Sometimes you don’t have a new product to promote or any recent successes to brag about, but you still want to keep your name in the public eye. A great way to supplement your other marketing or public relations efforts is through a giveaway or contest. For relatively little money, you can generate great buzz and attention that will get people talking about your business.
In my experience, the most effective contests/giveaways are the ones that really connect well with the product or business. So for example, a car dealership could giveaway an iPad or BBQ grill—but that’s not likely to truly engage anyone. On the other hand, imagine if that dealership held a local contest for the “Most Embarrassing Car” and gave away a new car to the winner. People could submit photos of themselves with their decrepit, falling-apart cars and make a case for being chosen. You’d probably find some great human interest stories and attract media attention for your contest—not to mention earn community good will for helping out someone in need.
There are lots of ways to engage your customers with contests—the key is to offer them something valuable and be as creative as possible. For example, Rack Room Shoes held a photo contest looking for child models for their back to school campaign. A brother and sister were chosen from over 2,000 entries to receive the full “model” experience, and were featured in newspaper inserts and all 385 in-store displays.
People like to try products before buying them. Look for creative ways to allow potential customers to try your product or sample your services—outside of a normal “sales” environment. Providing door prizes for charity events is a great way to attract new customers and give back to the community. Offering free classes is another way to bring new people in the door. For example, a company that sells gas grills could offer lessons on how to BBQ like a Master Chef. An interior design firm could teach a class on how to reorganize and update your space on a budget.
Another approach is to focus on giving back to your community. Find people in need of your product or services, and provide it to them for free. To increase your chance of media exposure (and yes, it’s okay to benefit from doing a good deed), ask your vendors and business associates to contribute as well. Your customers (and potential customers) need to know that you are the kind of business that cares about your community. People that form emotional attachments to brands or companies make for loyal customers. Give them a reason to choose you over the competition.