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By Trevor A. Lastoka
Posted Monday, October 11, 2004

One of the most successful ways to get visitors to your site - and keep them coming back - is to run an online contest.

Not only does a contest give you a special kind of visibility, it gives you a method to 'capture' the names and email addresses of the folks who enter. (Don't worry, I'm not advocating that you spam them later - but there are legitimate ways you can use that list of contest entrants that you'll have).

If you decide you'd like to run a contest, you need to take the following questions into consideration:

1. What do you want the contest to accomplish for you?

I know, you're saying, "But we just answered this question - to get people to my site, and to capture their email addresses." Wrong answer! There's more - do you want to get feedback for a new product or service you're offering? Are you wanting to expand your market? Would you like to start a newsletter? Once you've determined your 'agenda' for the contest, this will help to clarify ways to achieve your desired result.

2. What kind of prizes do you want to offer?

First of all, the prizes you offer should be in some way related to your business. For example, if your goal is to increase your customer base, then you'll perhaps want to offer one of your products or services as the prize. This helps to insure that you're attracting the audience you want - your target market!

You may not have to offer the prizes yourself, either - many merchants are happy to offer prizes in exchange for the exposure to their product or service, or a link to their site. This may be a perfect opportunity for you to work with other non-competing merchants in ways that will be beneficial to both of you.

For example, I know of a sightseeing charter company who offered, as a contest prize, a 'day on the beach.' They provided the boat cruise, but they approached other merchants to include a barbecue, food enough for eight, a beach umbrella, and some snorkels and fins and other beach toys - in exchange for the advertising exposure.

Again, just make sure that the prize or prizes are directly related to your business, and to what you want to accomplish.

3. How do I do it?

The general rule of thumb is to 'keep it simple.' Write the 'rules' first, and post them on your site. Put an entry form on a prominent page, and make sure you include any disclaimers you may need.

Base the length of time you'll run the contest on the value of the prizes - the more expensive the booty, the longer you can run the draw. Decide whether the contest is time-frame based (that is, it will end at midnight on such-and-such date), or base it on a certain number of entrants (for example, "We will only accept 1000 entry forms, so get yours in today!")

Look for an autoresponder that will do a lot of the work for you - it can send the contestant an acknowledgment of their entry, and send you a report at the end of the day with those valuable email addresses.

4. How can I promote it?

There are several sites on the Internet that exist solely for the purpose of promoting YOUR contest. Do a search on 'contest promotion' and see what you come up with. Of course, there's nothing to stop you from promoting it in your ezine, submitting the contest pages to search engines, or running local print ads, either. Whatever it takes to get visitors to your site to fill out the form!

Good luck building your contest - and get ready for a great way to generate 'pre-qualified' leads for your service or product!

About the Author
Trevor A. Lastoka runs successful contests for his business on a regular basis. Check out his website for more information, at (


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