I thought I might share a few observations and tips I've learned over the last few months as I've prepared for my contest.
1) Determine the purpose of your contest. While I hope sales will be a result, the main reason I'm hosting this contest is to build my social media platform and to raise awareness about the content I produce. This means I hope to gain more followers to my blog, FB and Twitter pages, as well as subscribers to my quarterly newsletter.
Studies show that buyers don't typically buy a product or service the first time they hear about it. Therefore, I'm after access to them. I want a means of being able to connect with them and share news and updates so that I can relate to them before I try to sell them something. I want to offer them more than just my books. I want to offer them uplifting news about God's Word, inspire them when they're feeling down, and motivate them to think positive when the rest of the world is trying to criticize them. I want to offer hope.
2) Determine your contest theme and entry method. Your purpose will depend on your contest theme and what you will require for entry. My theme is centered around the launch of my new book and the methods of entry will encourage people to follow my blog, Twitter page, like my FB page, subscribe to my newsletter and retweet or share a particular message promoting the contest. These are my calls to action.
Don't just let them leave a random comment on your blog. Have them do something that validates their entry into the contest and will promote you and your work. We can shout about our work all day long, but our network of reaching people is limited and it doesn't mean as much when we stand to gain something from it. However, if people have something to gain, they are more likely to share the info with their friends--thus, the free gifts. They like being appreciated by their friends and in the "know" about what is going on. You can't reach their friends, but they can. This expands your reach beyond your network and it indirectly gets others talking about you, your work, and coming to your site or social networks.
3) Determine your budget and your free gifts. Consider your target audience. Who are you trying to reach and what can you provide that might appeal to them? You might think that it would be best to have a nice, expensive gift to draw more people, but it may draw people beyond your target audience and then you're self-defeating your purpose. They will enter your contest for the chance at the free gift, but as soon as the contest is over, they are more likely to unfollow you and unsubscribe from your content. It's best to give away several small gifts that target your audience than a major gift that will draw a broad range of people.
4) Determine how long and when the contest will run. If you only host it for a couple of days, it will be over by the time people really start to hear about it. If it goes on for months, you may lose momentum, a sense of urgency, and risk people forgetting about it. A good length of time for a contest is a couple of weeks. Set the timing of the contest around something new to piggy-back on the excitement of a new offer. People always want the newest thing.
5) Study the laws and protect yourself with official rules. Each state has various laws on hosting contests. It's impractical to know them all and understand them and you can't possibly know where all your visitors will come from. Therefore, I recommend studying other official contests from reputable companies who have already hired legal attorneys to set their official rules for them. You can use these rules as a template and modify them as needed. Be sure to host these officials rules on your website/blog and make sure a link is provided to them wherever you promote the contest.
6) Plan the contest several months in advance. This will give you time to determine if you want sponsors for the gifts, a chance to contact them and make arrangements. If you choose not to solicit sponsors, it will give you time to save and purchase gift items on sale or at bulk so that you can take advantage of discounts. In my case, I set aside some funds each month and purchased a few items here and there. That way it didn't seem like it was a huge financial burden.
These are just a few tips and ideas. Feel free to share other tips from your own experiences.