Build your database with contests

Contests and giveaways apply to every business differently, but they are always an excellent way to build your customer database.

A common way to get involved in contest marketing is to sponsor a giveaway being run by a company that already has a large audience. But some brands take a more traditional approach and simply run a contest themselves. Lets run through some things you need to know about using contests to grow your audience and making use of the entries.

Only ask for the info you need

The main advantage of running a contest is to research current and potential customers. There are a few ways to gain insight into your customers using contest entry forms. Aside from gathering basic personal information like names and addresses, you can also look at user habits. 

You want to use your contest to learn as much as you can about your audience. But remember that the purpose of providing free goods via a giveaway is to encourage the customer to be open to giving you their info.

Most companies use contests to grow their email list for future communications. If that is all the information you feel you need, then just ask for a name and email address. Keep it as simple as possible in order to maintain the trust of the user. 

Luckily, the person entering has the assumption that you will need their email address in order to contact them if they win. So it’s not always obvious that you are just adding them to another marketing list. 

If you are looking to learn more about your audience, you can include a brief survey in your giveaway.

Driving new leads and learning from them

The winner of your contest will be a valuable lead for future sales opportunities. Hopefully they enjoy your free product or service enough to eventually come back for more. But you should be more focused on the rest of your entries and how you can turn their interest into transactions

There’s also a great deal of information that can be taken from the contact info that you gather. You can get a deeper look into how certain types of customers engage with your business. Customers that enter into a contest might be leads that are interested in your business, but will need more nurturing before they purchase. 

You can take a look at where the customers live and if you operate a B2B operation, you can better understand what types of businesses to market to. Use this information to analyze what products or services are more desired.

Contests are a great way to use value to persuade audiences to hand over their precious contact information. It can be challenging to get this info from users when they’ve already seen all of the tactics before. Whether its a popup to download an ebook or a media kit that can only be accessed by filling out a contact form, people don’t always give in to those offers anymore.

Claire Linney – Emerging Media Manager

We have seen great success through giveaways involving VIP festival tickets. The Post and Courier’s contesting expert Claire Linney helped a client reach a wide audience interested in a local festival.

“Who doesn’t love going to a fun concert?  We gave away tickets, which engaged 2,000 Post and Courier followers who entered to win!  The client received opt-ins from the giveaway of people who would like to be contacted by the festival directly, which led to increased ticket sales for the festival.”

Reach a local audience

Contests tend to bring strong growth to local businesses who sponsor or run them. On the local level, you have the ability to build the promotion around the target audience.

Promotional advertising is a multibillion dollar industry. Borrell research shows that local promotions and marketing are generating 2.5 times more revenue than traditional local advertising.

With the holiday season approaching, local contests are a good way to reach shoppers. Stores can give away discounts or promotional products, as well as sponsoring holiday-themed giveaways that connect buyers with any kind of local business.

“We run holiday giveaways in December, engaging thousands of readers entering to win our giveaways with holiday gift ideas from our clients,” Claire explains.  “This promotion directly connected our clients with local shoppers ‘bottom of the funnel advertising’ around the holiday season, helping bring holiday shopping business to the local stores who participated.”

Getting more eyes on your contest

The greater the value proposition of what you’re giving away is, the more likely you are to get entries. So you need to find a balance between what you’re willing to provide in exchange for user information. 

If you take the approach of sponsoring a contest, you’re likely already reaching a large audience through the company running the contest. But if you need to promote a contest you’re running yourself, here are ways to drive entries.

Social media can be your best friend when it comes to explaining the value of your giveaway. It’s one of the leading ways to grow your business and connect with customers. Engaging in conversations with users gives you the chance to talk up your contest in a personal way. It shows that you are currently invested in giving customers the chance to win something cool. 

Static advertisements, while useful, can feel lifeless compared to an actual social media interaction. You can make a post on your Twitter that mentions the giveaway. If you get comments on that post, the door will be open for you to have a conversation with your audience about what makes the prize so great. Put the focus on your customers and what you’re doing for them.

You can also pose the contest as an exclusive offer for those that have already shown interest in your business. Even if you’re just starting with a list of emails that determines who can enter, you’re still going to be able to gather more info for your database. Similarly, you can offer extra entries to customers that have already spent money with you or that just start following you on social media. 

In the end, steps like these will reinforce that your identity is a customer-focused one. In the age of consumer privacy concerns, the relationship between businesses and customers is a delicate one. Contests help to break down that barrier by making consumers more willing to share their personal information.

Get your contest rolling

Claire has a team of contest and promotion specialists who are here to help!  The team will meet with you and come up with a custom promotion that meets your individual business needs.  We design the creative and create the promotion plan to reach the audience you desire.  Contact us and we’ll walk you through the process step by step.

