Get More Customers by Creating a Marketing Contest

Want to reach more customers in your business? Creating a contest is a fantastic way to create buzz about your product or service.

Contests tap into the reward centers in the brain and create the engagement you’ve been hoping for. The best part is they're relatively inexpensive to execute.

Engaging Customers with a Contest

One of the primary reasons that marketing contests work so well for small businesses is that they intrigue potential consumers on a subconscious level. 

Think about it: you’re offering a prize or reward in exchange for little to no effort on your consumers part. This will automatically generate curiosity, interest and desire for your product!

Furthermore, promotional contests trigger the competitive spirit that lives in all of us. Creating customers who want to win that prize ups their perceived value of your product. This is what engaging your customers is really all about (see other great tips for customer engagement here).

A good contest will also create buzz around your product and a healthy dose of brand awareness. However, not all contests are created equal! It’s important to determine which option from dozens of marketing contests is the right one for your business.

Also, when using email to get out the word about your contest, be sure to avoid using SPAM words (see a complete list here).

You also want to use a stellar subject line so that your email is opened and read! Check out some great email subject line examples here.

Creating a Great Promotional Contest

Creating the best promotional contest possible for your business will depend a on a lot of factors. These include what kind of business you are, what your marketing goals are, what you want your consumer to do for the prize, and what they might want in return.

In fact, these four factors often interact together to create a unique contest that maximizes on your client preferences to create a successful contest that meets all your needs.

Your Industry Can Determine the Best Type of Contest

Social media in particular will play a huge part in determining what kind of contest makes sense and the platform you use to accomplish your goal.

For example, if you’re a clothing or apparel retailer, your potential customers will probably find you on Instagram first if you post a lot of pictures of current and new inventory.

Therefore, a marketing contest on Instagram would make the most sense.

If you’re a restaurant trying to attract new customers, you know that most individuals will look at reviews online or on Yelp before trying out a new eatery.

Therefore you’ll want to focus your efforts on going where your potential customers are looking. A drawing in which reviews or check-ins on Facebook would be very effective.

A consultancy firm will go about things a different way. Depending on the industry, social media presence may be large or extremely minimal. One major goal of most consulting services is to capture leads of people who might need their service.

Therefore, joining your email list in exchange for an entry into a drawing would make more sense than mounting an Instagram campaign.

Tailor Your  Contest to Your Marketing Goals

Your specific marketing goals can have a huge impact on the type of marketing contests you might select for your business. Not all promotional contests have to be about attracting new followers.

You may consider a contest to support a cause, for example. Or perhaps it’s brand awareness you’re after. Your plans for a marketing contest will change accordingly.

Choose the Right Call-to-Action

Yet another factor that may decide what kind of contest you choose is your desired call-to-action.

What do you want your potential clients to do in order to enter into the contest or potentially win it?

This call-to-action will vary according to your goals. As mentioned before, if you’re wanting to collect leads for possible sales, the call-to-action would be to provide their contact information in some form or other.

If you’re wanting to increase brand awareness, your call-to-action would look a little different. Many companies conducting Facebook or Instagram contests require entries to like or follow their pages, tag three friends and comment.

This call-to-action completes three things. It introduces the product or brand to at least three new potential clients. The high number of likes and comments also works within social media algorithms to push the posts higher up in timelines and news feeds.

If you’re promoting sales in a retail store, you might designate a special “gift with purchase” for the first 25 individuals to make a purchase. Another fascinating trend that pumps up excitement and competitive spirit are drops. A small business will typically tell their followers when a product is “dropping” on their site, usually a certain time of the day.

Limited quantities of the product are available and quickly sell out. Established customers or clients catch the competitive spirit or the rush of scoring a “rare” item and load their cart up with as many as possible before checking out.

Also, don't forget to take advantage of marketing automation tools (see our recommended list).

In addition, you can find free, invaluable courses on marketing automation online (see our top list of courses).

Offer Rewards Your Customers Want

The last major factor in creating an effective small business marketing contest is selecting the prize or reward that your clients will want. Sometimes, this is a free product or service, but sometimes it can be a little more complex.

It’s important to look into your marketing analytics to ensure you’re hitting the nail on the head with your chosen prize.

After all, a prize that most of your clients and customers will want, as well as one that is desirable to potential users is the goal. If your business primarily caters to businessmen in their 40’s and older, the prize will look different than a business that caters to 20-30 year old young women.

Getting clear on what your consumers value is the key to selecting the right prize, and determines what contest is going to accomplish your marketing goals.

You might be surprised at what the result looks like, but the research is well worth it. It could be free products, major discounts or more unusual rewards like public recognition or experiences.

5 Incredible Contest Ideas

Now that we’ve gone over the basics for selecting a contest that is best for your business, here is a list of our 5 favorite contest ideas.

These fresh small business promotional contest ideas will help get your creativity flowing to tailor the perfect contest to your small business needs.

1. Partner Up With Another Business

Sometimes you can create even more impact by partnering up with another local business. For example, if you’re a small gym or studio, you might offer a membership and an athletic outfit from a local boutique.

2. Create an Experience

Make your prize something out of the ordinary, like a planned date for two with all expenses paid. Many local businesses might be willing to partner with you or discount elements of the package in exchange for the cross-promotion.

Creating an experience rather than just giving away free product reaches a wider demographic and inspires curiosity.

3. Schedule the Fun

Daily giveaways and prizes are particularly timely around the holidays, but can be implemented any time of the year. Every day, offer a drawing for a new prize along with different ways to earn entries and bonus entries that serve your marketing purpose.

The engagement you earn from this contest type will last much longer than a shorter event, with more chance of brand awareness and conversion.

4. Target a Specific Customer

You can also create contests that target a specific portion of your clients. For example, engaged women. The majority of weddings happen in Spring and Summer, and the majority of preparation will happen in Fall and Winter.

Gym memberships, diet supplements, workout plans and other elements surrounding wedding prep are timely sweepstakes this time of year. If your business has anything to do with babies and children, know that most babies are born in September.

By learning the statistics of your desired audience, you can increase exposure and contest participation.

5. Create a Package

Include multiple products or services in an offered package designed around a theme. For example, a Superbowl themed package, a Summer BBQ, Girl’s Night In or more. Depending on your product, some themes will be far more relevant than others, but the right package will entice your market demographic.


Marketing contests are a must in a comprehensive marketing strategy. It’s a fairly low-cost way to drive new leads and get your brand name out there and create a positive association with it. The more unique and tailored to your target market the contest is, the more success you’ll see with valuable engagement and conversion.

Take stock of who your target market is, what they value, and what they want from you and you’ll be well on your way to creating a contest people will talk about for years to come.