Like any other marketing campaign, it’s all about strategy. 

So before you can start building your contest and getting it out into the world, you need to break down each step of the process, from ideation all the way to the post-contest phase. 

Online contests are tried and true when it comes to growing your business—who doesn’t like winning? It takes practice to get it right but with the right strategies and tools in place, you can be on your way to building a bigger and more loyal audience for your business. 

While businesses of any size or stage can run online contests, they tend to work especially well for: 

  1. New businesses with a small handful of customers and want to generate some buzz around their product to attract new leads. 
  1. Businesses with a substantial audience, but want to increase traffic and make faster sales 
  1. Any business that wants to generate leads by growing their audience 

There are a heap of ways for how to run a contest. We’ve condensed best marketing practices down to eight fundamental steps so you can run a contest that is high-converting and successful right from the start.

1. Choose the type of campaign you want to run 

Will you be running a giveaway, where people enter their information and winners are chosen at random? 

A contest? Where people submit information and compete for a prize? 

Or you might want to run a promotion, where everyone who signs up gets a prize. 

Whichever campaign you choose, make sure you put yourself in the customers’ shoes during the planning process. How much information would you be willing to submit to be in with a chance of winning? Remember that the lower the barrier to entry, the more people will likely sign up.

2. Be clear on your goal  

Your goal for running a contest should drive every part of the planning and execution, so it’s important to get crystal clear on it right from the start. Narrow down on your objectives—do you want to: 

  • Drive more traffic to your site? 
  • Grow your subscriber list?  
  • Increase social media engagement? 
  • Generate immediate sales through incentives and vouchers/coupons? 
  • All of the above? 

You’ll also need to know who you want to enter your contest. You can define that market by demographics, geographic location, or social media usage.  

Whichever route you opt for, having a clear vision of your ideal contest entry will give you a laser-focused idea on what they’re going to be interested in. 

As you’re outlining your goals (still in the planning phase), it’s time to prepare and identify your KPIs (key performance indicators). Some examples of KPI could be measuring the increase following rate on your social platforms, or more traffic to your site.  

You’ll need this data to measure your contest’s success and analyse and compare the results with your original goal.

3. Get specific on the contest details 

Price is the main barrier to travel and this landing page gets it right out of the way so people can instantly decide if they’re interested.  

Now that you’re clear on the type of campaign you want to run, who it’s for, and what you want to get out of it, it’s time to get specific on the details. You’ll need to decide: 

  • The start and end time of your contest 
  • How frequently it will run 
  • The rules for entry and winning 
  • Entry methods (users submit emails, full names, etc) 
  • Which platform you’ll host it on (think about your best-performing channels) 

4. Choose an enticing prize 

It’s time to get creative and choose a prize that’s going to excite your audience.  

A good contest prize should be enticing, memorable and desirable to potential leads, which means it’s best to refrain from awarding prizes that have nothing to do with your business (like an iPad if you’re a fitness brand).  

You may get a ton of signups but they won’t necessarily be quality leads for your business. 

So, keep the prize relevant to your brand—this could be your latest product, business gift cards, or exclusive access into something. The key is offering a prize that’s related to your business and is going to be attractive to your ideal customer. 

Tip: Increase the buzz around your contest by offering multiple prizes (think the main winner and a few smaller, runner up prizes). 

5. Offer a solid incentive for entering 

If you want people to share your online contest, you need to provide valuable incentive to do so. Most digital users expect instant gratification for actions like sharing contests, so be the first to give something of value. 

You can offer a digital download for an ebook, exclusive resources or a discount code for their next purchase. The incentive should be offered to every person who enters the contest—you’re trying to give people a reason to share your contest.  

When you give people value for spreading the word about your brand, you’re giving them the role of ‘brand advocator’ and that’s the most authentic recommendation there is.

6. Build your contest 

You’re ready to build your contest and share it with the world! 

You need an attention-grabbing headline that entices your audience. Usually, this is the first thing people will see so make it pop. Go for short, bold and conversational wording that lets people know that there’s something valuable for the taking and that their quick action is required. 

  • Include your business name  
  • Include the details of the giveaway (don’t leave people guessing what the prize is!) 
  • Use bullet points and bolded text to emphasize important details  
  • Use fun, enticing images to attract instant attention 
  • Have a clear CTA 

7. Promote your contest 

Once your contest is up and running, it’s time to start promoting and get some entries. First, announce the contest on your social channels, share the contest link in your bio and if you’re using Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat, add posts to your stories throughout the contest.  

Tips to get the most out of your contest: 

  • Send your contest to your email list, with a clear and punchy subject line and a direct CTA to enter the competition (email subscribers are ones most likely to enter first and likely share with friends)  
  • Create a blog post for your loyal readers and community (and link it to the landing page) 
  • Link to your contest on your website page (this could be pop-ups, an exit-intent or a banner parked at the top of your website) again, with a clear CTA. 
  • Keep on promoting your contest across your internal and social channels, right until the end. 

8. Track your results 

In order to get the most out of your campaigns, you need to track and monitor your key performance indicators (KPIs). 

Two steps to tracking your results: 

  1. Monitor your contest in real-time so you can improve your real-time marketing for the future 
  1. Monitor your metrics so you can improve your ROI and get measurable success 

If your website uses Google Analytics, use that to track the page visits on your contest landing page, referral traffic and other website traffic like click-through rates.  

9. Post-contest follow up  

Once the contest has ended, it’s absolutely vital to follow up with your audience. Now’s the time to deepen your relationship and turn them into loyal customers. 

Choose your winner(s) and let them know they’ve won. 

Share the win on all of your social channels (don’t forget to mention/tag the lucky winner!). This gives you one last chance to talk to your audience about your contest, product and your business. 

Send a follow-up email to all entrants—thank them for participating and invite them to the next one. If you haven’t already, now’s a great time to offer a voucher or a small discount for participating. 

Run a high-converting contest with the right digital tools  

Running a high-converting online contest takes a lot of practice. 

To give your online contest its best shot, use a contest management software to help streamline and launch from start to finish. From mobile-responsive branded forms to easy-to-understand monitoring data, using a management software can take care of the little jobs so you can focus on the strategy behind your campaign. 

A modern platform can help you reach your audience easily with a custom, branded awards landing page, an easy setup process, submission management (ser the rules of the contest) and for the final stage, advanced reporting that’s easy to understand. 

Request a free demo of Submit’s management software for your next contest and start generating quality leads for your brand today. 

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