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Win 'em over with contests

By Kristie Tamsevicius
Posted Friday, August 13, 2004

Looking for a sure fire way to promote your business? Contest are a fun and highly effective way to promote your business. People LOVE winning things, so what better way than a contest to gain new customers.

The best way to ensure a smooth contest is to create a plan first!

Here's a checklist to help you plan your contest!

STEP ONE - Determine contest objectives.

Before holding a contest, determine what your goal is. Specific objectives produce measurable results! Example: Gain 100 new customers. Sell 20 new gadgets.

Contests can help:

Generate leads/gain customers
Drive traffic to your web site
Introduce new products
Educate people about your product
Build awareness/promote name recognition
Build an opt in email list
Get sites to link to you
Generate new ideas

STEP TWO - After setting your contest objectives, determine which type of contest best suits your target audience and helps meet your objectives.

Here's the basic contest types:

Sweepstakes/Lottery: Simply collect entrant's name and the winner is drawn at random.
Skill contest: The winner of this kind of contest is chosen by a panel of judges based on certain criteria: best, worst or most creative.
For added pizzazz use celebrities or industry experts for judges. This will add excitement and credibility to your contest. This makes a great excuse to meet and add these influential people to your personal network!

Here's some skill contest ideas:
- Person/Business/Web Site of the Year contest - Best essay for a subject
- Best project: create a video, build something, a race - Most tips: send in your tips (winner with the most tips wins) - Performing Stunts - like on Double Dare - Quizzes - Like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

Preselected number: The 100th caller/email received wins. The first 10 customers in the door receive a prize.
Preselected winner contest: Send a key to every customer. They can all try to open the mystery chest holding the prize, or the winning key can start a car. Or for a WEB version of this use a number key. Clients can go to your web site to see if they hold the winning number. (Great traffic driver!)
Multi-level contest: Here several contests are chosen to be finalists and then from the finalist is chosen the GRAND PRIZE WINNER. Both the Miss America contest and the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes are of this type.

STEP THREE - Set a contest budget.

Make sure you set a reasonable one. If your goal is to get 100 more customers. What are 100 more customers worth to you? If your goal is to sell 10 more widgets. How much is that worth?

STEP FOUR - Pick a contest theme.

What will you call your contest. Pick a fun catchy name. Here's where a brainstorming session could come in handy.

STEP FIVE - Choose a prize suited to your target audience.

Make sure the prize is one worth winning! (cash, free product or service, vacation, dream date, a year supply of something, a makeover, a shopping spree, use your imagination??)

STEP SIX - Create contest rules.

Like any game there has to be a set of rules to make sure your contest is fair and entrants understand the specifics of how to enter, who qualifies, all the details of the contest.

Make rules that are easy to understand, clear, and concise. If you need to have a legal version set some separate Official Contest Rules.
Click here to see an example of official contest rules.(

Be sure there is no purchase necessary: it's the law! If targeted mainly for folks who purchase, create a way that nonpurchasing people can enter too!
Determine number of prizes to be awarded

STEP SEVEN - Set time frame of contest.

Give people enough time to find out about it and enter. But create a short enough time frame to create a sense of urgency.

STEP EIGHT - Get the contest in motion.

Create your web pages, your brochures, sign up forms, special email addresses, a tracking system. entry forms etc.

Tips for Contest Sign Up:
Make it easy for people to sign up.
Give people several ways to enter:
email, fax, mail, phone.

Here's a sample sign-up form

Here's some other sign up tips:

Don't ask for a TON of personal information, you'll turn people off.
Respect people's privacy: Tell them up front that you won't share their email address with others.
No spam! Give them a way to opt off your list.
Clearly tell people where they can contact you with questions.
Frequently list links for Contest Sign up
Use a Popup window to promote contest! Click here for the popup code. Just copy and paste the script between the <head> </head> tags in your HTML code. ('ll see a blank page. Do view source to see the code.
Use a special email address for the contest something like
Make sure to setup autoresponder: This is a opportunity to tell entrants about contest details as well aslet them know about product and price information.

STEP NINE - Promote!

What good is a contest if know one knows about it? When you've got an event that is THIS exciting tell the world about it.

Here are some ways to promote your contest! - Announce in newsletter
- Announce at contest sites
- Create a web page
- Direct mail
- Email announcement to your opt in list - Javascript pop up window on your site. Click here for the popup code. Just copy and paste the script between the <head> </head> tags in your HTML code. ('ll see a blank page. Do view source to see the code.

Here's some sites where you can announce your contest: ( Winning Ways ( Frank's Online Contests ( Contest World (

STEP TEN - Announcing the Winner

Drum roll please... Make sure to end your contest with a bang! You've created excitement during the contest, maintain that excitement to the end.

Here's some ways to announce your winner!

Send out an email to all entrants
Announce it on site
Send out a press release
Announce in your newsletter
Announce it on radio or TV
Announce it at a major event
So next time you need to stir up a little business try winning 'em over with a contest! It's a memorable FUN way to grow your business, your profits, and your network!

Article by Kristie Tamsevicius, author of the newly released ebook, "The Ultimate Guide to Creating and Marketing eBooks." ( Kristie Tamsevicius is President of Kristie's Custom Design ( a full service web development and hosting services. Subscribe to our FREE Internet marketing ezine THE EDGE at (


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