A Beginner’s Guide On Contest Marketing For Small Businesses

In the world of competition, Boosting the enthusiasm of your customers toward your brand is difficult. And that’s where contest marketing came in the picture. 

Contest marketing is a powerful tool for making your audience know more about what you are offering, For a small business, it’s a great option to promote the brand on social media.

contest marketing for small business

For new business or small business, the idea of getting more engagement helps establish the brand in the market. With the help of contest marketing, this can be easier and effective.


Page of Contents

To know how to do it, follow this beginner guide for your help. 

Different Strategies For Contest Marketing In Small Business 

There can be different purposes behind your campaign for contest marketing It also depends on what kind of structure you are opting for. 

Here are some of the strategies that are used for contest marketing and you can consider for your business too. 


Image source: Techwithasia

Polls are ideal for gathering important information about your customers. The polls allow the customers to choose from several different options. It’s like multiple-choice questions.

The polls can be in a pick a prize format too. In this, customers can select what they want to get as a price. It works well for marketing as well as a researching tool.


Image source: John Lincoln

Event-based contests can be about specific holidays like Christmas Or New Year, or it can be a special occasion based. 

You can hold event-based contests throughout the year like on days like Halloween, valentine,  black Friday, or popular days. Such events are ideal for running event based contests. 

Trivia & Quiz

Image source: tophunt

It’s in question or answer format where the customers give the response depending on the questions you ask them. It can be a little fun and to win the prize, they have to answer the answers. 

It is good as people like to feel accomplished and smart. You can run trivia or quiz for getting feedback about the brand or to know what exactly people are looking for in the market. 

Pro Tip – Mix the questions with easy to hard, so it will engage more audiences. 


Image source: Freepik

Giveaways are now on-trend. Many people from youtube to companies offer giveaways to their audience. Here you distribute the prize free by choosing random selections.

Make sure you set some rules and basic requirements. It will help in keeping the audience engagement and also help in boosting sales. 

Photo Competitions 

It’s a new and trending method where people post their selfies or photos for participating in events. It’s a powerful tool for doing the promotion related to user-related content. 

The type of campaign works well, especially in the Instagram era.  The brands can reach more people and scale the footprint of lots of brands. 

Lots of people add reviews along with their photos which helps in building trust and make it more genuine. 

Effect Of Contest Marketing On Your Brand 

There are different options to try for making your contest marketing effective for your business. However, there are more benefits that your business can get from the contest.

Promoting Your Brand

Contest marketing helps in promoting the brand without making it too much ‘ sales-y’. According to the buzz stream poll, around 45% of people unfollow the brands due to too much self-promotion.

People don’t like the brands who spend a lot of time describing what they do or about their brand. Not just the audience loses their interests but the portion is too much on the face. 

The contest helps in reducing self-promotion and instead of direct, it goes with an interactive and fun approach. It’s unique and drives more engagement without letting the audience feel defensive and reluctant.  

With the help of contest marketing, you can promote the audience. Also, it works better on social media by making the promotion effective and letting the audience do it for you.

Reducing Marketing Cost 

As compared to any other tools used in marketing methods, Contest marketing is much cheaper. 

Contest Marketing can help you in getting better exposure to your brand. Also, it costs just to get a prize you put at the end and time your team will take for the process. 

Instead of putting your all money on marketing, it will take time on research and execution of your contest. 

Promoting The Fan Base

According to the Hubspot, contest marketing can boost a 34% new audience for the brand. It’s powerful and the tool can help in building a new fan base for your company.

Also inviting people to enter the competition will boost the numbers in likes, audience engagement, and followers on the different social media platforms. 

Apart from fans, you are also getting information and insights about what your audience wants. It helps in broadening the base for understanding more about the market.

Increasing The Engagement 

Contest marketing boosts engagement which is more as compared to any other tools. It makes the campaign different from any other marketing options. 

With the contest, you get the audience to interact with what you are offering as well as your brand. In return, they get a chance to win something they want.

It helps in creating users to generate content for different platforms. It helps in boosting the overall image so your audience will remember you for a longer time. 

Activating The Fans 

The contest helps in activating the old customers you probably forget about. Also, it creates a buzz in people who are using your service or product. 

It helps in motivating and promoting the idea of using your brand. Contest options like polls help in generating more interaction in real-time. 

The key factor of using the contest is to get the targeted users to respond and create.  As long as they are getting something from your brand and generating positive content.  You are successfully winning and expending. 

business have contest for marketing

How To Start Your Contest Marketing – Step By Step Process

Before you start the contest marketing, there are lots of things you are going to prepare. This pre-launch stage helps you in deciding everything so you can get the best from your  campaign

Here is your step by step process, follow for planning everything in order. 

