Using a contest to promote your company and build awareness is a viable method of marketing for any business.
During the past month, in preparation for Mother's Day, many retail jewelers held jewelry design contests. Typically this type of contest required a sketch of a pendant to be submitted to the jeweler through some method. The winner would have their pendant turned into reality by Mother's Day.
Over the past 4 years, I've been helping retailers with various types of contests and have watched several of them yield less than expected publicity results, little financial return, and a few that had zero contest entries.
I'd like to detail some of the things I've learned from my experiences with different clients from around the U.S. I'm going to use the tangible example of a Mother's Day jewelry design contest for this discussion.
Method of Entry
I remember back in 2004, a few of my clients required jewelry design sketches to be submitted in person in their store. By 2010, many of these entries had transitioned to an online form through Facebook but those FB contests didn't usually allow for file uploads, so the sketch still had to be brought into the store or emailed in.
In order to get the most number of contest entries, you need to make it easy for people to enter the contest. While I'd love to see everyone enter the contest through a trackable form on your website, truthfully this single method of contest entry is a barrier to entry.
In order to achieve the highest number of contest entries, as a local business, you need to offer multiple methods of entry. This includes submissions through social media, through your website, and in person.
- A form on your website that allows for personal information and the upload of the design sketch
- A form on your Facebook Page that uses a Facebook App to accept contest entries; this form also needs to accept uploads
- In-person in your store
Top of the Funnel Marketing
One of the main reasons to hold a contest is to collect names for future marketing, specifically addresses for your email list. In more recent years, the terms of the contest I've worked with usually specify that winners will be notified by email. This ensures that people use their real email address for the contest entry.
Every contest you run should be promoted with at least one blog post, a press release to local news sources, and mentions on social media. This is all content that will attract future customers, but the collected email addresses still remain as the real value, and reason for the contest.
For the record, let me clearly say that every contest you run will generate short term interest with few sales, but they lead to long term potential sales through email marketing.
If you don't engage in email marketing, then you are just giving away your goods and services in exchange for short term publicity that doesn't generate sales.
In other words, don't even bother with a contest unless you have a long term plan.
Complicated Contest Entries
I've read plenty of case studies that show that people are more likely to fill out online forms when there are fewer fields.
When it comes to email signup forms, you should not ask for a name, address, and email because that's too much information to require for a simple email newsletter. You're more likely to get someone to sign up to your newsletter if you only require a name and email, or just the email address alone.
When it comes to contest entries, you can require them to fill out as much information as is needed for the contest. But a better approach would be to only require the full name and email address for the entry. The terms of the contest could indicate that all winners will need to provide their full mailing address upon winning, but there's no need to ask that during the initial entry.
Remember, you will follow up with them through email marketing, so their submitted jewelry design sketch, name, and email is paramount; everything else is extraneous.
You might think that the town name or zip code is required for entry, but you can leave that off. You can capture that information through their IP address when they fill out the form.
By the way, you can't capture IP address information through social networks, so that will be lost to you. However, on Facebook you could create an app that feeds a form from your website. That form which appears to be within the Facebook framework is still able to capture the IP address information from the contestant.
If you frequently send direct mail ads then you could have an elimination round of the contest that requires all finalist to submit their full address. This would allow you to collect a few more mailing addresses for future direct mail marketing.
Contest Advertising Cost
The success of the contest lies in the number of people who enter and the long term viability of your email marketing. When you track the attribution methods for sales you will be able to amortize the cost of the contest over long term future sales.
You need to come up with a target goal for new customer acquisition during your contest. At minimum you should set your goal to 2 people.
Do you know the lifetime value of your customers? Let's say the lifetime value of every customers is $6000. With a minimum goal of 2 new customers you can spend up to $12,000 running the contest and make all your money back through the lifetime of those 2 customers. Of course that's an extreme example, but this certainly does appear much more attractive when your goal is 20 new customers. That's $120,000 return on a $12,000 contest investment.
Once again your long term plan comes into play here.
Contest Advertising Reach
I have to stress that the contests I usually help with do not work as planned. Although the contests are viable and have reasonable prizes, it's the execution that often dooms the results.
Many local radio stations and newspapers offer contest promotion services. In fact, I've helped several jewelers that were initially approached by their local radio station to promote a contest. Typically the radio station provides enticing listener reach and website visitor count, and the jeweler is convinced that the contest will generate a lot of business.
Sadly, relying on a single medium to promote your contest always yields horrible results. I have witnessed plenty of failed contest attempts when they relied on a single medium of a radio station, local newspaper, direct mail, email, or social media.
I've seen the best contest results occur from a combination of the following mediums:
- social media ads/announcements
Newspaper ads only seemed to supplement long term contests. Banner ads on radio station website also seem to yield very little results.
When planning the marketing for your ads you should always look for mediums that provide the best reach to cover a large group of people for the lowest cost.
Learn About Your Customers
There's a difference between the contest junky that signs up for every contest they find and a potential legitimate future customer.
The potential future customer will weigh the value of the goods and services you provide before they enter the contest and agree to that email marketing. This creates a higher level of website activity during the term of the contest.
The perusing they do before entering the contest can provide additional data with regard to website performance and customer interest. What you learn during a contest period could help you redesign your website, or you can just use the collected data to improve upon your next contest.
Google Analytics will show you the location demographics for the people entering the contest, and the pages they reviewed before entering. In order to paint a clear picture of customer wants and desires, you'll have to pay careful attention to the visitor flow reports and back trace how people got to the contest entry form.
Remember that IP addresses tracking through your website (because Google Analytics doesn't allow it) will show you where people come from. Time and time again I am continually surprised how many people outside the target ad area will fill out a contest form. Those way outside the contest area usually turn out to be contest junkies while those in neighboring towns are usually attributed to user sharing or someone traveling outside the contest target zone before they could fill out the form.
Creating a Better Contest
I have to mention another contest technique that seems to prove it's worth every time.
When considering larger contests with high value grand prizes, like engagement rings, it's better to create a multi-company grand prize with other local vendors who will cooperatively help generate a marketing buzz.
I've seen really successful contests that involved a local florist, tuxedo rental, banquet hall, and limo service. Each of those companies paid for their own promotion of the contest but all the entries were collected through the jeweler's website.
With this type of cooperative contest, you would share all the sales leads (i.e. email addresses) with the other companies after the contest is over.
To Sum It Up
Contests are a good way to build awareness of your jewelry store, but they are only the first step in a long term marketing campaign that you must follow through with. Goal setting and preparations to reach those goals need to be carefully planned.