Simple, fun marketing ideas to promote your business

I’m always impressed by the variety of original ideas companies develop to market their business. Some of the most creative and economical are also the simplest and even fun. Take contesting.

I’m always impressed by the variety of original ideas companies develop to market their business. Some of the most creative and economical are also the simplest and even fun.

Take contesting.

Some contesting, the types you see major corporations do, are very costly. But this doesn’t have to be the case for small and medium-sized companies.

If you are looking to introduce something new, contesting is a relatively inexpensive way to get people talking about your products and services, and drive customer traffic to your door.

If you are looking to increase your number of leads, contesting can also work well. This method is familiar to everyone that attends business networking or trade show events. For example, if a kitchen cabinet maker runs a competition offering a free kitchen countertop, chances are that the people who enter are in the market for a new kitchen.

Contesting can be useful to increase the average dollar sale. Think of opportunities where your customers become eligible when they have spent over the minimum purchase amount. If the prize is of a highly perceived value to the customer, it can assist you in getting them to sign on the dotted line.

There are many different types of contests, product giveaways (radio stations are always looking for prizes/promotions), coupon or discount promotions and giveaways (choosing random winners from clients), and user-generated contents.

Mail-in or, ideally, drop-off entry-form-type contests are relatively simple and inexpensive to produce. Photo contests work well in a variety of circumstances — the oldest, the ugliest, the funniest — take some planning.

Before and after shots are visual testimonies. In store or online voting also stimulates lots of interest.

Have your clients opt in voluntarily. Ask them to submit photos, videos or testimonials in order to qualify. This type of contest engages users and connects contest entrants in a deeper way to your brand, because it gives them a chance to tell their story.

Look at Z99’s website for an example of this type of contest. In this case, it is a joint venture with Z99 and Gasoline Alley Harley-Davidson.

Social media has really changed how many contests and promotions operate. Facebook, Twitter and even your own website offer numerous opportunities.

These methods are new, fast and generate lots of interest. Your clients/customers promote your business for you. The key is to have the promotion well-planned and well-managed.

Consider a new Facebook fan contest where people must “like” a Facebook page in order to qualify. Another way to increase your conversion rate through the running of a competition is to offer a free entry to anybody who makes a minimum dollar purchase. An interesting twist is the “Cash Back Day” at Mitchell & Jewell.

Although contests allow you to gather valuable data, make sure the data you ask for doesn’t inhibit participation. Make it easy to enter.

Use contests as a way to gather new information about your clients and customers. In addition to asking for their contact information, ask for feedback on their favourite product.

Always ask how they heard about the contest, etc. Remember, test and measure.

Request an action. Either ask entrants to provide information or take a specific, easy action to qualify.

Place a time boundary on the contest. Ask customers to do the work of helping you promote.

Your “raving fans” will help promote the contest, as long as it is worth their while to do so. Make the contest worth it. Give away something that is important and popular.

You must be transparent regarding how and when you are going to use the contact information you’ve collected. After the competition, always publish the results, otherwise there may be a tendency on participants’ part to think that the competition was a scam. It may be necessary to have a formal privacy statement attached to the promotion.

Remember, the value of new business generated must clearly outweigh the cost of any services offered on a free or discounted basis, but with a bit of thought in how the contest is set up and promoted, this can easily be accomplished.

Depending on the scope of the contest, it’s very important to consider the rules and regulations. It may be advisable to run ideas past your legal or accounting advisers.

A highly successful campaign is one that is planned so that it can be cross promoted across multiple platforms: social media, in store, print advertising and radio.

In summary, define your purpose for running the campaign. Is the purpose to connect, to ask for information from existing fans, or to generate new fans?

If you run competitions wisely and regularly, you’ll always be the winner!

ActionCoach is written by John MacKenzie of ActionCoach, which helps small- to medium-sized businesses and other organizations. He can be contacted at or by phone at 403-340-0880.

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