co Contests, Discounts, Promotions, Oh My, How to Plan and Deliver an Online and Real World Event |

Planning an online event to promote your small business and small business website is much like planning any event–start early, pay attention to details–and deliver.
Nothing gets your name out there by generating a buzz. Contests, discounts and online promotions are a great way to reach the public.

Planning a Big Event:

Real world promotions allow you to promote your contest or other event at your brick-and-mortar store and in your own community. Call the local paper (circulations) or radio, hand out flyers with every purchase, post them in business windows, or create a banner for the outside of your store–and don’t forget to cross promote with other community businesses.

Online promotions cover the rest–create an e-news release (basically a press release), promote it on your website and ask if you can promote it on other websites. Use your email list or e-newsletter to get the word out, and be sure to promote it on your blog and blogs you visit.

This is what social media is for! List your contest, discounts, and other promotional events on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and all of your social networks. Encourage others to pass it along.

Don’t forget there are internet radio, streaming video, podcasts, and YouTube, as well as chat rooms, forums, and websites that focus on nothing but contests and discounts. Check out ContestHound.com, ContestAlley.com and ContestGuides.com. Don’t forget to list it on local internet directories and community calendar sites.

Have you ever planned an in-store event that went really well?
Can you repeat that success online? What do your customers seem to respond to?

Look for partners.
Could you barter with another company for a prize?

Could you offer your services or products to a bed and breakfast in exchange for a free weekend get away as your grand prize? Prizes are important, so don’t be stingy. Be the talk of the town.

The more you solicit other company’s involvement, the more you gather in terms of audience and prizes. Cross promotion means that these other companies will utilize their email lists, mailing lists, and word of mouth–getting the word out to customers you might not have been able to access.

Include audience interaction. Contests should be more than putting your “name into the hat.” Include a trivia question, a short essay (for the grand prize), a photograph they have to submit–something that gets people involved.

Consider inviting a local celebrity. Newscasters, the mayor, a local sports celebrity can really draw a crowd. Include a charitable element in with your promotional efforts. Let any prize or raffle money go toward a charity and you’re helping out a worthy cause both in monetary terms and giving them a chance to share their message.

Keep your word. Nothing is worse than not hearing back on the advertised date. Let everyone know who won and make a big deal about it. Post their picture, a quote–people like to see themselves and they’ll tell everyone they know to visit your website.

Promotional activities generate excitement and should always list your website, logo, email, and contact information. Take the time to prepare–and follow through with delivery, and you’ll see site traffic that gives you and your small business much needed exposure.