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You’re a winner!

I love taking part in contests. I remember being 5 and submitting my first entry to a colouring competition organized by a local newspaper and winning a set of colouring pencils. Never mind that I already had numerous sets and they cost my parents a lot more than the set I’d won. It was the thrill of winning that mattered.

As years went by, I became more selective in the kind of contests I participate in. If it’s a pure lucky draw I usually give it a miss. I like those in which I had to actually do something – usually solve a puzzle or tell the organizers why I deserved to win.

My winnings to-date includes a pair of air tickets to Paris, an all-expense paid vacation at a resort in Malaysia, a DVD player and other smaller forgettable ones.

As a strategic planner, I’d advised clients over the years on their own contest promotions. To me, these are important points to bear in mind whenever you’re planning a contest.

1) Excite

Give something that’s really desirable. This may seem like a given, but I have come across contests that are not worth the trouble of participation.

2) Engage

It’s a no-brainer to just fill in your personal particulars and drop an entry form off. But most people probably won’t even remember participating in the contest after a few days. What’s more, with all the spam out there, people are becoming more wary of such tactics for fear that it is merely a database building exercise. (OK – let’s be honest here, when you carry out any promotional activity that asks for consumers’ particulars and contact information, almost all the time it is to beef up your database. What’s important here is that you should give participants the chance to opt-in to (ideal) or opt-out of (acceptable) receiving future marketing communications from you.)

Their participation could well be a one-shot deal, so make the most of it. Make it a requirement that they answer a question or two in order to be eligible to win. What single most important information do you want the consumers to know? Is it the location of your new store? A new brand positioning? The latest feature in your product? Make that information the answer to the question and ensure the information is easily available (eg. in your website or in an accompanying literature.)

So, even if they opted out of receiving further communications from you (and you had better respect that choice), by their participation, you would have informed them of something new about your company or business.

3) Entertain

Make it fun for them to take part. There have been contests that involve puzzles, treasure hunts, jingle singing and endurance tests. The more the participants enjoy it, the more likely they’ll tell others about it – think viral. And hey, you’ll fulfill the engagement part of it too.

4) Easy to redeem the prize

What’s more disappointing than not winning? Finding out that the prize you’ve won comes with all kinds of ridiculous conditions.

Don’t give away a free meal which is only valid from Mondays to Wednesdays, between 2pm & 4pm, and only if it falls on an odd date! Oh and you’d need to redeem it within two weeks or it’ll no longer be valid!

Most would understand that they may be certain restrictions – just make them reasonable.

So, if you’re a running a restaurant, it’s generally OK to restrict redemption during days like Christmas, New Year & Valentine’s Day. If you are giving away a  spa treatment, you may request that an appointment is made at least a week in advance and is non-cancellable within 48 hours of treatment. Giving away a trip to Europe? It’s perfectly acceptable to have a designated travel agent handle all the travel arrangements, and to limit any changes to the itinerary.

Travel prizes are tricky. When I won the trip to a resort in Malaysia, it was a week’s vacation for 2. I wanted to bring my son along, and my husband and I couldn’t take a full week off work. The organizer was extremely accommodating. I paid for an extra plane ticket for my son, and since we were only staying for 4 days instead of the full week, they included full-board for my son for the entire 4 days, and upgraded us to a junior suite. We had a lovely time and since then, I’ve always recommended friends the resort when I hear that they are visiting the area.

Another good way to tackle travel prizes is to give away a travel voucher instead. I recently attended a prize-giving ceremony where the winner won S$3000 worth of travel to Japan*. This is probably one of the most flexible of travel prizes as it allowed the winner to plan the itinerary as desired. Of course, you can still set certain conditions like preferred cities, airlines & hotel chains. Oh, and please allow time for redemption. Not everyone can hop on a plane the following week.

* At the time of  publication, Japan was suffering from post-tsunami and the threat of radiation. I understand that the organizer had agreed for the winner to redeem the travel prize to another destination of the winner’s choice.

Have you organized a recent contest promotion that was highly successful? Or took part in one that you really enjoyed? I’d love to hear about them.

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