Step 1 – Choose The Objective For The Contest 

Before you decide to run the contest, make sure you know what you want in the end. The objective of the contest should be clear.

There are some potential objectives that you can have, It includes – 

Brand Awareness for the overall improvement of your brand and business visibility in the market. It can also be an objective to motivate the audience and bring new potential buyers for your brand.

Loyalty is another objective that you can include. Here you can reward the clients who are being loyal to you and buying the brand for a long time. It can be a discount or offer in return. 

For small businesses, contest marketing can be used for promoting their new product in the market. Since it includes social media platforms, you can increase the flowers too.

For doing market research, this tool can be helpful and you can get answers for the specific questions you have in your mind. 

It can be for discovering new ideas or opportunities as well as the interest of the customers you are targeting in the market. 

Step 2 –  Who Is Going To Be Your Audience?

For running a successful contest, you must know the audience. The next step includes targeting the audience you want to focus on via this contest.

Think about the target people or those who might need the product you have. It can help you in finding the people who are interested in what you are doing and based on data, you can move forward. 

It will also help you in finding out the type of contest you want to host. It will guide in deciding the prizes,  guidelines, etc too. 

Step 3 –  Choose The Type Of Contest You Want

There are different types of contests you get such as event-based,  quiz, polls, or giveaways. Deciding the type of contest is based on the type of audience.  

The easier the contest for participating, the more sign-ups you get. Make sure that there are no barriers for your audience to enter regarding the participating in the contest. 

It includes deciding the fund you want to invest in your contest marketing. Also, how much time you are going to put and the resources it will take to prepare.

If it includes paid promotions like advertisements, then you must get a list ready for the budget. Also, you are going to decide the price which will cost money. 

Step 4-  Determine The Rules And Set The Platforms 

It depends on what prize you fixed for the contest. According to that, you have to fix the taxes as well as the limitations. 

The next step includes choosing the platform where you are hosting the contest. Different platforms have their own rules and regulations, and you have to follow it. 

Also, it will include collecting the private information of your audience. Keep in mind to follow the rules according to that. And maintain privacy too. 

Step 5-  What Is Going To Be Your Participant Qualification 

If you want to know more than just the basic demographic questions. Then fix the qualification of your participants, so you only get an interested audience in your contest.

Try to arrange the questions that can find the willingness of your audience in engaging with your brand and information regarding their social media networks.

It will help in stop wasting your time as well as money on people who might be not interested at all in your brand. 

Step 6-  Metrics And What Are The End Goals?

Set the benchmark for what you aim to achieve with the campaign. Your objective should be measurable and quantifiable.

It can be deciding the flowers you want on social media, an increase in email list subscriptions, shares numbers, etc. 

Find out what are the important metrics for you before you start the campaign. It will help you in deciding how to get it and also keep the track on data as soon as you start.

Step 7 –  What Will Be The Prize Of the Contest?

For the successful campaign, deciding the prize is important. You can’t attract people without telling what they will get at the end of the contest. 

The perfect prize not just helps in attracting more audience but also ties them down with the contest. It helps in boosting the audience engagement along with  creating leads 

Deciding the prize also gives an insight into what you can offer to nudge more than just desire in your audience. Make sure to align the prize with your product.

You can choose your product for the prize. If not you can choose something that your audience wants to have.

Step 8 –  Boost The Sense Of Urgency 

Once your contest gets launched, you want to do the follow up regarding the people participated. Inform them about the contest and what they can expect.

Those who didn’t win, you can offer concession prizes like discounts or time consultation. Make sure to add the time limit, so it will help in building the urgency feeling in them.

Step 9 –  Track, Monitor, And Keep It Updated 

The last step includes measuring the results.

Once you do the matrices of your objective, you will get an idea if you can meet those numbers or not. Also, you can get more insights into the data you collected so far.

What you get from the contest can be used for more strategies in your branding or marketing. Also, you can run another contest with this same data. 

why business need contest marketing

How To Avoid Common Mistakes While Running A Contest?

Social media contests help a lot in attracting more engagement and help in building awareness regarding your product in the market. Also, help in boosting the followers too.

There are tons of benefits you can get from running your contest on social media.  The results can be helpful and beneficial if you know the right way of implementing it. 

Unfortunately, there are some mistakes businessmen make while running their contest on social media platforms. To avoid them, here are few points to follow – 

Rules Are Over Complicated And Hard to Understand 

People don’t like to participate if the rules are over complicated or going over their heads. The rules should be simple and easy to understand.

