Have you ever seen any of those annual "Best of the Best" contests in your local newspaper, magazine, or community website? Most places have a contest like that, which is a great opportunity for you to get some good exposure for very little effort and cost. Here's how it works.
Let's say your local weekly newspaper is called The Newsy. Each year, The Newsy compiles a "Best of" edition, which spotlights dozens of the top businesses in the area, broken down by category, and voted on by readers. This list is entirely user-centric, so the categories are broken down to anything and everything that benefits The Newsy readers, including:
- Best bartender
- Best pizza
- Best dry cleaner
- Best masseuse
- Best auto repair
Media outlets create these lists because they tend to be among their most popular editions of the year. Let's repeat that: the "Best of" editions are typically among the most popular (and most read) editions of the year.
Here's why: People are constantly trying to discover new things that benefit them. Finally, once a year, they get the answer to their prayers with a list covering everything in life, from best hairdresser to best brunch. Not only that, but they got to choose the best of the best.
It's a perfect time for you to gain new customers and create excitement among your existing clientele.
How do you win the "Best of" for your category?
It's pretty simple, really. Any business can walk away a winner in its given category. All you have to do is put forth the effort. The businesses that generally win are those who ask the most people to vote for them. Think of it like a political campaign. Politicians don't get into office by sitting back and hoping people show up to the polls. They go out and shake hands. They kiss babies.
You don't have to go to that extreme, but you should make an effort to win votes. The best way to encourage voting is to make it easy for people to cast a vote.
These days voting for the "Best of" can be done in several ways, including:
- Online voting - in that case, bring an iPad or computer to your customer-service area that's setup to the voting site. Offer customers an incentive (like a discount) if they cast a vote. Keep in mind, however, some online voting sites prevent you from casting more than one vote from the same IP (same computer). If that's the case, give your customers a little coupon card with the URL of where they can vote.
- Ballot voting - Some media outlets still use ballots, often found within their publication. Remember, access is key here, so make sure you have those ballots available for your customers.
Never assume that even your most beloved regulars will vote for you. The "Best of" may be a big deal to you and your business, but chances are your customers aren't giving it a second thought until the paper actually comes out. Get creative and proactive to make sure all of your customers know that:
- They can help make you the best of the best
- By doing so, they get something out of it (like a discount on services)
I won! I won! Now what?
So, all that hard work campaigning (not to mention that your customers love you) panned out, and you won a "Best of" award. Congratulations. You'll receive free publicity in one of the most read papers of the year. You just benefited from the ultimate of "good references": your entire community validated your quality and worth.
But don't sit back now. It's time that you ride the wave with these tips:
- Create a press release to expand your reach. Press releases focus on noteworthy events. What's more noteworthy than winning an award?
- Buy an ad in the paper. Buy ad space in whatever publication the "Best of" list appears. But don't make it any old ad. Make it a "Thank you readers" ad. This does a few things. It gives you a second area of exposure in the paper (in addition to the "Best of" feature), but it also helps you connect to your customers (and future customers) on a more personal level.
- Hang a sign/banner. Everyone likes to hang out with a winner. Celebrate your win with a visible banner or sign on your storefront, front desk, and website. Think of it like balloons on a mailbox. Everyone wants to hang out at the home where the balloons are, right?
- Email your database. If you regularly email your customers, shoot them out an email announcing your win and thanking those who voted.
- Sponsor posts on Facebook. Bring this marketing to the social world by sponsoring posts on Facebook announcing your win.
One thing that should become abundantly clear here is that most of the work you have to commit to happens after your win. But getting your customers to vote takes little effort (and no cost) on your part. Once you do win, it's worth your time (ie. you'll get a high return on investment) to make the most of the publicity by spreading the news across various channels.