trip, merchandise of significant value or your services, there may be additional tax or logistical issues associated with your contest prize that you’ll need to address before its launch. 

What are the legal requirements?  

Even simple contests require that you outline and publish several specific disclosures to potential entrants, including entry procedures, eligibility requirements, start and end dates for the contest (including time zones), a specific description of the prize(s), and details about how winners will be notified. (In fact, each social media network has its own unique rules for how contests can and cannot be conducted, published on their respective home pages). Research the laws that apply to your contest based on the state in which you do business, states in which you’ll promote the contest, and the nature of your contest; publish a landing page for your contest’s rules and legal disclosures on your website.

How will you generate momentum?  

Ready to run a contest but have no idea where to start? Consider these tactics for inspiration: 
  • Establish your contest cadence. Offer daily or weekly giveaways on a consistent day and time of the week. Keep the requirements simple (for example, five winners who share Monday’s post by 5 pm Eastern Standard Time will be selected at random and notified by Midnight). Tag winners in your post to keep the momentum going, and establish a sense of trust among those who didn’t win.
  • Humanize your products. Selfies can instantly add personality to your brand.  Incentivize social media followers to post a selfie using your product, or doing an activity that correlates to your brand’s ideals. Specify which hash tag posters should use to organize your contests into a content stream. Support engagement with recurring campaigns that award a gift card or similar prize to one winner each month. 
  • Invite participation. Contests that select a winner based on audience votes can increase user engagement and spread awareness about your product. This type of contest typically works best when there’s one winner—and one big prize at stake. 


 
 
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