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How to Run an Online Contest for Your B2C Brand

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spent the first few weeks of the new year when it’s gray and cold looking at holidays in the sun. After hours (and hours) of browsing photos of golden sands and turquoise seas, I started seeing retargeted ads with contests to win vacations.

Running an online contest to capitalize on the mood of consumers during the dreary days at the start of a new year is a great example of successful contest marketing.

Have you implemented a contest marketing strategy for your B2C brand yet? No, that’s not a typo. We’re talking about contest marketing, not content marketing.

Running contests is a great way to acquire new email addresses as part of your omnichannel marketing efforts, but you need to have a strategy if you want to succeed. Sending out an email to your entire mailing list with details of the prize, along with a link to click to enter your details, is an outdated example of how to run an online contest.

Today’s best marketers are thinking outside the box and creating enticing offers that build their email list, reach new potential customers, and power brand reach. Here’s how you can create your own online contest for your B2C company.

Define your objectives for a successful online contest

Acquiring email addresses is are of course the key goal in running a contest, but what else do you want to achieve with this marketing campaign? Here are some other objectives you should consider:

  • Grow your social media following and increase engagement
  • Boost general brand awareness, or awareness of a new product line 
  • Sell more of specific products
  • Drive more traffic to your site
  • Create more user-generated content (UGC)

Done right, an ecommerce contest can help you tick all these boxes, and then some. But you have to keep these goals in mind while building the contest and make sure you’re incentivizing the right buyer behavior.

Choose the right channel for your buyers

Once you’ve defined your objectives for your online contest, you need to decide which channel to use and what type of contest you’re running. Are you going to try a Facebook photo contest, an Instagram contest, send out an email that directs to a landing page, or design a pop-up for your website?

The social networks or channels you choose will be tied to both your objectives and your audience. A few questions which can help you define your ideal audience and channel include:

  • Who is your ideal contest entry?
  • What are they going to be interested in?
  • What channels do they interact with you most on?
  • How do you best customers behave, and would your contest winner look alike?

When you have objectives in place, you can more easily track the contest’s progress and success whether you choose a social media contest or email marketing as your preferred channel.

Give away more than just your own products

The more memorable and unique the prize, the more likely you’ll be to get more entries and more buzz about the contest. Whatever you’re giving away needs to be special enough to make people think it’s worth sharing their email, or posting to their social accounts, or following your brand directly.

Sephora did that just that with its Sweet 15 Sweepstakes Facebook page contest, which celebrated the brand’s 15th birthday. The beauty brand gave away a trip to Costa Rica along with a year’s supply of its Surf product on a themed contest landing page.

With almost three-quarters of millennials preferring to spend more money on experience-related purchases, consider making the prize an experience rather than just free product. Even better, the winner will likely share photos of this experience on social media afterward — creating free buzz for your brand.

Furniture design company Design Within Reach got really creative with its email-based online competition. It challenged customers to create a miniature chair using the foil, label, cage, and cork from a bottle of champagne, and then to share the results on social media using a hashtag to win the photo contest. This is not only a unique and fun contest, but it also helps create brand awareness and generates UGC that the brand can leverage at a later date.

But make sure the prize is relevant to your business, rather than being a generic gift. While giving away the latest iPhone will attract plenty of entries, how many will turn out to be loyal customers, and how many will unsubscribe from your email newsletter or unfollow you the first opportunity they get? Think carefully about it and create a contest that is on-brand and will resonate with your target audience.

Don’t do it alone – partner up instead

If you want to use your contest to tap into a new –– yet established –– audience then partner up with another brand that reaches the audience you want to gain. You will get your brand in front of their customers and they will reach yours. It’s the definition of a win-win!

You’ll have a far better chance of running a successful contest if you partner with a brand that has a similar target market to do a cross-promotional giveaway. This will allow you to tap into a relevant audience, rather than one that has no interest in your product. If you’re a luggage brand, for example, you could partner with a clothing company to give away a trip, along with a gift card for your luggage and their clothes.

Cocoon Medical Spa and The Trans Resort luxury hotel in Bali partnered to run a Facebook contest that gave away accommodation at the hotel, treatment at the spa, plus breakfast and transfer to the hotel.

This doesn’t just work in the high-end consumer industries. Pig of the Month BBQ partnered with Instructables to give away a year’s supply of bacon and an Instructables prize pack. To enter, people had to create and upload their bacon recipes to the dedicated competition site.

Even if you’ve partnered with one (or even two other companies), remember the previous tip: give away more than just your own products if you want to run a memorable and successful contest, and drive long-term loyalty.

Build a relationship with contest entrants

Once your contest is over, follow up with all entrants –– even those who didn’t win. Let them know the contest is over, thank them for entering, and share some ideas of other products they may be interested in. This is the start of a relationship with potential new customers, so don’t waste it! Offer your most compelling marketing messaging and try to keep these new people engaged.

A great example is clothing company Chrome, which gave its contest entrants 25% off just for entering the competition. Just remember that if you’re going to offer discounts, make sure you have a robust strategy in place so you don’t devalue your products.

Now that you’ve followed up with your new subscribers and followers, make sure you track the results in the same way you would with any of your other marketing campaigns. How many visits, follows, and conversions did the contest bring in? Once you know how successful your contest has been, you can work out how to improve it, and whether it makes sense to run regular competitions in the future.

Online contests are a great way for B2C brands to reach new audiences, acquire new emails, and build brand awareness. So what are you waiting for? Give this fun marketing tactic a try.

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