Setting a little strict rule can help in removing the unwanted people who are not interested in your brand. But too tough rules can turn off the relevant people as well.

Instead of that, allow the rules which are easy to understand and to follow. Make sure you are not breaking any guidelines.

Set the rules which are not hard to understand. But also easy to get, post it on your main pages or site so the interested can directly land on that page. 

You Are Not Promoting Wisely 

Don’t just post it on your stories and wait for it to grow on its own. Promoting loosely can affect the numbers of participants. 

Also if you are not doing it properly, it means there are more potential audiences you are not getting in contact with. 

According to Facebook’s Edgerank Algorithm, there is only a 16% audience who sees the post you share, and the rest 84% never get a chance to know about it. 

Pro Tip – Pin the post so the audience gets to see the important post. You don’t have to do lots of posts either, it will keep your audience informed without annoying them.

 Using Too Much of Hashtags 

Hashtags are important to increase the reach of your post.  The biggest mistake you can do is using too much of hashtag which is either too broad or obscure,

Using the hashtags which relate to your post can help in attracting the generic audience. Not just the wrong use of a hashtag can affect the engagement but also it can push your post on the feeds. 

Pro tip –  Add your location in your hashtag, then industry. It will attract the people who are looking for work related to your area of interest and location. 

Your Contest Is Not Mobile Optimized 

These days, people are using their mobile for accessing their social media sites. So if your contest is not mobile optimized, you are creating a barrier which will not let your audience participate. 

Make sure that the landing page, entry form, and other information are accessible via any kind of device. It will help in boosting the engagement and increase the reach to the audience. 

Pro tip – Before you launch, test your landing pages on multiple devices. If it’s possible, try on different browsers too. It will not let any potential leads be missed out.

You Are Not Promoting Your Contest different platforms 

If you are getting a good response on Facebook and you are only promoting your contest on that platform, you might be ignoring the benefits you can get from different sites. 

The more platforms you choose for promoting, the better engagement you will get in return. So don’t get stuck with one platform, try other options too. 

It includes your site as well. Lots of businessmen don’t post the contest on their sites. Don’t let the chances go to waste. 

Your Entry  Form Is Way Too Long 

No one wants to spend their time filling a way too complicated or long-form. Not just it takes time but also people avoid participating just because of the length of the form. 

Make sure your form contains the basic questions that you want to know. Also, keep it easier for your audience to find the form. 

You can post the link on social media along with the announcement of your contest. Aso you can add it to your website. Keep it easier to reach and fill, so you get no barriers between the audience and contest. 

Your Contest Run For Not Enough Time 

The duration of your comets should be perfect – not too long or not too short. If it’s short, you won’t get the desired results as the participant won’t have much time for the participant. 

If your contest is running for a long time, it will end the curiosity and the sense of urgency.  It will make your audience lose interest and results will not be in your favor again.

There are lots of contests, some are based on flash hours for some amount of time. It creates the needed urgency but also keeps the people on their toe for the contest.

While setting the time, keep in mind that your audience requires enough time for sharing the information, filling the form, etc. Give enough time for doing all this work to your participant. 

You Are Not Following The Platform Rules

Different platforms have their set of rules that you have to follow.  Social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc have difficult guidelines.

Following them can be exhausting, but crucial. For example, if you are asking your participant to repin special the Pinterest image, it’s breaking the rules. 

You can ask them to repin the related content instead of pinning the same image. 

You can take the help of different software which can help in following the rules and resolution of different platforms automatically. 

How Contest Marketing Boost Your Business? 

how contest marketing boost business

Say No To ‘Sales-y’ Promotions   

Contest Marketing is certainly amongst the most powerful ways to promote your brand. 

According to a Buzzstream poll, 45% of people tend to unfollow a brand when they are promoting too much and talking mostly about their products. 

Promotion is a necessary evil for a brand but yet you cannot do aggressive promotion campaigns. It just put people off. 

Contest marketing, on the other hand, is quite a unique way to spread brand awareness without being too pushy about it. 

It drives immense audience engagement without directly promoting your products or brand to them. It is just more natural for them to interact through contests. 

The best way to put is, it is less “sales-y” in its approach towards the audience. 

Contest focuses on tons of user-generated content and word-of-mouth promotions. 

Audience Research

The best way to ace a marketing campaign, is to understand your audience. 

Once you really have proper research on your audience, you will simply start targeting for better results. 

Interestingly, Contests marketing is doing that for your business. 

Through contests, you are able to collect tons of valuable information about prospects at a large scale. 

Getting information from your audience is a required step for every audience research. 

With contests, people are more comfortable and willingly providing information when there is a prize to win. 

