8 Keys to a Successful Contest

tips for successful contest marketing strategy

Contest Management Best Practices

Hosting a contest is an exciting way to grow brand awareness, sales for your business and audience engagement. Company contests can seem straight forward – offer a prize, engage with participants and reward a winner – but there are multiple layers that make up a successful contest. Without planning and preparation, a contest may damage your brand’s reputation and upset customers.   

How to Run Company Contests

Whether you’re launching a contest to promote new products or services, or want to increase your social media engagement, follow these 10 key steps to ensure your contest is a hit: 

Establish a strategy

Once you’ve determined what your contest is about, you must ask yourself and your team a series of important questions: What’s the main goal for the contest (boost sales, increase customer engagement, promote new product, etc.)? How long will it run for? How will people participate (nominating via social media, public voting or submission form)? How will it be judged (internally or professionally)? How many winners will be chosen? What’s the main prize (cash, product, trip or all of the above)? What’s the best way to promote it (social media, consumer or trade publications or national/local media)? Answering these questions will help you and your team establish a strategy, stay focused and have a clear vision of how to move forward with the contest. 

Stick to the rules

Write firm rules for how people can enter the contest, how winners will be determined and what the prize includes. Make sure the rules are crystal clear so there’s no issues when it comes time to judge or award a winner. Post the rules on your website as well as social media pages.

Be creative

There are hundreds of thousands of contests going on at all times, and in order for yours to stand out, you must tap into your creative side. If you can incorporate people and their heart-warming stories, like everyday heroes, creative kids or even pets, do so! The more universal, fun and engaging a contest is, the more likely people will want to participate.   

Make it worthwhile

Don’t expect people to get excited about a small prize. Products are always great to give away, as it promotes your services and brand, but if a product isn’t substantial enough, adding a cash prize or trip can make it more worthwhile. Additionally, make sure people don’t have to jump through hoops to enter the contest. Asking for a lot of personal information, an essay, a video entry and a photo is too overwhelming and will discourage people from entering. Keep it simple.   

Utilize partnerships and influencers

Partnering with an industry expert or established and respected organization is a great way to extend your reach, add bigger prizes and encourage engagement with current and potential new customersPaid social media promotions and influencers are also beneficial, as they can extend your reach to thousands or even millions more people. 

Promote, promote, promote

Once you announce the contest, don’t let the hype of the first few days die down. Reach out to relevant and local media to push the contest and maintain momentum over its entire course. Use social media to remind followers about the contest and encourage them to share with friends and family. Include a link to your website or contest microsite to make it easy for participants to enter. Send out a reminder towards the last week of the contest to ensure no one misses out on promoting the contest and entering. 

Don’t forget to celebrate

And now the moment you’ve waited for – the celebration! When the contest ends and you’ve determined a winner, share it with the world. Provide the winner with the prize, as well as an award, medal or certificate (and any runner-ups) at a live ceremony, if appropriate. Document the ceremony and use the images and videos on social media. This imagery can also be used to promote next year’s contest and, if your contest runs year after year, you can showcase these images as part of a highlight reel or hall of fame on your website.   

Take notes

Don’t forget to measure the contest’s overall impact on brand engagement, click-through rates, conversions and sales. It’s also good to keep notes on what worked well, what needs improvement and what should be cut for the next contest. This helps you to continually improve year after year and allows you to look back at your results to see how the contest performs in each subsequent year. 

A Winning Contest Marketing Strategy

Contests excite customers, humanize brands and in some cases can bring awareness to an important topic or target audience. Whether you’re recognizing the efforts of essential workers, promoting the launch of a new product or giving away a free trip to a desirable destination to promote your brand, these steps will ensure your contest is a major success for both your business and customers. That’s a win-win situation!

Looking for assistance in generating contest ideas or launching your next contest? Reach out to Mulberry today.


Alex Weiss is a Senior Account Executive at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. She combines her creative writing background and B2B experience to bring client campaigns to life.