8 Steps to Running a Successful Online Contest


MAY, 2016

Running an online contest sounds like a great idea but also really overwhelming? You’re not sure if your small business would have the time and money to run one? If it’s worth your effort at all?

Don’t worry. We’ve got it all covered for you. In this article, we’ll take a look at how to set up an online contest that is tailored to your business, how to get your target audience involved and achieve immediate sales growth. Let’s get to it!

1. Now Is The Perfect Time.

It is always a great time to run an online contest. No matter how small or large your business is. Your company can benefit from running a contest in many ways without even having to reach deeply into your wallet.

You might just be starting out and are looking to grow your customer base. Or you could already have a large audience but want to drive more traffic to your website/social sites to push instant sales. Either way, running your first contest can help generate more traffic to your website, increase sales and grow your audience quickly.

2. Cover Your Bases.

The first thing you will need to figure out is what kind of campaign you’re going to run:

  • Do you want to run a Contest? Where people compete for one prize at the end or for multiple tiered prizes. 
  • Or a Give-Away? Where people just enter their information or answer a question for a chance to win. 

Expert Advice: Local and state laws vary with regards to giveaways and contests. Make sure to check with a professional for your area to set the right legal framework before you launch your contest. On top of that, every social network also has their own set of rules for running campaigns. Here are just a few:

3. Define Clear Goals.

By answering the question, “What do I hope to accomplish?” you’re making sure to get the most out of your effort. Are you aiming to raise awareness of an ongoing promotion, increase the number of followers on your social media profiles, grow newsletter subscriptions, or direct more traffic to your company’s website?

Answering these questions right at the beginning will help you get your campaign started on the right track. Not only will it influence your strategy of how and where to run your campaign, it also increase your learnings afterwards.

Expert Advice: It also doesn’t hurt to put numbers to these goals. Let’s say, your goal is to get 100 people to request a service quote through your website. If the actual number of requested quotes at the end of your campaign doesn’t match that target, your tracking results will be able to show you the weak spots in your campaign and you can learn from them for next time.

4. Get The Right People Excited.

Sure, everybody wants to win a free iPad. You will probably get a ton of signups to your contest with that prize, but are these people really valuable leads for your business? Probably not so much. Be unique and try to come up with something that people interested in your industry really want. Here are some great examples of target group tailored giveaways:

Expert Advice: Reward everyone’s effort. By giving something out just for the effort of signing up, your participants will be more likely to share your campaign and get their friends excited about it. This could simply be a discount coupon for one of your company’s products/services or, you could even take this idea one step further to multiply the number of your entries. Offering an incentive for sharing the contest with a number of friends (“Share with 3 friends to get one extra entry and increase your chances of winning!” ) could give your contest a remarkable boost!

5. Make It Easy For Everyone.

Perfect, you made all the important decisions. Now it’s time to get this show on the road! If you have zero coding experience – like myself – it may be a huge pain to try and create your own web page to get this campaign out there. Using one of these online widgets will help you out with just that:

Once you pick the hosting tool that’s right for you, it’ll ask you how you want your contestants to enter the contest. Do they have to share your post, vote about something, maybe like your page? There are tons of creative types of contest, all with their own pros and cons.

A photo or video contest, for example, is very creative and entertaining, but it requires more effort from your entrants and therefore may result in lower entry rates. Your best bet to get as many people to enter as possible is to make entering really easy. Popular options are, for example:

  • Submitting name and email address
  • Subscribing to a newsletter
  • “Like and Share” or using a certain #hashtag on social media

6. Shout It Out Loud.

Congratulations! You have this amazing campaign on your hands. However, the word about that won’t spread itself and that’s exactly where a lot of motivated giveaway planners fail. But you won’t. You got this.

  • Make some space on your company website – preferably the landing page – to draw attention
  • Announce it in your newsletter/blog/email blast for your current customers,
  • Let people know through industry specific forums as well as banner ads,
  • And regularly share it on all social media channels available to you.

Expert Advice: Don’t let the excitement about your campaign fizzle out. A smart thing to do is to set a reasonable end date and let people know about it. A sense of scarcity and urgency will make your giveaway even more attractive. If you keep your audience in the loop about what’s happening (Only two more days left for your chance to win (…)!”) and engage in the conversation chances are your campaign will stay on people’s minds.

A small business called “Beardbrand” took that advice to the next level. They hosted a 7-day giveaway picking a new winner every day! That sure kept the excitement going and the campaign’s results were impressive:

“Beardbrand” almost doubled their email subscriber list and scored impressive growth on all their social media accounts. 

7. Celebrate Your Winner/s.

You’ve been waiting for this moment. And so have your winners. Make them feel like a million bucks! You could send them a personal “Congratulations!” email, announce them on the social media channels you’ve used to promote the campaign and, depending on what you’re giving away, a fun idea can also be to publish a picture of your winner/s receiving their prize. That will give your brand credibility and increase your audience for future giveaways.

8. Review Your Work.

You did it! You successfully ran your first online contest. Now is the time when those previously set goals come in handy. Did you achieve them as planned? Review your campaign and evaluate what worked out well for you and what you might want to do differently next time. Depending on the tools you used, you can gain concrete insight on metrics like entry rate, new followers or email subscribers gained and referred traffic to your website.

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For all media inquiries, please contact

Chris Neil
The Better Software Company
1 (­844) ­515-­1992
[email protected]

About The Better Software Company

The Better Software Company offers a fully-integrated Franchise Operating System (FOS) to help owners improve and simplify their entire business, using a cloud­-based model. Integrated features, including CRM, scheduling, billing & invoicing, reporting & analytics and inventory management, offer business owners simplicity and ease of use that will save time. The software is configured to service small and medium sized enterprises in a diversity of vertical markets. The Better Software Company is based in Ottawa, Canada.

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