How to Plan a Successful Contest

"50% of online users like to enter a contest or sweepstakes at least once a month. Businesses that offer contests have twice as many social network followers."
- Forrester Research

Before you jump on the contest bandwagon and whip your marketing/PR/interactive team into a frenzy, take note: contests are a lot of work. There are seemingly a million details to iron out, contingencies to plan for, people to manage, sponsors to coordinate, partnerships to form - and that's just the tip of the iceberg. But don't let that detract you. Contests can be worth every penny of your carefully allocated marketing budget. The results can provide your company with great exposure, new customers and loyal fans. That is, if you start out right.

Think twice. Launch once.

By developing a strong strategy first, you can be sure that your contest will be a win/win for all involved. Here are seven objectives that should be part of your contest strategy.

1. Define Your Goals. 

If you're a new company, perhaps you need more exposure. If your sales have hit a plateau, perhaps you need to re-engage your customers or gain new ones. Maybe you need to increase your database by 25%. Be specific, but realistic.

2. Target Your Audience.

Are the customers you have now the customers you want tomorrow? By clearly defining and prioritizing your audience, you will be able to create a contest that will appeal to their interests. 

3. Channels of Engagement.

Is your audience technologically savvy or do they prefer email or snail mail? Once you know how they prefer to communicate, you'll know how to reach them. 

4. Find Partners: Sponsors/Charities.

Is there another company or charity that shares your vision? Would they be good fit? If it makes sense, consider approaching them and pitching your idea. There is strength in numbers.

5. Define The Prize. 

Make sure the prize you choose is valuable enough to get people excited. The bigger the prize, the bigger the buzz.

6. Plan Your Timeline.

Figure out when and how long your contest will take place. Will it fall on a holiday? Or end on a weekday? Can you afford a four-week media buy for your four-week contest? Will a one-week contest build enough momentum?

By carefully considering these details, you can move to the next step - coming up with a contest and implementing it. 

This is the second installment in a month-long series about Contest Marketing.

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