How to Run an Online Contest to Promote your Home Performance Business

An online contest can be a great way to drive traffic to your blog, grow your Facebook or Twitter followers, increase your email subscriber list, get leads, or achieve just about any other goal you're hoping to achieve online.

But it also does more than that. While you may be able to quantify certain results of your contest (number of new email subscribers, for example), the larger impact is that it increases customer retention, drives word of mouth about your business, highlights the fact that your company has a fun side, and basically just improves your brand's image in the community. Not bad for something that's really incredibly easy to do.

So how do you go about setting up a contest, and what should the contest be? Read on.

Identify Your Goals

The first step is to determine what it is you'd like to accomplish with your online contest. It may be any of the following:

  • Increase Twitter followers
  • Increase Facebook fans
  • Grow your blog readership
  • Improve blog engagement
  • Grow your email list
  • Create leads
  • Increase engagement on social media

These are just a few of the measurable goals that you can set, each of which certainly has some value depending on where it fits in your overall marketing plan. Deciding where you'd like to focus your efforts -- on your blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, etc. -- can help determine the best way to run the actual contest. 

Prize Ideas for Home Performance

After you've determined your goals, the next step is to figure out what you'd like to give away. It could be a free energy audit, it could be an energy efficient product like an energy efficient lamp or even a can of spray foam.

Whatever you're willing to give up; just keep in mind that you're likely to have a lot more participation if you offer a prize that people actually want. At the same time, you should be mindful that a prize that's not related to home energy efficiency (say, an iPad) may garner participation from people who aren't actually interested in your business and your services. So a balance of high-value with high-relevancy is key.

Our friends over at Indow Windows are currently running a photo contest where the prize includes $250 discount with Indow Windows along with a travel mug and a $30 Amazon gift card -- not too bad for sending in a photo.

But of course, what you choose for a prize is entirely up to you. A few more ideas could include:

  • A free energy audit (comprehensive, or even a scaled down version of your typical audit)
  • Energy efficient gear: lamps, bulbs, weatherization materials, crank powered radios, energy monitors, etc.
  • Books about home energy efficiency or building science
  • A free energy efficiency tutorial or workshop
  • Gift certificates

What Should the Contest Be?

The contest itself is another area where the sky is the limit. A few ideas:

Photo contests

Photo contests are very very popular because they're easy for everyone involved, and fun. And, in the home performance field, photos can be one of the most compelling catalysts to get people thinking about energy efficiency and building performance problems in their home: photos of air leaks, bad insulation, leaky windows, spiders or spiderwebs, all fair game.

Identify the infrared image

The Snell Group does a great job of this on their Facebook page, and it's a really fun way to spread the word about the "magic" of your services. Post an infared image of anything at all, have contestants guess what it is. Easy as pie.

Similarly, BPI regularly features a "Stump the Chump" challenge in their monthly newsletter which challenges home energy professionals to decode building science mysteries. The building science mysteries themselves are submitted by home energy pros across the country, so the challenge is a great way to encourage interaction and competition among building science pros. If your submission is used, or if you get the answer right, you get a good link from BPI.

Comments, replies, social media interactions

Another easy way to run a contest is just to have people retweet your tweets, comment on your posts (particularly helpful if you are blogging, as blog comments are great for SEO), or use other forms of social media engagement as a way to enter the contest. Just be careful here, as Facebook has some guidelines about what is and what is not allowed (you may have to use an app like this one).

Best of luck out there, and be sure to let us know if you wind up holding a contest and how it goes!

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