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4 Steps to Running a Contest and Making People Love You

Picture of Jocelyn Rimbey, Digital Marketing Manager

Jocelyn Rimbey, Digital Marketing Manager

Blue RibbonRecently, we hooked you up with a list of stuff you need to have to run a successful contest. Ain’t that the truth! But just having the pieces in place doesn’t necessarily mean you are poised for success. We aren’t ashamed to say that we’ve run a bunch of contests. In fact, we’ve kicked, screamed, cried, laughed, and cheered over them – learning the true process along the way. Yes, we’ve learned a lot. So forgive us as we try to share it with you without making this blog post 12 pages long.

1. Planning

It goes without saying that planning is the most important part of running a successful contest. The best thing you can do for yourself is be prepared for all circumstances possible. At this stage, you should focus on:

  • Creating a sick concept and good prize – Ask yourself: What is going to get my target audience psyched? Of course, boring or lame will never fly.
  • Setting goals – What do you want to get out of the contest: followers, content, buzz? What will you measure your success by?
  • Timeline – When will you do all of this? Schedule things out – by the day, week, or month – to keep everything on track. This will be your best friend and will help keep you sane.
  • Creative Ideas – Will you build a contest microsite? House the contest on Facebook? Use a third party app or company?
  • Outreach Plan – Who will you get the word out about the contest? Blogger Outreach, FFPO, Social Networks, Press Releases? Find what audience you need to target, and create a database or plan to actually get in touch with them.

2. Ramping Up

This will most likely be the longest portion of your contest-launching process. Just like any project, you need to take the time to collaborate and fine-tune while you put all the pieces into place. Get comfortable with the nuts and bolts so you are ready for anything and everything.

  • Get those “must haves” – There are five, and you can find them here.
  • Creative Work – Remember those creative ideas? It’s time to build whatever you need to build to run this contest.
  • Outreach – Send out those emails! Make those calls! But be prepared for questions and concerns. This is where messaging comes in.
  • Carefully Crafted Messaging – Take the time to think about all the questions that participants might have. Create responses for those. Also, think about all of the problems that could potentially go wrong. Craft crisis messaging, too. Believe me, you’ll need it, especially if things really take off.
  • Social Network Push – Got a Facebook page? Twitter followers? Let them know about your contest. They are pre-qualified to be interested in what you’ve got to say, making it more likely for them to participate.

3. It’s Go Time!

You’ve planned. You’ve ramped up. Now, it’s time to hit the ground running. This is where the contest comes to life, and your hard work (hopefully) pays off. But don’t pat yourself on the back just yet…

  • Launch the contest – self-explanatory!
  • Answer questions or concerns – Be ready for it; this WILL happen. It’s fine as long as you’ve got your messaging ready!
  • Handle influx or lack thereof – Maybe a million people will be interested in your contest. But what if you see nothing? Have a Plan B so you don’t have egg on your face.
  • Keep buzz going – Don’t be afraid to reach out to your database again. Utilize social networking sites to get excitement going.
  • Prepare for the end – Know what you are going to do once the contest ends. How will you leverage the content you’ve received? Will you make a big splash about announcing the winner?
  • Track your progress – Watch site traffic or entry numbers. Don’t wait until after the contest ends to see if you’ve reached your goal. Be proactive, and don’t be afraid to tweak things along the way to ensure your end goal is reached.

4. After Effects

So you’ve run a contest. You’ve got entrants, votes, the whole nine yards. Congrats! But don’t just stop there. You’ve got a little bit more work left.

  • Yay, winners! – Announce the winners and share it with your social networks, database of people you reached out to, and other interested parties.
  • Leverage content – Use that stuff til it hurts! Whatever your objectives may be, share the good stuff with the world.
  • Review – Did you meet all of your goals? What worked? What didn’t? Make notes so that you can be sure to make your next contest even better.

Well, that might be a lot, but it’s enough to set you off on a good path. And the “making people love you” part? Well, I can’t promise that. But I can say that if you use these four steps, and make sure you’ve got all the necessities for running an online contest, you’ll not only get participation, but admiration.

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