3 important things to build your brand

Whether you are a new business looking to make an impression or an established one in need of new ideas, branding can be overwhelming. Its easy to overthink what your brand should look and feel like, since there are many contributing factors. So let’s break down three of the most important things to work on when building your brand. Continue reading

Podcasting: It’s simple and important for businesses

The idea of starting up a podcast can be understandably intimidating. You might already have a video strategy in place, but the podcasting world is still foreign to you. Well, it's easier than it looks and it is absolutely more useful than you might think. 

Podcasts have seen rapid growth in listenership over the last 10 years. Recent stats show that there are over 750,000 podcast programs available and over 50% of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast. That is 144 million listeners, many of which are loyally dedicated to their shows of choice. 80% of listeners finish each episode they listen to and come back for more.

So let's run through the process of getting your podcast planned, recorded and uploaded for the world to hear.

Plan out your podcast

A business’ podcast needs to have a planned approach. There are plenty of podcasts out there in which the hosts casually chat and naturally find discussion topics. These can be great, but the audience you’re looking for needs structure and confidence in your discussion.

Your topic should be something specific enough to compete with other podcasters in your industry. As a business, you want your program to be an educational tool for prospective customers. Build a dedicated listenership by standing out and being the go-to product for a specific area of business. You can always expand your topics in later episodes to grow your audience.

The name of your podcast should be fairly straight forward. You want audiences to know its coming from your business. In the end, the goal is to drive listeners to become customers of your business. And if the podcast’s name is more recognizable than your business’, it needs to be rebranded.

Choose the hosts

Podcasts have found success in having both regular and rotating hosts. If your desired hosting crew isn’t always going to be available, start by having at least one regular host. This can be the lead host that guides each week’s guests through the discussion topics. 

Eventually, one of the recurring guests can take over the lead host’s role in some episodes, freeing everyone up to  join when they can.

Though there are many successful podcasts with only one host, this can be tough for new podcasters. Conversation will flow more naturally with at least two people, and audiences enjoy hearing more than one voice.

Stick to a format

While there isn’t a magic number for podcast length, you need to consistently hit your desired length. 22% of listeners tune in while driving, which is important to consider when planning to have a 10 minute or 60 minute show. So long as you're being consistent, listeners will stick around. No one wants to plan to leave on a 60 minute show during their commute, only to have to find a new show when yours ends 30 minutes early.

Frequency is another consideration to make. Most podcasts are weekly, so we’ll operate on that assumption. But you can also run a monthly, or bi-weekly show. Again, consistency is key.

With each week’s discussion varying, you’ll need to plan segments for each episode. After recording a few episodes, you should be able to predict how long each segment will run and plan around that. 

You don’t want your hosts to feel rushed, but the lead host can pose questions to the others in a way that encourages quick answers when necessary. If you feel like your main topic is going to run long in an episode, plan to cut out the listener mail segment. 

What you don’t want to do is to verbally call attention to a segment running long and telling your guest hosts that you need to skip something. If the guest hosts are new to podcasting, they might get stressed about making sure they’re following the structure.It is the lead host’s job to make others feel comfortable speaking.

Necessary podcast equipment

A common misconception about podcasting is that high-end equipment is necessary. Essentially, all you need is a computer with recording software and at least one or two microphones. 

The most commonly used software is garage band, which you likely have available to you since it comes installed on every Mac computer. This will allow you to easily monitor audio levels and edit the final product. 

There are more advanced programs like Adobe Audition, but luckily, podcasting doesn’t require much technical work beyond recording, saving and uploading.

As far as recording goes, better equipment will result in a cleaner product, but expensive mics aren’t required. Plugging in headphones with a microphone into a phone will work, but the sound quality won’t be great and you won’t be able to balance each host’s volume levels. So plan to eventually get a separate mic for each person.

Uploading your podcast

There are a couple quick steps to take before your show will appear in front of audiences. 

First, you’ll want to have attractive artwork that conveys your topic and business name to users browsing podcast apps. Keep your artwork on brand with your marketing.

Next, you will need to host your show as an rss feed on website. This can be done with your own wordpress page, or podcast hosting sites out there that charge a minor fee. The rss feed is the crucial aspect of getting your show on big podcast directories like iTunes and Spotify.

You will need at least one episode of your show published and available on your rss feed to get approved for iTunes. Speaking of getting approved, follow these requirements by Apple, and your feed should be set for approval on all major apps that you want to live on.


Minimally Adequate Event Series

Throughout the month of January, the Post and Courier is hosting a series of panel discussions inspired by Minimally Adequate, a published series of stories focused on the challenges facing South Carolina’s public school system. Bringing together educators and legislators from throughout the state, the events’ discussions will shine a light on the critical issues that reporters found during their eight-month investigation. The stories came from a team of five reporters, two of which opened up in a Q&A to share their thoughts on the series. Reporters Jennifer Berry-Hawes and Thad Moore explain Minimally Adequate and its impact on the state of South Carolina.
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