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Contests as a Retail Marketing Strategy

Aug 13, 2008
Contests are an excellent retail marketing tactic for generating 'buzz' and increasing foot traffic to a retail store. Contests are also a method by which to collect contact data from customers, to be used for direct mail and e-mail marketing campaigns.

The types of contests a retailer can plan are as limitless as his imagination. The objective of any contest should be to create the best possible incentive to get customers into the store, and to motivate them to place their contact information into the drawing box. Usually the incentive is a valuable grand prize, but can also take the form of a small gift given just for entering.

One example of a contest idea might be to ask customers to help name a mascot or character associated with the business. A retailer can create an entry form providing space for a contest entrant's name, address, phone number, e-mail address and mascot name suggestion. If the retailer has a website, customers can enter the contest via an online entry form as well. The retailer can set dates associated with the contest such as an entry deadline, a first round selection of three finalists, and finally the date to announce the grand prize winner. The contest rules and progress can be included in all advertising and marketing campaigns within the contest timeframe, including the store's voicemail greeting, flyers, media advertising and website.

The grand prize for this contest might be an opportunity for the winner to appear in a series of local advertisements with the mascot and to have her name and photo appear on the air, in the press, and on the website. In addition, a prize basket could be offered to the winner and to the two semi-finalists.

Another tactic to collect additional contact data and to add longevity to the event might be to conduct the contest in two parts: once the three finalists have been selected, customers can be called back into the store or to the website to vote for their favorite of the three possible choices. In addition to being a fun idea, this type of contest can create great word-of-mouth advertising and a great deal of foot traffic.

Contests with media tie-ins are particularly good traffic builders, as the reach for potential entrants is greater than usual. An example of this type of contest might involve a retail store owner inviting customers to come into the store to obtain a lottery-type ticket of numbers, in exchange for entering the contest via the entry form providing their contact information. Customers would be instructed to listen to a particular radio station at a particular time, or to purchase the local newspaper on a particular date to obtain the winning numbers drawn and compare them to her ticket. The customer holding the winning ticket is the grand prize winner.

The publication or station printing or airing your ads benefits from a tie-in contest, as it receives an increase in listeners and newspaper sales on a particular day. A radio station may provide a discounted advertising rate to motivate a retailer to direct listeners to a show in need of a ratings boost, or to a particular section of the newspaper in need of readers.

Contests are great opportunities to obtain contact information, generate foot traffic, and inspire word-of-mouth advertising for a retail store. Include a series of contests in your annual retail marketing plan.
About the Author
Jim O'Donnell of Jaguar Consulting, Inc. in Kingston, NH provides marketing and business development services for small business and has developed a series of Retail Marketing Checklists designed to help small business owners achieve a higher growth and profitability. He can be reached at (603) 642-8338, JimODonnell@JaguarConsulting.com, or http://WWW.Checklists4Business.com to review all checklists that are currently available.
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