This gives them so much motivation that you can get answered a lot of questions about a potential customer including their contact details. 

You can further use this information to optimize your marketing campaigns.  

Not just that, it can even be used to modify your product or strategies. 

Better ROI Than Other Marketing Methods

One of the best parts of utilizing contest marketing for its benefits, is it is extremely cheap. 

If you compare the various marketing methods, contest marketing proves to be a high value for money. It simply has a better ROI than other marketing methods. 

It helps to bring exposure to your brand and increase engagement for the price of that single prize you need. 

However, you do need to acknowledge that there are indeed some processes that require a good amount of investment in it.  

So you just have to calculate the cost here you are investing with quantifiable benefits you get. 

Gain Audience With Every Contest

According to Hubspot, 34% of new fans are gained per campaign in contest marketing. 

Evidently, contests are amongst the most powerful tools for creating your audience base.  

You can just create an enter-to-win event campaign to lure the audience in where you gain a significant amount of engagement on social media. 

Even you can try this on a basic level. With every contest, there are chances you gain a significant amount of new users right away. 

Not to forget the information base you are collecting from a targeted audience with more potential to be your customer. 

It helps you to increase your customer base from time to time. 

Boost Engagement Through User-Generated Content

 Contests just not increase engagement but boost it to the upper notch with a significant percentage. 

And you can notice with every contest marketing campaign, there is a spike in audience engagement. 

A contest pushes your targeted audience to engage with the content you put out. 

It is encouraging for them to interact because they anticipate the fun and chance to win some prize. 

Contests also promote use-generated content that helps in gaining more audience. 

The more people engage, the better brand recognition you get. 

After certain contests campaigns, people will start recognizing your brand and you will be more memorable to them.

How to Choose the Best Prize For Your Contest

choose best prices for contest

Since you now know what actually goes into creating a contest marketing campaign, you need to focus more on making it an effective one. 

Lot of planning goes into the pre-launch for an online contest marketing campaign. 

Remember the key is to choose the best prize for your contest in order to make it successful.

Well, here is how you can make it happen.

Choosing the Correct Prize 

Starting right from the planning stage of your contest marketing, selecting the prize determines your contest marketing results. 

It is most certainly amongst the important decisions you make while planning your contests. 

Prize is a decisive factor for the success or failure of the contest you organize for the targeted audience. 

Remember, not everything attracts everyone. Your prize has to be something meaningful to your target audience. 

There are metrics to determine what is supposed to be the correct prize for your audience. 

Here are three different attributes you need to look for in a great prize.

Relevancy Towards Your Target Audience 

Focus on the preferences of your ideal consumer. Think what they would appreciate the most to gain from your brand in the context of what you sell or offer. 

That will mean you are targeting a high purchase intent so you can magnetize the most relevant audience for your contest. 

These preferences from your ideal client will have the highest potential to become your prize. Also, you further match it to your objectives towards individual expectations. 

Value of the Contest Prize  

Contest prizes don’t have to be something too expensive to make it successful. That’s not how it works when you talk about the value of the prize. 

You cannot give the iPhone as the best contest prize for all types of contests. So, the parameters of a value depends upon the relevancy for sure. 

But the most important aspect for it will be to make it something that people want to share. 

To make your contest go viral, it has to be a prize that everyone wants to share either in general or to a relevant community. 

For example: Hair loss products won’t be a really good option as a contest prize even for hair care brands.  That something people might not share to everyone confidently. 

Suppose it is a free travel trip, a camera or something that people want to share out of courtesy that his or her friend might win it. This will definitely work better. 

Remember users share things on the basis of the impressions they want to make on social media. 

The ‘Wow’ Factor 

Even with all strategies in place and getting a correct prize for your contest doesn’t guarantee an effective contest marketing. 

Well, that’s simply because people are busy, they have less attention span and there is too much competition out there. It becomes difficult to make people invest their time to engage. 

So, you have to make your prize something out-of-the-box. 

The very sound of the prize must excite your target audience to make the buzz around. Also, it’s when they will be more inclined to share your contest around. 

Frequently Asked Question  ( FAQs) about Contest Marketing For Small Business.

What are the good ideas for contest marketing?

The idea can depend on your objective, however, you can try different options like tagging your friend, play to win,  comet, or share to win,  photo caption, vote to win, etc.

How should I promote my contest?

Announce it on your social media along with your website. Share the link in your bio. You can also post in your stories and cross-promote on other platforms too. 

How should I decide my prize for the contest?

The best idea can be your own product instead of using something else. Not just you can introduce your brand but people will take more interest in your products. 

Similar Posts:

Was this article helpful?