Using Contests as part of your Online Marketing Strategy

Online Marketing Strategy

One of the reasons why you need to make contests part of your online marketing strategy is because they are based on the concept of 'free'. Your users feel like they are receiving something of value for free.

The concept of free

A research conducted by psychologists revealed that 'free' tends to give an emotional charge which makes people see what is being given as more valuable than it actually is.
To make contests successful as part of your marketing strategy, you need to focus on your audience’s emotions, for instance, fear, joy or even competitiveness. The contestant needs to see themselves experiencing or using the prize. You need to choose a prize that resonates with your customers and that matches with your brand message. This will come in handy in increasing engagement and building your audience.

There are some other concepts that contests are based on. Interestingly, they are also based on psychological research. Let’s see why you need to use contests when marketing online:


Urgency makes people to take action. Contestants will want almost instant gratification. To ensure that your contest creates engagement, use a countdown clock. This will create a sense of urgency due to the approaching deadline.


This concept is based on supply and demand. When there is less supply, the demand is high. For instance, if you have a course, run a contest where there is only one winner, who will access the course. You could also let the contestants know that the scholarship runs only once a year. If the participants know that they will have to wait for an entire year, the sense of scarcity will get them to enroll.

You now know what makes contests successful. You therefore need to include them in your online marketing strategy. How then do you go about running a successful contest?

How to run a successful contest

1. Goals

This is the foundation on which your contest is built. The goals need to be measurable. This will help you to determine which contests worked and those that did not work. Here are some items that you can measure:
  • The email addresses that you captured
  • Retweets
  • Essay submissions
  • Links
  • Facebook Likes
  • Photo submissions
  • Video submissions
  • Visitors
  • Unique visitors
  • Time on site
  • Sales

2. Timing

Well, you can run contests any time. You can run contests to create interest in new products or services, or even an upcoming event. You can run contests continuously too. The latter will be aimed at loyal customers. You can give t-shirts to the first few people who download your app for instance. You can also run Holiday contests.

How you time your contest is highly dependent on what your goals are. Do you want to increase engagement on social media? Hourly contests are ideal in exchange for follows and likes. Do you aim at increasing awareness about a new product or upcoming event? A one-off contest is ideal.

As part of your marketing strategy, timing will be determined by your audience and the goals that you intend to achieve. You can also blend different types. There is really no right or wrong way to incorporate contests when marketing online.

3. The Prize

This is a seemingly easy choice. You could choose an iPhone. However, you may never come across those contestants again. No matter the goals of your contests, you need to ensure that the participants will continue to interact and invest in your brand. This means that the prize should attract potential clients. It therefore needs to be relevant to the brand.

You could integrate content marketing into your contests. For instance, offering a course that you offer as a prize. Choose a prize from one of your goods or services. If you sell jewelry, then the prize should be a nice piece of jewelry. If you offer services, offer a day of free services. You could also give some certification.

4. Landing page

A crucial part of running a contest is creating a landing page on your site or blog. This page will be used to announce the contest. Direct people to the landing page for details, whether you are promoting on your site or social media.

5. Simplicity

It should be easy to enter the contest. The procedure needs to be very short. However, ensure that you get some information about the contestants (their social media profiles, demographics and email). This will help you in future campaigns. You will turn some of them into loyal and repeat customers.

6. Promotion

You need to come up with how you are going to promote your contest in your online marketing strategy. You need to publicize your contest. Here are some options for promotion:

- Your site

On this platform, you can reach both visitors and repeat customers. Put the contest at the top of the home page with an attractive header. Link it to a landing page that gives more details. You can also have it on the sidebar and advertise it on a pop up.

- Newsletter

If you manage to have visitors and repeat customers to subscribe via email, you can promote your contest via email. You can give the people on your email list prior access to the contest. They will feel privileged.

- Social media

Ensure that you tailor the contest to fit each of the social networking platforms. You could upload an infographic on Instagram, a GIF on Twitter (since the characters are so few), a video on You Tube, and a Q&A on Facebook.

Content Contests

As part of your content marketing strategy, you can also run content contests. The aim of these contests is to help you generate original content. You could run a contest that requires people to submit content. The participants will share this content on their social media channels, especially if they need people to vote for them. This becomes a personal endorsement of your brand.

Google’s algorithms are also driven by user generated content. Moreover, as the contestants create and submit content to your contest, they include keywords which help to improve the rank of your pages. You also get to increase your subscriber base, and build lasting relationships with customers.


Contests undoubtedly need to be part of your online marketing strategy. They will help create brand awareness, build your subscriber base and in turn increase your Return on Investment. At the basis of a successful marketing strategy is urgency, scarcity, and the concept of free. You can also use content contests. Marketing online is only successful when done right.

Wish you to success!
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