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8 Keys to a Successful Contest

Alex Weiss

Hosting a contest is an exciting way to grow brand awareness, sales for your business and audience engagement. Company contests can seem straight forward – offer a prize, engage with participants and reward a winner – but there are multiple layers that make up a successful contest. Without planning and preparation, a contest may damage your brand’s reputation and upset customers and prospects. 

Whether you’re launching a contest to promote new products or services, or want to position your organization as an expert, follow these 10 key steps to ensure your contest is a hit:

Establish a strategy.

Once you’ve determined the goal of your contest and defined what it is about, you should address a series of important questions: Is the contest compelling and interesting?  How long will the contest run? How will people participate? How will it be judged? How many winners and finalists will be chosen? What’s the prize and is it enough to drive entries? What’s the best way to promote it? Should you partner with anyone?  And most importantly, does it help you achieve your overall communications and program objectives?  Answering these questions will help you establish a strategy, stay focused and have a clear vision of how to move forward with the contest.

Stick to the rules.

Write firm rules for how people can enter the contest, how winners will be determined and what the prize includes. Make sure the rules are crystal clear so there’s no issues when it comes time to judge or award a winner. Share the rules with your legal department to ensure the contest abides by any applicable laws and regulations. Multi-country competitions can generate global interest, and laws relating to contests and competitions can vary country by country, so it’s important that the law and culture of each country targeted in the contest is adhered to. Make the rules easy to access by posting them on your website and social media pages. 

Be creative.

There are thousands of contests going on at all times, and in order for yours to stand out, you must tap into your creative side. If you can incorporate people and their heart-warming stories, like everyday heroes, creative kids or even pets, do so! The more universal, fun and engaging a contest is, the more likely people will want to participate.  

Make it worthwhile.

Don’t expect people to get excited about a small prize. Products are always great to give away as it promotes your services and brand, but if a product isn’t enough, adding a cash prize or trip can make it more worthwhile.

Utilize partnerships and influencers.

Partnering with an industry expert or established and respected organization is a great way to extend your reach, add bigger prizes and encourage engagement with current and potential new customers. Paid social media promotions and influencers are also beneficial, as they can extend your reach to thousands or even millions more people.

Promote, promote, promote.

Once you announce the contest, don’t let the hype of the first few days die down. Reach out to relevant and local media to push the contest. Use social media to remind followers about the contest and how to enter every week. Send out a reminder towards the last week of the contest to ensure no one misses out.

Don’t forget to celebrate!

When the contest ends and you’ve determined a winner, share it with the world! Provide the winner with the prize, as well as an award, medal or certificate (and any runner-ups) at a live ceremony and media event, if appropriate. Document the ceremony and use the images and videos on social media.

Take notes.

Don’t forget to measure the contest’s overall impact on brand engagement, click-through rates, conversions and sales. It’s also good to keep notes on what worked well, what needs improvement and what should be cut for the next contest.

Whether you’re promoting a new product or giving away a free trip to a desirable destination to promote your brand, these steps will ensure your contest is a major success.