As a consumer, you might be leery about sweepstakes and contests that give away money and expensive prizes.

However, as a business owner, you probably see a value in such online promotions and might be thinking about running one yourself.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll talk about online promotions that involve awarding prizes to participants. So how do you get started?


Start planning your online promotion by setting a goal 

Some of the goals that online promotions can help you achieve are:

  • To increase your following on a particular social network
  • To collect customer information and grow your email marketing list
  • To drive traffic to your website or mobile website
  • To obtain consumer-generated content that can be used in your marketing and advertising campaigns
  • To demonstrate goodwill and customer appreciation
  • To engage and motivate your employees, partners, or suppliers
  • To encourage reviews and testimonials
  • To promote specific products, events, services, or offers
  • To enroll more members into your customer loyalty program
  • To research your market and gain more insights about your customers

All these goals, once achieved, will contribute to your main goal – getting more leads, customers and growing your business. There are specific strategies for reaching each of the goals, and we’ll discuss them in future posts because there are so many of them.

Figure out who you want to reach

This could be your current or potential customers, employees, suppliers, retailers of your products or even a specific group of your customers. If you already have some information about your target audience, use it to create audience profiles. If you don’t have any information, then take advantage of the promotion you are running and collect some.


You need to think about what your audience likes and offer it as a prize.

A great tip: be as specific as possible.

For example, let’s say you are a cooking supply retailer running a promotion to increase your Facebook following and you’re trying to attract stay-at-home moms who like to cook. If you offer a digital camera as a prize, the moms will sure go for it, but so will hundreds of other people not interested in your products. But if you offer a cookware set, you are more likely to attract the right audience.

NOTE: no matter how well you target your audience with a prize, you will get a certain percentage of entries from “professional sweepers.” These are people who enter sweepstakes and contests often full-time looking to win all sorts of freebies – useful or not. They are not likely to stick around and will move on as soon as the promotion is over. Most importantly – they like free stuff, so they are not inclined to buy.

Determine your budget

There are several key points to include in the budget for your promotion:

Prize(s) – think what kind and how many. Usually, the more prizes – the more people you attract because they feel like they have better odds of winning. However, the most expensive prize is not always the best. Yes, you could be giving out iPads every day, but high-value coupons for something everyone uses, like paper towels, can also go far depending on who you are trying to reach.

Shipping and handling – the prizes will need to be delivered. If it’s not something you can send in an email, you’ll need to pay for shipping, packaging and other associated expenses.

Manpower – either your in-house staff or a third-party agency will have to put quite a few hours in to make your promotion happen. From setting up an entry form and devising a marketing strategy to contacting winners, solving technical issues and shipping out prizes – there’s A LOT to be done.

Come up with a marketing plan for your promotion

If you are a famous brand or a huge corporation, people will find you and you shouldn’t have any problems attracting participants. However, if you are a small or a medium-sized business that has just started establishing an online presence, you might want to come up with a marketing plan. Here are a few ideas on how to market your promotion on a budget:

  • Scream about it on every social network
  • Run Facebook ad campaigns or use Promoted Tweets
  • Write and distribute a press release
  • If you run a direct mail campaign, include a postcard with promotion details
  • Send an email blast to your current subscribers
  • Mention it in your TV commercial
  • Build in sharing options into the contest entry form
  • Encourage your social media followers to spread the news
  • Offer additional entries for friend referrals
  • Post your promotion details on the websites and forums that list promotions
  • If you are giving away someone else’s products, ask the company to promote your offer on their website or social media
  • Find where your target audience hangs out online and advertise on those websites


These are the 4 basic steps you’ll need to take no matter what kind of promotion you are planning. There are so many different ways to promote your business online, we’ll need to dedicate separate blog posts for them, so stay tuned to learn about other types of promotions, legal aspects, tools and tricks of the trade.