Horizon Featured Article

Using Rewards & Prizes in Successful Promotions

Northsail Appreciates the Value of Custom-Tailored Work

Not every block shape is going to fit into the same hole.

It's a lesson we all learn as children, but it can be surprising how many businesses feel like they get to decide the shape of both the block and the hole. That's part of the reason Northsail won't take on projects that aren't a good fit.

Being one of Canada's premiere custom software developers, Northsail specializes in helping clients create software that allows them to work around obstacles and create working solutions for their problems. In fact, we offer a 6-month guarantee on every project, because we're confident that we can deliver every project on-budget, on-spec, and on-time.

We strive to build strong relationships with every client we serve, but we also understand that there's more to building long-term working relationships with clients than periodically providing prizes and rewards for them to earn.

That's why we’ve put together some helpful tips on how to make the most of the contest prizes you offer your customers.

Engage Your Audience

First Impressions are Everything

Before we talk about choosing prizes and techniques for engaging your target demographic, first we should discuss the importance of making strong first impressions on new potential clients.

Whether they're visiting you online or one of your brick-and-mortar locations, their first impression of your business will shape everything about their initial interactions with you.

If your business does an exceptional job right off the bat, these could quickly become loyal customers that will visit your business repeatedly. Do a poor job, and this might be the last customer engagement you have with them.

Regardless of what you're offering as a product or service, there are three points that you should always be aiming to hit with your customer base:

  1. Be Inviting - People want to feel welcomed into your business. If you make them feel like part of your 'family', they're going to be much more likely to consider giving you their business.
  2. Push Your Brand - As often as possible, you want your brand to be in the forefront of your potential customer's mind. This way, if they leave without buying, your brand will stick in their mind. Then, they'll be more likely to return later.
  3. Create Excitement - Now that you've got their attention, you need to get potential customers excited! Excitement helps your target audience engage with your business.

Now that you've engaged with your customer base, and they're eager to see what you have to offer, it's the perfect time to show them any contests and tangible rewards you’re currently offering.

Build a Positive Customer Experience into Your Promotions

Make your customers' experience as easy and hassle-free as possible.

Again, for the people in the back:


Of all the advice we offer today, this might be the single most important piece. If you want customers to care about the prizes you're offering, or the contests you're holding, it can't require a lot of extra work from them.

In-store Promotions are easier for this, because you or your staff can explain details of contests and promotions to customers directly. You may even potentially get to show them some of the prizes they could win.

Online contests aren't nearly as easy to hold onto. On average, you have approximately 15 seconds to engage an online customer, before they’ll go somewhere else. That’s not much time.

Some marketing techniques that work well for drawing attention to contests online are:

BONUS: If you include email addresses as a required field in your online contest registration forms, it can be a great way to build your email list! Don't forget to push these promotions through your Social Media Marketing channels to increase customer awareness of your promotion.

Ease of Use = Better Conversions

No matter how you choose to handle these types of promotions, the most important lesson remains the same - make the experience smooth and simple.

The easier it is for customers to get excited and feel engaged by your contests, the more likely they'll spend those crucial few seconds to enter. This is a crucial customer behavior that you won't want to overlook.

And once you've used this Emotional Trigger to encourage customer engagement with your business, they're more likely to want to support you; both through their purchasing decisions and positive word-of-mouth marketing on behalf of your brand.

Frequent customers that are consistently happy customers will be much more likely to tell their friends and family about your business, once you've earned their trust. These customer referrals are absolutely essential to be able to scale your business in the future.

Always Pick Relevant Prizes

You're looking for new tires, and your dealership is running a contest. The winner earns a year's supply of cabin air fresheners. Every tire you purchase earns you one ballot to enter. Would this get you excited?

Some people may love this marketing strategy, but a substantial number of others aren't even going to give the contest posters hanging in the showroom a second glance. Why is that?

Because the contest prize only partially relates to the product they're trying to sell. Yes, it's true that most people who need car tires will theoretically want air fresheners for their vehicles at some point.

However, some drivers don't like to use air fresheners, or use very specific brands. How will the dealership know how many of their clients would be excited by this type of promotion? Will the promotion bring in high-value customers and increase positive customer awareness of the brand?

The reality is, there's no way of knowing. It would be impossible to even make an estimation, without running some kind of survey ahead of time. Even then, it would hardly be an exact science.

This kind of promotion could go incredibly well, or it could be a total waste of time and money. With no way to know for sure, it's a risky bet.

Customers Appreciate It When You Understand What They Want

Now, let's say that the same dealership offered a contest set up the same way. One ballot entry is given to each customer who purchases a tire. Four tires = four entries.

This time though, their contest prizes are a year's worth of free tire swaps, storage, balancing, and alignments.

Just thinking about that got you a little excited too, didn't it? Rightfully so, these prizes would save the contest winner hundreds of dollars.

For the customer, you're creating value by giving them contest prizes that are guaranteed to save them money down the road, because the prizes are services that need to be completed regularly anyway, regardless of your promotion.

These prizes are necessities that every car owner needs to have completed. There's no question of whether it's a good fit. Every client who owns a vehicle could benefit from winning. They'll appreciate your contest, even if they don't win, because it's offering them something they really need.

This makes it much more likely to be a successful promotion, which will also encourage more satisfied customers.

Offer a Variety of Prizes

Sometimes, it's better to provide a wide range of smaller contest prizes than a single, massive one. Or giving away the same prizes repeatedly.

The reasoning behind this is twofold:

First, most people realize that with large contests, the odds of winning are incredibly slim. Many will enter a contest for a free getaway and forget about their ballot by the end of the day. This is due to the fact that they know their odds of winning are infinitesimal. It's easier to forget about it, than be disappointed in the reality of knowing they likely won't win.

