Internet Marketing Contest: Lessons We Learned
Alternate title: How to Do It Better Next Time
This week we opened up voting for the Small Biz Discovery Contest and we thought it was a good time to talk about mistakes we may have made in holding this contest and places we plan to improve in the future.
In the past we’ve held contests that asked people to donate SEO services to charity organizations, but in the final analysis, those contests may have had too many requirements and been too complicated to gain any significant level of participation. Major props to those who waded through the complicated rules and came out on the other side with really great projects that helped deserving non-profit organizations. We realize that these participants went above and beyond, and we couldn’t expect anyone else to do as much in the future.
So when it came time to plan this year’s contest, it was important to us that we make improvements to the format, the requirements, and the process. With much brainstorming and planning, we announced a new contest with more realistic expectations, better opportunities for participation, and the same amazing prizes. The Small Biz Discovery Contest was born. So how did we get here and where do we still see room for improvement? What lessons can be taken away from this experiment experience that can be applied to any contest being planned by us or others now and in the future?
We knew we wanted the grand prize to be a pass to SES San Francisco in August, so we built the timeline around that fact. We figured the winner would want to know they had the ticket a month before the show so they could make any necessary arrangements for travel and hotel and wrap their head around the fact they were going to San Francisco. So, we had to announce the winners in July. Since we had decided that a voting system was going to help determine the winners, we figured the voting would happen in June. So, to allow ample time for people to write article entries and send them in, we accepted entries for the full month of May.
Now, Susan’s gut feeling is that we made the entry period too long. Rather than four weeks, we may have seen a better response with a two-week entry period. Other than one submission we received before the contest had even officially begun, we received all the articles in the last week or so of the entry period. I should have known better, since I’m living proof — people work on deadlines. If the deadline’s not pressing, it’s not going to get done. By giving people a month to submit articles, we were giving them plenty of time to forget about it altogether. Next time the entry period will be shorter.
I may be biased, but I think our prizes are the cat’s pajamas. The grand prize alone is worth $3,240 dollars and hours of networking and education. SES San Francisco is the biggest of the search conferences (meaning first-class networking with the search community) and the presentations always live up to my expectations for innovation and expertise. It’s awesome for getting a base education in Internet Marketing which is key for a small business owner. Plus each category has a runner-up prize: a seat in our SEO training course. And this time around we added a prize for voters, which we hope will attract participation in the voting process. On this front, I can’t think of a juicier prize with this much value for the contest audience, so if you see something I’ve overlooked, I’d love to hear it.
Locating information about the contest was an area where we were lacking. If you came to BruceClay.com to read about the contest rules, prizes and deadlines, there was nothing on the home page that would direct you to the right page on the site. The contest was highlighted in the blog, but once those posts got pushed from the blog’s front page, readers would be left to dig through the archives. The contest was promoted in several of our last newsletters, but those are often deleted by recipients after first reading and thus can’t be referred to down the line. So basically, unless you consulted a search engine or knew the URL you needed on the site, you probably weren’t going to be reading about the contest. Next time we plan to feature contests and links to the contest rules more prominently throughout the site, including on the home page, with graphics and calls to action.
Finding Out About It
This is probably the area where we stand to grow the most. We obviously need to talk about the contest on our own site more, but it’s a network of supporters that really spreads the word. Lisa Barone reached out after hearing about the contest so that she could share it with readers at Small Biz Trends. We should have been doing the reaching out, asking others who we’ve supported in the past if they could share the contest with their networks. I suppose I was exhibiting a typical shortcoming of mine. I have a resistance to self-promotion and asking favors. Good traits for a marketer, no?
I’m finding some lessons are making themselves known on their own, but since we’re in the research and analysis mode, how do you go about getting the word out?
Thanks for sharing your lessons with me, and for listening while I share ours. And while we’re in the learning and participation spirit, maybe you’ll take a few minutes to read the articles submitted to the contest and to vote for your favorites. And while you’re at it, tell a friend! ;)