How to Use Competitions to Grow Your Business

For smaller businesses, it can be difficult to plan and implement complex marketing campaigns which give customers a break from your usual, ongoing activity. Whilst big supermarkets and technology firms can create new mini-sites and apps to excite their audience, smaller business don’t have that luxury. But there is one popular way to inject a little more excitement into your strategy - competitions.

Benefits of a Competition

Planning Notepad

A competition can be a very valuable addition to a marketing strategy in many ways:

  • Increase social followers and engagements
  • Increase email contacts
  • Spread the reach of your brand
  • Educate your audience about your products
  • Retain existing customers through re-engagement
  • Position your brand as likeable, generous and helpful

But competitions are a risky strategy to use and need to be carefully planned. If done on an ad-hoc basis with no real aims behind them, you can end up without any return on your investment. 

One of the most important elements of your competition is planning. A good plan will make your competition successful and take your competition from one that is just part of your activity to a competition that actually grows your business.


The first thing to consider in your planning is your audience. Who are you trying to reach? Your business may have a variety of audience types or brand cameos and whilst you can try and plan a competition that will reach them all, it’s usually best to try and capture the attention of one segment. Once you have defined your audience, the rest of the planning can easily fall into place.


The second thing to consider is what you’re trying to achieve. Do you just want to increase your social impressions and engagements? Or do you want more visitors to your website? Or maybe more email contacts? This will define the nature of the platforms you use and how long you run the competition for.

In one of our most recent competitions with a client, we managed to increase their email contacts by 22% and increase sessions to their website by 101% - a significant benefit for the brand. But this is because we knew that these would be our main KPIs and planned the competition accordingly.

Having this written down on a plan will also make it easier to evaluate the success of the competition once it’s finished - did you manage to achieve what you set out to achieve?

It’s also very important to be realistic about your goals - we all want to increase our sales, but when you’re running a competition you’re going to have to be more specific about your objectives.


Once you know what you want to achieve, you can think about how you will facilitate the competition. If you want more social engagements, it makes sense to launch a Facebook competition where users just need to ‘like’ or ‘comment’ to get involved.

If you want email addresses, you will need to look into an email capture tool. This is a common objective for many of our clients and we often use apps such as Gleam to manage these competitions.


Timescales need to be very carefully considered. If they’re too short, you’ll only have a few entries; if the competition lasts too long, your audience is likely to get bored.


The nature of the prize might also influence timescales - if it’s a high value prize like a holiday or a car, you can get away with holding a long competition that spans a few months but if you’re giving away a health and beauty hamper, you might only be able to run your competition for a few weeks.

Judging Method

Are you going to judge winners with a human panel or use a tool to select a winner by random selection? Once you’ve decided on platforms and prizes, you’ll usually already have this in mind but it may be worth revisiting.

A panel of judges can work well if entrants need to put effort into their entry - such as drawing a picture or answering a question. It can also work well if you have somebody notable on the ‘panel’ such as an industry leader or a local celebrity - who may share the competition with their own followers and attract further entries.

Random selection is a more fair option to run with if entrants don’t necessarily ‘make an effort’ with their entry. This might be the case for competitions where your audience simply provides their name and email address, or if all they need to do is 'like’ a Facebook post.


The prize is going to be the centrepiece of your competition - the thing that attracts entries (or doesn’t!). But this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend a lot of money on the prize.

We’ve run competitions in the past where the value of the prize may only have been around £6 and we’ve gained thousands of entries. A lower value prize can often seem much more ‘achievable’ as opposed to an around-the-world trip which may, to some people, appear to be a scam.

Holiday Prize

But at the same time, the prize needs to be attractive enough to convince people to engage with you.

It’s also worth considering whether you want a prize related to your own products and services or something a little different. If you are a beauty products retailer, do you want to give away one of your ranges or a pampering session at a national spa? If you use a product as your prize, it can be a good opportunity to educate your audience about the benefits of your products - thus potentially increasing your sales in the long run.

Terms and Conditions

With a marketing strategy like this, it’s best practice to protect your brand with well-thought out terms and conditions. These won’t necessarily be legally binding but can give you a bit of protection if a ‘sore loser’ comes back with a complaint. It will also give your entrants a bit of reassurance that the competition isn’t a scam and is a genuine campaign.


Once you’ve launched your competition, you will need to begin promoting it. People won’t find it on their own.

You will probably promote the competition on your social media pages but it’s worth investing in Facebook Advertising to give it an extra push. This is very simple to set up and means that your social posts reach far more people - potentially in the thousands for just a few pounds.

Another way to spread the reach of your competition is by contacting influential people in your industry and getting them involved - whether it’s by asking them to join the judging panel or if they’re just a general brand advocate who would be happy to share your brand’s social posts.

Don’t forget that you can usually use a lot of your existing channels to promote the competition - social, email, blog posts, word of mouth, in-store artwork etc.


Once the competition has ended, it can be easy to move on quickly without any kind of follow-up. Actually, following a competition up is very important if you want to retain those new users.

Whether it’s a ‘thank you’ email with a discount or simply a general social post congratulating the winner, it’s important to weave this follow up into your plan and not to overlook it. This demonstrates that your competition really did end and result in a winner and also positions your company as one that would like to help its new followers in the future.

What Will Your Next Competition Be?

If you want some further advice on how to run your competition or how to integrate it more closely with your overall marketing strategy, give us a shout on Twitter at @Statement or get in touch.

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