How to Promote Your Business with an Online Contest

Nic Sim

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So you have a website up and running. But you won’t be selling anything if the crowds don’t come. How do you get the crowds to come by your website without paid advertising?

Try running a contest!

Besides helping you promote your business, running a contest enables you to collect details about your prospects! After all, those who participate in the contest must somehow be interested in your prizes, right?

Organising a contest is an indirect way to get more information about your prospects. Once you have their emails in hand, you can contact them when you have promotions, discounts, giveaways, freebies and goodies directly.

Yes, running a contest is one of the many ways you can draw the crowd, especially if you offer your products as contest prizes. But what if you don’t have any products to offer as prizes? No problem! If you run a consultancy, offer your services as the prize. Yet, if you feel that you need to offer something tangible, you could try partnering with other businesses to offer prizes related to your business.

To run a successful contest, here are five important things to remember.

1. What’s In It For Me?

Those who join your online contest are in it for one thing: self-interest. What benefit will they derive from joining your contest? Give them a can’t-say-no reason. This means offering them a contest prize that they simply cannot refuse. The key thing is: never give them a product that is mediocre or worthless. People are not stupid so do not take them for a ride by offering something that you, yourself would not use or buy. Think like your customer: does this prize get me excited if I win? If you can’t even get yourself hyped up about the prize, it’s time to re-think.

2. How Long Does It Run?

Next, determine the duration of the contest. Some run for a month, some run for three. The disadvantages of running a contest longer than a month is that participants’ attention will falter and soon, your contest may be forgotten. A shorter duration may be a good bet sometimes. Again, this depends on how confident you are of your prize and how much attention you’ll expect it’ll garner.

3. Brainstorm For Ideas

Now that you have the prize and duration settled, think about how to present your contest. What type are you looking at? Now’s a good time to brainstorm and decide how simple or complicated you want it to be. Do you want your participants to write a slogan? Do you want your participants to hunt for some information on your website? Again, as the organiser, it’s your call. Based on our experience, give something in between - not too complex to stump them and drive them off, nor something too easy that insults their intelligence.

4. Design The Contest

Finally, it is time to put the contest to work by designing the necessary web pages and forms (if applicable). How do you want the participants to send their entries in? By email? Or do you need them to fill up a form on your website? Before your contest goes live online, get family members or friends to test out the contest and weed out problems, if any.

Another important tip is to also include a page which sets out the rules and regulations of the contest (you don’t want disgruntled participants, do you?). Be sure you tell them when the contest results will be posted online at your website. Most contest organisers will post contest results on their website as well as send an email to the winners, informing them.

5. Promote It Everywhere

Once the contest is ready, it is time to promote the contest to everyone you know. Naturally, the first place to do so would be on your website. Next, promote it on other websites, on newsgroups, wherever you can stick the contest announcement.

Don’t think only in terms of online promotion. You’d be surprised that offline promotion works too.

At the same time, don’t leave out your existing customers either. Send them an email announcing the contest. Tell them to send or refer the contest to friends and families, especially since you know they’ve bought from you and they know your products well (that is, if you are offering your own product).

The key to any successful online contest is to keep promoting it, even until the deadline itself.

Now that you know how to run a contest, go on, get one organised! It takes some work and needs some creative thinking but it’s fun and helps you promote your business in the most innovative way!

Nic Sim is the owner and founder of – a web design firm dedicated to helping solo professionals and small businesses go online affordably and successfully with its easy to use, no-fuss Redbox DIY Website. Read his business blog for tips and lots more. Go to for more details.


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