Second, the more prizes you offer, the larger number of customers benefit from winning. More winners mean greater excitement and more satisfied customers, which naturally leads to added word-of-mouth for your business.

So, unless your big contest prize is huge and life-changing, perhaps you should consider downsizing your prizes and offering more of them at once. Or you could consider running the contest more frequently, with different prizes each time.

Wider Reach Means More Reactions

Offering a variety of prizes, or running multiple draws simultaneously, gives customers the opportunity to show you through their contest registrations, exactly which prizes excite them the most.

If you track your customer behavior trends, and how much attention various types of prizes draw for your business, you'll be able to figure out which model will work best for your brand, based on your target audience.

Being able to understand what makes a current customer enthusiastic, and the things that trigger them to participate in your promotions, can be invaluable for better understanding the minds of your clientele. It can also give you the opportunity to provide more accurately targeted prizes in the future.

Encourage Word-of-Mouth

Loyalty programs can work really well, if you are tactical about how to tie them into your contest promotions.

Give each of your loyal customers a unique ID number. You can do this either in a card, or through email after they purchase from you. Leveraging customer loyalty is a great way to build customer enthusiasm and encourage repeat business, but it's often overlooked as an opportunity to share your promotions with your target audience, as well.

Let Your Customers Do Some of the Leg Work

The best part about setting up these unique loyalty IDs for your customers, is that you can then subtly recruit them to help spread information about your business.

How do you do this? By giving them a referral bonus, or setting up a referral program reward structure. This could be something as simple as offering them 5%-10% off their next purchase, when a new customer provides the referring customer's ID information during a purchase. Or it could stack, adding more value if the customer continues to refer people.

The same theory applies to contests as well. You can offer an additional ballot for the contest you're running, each time they get someone new to enter the draw. Or offer customers a referral code, which they can share with their friends and family.

You'll be surprised at the lengths that customers will go, in order to get those extra few ballots for contest prizes they really want, or to earn a small discount code they can apply to their next purchase.

Best of all, you won't have to do anything to reach these referred customers directly, because your existing ones will do the leg work for you. Just be sure that your referral program reward structure benefits both the referrer and the referee, if you want to see the greatest results.

Don't Let Your Prizes Get Stale

It's impossible to drive customer enthusiasm, if you're stuck in a rut.

Putting the same quarterly contests in place might work for some businesses, but for most, continuing to offer the same prizes over and over can actually cause the opposite effect. Clients begin to lose interest all together with your prizes, because it's the 'same old, same old'.

Even someone who's won before, likely won't get nearly as excited about vying for the same prizes a second time. Some may not even apply, which can really restrict the momentum you've been building in that customer relationship.

Remember: your prizes don't have to be massive or expensive to create excitement. You just need to understand what your target demographic really wants, and then cater to those wants/needs.

Small Changes Can Create Big Excitement

This is a great way to start thinking seasonally about your contest prizes. You can drive demand for your prizes by finding ways to tie-in Seasonal Promotions (Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween, etc.).

One useful idea here is to find seasonal prizes that have the widest range of appeal, beyond just moving some excess inventory.

For instance, many restaurants hold a monthly/quarterly draw using business cards that are left in a large bowl at the front door. They'll pick a winner periodically for a free lunch.

Why not take that idea a step farther? Create actual ballots that visitors can fill out in your online community, your website, or at the door before entering. Then do a draw at the end of January for a romantic, three-course dinner for two, sometime around Valentine's Day.

Everyone loves a free meal, but you're giving the prize winner more than that. You're giving them an experience as one of their prizes. You're also saving them from having to plan Valentine's Day themselves. Tons of people would appreciate these types of prizes, simply because they don’t have to spend the time and energy planning something themselves.

DON'T FORGET: Always get email addresses on ballots. You'll be thankful later, when you're planning your next Email Marketing campaign.

Big Prizes Aren't Always Better

Looking back at our car dealership example from earlier, you can see how this is a great promotional idea that doesn't necessarily have to cost a lot.

By providing service prizes instead of strictly product prizes, you reduce the costs associated with running the contest and increase your ROI.

In this instance, the customer would see these prizes as substantial because they can win services that would normally cost them hundreds of dollars a year.

For the dealership, the cost is substantially less than that. All the service prizes are provided in-house, which means the overhead costs are negligible. Plus, because these prizes are services and not products, the only real incremental cost accrued by the dealership is labor, which are marginally less than product prizes and more easily rolled into regular operation costs.

Better ROI Means More Potential for Growth

While the service prizes actually seem larger and more expensive than the year's supply of air fresheners, the reality is that if it's managed properly, the service prizes would actually cost the dealership less overall.

This means greater ROI for the business and better customer perception of the prizes being offered. Together, these factors are a recipe for strong customer loyalty and economic growth.

Listen to Your Clients

All this boils down to the fact that understanding your customers, tailoring your prizes to fit their needs, and building customer enthusiasm around your promotions are the keys to engaging contest prizes.

Once you're able to accomplish this, you're well on your way towards the paths of success and growth for your business.

Northsail Understands the Importance of Good Communication

We understand how crucial strong client communication can be, which is exactly why we're offering you the opportunity to test out an exciting new service that we're going to be offering called 'Horizon'.

All you have to do is sign-up below, and you'll be able to check out this amazing, innovative new service, before it's readily available to the public. Horizon gives you the opportunity to create high-performance landing pages and microsites, quickly, easily, and without the need for a developer.

All we ask is that you take a few minutes to tell us what you think about it, once you've had a chance to check it out. Join Northsail in our continuing mission to provide the best software services, features and tools around, and let us show you how we can help you improve your day-to-day business.

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