By guest contributor Meredith Keller
Giveaways and contests are a popular way to market your business. They engage customers, give them a reason to take a desired action and help get your business noticed. That said, contests and giveaways aren’t magic bullets. They won’t rocket your unknown business to superstardom over night. If you want your contest or giveaway to perform at its peak, you’re going to have to apply a little elbow grease. All too often, a business owner will come up with a contest and then wonder why no one’s participating. The answer: no one’s heard about it.
Here are a few tried and true techniques to get the masses to notice:
1. Direct traffic from the directories
There are entire websites out there that do nothing but promote sweepstakes and contests. Just to name a few: online-sweepstakes.com, prizey.com, contesthound.com, contestalley.com.
Listing your giveaway or contest on sites like these will not only bring their traffic your way, it will provide you some link juice —that thing that makes search engines like your website more than others. Promoting your contest or sweepstakes this way is quick and free so why not take advantage of it?
2. Alert the press
Contact the editors on your press list about your contest. See if you can get them to mention your contest in a blog post or article. Don’t have a press list? Build one and do it now. (Here’s some tips on how.)
You may also want to sponsor a contest for a website with higher traffic, like an indie blog such as Indie Fixx. It gives the blog a reason to direct their traffic to your website.
3. Deploy the troops
Your customers can be your biggest advocates, you just have to mobilize them. Create a sweepstakes or contest that encourages them to talk about you. Make your contest entertaining, create a funny viral video about it that they can share. Make your contest social, give your customers a reason to invite their friends to participate. At my t-shirt company, Ex-Boyfriend, we ran a t-shirt design ideas contest and asked our customers to share their ideas on Facebook and vote for their favorites. Naturally, customers invited their friends to become fans on our Facebook page to get more votes for their ideas. As a result, our fanbase grew and our customers got to engage with our design process.
If you’re a jewelry designer, maybe you could host a “who wore it best” contest and ask customers to submit their photos of themselves in your products and have people visiting your website vote for who wore your wares best. This kind of contest gets your customers to tell their friends all about your brand so that they can win a prize.
4. Use what you’ve got
You may have more promotional tools at your fingertips than you realize. When you host a contest or sweepstakes make sure you share the details on every promotional channel you have, This means using your newsletter, your website, your blog, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Youtube. All of these different channels reach customers who can be prompted to participate in your event.
5. Get a partner in crime
You know the old expression two heads are better than one? Well two businesses promoting a contest or sweepstakes is better than one also. Instead of just giving away a product of your own, team up with another business and giveaway one of their items too. (Offer then one of your items for them to give away as well.) Work with your partner business to promote your giveaway together so you’ve got double the publicity at no extra cost. (More tips on working with a partner business can be found here.)
6. When all else fails, it pays to advertise
It’s tough to start from nothing so if your website traffic is truly in the toilet a little paid advertising can make a difference. You can advertise your business in general or advertise specifically about your giveaway. There are lots of low-cost advertising solutions for indie businesses from banner ads on sites like Indie Fixx to co-op websites like loungeluxe.com to programs like Google Adwords and Adbrite (both allow you set your advertising budget as low as you need to set it). Some websites might even be willing to accept free products in exchange for a little ad space. Shop around for advertising deals that fit your budget and leverage ad space to bring in new customers who’ll participate in your giveaway or contest.
About the contributor: Meredith Keller is the brand manager for Ex-Boyfriend, an indie t-shirt company. She also maintains the photoblog Indie Parade and maintains co-op advertising websites for indie business owners. Indie biz owners can find her tips here on Indie Fixx and via her monthly Creative Entrepreneurs newsletter.