Every business owner wants to attract attention effectively to maximize their marketing budgets. As you’ve seen on this site over and over again, the right sales promotion attracts attention. And consumers often respond to a promotion that has a high perceived value. There two primary types of sales promotions that can provide high value, sweepstakes and contests.

A sweepstake is a promotion based on luck, not skill. Winners are chosen by random drawing.  In most cases a purchase is not necessary to enter.  Yes, many times a purchase may get you “bonus” entries (the reason for the sweepstakes – get you to purchase or to get information from you). As an example, if you have a credit card you’ve probably seen this one, the more you charge on your card the more entries you receive to win a free trip or a large dollar amount of credit on your card. I’ve entered, I’ve never won, but I figure why not?

Sweepstakes = Luck, Contests = Skill

A contest typically requires either questions to be answered or some skill to be performed. Plus the winner is usually determined by a panel of judges (most correctly answered questions or the easiest recipe to make). As an example, Eastern Airlines (I’m sure some of you don’t remember them, but a major icon in its original days on the east coast) is coming back to the Miami Florida market and recently ran a contest for the flight attendant uniform design. The winner was showcased at Fashion Week and got a 3 year contract. Granted, that’s a big ticket item and limited entry audience appeal but Eastern Airlines got a lot of press coverage (I saw it on the national evening news) extending the overall value of the contest promotion to them. Lisu Vega was the winning designer.

Contest Winners for Eastern Airlines

Wining Design for Eastern Airlines New Uniforms

Sweepstakes and contests are a good tool to incorporate into any marketing plan. They can:

  1. Help build you customer base: Sweepstakes and contests can be designed to appeal to a broader audience than you may currently have so it will help increase your traffic overall.
  1. Build engagement with your customers: Everyone likes to win something and if you have in-store displays detailing the promotion and employees talking it up with customers it gives you another opportunity to engage and establish a relationship with them. Remember the old adage, people like to do business with people they know and trust.
  1. Help  you to understand your customers more: The prize “carrot” is a great way to get people to share additional information with you as a part of their entry process. Of course, you don’t want to ask too many questions, but you could find out some interesting facts. I recently entered a sweepstakes for a free golf trip (I happen to be very lucky and win sweepstakes on a regular basis). The entry was simple but they asked which golf magazines I read, where I shop for my golf apparel, how many golf vacations I take annually and how often I play. Along with my demographics I can think of a number of ways they can use this information to hone their marketing plan effectiveness for the future.
  1. Expand your marketing reach: Imagine having your customers marketing for you! That’s what many sweepstakes and contests can do. Just about any program can gain from incorporating social media into their promotion mix. Then you have your customers tweeting about the awesome contest you are running or encouraging their friends to “like” your page, posting images on pinterest or google+ and so much more.

So tell us about your sweepstakes & contests successes!

Danette Gossett

Danette brings more than 30 years of experience developing advertising campaigns, direct marketing programs and sales promotions to her clients. Prior to starting her companies, she worked for New York advertising agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi & Lowe Marschalk.

Her corporate marketing experience included National Advertising Director for Avis Rent a Car Systems, Inc., and Director of Marketing Services for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Read More